Storytelling method

The impact of storytelling - beyond good and evil.

Breathless silence in the cinema. Popcorn, crisps and Coke have long since been consumed, so the third act on the screen - the so-called obligatory scene of every thriller: the hero stands face to face with the villain, usually eye to eye, and shows his colours. Only - who is who?

Here and now, Bruce Willis interprets this "eye to eye" in his inimitable way, because he is hanging from a hook on the façade of a skyscraper, holding on to it with a yes: eyelid. And at that age! Fuck a duck - let's see if Tom Cruise can pull that off then; but rather not.

The taxi-yellow-striped rush hour of6th Avenue roars towards its destination, and Bruce proves about 150 floors above that the wisdom "only those who let go have their hands free" doesn't always have to be true thanks to his well-trained eyelids. Nevertheless, he has his hands free, because he needs them each for a large-calibre quality product from the house of Glock. A hit from these devices does not kill the opponent, but levels him, under factory guarantee.

Thus armed, Bruce aims inside the building, and those who are only now entering the cinema have no idea what Bruce is up to. The unshaven Bruce wears a worn black leather jacket, a blood-sweaty T-shirt, jeans torn to shreds by life and a juicy cut on the bridge of his nose, which, at least in middle-class circles, does not bode well.

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The guy, on the other hand, facing Bruce Willis, in the boardroom, in Brioni, drenched in sweat and in considerable need of explanation in the face of unlocked Glock products, even through the broken window, his good upbringing, top-notch education and Hamptons home, where his WASP family awaits him in contentment and Ralph Lauren. That's what good guys look like, even if things are anything but good for the good man at present.

Because if we interpret Bruce Willis' mood correctly, this city is definitely too small for the two of them, even if it is obviously NY (NY). That's what a one-eyed man sees! So not only Bruce Willis, but also a decision hangs in the air, and that's exactly why he's coming now. He - that sentence we hold so dear, even more so than popcorn, chips & coke in our stomachs. (Next time the little popcorns, swear).

The sentence that explains everything and for which we have been subconsciously waiting for 82 minutes and 48 seconds.

Like the amen to prayer, the following sentence falls in the Obligatory Scene , in this case from the mouth of the Brioni guy: "I had no choice, I had to... kill everyone/blow up the power plant/clear out the account..."


Or, as Bruce Willis sometimes puts it, "Yippie kay yay, motherfucker!"

The culprit is convinced of this: "I had no choice!" So: I was forced to do it, you drove me to it. Or even more: I am in the right, I could only restore justice this way. I have done nothing wrong.

The evil one never feels that he is the evil one. On the contrary, he thinks he does what he does for a good reason.

No one commits a crime because they want to commit a crime (unless they are actually mentally ill). Even every serial killer is convinced that he is doing what he has to do, that he is obliged or at least entitled to do so. And be it out of urgent need for revenge.

Every antagonist in our story is the protagonist in his, in which we in turn are the antagonists.

This is not only the case in Hollywood blockbusters, or in gripping classic novels, or in the great tragedies on the stages of this world. All of this is ultimately, and in the best case, a condensed description of the truth of life.

Who is really good, who is really evil?

Even in real life there is no evil person who says about himself that he is evil. And this despite hatred, envy, love, jealousy, greed, envy, betrayal ...

No parricide, no grand swindler, no dictatorial terror ruler - not even Hitler thought he was in the wrong. In fact, they are all firmly convinced that they are pursuing a mission, fulfilling their duty, at least doing what has to be done. Even if it requires sacrifices.

Even Nazis had/have - this must be known in all terrible clarity - a story that was perfect for them: precisely a clear value profile to which they committed themselves, a vision, a mission, an enemy from outside ... abominable, but true.

With the story mechanic "We are the many, the morally superior, dominated by a powerful elitist minority" you can demand "America First" like Donald Trump, or introduce the Macintosh to the market like Appledid in 1984. A small group of righteous people fighting for liberation from the bondage of the all-dominant Big Brother IBM.



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The good guys against the ruling power of the elite. That is the story mechanics of the Nazis, that is also the story mechanics of the Christians of 2,000 years ago.

Story knows no good and no evil.

Story functions as a mechanism like a hammer. Whoever wields it determines whether it acts as a tool or a weapon. Let's hope that the Glock is always held by the good Bruce Willis ...

Is there such a thing as right or wrong?

The exciting thing about life is that in the vast majority of situations there is no objective right or wrong decision at all, unlike in a striking chin-boom movie where it is clear from the start what will happen, who will win (spoiler alert: Bruce Willis), but in the best case it is not yet clear how.

That would make life super simple. But life is not simple, it is complex and constantly confronts us with the choice between two positive things or between two evils - and often when making decisions in and for companies. So we are permanently up to our ears in a fat dilemma.

It is then also these stories around a dilemma in films, novels or plays that are so helpful to us as models for explaining our own world, because they depict real life and have nothing but truth as their content.

Life is a single quandary in endless, merciless continuous operation, and we have to make one decision after another. I remembered a sentence by Roy E. Disney: "It's not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.

Which value is in danger?

Story is based on values. In every good story, there is an archaic core value in danger that needs to be saved. This is true for fictional narratives as well as for effective brand stories, for the story of your life and for leaders of states, organisations, companies, departments or NGOs anyway. Whoever has the stronger story wins.

No one ever said it better than Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: "If you want to build a ship, don't gather men together to get wood, assign tasks and divide up the work, but teach the men to long for the wide, endless sea". This is the story of ... freedom! So the opponent, the antagonistic force, is naturally called: unfreedom. You can read a little more about it here.

"It's about our values." Not a day goes by that I don't come across this phrase. Core values, brand values, values of our society, values that we are thus obliged to defend - values, values, values.

We perceive values as something positive, so we keep our values high. (Only not the liver values, if possible).

Values are valuable. That is true. But it is still completely wrong.

Because values are one thing above all: value-neutral.



Protagonist or antagonist - what's the difference?

Let's change perspective for a moment: "If these guys really build a ship, they'll get off our island and leave us in solitude, without their ideas and without their drive. Damn it! We have to do something ...!" Saint-Exupéry would probably say here: "If you want to build a fence ..."

And as we all know, fences prevent some from getting in and others from getting out. - One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Life is complex. So is story. That's why story is so important for us and the very best way to communicate our values. Storytelling, or better still story sharing, helps us explain our world(s), share our values and be human.

So when we talk about our values and develop our stories, we do damn well to do it sincerely, with a pure heart.

And then, first of all, we understand that our precious values do not have to be precious to others - beyond good and evil.

Think, for example, of the understanding of "the high quality of our work". Some see it as working as easily as possible, others as producing a product that lasts as long as possible, the third want both, and others just don't want to make a mistake. In principle, there's nothing wrong with any of that, is there?

So let's not confuse values with virtues, which is what we usually mean when we say values.

How to find your true values - now it's time to get down to business.

This makes it all the more important for every brand, every company and every organisation to be absolutely precise when calibrating their compass of values. The question is not: "What are our values?", but: "What are our values and how are they experienced - inside and outside?"

We put "people first", we want "satisfied customers, employees and of course partners", or we stand for "sustainability" ... Is there anyone who doesn't want that? Exactly, and yet it means something different to everyone. You can pick this usual kind of value monstrosity - as they say in Vienna - on your belly, paint it on, rub it in ...

Speaking of "rexing" - here we get down to the nitty-gritty. Only recently, an international study showed that 66 percent of buyers make their purchase decision based on what a company stands for or does not stand for in social issues. Your story can therefore also generate sales for you.

Another study found that the corporate culture and the connection with the so-called brand purpose is the most important reason for whether someone accepts a job offer or not. The higher the qualification of the applicant, the more pronounced this is. I just remembered this because I have been asked remarkably often lately about how to succeed with storytelling in the competitive employee market. My answer: see above.

Regardless of whether you are a global corporation, an SME or a heroic lone fighter as an EPU - every person, every brand, every company has and needs at least one archaic value and the story it activates, around which everything revolves. If you don't have a magnetic value as a living theme, there is only one other thing left: price. And price is in this case just another word for death sentencewith an uncertain execution date. Yippie kay yay, motherfucker!

So to all those who say: "It doesn't apply to me and my brand!" I would like to recommend those words that my grandmother, old Story Dudette, wrote to Friedrich Nietzsche on the cover of his manuscript of "Beyond Good and Evil": "No Story. No Glory."