Live Your Life Like a Story

A periodic visit to the 100 Acre Wood. Here’s the backstory.


Are You a Story-Driven Leader?

Storytelling embodies an approach that is well adapted to meet the deep challenges of leadership. Situations in which story impacts people across an organization include:

  • Persuading them to adopt an unfamiliar new idea
  • Charting a future course
  • Attracting the best talent
  • Instilling passion and discipline
  • Aligning individuals to work together
  • Calling everyone to continue believing in leadership through the unpredictable ups and downs

The underlying reason for the affinity between leadership and storytelling is simple: narrative, unlike abstraction and analysis, is inherently collaborative.

Storytelling helps leaders work with other individuals as co-participants, not merely as objects or underlings. Storytelling helps strengthen leaders’ connections with the world.

After all, isn’t this what all leaders need – a connection with people they are seeking to lead?

“The mistake people make is thinking the story is just about marketing. No, the story is the strategy. If you make your story better you make the strategy better.”

– Ben Horowitz

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Story Driven by Bernadette Jiwa

Every one of us—regardless of where we were born, how we were brought up, how many setbacks we’ve endured or privileges we’ve been afforded—has been conditioned to compete to win. Ironically, the people who create fulfilling lives and careers—the ones we respect, admire and try to emulate—choose an alternative path to success. They have a powerful sense of identity. They don’t worry about differentiating themselves from the competition or obsess about telling the right story. They tell the real story instead. Successful organizations and the people who create, build and lead them don’t feel the need to compete, because they know who they are and they’re not afraid to show us.

How about you?

  • What do you stand for?
  • Where are you headed and why?
  • What’s been the making of you?
  • What will make your career or company great?

You must be able to answer these questions if you want to build a great company, thriving entrepreneurial venture or fulfilling career. Whether you’re an individual or you’re representing an organization or a movement, a city or a country, Story Driven gives you a framework to help you consistently articulate, live and lead with your story. This book is about how to stop competing and start succeeding by being who you are, so you can do work you’re proud of and create the future you want to see.


Story is the emotion that makes your organization come to life in the eyes of your audience.

For most of human history, we communicated through the oral tradition. A person shared something with another person, and if it was interesting enough, they passed it on to a third person. And if it wasn’t, the message died then and there. It was survival of the fittest for messages.

In this environment, there’s one type of information that passed along most effectively: stories. Stories are memorable because they are emotionally resonant, and easy to take ownership of. The storyteller adopts the story in their own image, modifying it slightly, and passing it on. Storytelling arose not as a form of entertainment, but rather as a mechanism for communicating deeply held truths across societies. We don’t tell stories because we want to — we tell stories because they are essential.

The reason online social sharing, linking, and direct messaging so quickly became a core part of society is because it taps into an ancient need for humans to tell stories to each other, without an intermediary. People are once again passing on the information they see as most valuable, and discarding that which is not.

Organizations who are looking to reach their target audiences and connect with them need only look to the ancient form of the story to understand how best to engage people today. 

By failing to also see our narrative as part of our strategy, we’re missing the opportunity to get clear on our purpose, differentiate ourselves from the competition and create affinity with the right audience.

Before you write a line of code or a word of copy, before you apply for that promotion or plan your growth strategy, and before you create your next marketing campaign or send that email, you need to understand what’s driving your story. Where are the roots that will enable you to grow healthy branches that bear fruit? How will you show, not just tell? What promises are you intending to keep?

“Story” is frequently used as a tactic to attract the attention of our audience. We agonize for weeks over perfect taglines, choosing logo designs and articulating features and benefits, often without fully understanding how or even if those tactics (the things we spend most of our time doing) are helping us to get where we want to go.

The hardest part is not only working out the mission, vision, and values that are the foundation of your business, but also intentionally living them so you can achieve your goals. You have to begin by getting clear about why your business exists. The very act of questioning your purpose forces you to dig deeper. It invites you to clarity why you wanted to make that particular promise to those particular people in the first place and to create an action plan to deliver on it.

Clarity of intention is where your story starts. Whether it’s obvious to us or not, the businesses we are loyal to understand what they’re here to do.

When your business or organization is story driven, its aspirations and strategy are underpinned by a clear philosophy that deepens employee engagement and commitment, creates momentum, and drives innovation and customer loyalty, thus leading to to a solid plan for achieving success.

Having a story-driven strategy enables you to adapt in times of change because that your story is bigger than the scene that’s playing out in the moment.

Bernadette Jiwa, Story Driven


As Auxano Navigators spend hundreds of hours each week serving churches across the country, they spend a lot of time helping churches find vision clarity. Much of that time, as you can imagine, is spent at the big picture level, not in the week-to-week details. It’s in the midst of slogging through the details of what announcements to make and what goes in the weekly bulletin and how all our activities get communicated that clarity is most needed.

In other words, once you have clarity in your understanding of God’s preferred future for your church, how do you make sure that clarity at the big picture level filter down to the details each week?

Auxano Founder Will Mancini thinks there are four things that you must know whenever you’re communicating in order to maintain clarity and craft effective communication.

Know your audience.

Any good communicator will tell you that you have to know your audience in order to communicate well. And while that’s certainly true, in the church, this carries another level of complexity. Each specific event or program that you want to communicate about may not apply to the entire church. Your first question should always be, “How can I get as close as possible to the primary audience?” Here’s what I mean: Let’s say your church is offering a series of classes for parents on raising kids with a strong faith foundation. Should you simply put something in the weekly bulletin and make an announcement? That’s not getting very close to your target audience, and you’re going to be communicating to people (singles, grandparents, etc.) to whom the communication does not apply. Instead, hand out a flyer regarding the classes to every parent as they pick up their kids from the children’s ministry on a Sunday morning. It would be best to schedule some extra workers that morning so they could have a short conversation with each parent about the class and its importance to parenting well. Now you’re communicating well. This kind of targeted, more personal interaction is much more effective than a scatter-shot announcement or bulletin blurb.

Know your message. 

You must, of course, be crystal clear about what you want to communicate. Apart from communicating the details clearly (what, when, where), you must always communicate the why. Why does this matter? And the answer to that question should always lead you right back to your vision. With clarity on your mission, values, strategy, and measures, you should leverage that clarity in all your week-to-week communication efforts. How does this specific event or program move us toward accomplishing our mission? Where does it fit within our strategy? If you don’t connect everything back to your vision, you will end up just communicating a disjointed calendar of events that have seemingly no connection to each other.

Know your context. 

Some people may call this politics or organizational history. You may want to argue and say, “That shouldn’t enter into how and what we communicate. If we’re doing what God has called us to do, then politics shouldn’t matter.” Maybe it would be easier to think of this not in terms of politics, but in terms of relationships. Who has a vested interest in what we’re communicating? Have we brought them into the loop? Have we gotten their input? If you proceed without asking these kinds of questions, it’s like obliviously strolling through a field of land mines. You want to communicate effectively, right? You want people to hear the true message, right? Why not remove any potential misunderstandings or hurt feelings before things get started? You actually have an opportunity to get buy-in from these key players before communicating more widely. So don’t think of it as bowing to organizational politics, think of it as intentional vision-casting and inviting people to be a part of moving the church forward. Trust me, you’ll be glad you took the time to do it right.

Know your place. 

This is a special note for those of you that help to craft church communication from a seat other than the lead pastor’s chair. You need to understand that although you may be responsible for putting together the communication plan for different church initiatives, you are not the lead pastor. So don’t try to be something you’re not. If you’ve put together a strategically beautiful plan (in your humble opinion) that your lead pastor doesn’t agree with, be willing to change it. Of course, make your case as to why the plan is solid, but in the end, always defer. This is the only way for the organization to work well in the long run. I’ve seen too many communications people that try to bring about organizational change through their role in ways that only end up hurting the church.

If you keep these four things in mind, you’ll craft communication that’s much more effective in generating movement toward accomplishing your church’s mission. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Stop and identify one leadership moment in the next five days in which you can live story-driven. Using Mancini’s four clarity pillars, answer these four questions as you prepare to lead with story:

  • Who is my primary audience?
  • What is my central message?
  • Where are the landmines of context?
  • How does my role impact this moment?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 94-1, issued June 2018.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

How to Communicate Your Vision: Create Stories that Reflect Experience

There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive, worthwhile, and achievable vision of the future, widely shared.

– Burt Nanus

The right vision for the future of an organization moves people to action, and because of their action, the organization evolves and makes process. Like a bicycle, an organization must continually move forward, or fall over. The role of vision in driving the organization forward is indispensable.

The vision’s power lies in its ability to grab the attention of those both inside and outside the organization and to focus that attention on a common dream – a sense of direction that both makes sense and provides direction.

To that end, your church’s vision cannot exist merely as words on a page or website, or in an impressive visual display in your church foyer.

Articulating your vision through consistent and powerful ideas is one of the toughest tasks of leadership.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, by Annette Simmons

Stories have tremendous power. They can persuade, promote empathy, and provoke action. Better than any other communication tool, stories explain who you are, what you want…and why it matters. In presentations, department meetings, over lunch any place you make a case for new customers, more business, or your next big idea you’ll have greater impact if you have a compelling story to relate.

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins will teach you to narrate personal experiences as well as borrowed stories in a way that demonstrates authenticity, builds emotional connections, inspires perseverance, and stimulates the imagination. Fully updated and more practical than ever, the second edition reveals how to use storytelling to:

  • Capture attention
  • Motivate listeners
  • Gain trust
  • Strengthen your argument
  • Sway decisions
  • Demonstrate authenticity and encourage transparency
  • Spark innovation
  • Manage uncertainty

Complete with examples, a proven storytelling process and techniques, innovative applications, and a new appendix on teaching storytelling, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins hands you the tools you need to get your message across and connect successfully with any audience.


Organizations run on numbers, facts, forecasts, and processes. If that sounds dull and unengaging, it’s because those factors are not what really drive our passion and desire to excel, to lead, or to sink our hearts and souls into the work we do. Ultimately, the kind of transformative results that can come only from enriched, passionate people depend on a distinctly human element – storytelling.

The power of even a simple story to affirm someone’s connection to your organization’s people, values, and vision can mean the difference between simple competence and fully realized ownership. Your stories help people feel more engaged and alive.

Story can be defined as a reimagined experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listener’s imaginations to experience it as real.

You are already telling stories about who you are, why you are here, and what you envision, value, teach, and think about. The problem is, you haven’t realized how much your stories matter. To help us pay attention, let’s look at the six kinds of stories we tell that lead to influence, imagination, and innovation.

Who-I-Am Stories

What qualities earn you the right to influence a particular person? Tell of a time, place, or event that provides evidence you have these qualities.

Why-I-Am-Here Stories

When someone assumes you are there to sell an idea that will cost him or her money, time, or resources, it immediately discredits your “facts” as biased.

Teaching Stories

Certain lessons are best learned from experience, and some lessons are learned over and over again. It’s better to tell a story that creates a shared experience.

Vision Stories

A worthy, exciting future story reframes present difficulties as “worth it.”

Value-in-Action Stories

Values are subjective. Hypothetical situations sound hypocritical.

I-Know-What-You-Are Thinking Stories

People like to stay safe. It is a trust-building surprise for you to share their secret suspicions in a story that first validates then dispels these objections without sounding defenseless.

When you turn your attention to the six kinds of stories, you will be more intentional in creating the kind of perceptions that achieve goals rather than reinforce problems.

Annette Simmons, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins


People are starving for meaningful stories, while we are surrounded by impersonal messages dressed in bells and whistles that are story-ish but are not effective. People want to feel a human presence in your messages, to taste a trace of humanity that proves there is a “you” as sender. Learning how to tell personal stories teaches you how to deliver the sense of humanity in the messages you send.

Schedule some time where you can be alone to complete the following exercise.

Imagine you are stranded alone on a desert island. You have six slips of paper, a pencil, and six bottles. If you could communicate one thing by using each of the six story types listed above that would inspire your church for the future, what would it be and how would you say it?

Write each of the six “messages” on a separate sheet of paper, then roll them up to create scrolls. Insert each message in a separate bottle.

At your next team meeting, read each message aloud, and discuss it as a group.

Ask each team member to repeat the process on his or her own over the next month.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 84-1, issued January 2018.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

> >Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

How to Use the Power of Story to Influence Others

Are you having a hard time inspiring your team to be more productive?

Individuals may represent much of the accomplishment of ministries at your church, but the real work of ministry is often done through teams. Whether a staff team comprised of full and part-time employees or a volunteer team comprised of various degrees of dedicated members, teams are the backbone of church ministry. And yet, most leaders at one time or another are frustrated by the lack of progress of the team toward accomplishing their assigned task.

To inspire and encourage the teams you lead to get the job done, tell stories.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Orange Revolution, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

The Orange Revolution is a groundbreaking guide to building high-performance teams. Research by the authors shows that breakthrough success is guided by a particular breed of high-performing team that generates its own momentum—an engaged group of colleagues in the trenches, working passionately together to pursue a shared vision. Their research also shows that only 20 percent of teams are working anywhere near this optimal capacity. How can your team become one of them?

The authors have determined a key set of characteristics displayed by members of breakthrough teams, and have identified a set of rules great teams live by, which generate a culture of positive teamwork and lead to extraordinary results.

The Orange Revolution provides a simple and powerful step-by-step guide to taking your team to the breakthrough level, igniting the passion and vision to bring about an Orange Revolution.


Authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton have created a framework for developing breakthrough teams called “The Orange Revolution.” The Orange Revolution is depicted as a journey to breakthrough result, a journey that places the relationships among team members as a critical component. As these relationships evolve over time, it’s only natural that momentum slows down and the productiveness of the team begins to wane

The people on your teams are overwhelmed with information, and in your attempt to help motivate them to move forward, you may be inadvertently contributing to the slowdown. Already confused and overloaded, they assume that your added request will only make thing worse.

Enter the story.

Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information – more powerful and enduring than any other art form. In the land of complex reality, story is king. Story makes sense of chaos and gives people a plot. Stories can help people who are stuck become unstuck.

There are no guarantees that using story to motivate your team will come out the way you want. But story, on the average, works much better than telling your team “this is the way it’s going to be.”

Story is like a computer app you load into someone’s mind so they can play it using their own input. The best stories play over and over and create the outcomes that fit your goals and ensure that your team keeps moving forward.

Great leaders use story to express their passion and illustrate, illuminate, and inspire their team to greatness itself.

When you want to influence others, there is no tool more powerful than story.

Teams that are focused on wow results have a charming habit of telling stories that exemplify what they are trying to achieve.

Great teams create a narrative. As teams succeed, they tell their stories again and again. They are partly their history, but they also explain to others who they are and what they do.

Breakthrough teams tell stories frequently and with passion. It is a secret ingredient of their success. The power of their stories is in the specificity and vividness, which are the very elements that make them memorable. They get repeated – typically with the same enthusiasm in which they are told.

Stories are vital in helping individuals understand how world-class results are achieved and in making the possibility of doing so believable. Such tales have a way of perpetuating success. The listener retells the story, and more important, internalizes its message and becomes part of the story.

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, The Orange Revolution


As you use stories with your teams, you will be using a mixture of credibility, evidence and data, and emotional appeal. You cannot persuade through logic alone, or even logic supported by your credibility. You must persuade your team through the use of emotional appeals.

Look back to a recent story you told your team. Categorize the story into the three areas mentioned above: credibility, logic, and emotional appeal. How does the ratio of emotional appeal stack up to the rest of the story? If it is not at least twice as great as the next component, you need to rethink your content.

The next time you want to encourage your team to be more productive, weave a personal story from your own background into your conversation. The ability to tell a personal story is an essential trait of authentic leadership – people who inspire uncommon effort. By inviting your team on a personal journey, they will want to join you in your success.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 2-3, published November 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Is Your Life a Story?

Tom Peters thinks so.

In fact, he goes even further. In his book The Little BIG Things! Peters has a chapter entitled:

You Are Your Story – So Work on It!

A few highlights:

He/she who has the most compelling/most resonant story wins:

  • In life
  • In business
  • In front of the jury
  • In front of the congregation

Stories are 100 percent about emotion – and emotion, far more than dynamite, moves mountains.

-> Your schedule today is…a short story with a beginning, narrative, end, and memory that lives on.

-> Your current project is…an unfolding story about making something better, exciting users, etc.

-> Your organization’s reason for existence and therefore its effectiveness, is…a story.

-> Your career is…a story.

Master the art of storymaking-storytelling-story doing-story presenting.

How are you writing – and telling – your story today?


inspired by The Little Big Things, by Tom Peters

The Little Big Things

Doing Daily Battle with the Curse of Knowledge

My name is Bob Adams, and I’m a knowledge addict.

As such, I also suffer from the Curse of Knowledge. Best documented by Chip and Dan Heath in their excellent book Made to Stick, it is defined as:

Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it.

Our knowledge has  “cursed” us.

Curse of Knowledge


The Heaths recount a famous study done in 1990 by Elizabeth Newton as she earned a PhD in psychology at Stanford. She created a simple game in which she assigned people to one of two roles: “tappers” or “listeners”.

Tappers received a list of twenty-five well-known songs, such as “Happy Birthday to You” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Each tapper was asked to pick a song and tap put the rhythm to a listener by knocking on a table. The listener’s job was to guess the song based on the rhythm being tapped.

The listener’s job in this game is quite difficult. Over the course of Newton’s experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only 2.5% of the songs: 3 out of 120.

The real revelation came by what happened before the tapping game: When Newton asked the tappers to predict the odds that the listeners would guess correctly, they predicted the odds at 50%.


The problem is that the tappers have been given knowledge (the song title) that makes it impossible for them to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge.

When they’re tapping, they can’t imagine what it’s like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than song.

That, my friends, is the Curse of Knowledge.

Once knowing something, it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.

Becoming an expert in something means that we become more and more fascinated by nuance and complexity. That’s when the Curse of Knowledge kicks in, and we start to forget what it’s like not to know what we know.

Novices at anything perceive concrete details as concrete details. Experts perceive concrete details as symbols of patterns and insights that they have learned through years of experience. Because they are capable of seeing a higher level of insight, they naturally want to talk on a higher level.

That, most likely, leads to communication problems.

When you have worked for years in your particular area of specialty, it’s easy to forget that a lot of the world has never heard of your particular area of specialty, or at least at the depth you want to discuss it.

It’s easy to forget that you’re the tapper and the world is the listener.

How can you overcome the Curse of Knowledge?

The Heaths offer a couple of suggestions:

  • Giving our audience permission to ask “Why” as many times as necessary helps to remind us of the core values and principles that underlie our ideas and forces us to backtrack to the foundation of our passion.
  • Stories can almost single-handedly defeat the Curse of Knowledge. Stories have an amazing dual power to simulate and to inspire. Look for the good ones that life generates every day to get to the heart of the issue.

As for me, I will always have the Curse of Knowledge – I’m driven to learn more and more about many different topics. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. My passion and my vocation intersect in my job: as the Vision Room Curator for Auxano, I’m expected to dive daily into the vast and expanding knowledge pool out there…

…I’ve just got to remember that I’m a tapper, and you’re a listener. 

inspired by Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath

Made to Stick

Use Storytelling Principles and Structure to Engage Your Audience

Stories are the currency of human contact.  – Robert McKee

Award-winning author and presentation expert Nancy Duarte has a new book out: HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. Over the next few days, I will be posting an outline of each of the book’s sections as well as zeroing in on a specific topic.

Section 3: Story

  • Apply Storytelling Principles – make your presentation stick
  • Create a Solid Structure – storytelling principles provide a framework
  • Craft the Beginning – Establish the gap between what is and what could be
  • Develop the Middle – build tension between what is and what could be
  • Make the Ending Powerful – describe the new bliss
  • Add Emotional Texture – decisions are not made by facts alone
  • Use Metaphors as Your Guide – memorable themes help rally an audience
  • Create Something They’ll Always Remember – drive your big idea home

Create Something They’ll Always Remember

According to Duarte, placing a climactic S.T.A.R. moment in your presentation will drive your big idea home. That moment is what the audience will tweet or chat about after your talk. Use it to make people uncomfortable with what is or to draw them toward what could be.

Here are four ways to create a S.T.A.R. moment that captivates your audience and generates buzz:

  • Shocking statistics – if statistics are shocking, don’t glide over them, amplify them
  • Evocative visuals – audiences connect with emotionally potent visuals
  • Memorable dramatization – bring your message to life by dramatizing it
  • Emotive anecdote – use gripping personal stories

The presentations that are repeated have memorable moments in them. These moments don’t happen on their own; they are rehearsed and planned to have just the right amount of analytical and emotional appeal to engage both the hearts and minds of an audience.

Captivate your audience by planning a moment in your presentation that gives them something they’ll always remember.

Next: Media


This is Part 4 of a series looking at Nancy Duarte’s new book HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, highly recommended for all leaders.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The Power of Story in Guest Experience

Stories can be very engaging. We fill our lives with stories. When we tell our friends what happened on our vacation, what we say to our coworkers after the big meeting, talk about our kids’ activities, what happened at the grocery store, we are storytelling. Stories are powerful methods of communication.

The concept of “story” is coming together for me in several areas of my life. While doing research for a work project, I read the following by Robert McKee in his book Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting:

Stories fulfill a profound human need to grasp the patterns of living – not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.

The last phrase of McKee’s quote reminded me of the importance that emotion plays in a Guest Experience. Extending that thought, the power of stories and anecdotes should not be underestimated as you consider how you might weave them into the design of your Guest Experience.

The power of stories is very captivating. When you are sitting down and watching a good movie you can become captivated (in the same way discussed here). Movies and theatre are just stories in another form. What’s your favorite film? You can probably recite the story line in great detail. As you are doing that, you can even remember how you felt when you were watching it. The movie captivated you, you were laughing and crying with the characters – you were the character, you were in the film.

You feel the emotion they do. People talk about being “on the edge of their seats.” Movies evoke emotions in powerful ways. Recently, a group of friends, my wife, and I saw the movie “Argo,” based on the true story of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979. Since all of us are about the same age, we were young adults in our early 20s when the story was news, not a movie. In a discussion following the movie, everyone could recall what they saw and felt and talked about during those tense times. The movie took us back over 30 years to bring back memories that were vivid.

That is the power of story – it is an experience that enables us to escape to another world, to be captivated and be in the moment.

So ask yourself this:

What are the stories that your Guests would tell about you?

Remember that those great movies that you remember every detail about don’t just happen. They are planned and scripted. In the same way, organizations that aspire to WOW! Guest Experiences spend hours planning that Guest Experience. Every detail is considered and the senses are used to evoke emotions. In the same way a movie uses music, a tender love scene, and great dialogue to evoke emotions in the viewer, you must use the same principles to create a great Guest Experience.

Over the last few weeks I have been referring a lot to the work of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading experts on customer experience. In conversations with their staff and in researching their great resources, I have been able to “translate” the world of corporate customer experience to that of Guest Experiences in ChurchWorld.

In Beyond Philosophy founder Colin Shaw’s book Revolutionize Your Customer Experience, expert storyteller and story coach Doug Stevenson tells of the power of story. I have modified the language to that of Guest Experience:

For a Guest Experience to come alive and captivate an audience, the content, structure, and performance must be crafted strategically. The Guest Experience itself is only a beginning. Guest Experience is an art and the designer of the Guest Experience, the artist. And all artists need tools. The actor needs a stage, props, and costumes. The musician needs her instrument. The artist needs his brushes and paint. And the Guest Experience designer needs form, content, and presentation skills and techniques. The great designers of Guest Experiences distinguish themselves not just by their talent, but also by their dedication to their craft. They think about their Guest Experiences constantly. They structure the sequence and flow of the Guest Experience, and experiment to find the right words that are genuinely theirs. They work on a gesture or movement until it is just right. Then they rehearse if over and over again until it becomes second nature – the line and the gesture effortlessly married together. The incorporate acting skills and turn their Guest Experiences into little theatrical events. In order to have an end result that is amazing, you will have to spend many hours working on your Guest Experience. Your Guest Experience must be worked and re-worked, formed and re-formed. You’ll want to find the drama and comedy of your Guest Experience and let them shine.

Can you see that stories are essential enablers of the Guest Experience?

Stories Convey Meaning

Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information; more powerful and enduring than any other art form.

People love stories because life is full of adventure and we’re hardwired to learn lessons from observing change in others. Life is messy, so we empathize with characters who have real-life challenges similar to the ones we face. When we listen to a story, the chemicals in our body change, and our mind becomes transfixed.

Stories link one person’s heart to another. Values, beliefs, and norms become intertwined. When this happens, your idea can more readily manifest as reality in their minds.

Tell the story.

Adapted from Resonate, by Nancy Duarte

Listen to Their Story

Every community has a story – a unique story. Every community has a character, a “feel”, and an attitude shaped by its own peculiar events and circumstances.



Does your church want to make an impact on your community in a meaningful way?

Listen to their story first.

Don’t rush in with your plans and dreams and schemes for what you want to accomplish. First, you ask what’s the story? What are the real issues, the real problems, the real needs?

  • What are the unique needs where God has placed us?
  • How are these needs reflected socially, economically, ethnically, environmentally, politically, and religiously?
  • What arena of our community is the furthest from the utopia that God wants to restore?
  • What special opportunities are found within our immediate sphere of influence (within a half-mile)?
  • What burning issues are alive in the public’s eyes and brought to attention by the media?
  • What needs and opportunities do the industries specific to our area create?
  • What is the most significant change in our community in the last decade, and what need does this create?
  • What are the largest community events, and what needs or opportunities do they create?
  • Because of our specific location, what solution could we provide that no other church does?
  • How would we describe the “atmosphere of lostness” in our community?
  • What is the creation story of our particular community, and what insight does this afford?
  • Does the history of our community bring to light any spiritual strongholds?
  • What one positive change in our community would have the most dramatic effect in people’s lives?

He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame. Proverbs 18:13