Storytelling In Projects.

From the The Project Shrink Blog
Bas de Baar is a Dutch visual facilitator, creating visual tools for dialogue. He is dedicated to improve the dialogue we use to make sense of change. As The Project Shrink, this is the riddle he tries to solve: “If you are a Project Manager that operates for a short period of time in a foreign organization, with a global team you don’t know, in a domain you would not know, using virtual communication, high uncertainty, limited authority and part of what you do out in the open on the Internet, how do you make it all work?”

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I let you in on a little secret: when I talk about storytelling in projects, I get a little help from movies. The Matrix, Star Wars, The Big Lebowski, Juno. What they have in common is that they all follow a universal structure called "The Hero's Journey". Or "monomyth".

Professor Joseph Campbell analyzed hundreds of stories, old and new, and described in his book "The Man With A Thousand Faces" the universal structure they all had in common.

The Hero's Journey.

In it's short form it's about an ordinary person faced with a challenge. He has to go into an unknown territory to retrieve something. During this journey he has to face certain tasks and enemies. He will meet people that will help him, show him the ways of this unknown place. (image: Wikipedia)

What makes this narrative structure so interesting is not that many movies are based upon it. It's more the reason why so many stories are following this flow. There is a certain appeal to it, we all recognize parts of how we experience our own life story.

One essential part of the monomyth is the transformation the hero is going through. It is not just a story about traveling through unknown territory. It's also about a personal change. Letting go of old patterns and having to face a crisis, before being transformed. There are two journeys: the journey to get something, and the personal journey of change.

This movie trailer describes the appeal of The Hero's Journey perfectly. This trailer is from a documentary about Joseph Campbell. My friend Steve pointed me to this video. Steve and I are working on something awesome around storytelling in projects.

Finding Joe - Trailer V.7 from pat solomon on Vimeo.

Campbell describes 12 stages that make up The Hero's Journey. You can read more about them here.

I hope you see know why I talk about projects as traveling through unknown territory. I hope you see the relation with the two project storylines: the organizational and personal journeys.

This is why I wrote about the crisis every project has in the middle. It's the Abyss in a Hero's Journey.

The entire idea of using "adventure travel" as a metaphor for projects is about a transformative journey into foreign land. Using tents. Maps. And stuff.


Webinar About Storytelling In Projects

I recently gave an introduction to storytelling in projecs. Below is a recording of that webinar. It doesn't include The Hero's Journey though.


Bas de Baar is a writer who draws about people in transition. He loves to make visual maps and travel guides for the collaborators of our brave new world.

Posted on: October 27, 2011 10:36 AM | Permalink

Comments (1)

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Project Management is an attitude towards any endeavour whether on personal grounds or at organizational level . Such a wonderful abstract Bas , and nevertheless beautifully mapped in terms of Journey of a Hero .

What I have learnt from the above article and little bit of experience i have had so far is that Hero (in our case PM) has to have a creed towards achieving goals , planning them , executing them all along with the tribe he /she is associated with.

Taking this endeavour as a team , filled with motivation during all the odds and evens , make the journey to its destiantion. Hero never forgets his strengths neither he detrack from the goal and Helper devotion towards him help him achieve the goal. This is amazing abstract to which we can relate to the projects. Hats off to Mr. Bas


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"History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme a lot."

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