Once Upon a Time

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    Welcome to the 27th edition of the Humanity Working! This week, I’ll be talking about how to get better at storytelling, going into why flexible work is fundamentally different, and looking at why we should be walking in the mornings.

    “Why did you move to Tulsa, Oklahoma?”

    That’s a question I’ve been asked repeatedly over the last 2 and a half years, ever since I persuaded our family to pack up our belongings and relocate from our beautiful home in Washington State.

    Here’s the simple answer.

    My company, which helps employees develop soft skills for the future of work, got funding in 2021 from a venture capital firm based in Tulsa. The VC firm offered to provide substantial in person assistance as we built out our business strategy. My co-founder was in Raleigh, NC and was willing to move as well, so this was a great opportunity to work from the same place in the formative years of our company.

    Now here’s the same answer, told in a different way:

    At the end of February 2020, my co-founder and I shook hands on starting a new business. We didn’t meet again for over a year.

    Our company was built on a simple idea – that work was changing dramatically, and employees needed new stills to thrive in this environment. Now, suddenly, Ryan and I had to change the way we worked as we tried to build our new business, 3000 miles apart from each other while a pandemic was raging.

    Physical whiteboards and coffee shop meetings were out, Zoom was in.

    Building a business this way wasn’t fun. Co-founders help each other in a bunch of ways, but one is by sharing the experience – celebrating the wins and commiserating the losses with a beer, or sometimes just with a grin or a groan. But we persevered, and after dozens of false starts, a potential investor reached out to us with real interest.

    “We’d love to meet you to talk more” they said “Can you come to Tulsa, Oklahoma? Flights and hotels are on us…for both of you”

    “For both of you”. Hang on, that means we will actually get to hang out, as co-founders, and work together on this thing in real life! We both said yes, almost before they had finished asking the question.

    2 weeks later, we were there in Tulsa, and finally our company felt like it was shifting from a theoretical idea to a real business. Every minute we had between meetings we’d find a room and frantically sketch ideas together, treasuring every moment we’d been denied.

    At the end of the week, the offer came. The investors wanted in, and wanted us to move to Tulsa so they could get closely involved.

    Tulsa? Neither Ryan nor I had ever even thought about Tulsa. And we both had families to consider….But, the week had been amazing. Imagine what we could do if every week was like that?

    What the heck, the world is crazy right now anyway. Let’s have an adventure. So, we moved. And we are still here today.

    Each of the answers I just shared is 100% true, but only one of them is in any way memorable. Of course, the second answer is longer, but stories don’t have to be long at all to have an impact. You may have heard of Hemingway’s famous 6 word story:

    For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

    6 words, just 6. Crafted in a way that makes the reader care.

    Spending time constructing stories can be fun if you are into that sort of thing, but do they actually make any difference in a business setting? The answer is an absolute yes. Every day investments are made and people are hired because of story. The reason? Well, partly it’s about emotional connection, but that’s not the only reason. Stories provide us with two benefits. Firstly, because they deal with universal human themes, they give our brains a reason to care enough to remember them. But also, the structure of a story give us an organizing structure for the facts themselves. This is why mnemonists often use stories to help them memorize dry facts.

    Underlying all of this is a simple truth. If you are communicating with others, it’s not their job to be engaged, it’s your job to engage them. You don’t have to be Shakespeare to accomplish that – you just have to learn some basic storytelling techniques, and practice them every time you can.

    If you would like to learn more about how we can help you become a better storyteller, tell me why by e-mailing me at paul@billionminds.com.


    How the Future Works

    Brian Elliott , Helen Kupp, and Sheela Subramanian are great storytellers, who also know a lot about the way the world of work is changing. Brian was a guest on our Humanity Working podcast recently, and he shared lots of stories from his time at Slack, but also with the many companies he’s consulted with, as they shifted to a more Flexible Work environment.

    In the podcast, we talked about the use of that term – Flexible Work, versus for example Hybrid or Remote. Brian’s take (and I agree with him) is that terms like remote and hybrid miss something very important – the time dimension. In fact, for most people, flexibility is the goal, particularly flexibility over when work is done, so they can integrate work into the rest of their lives. This is something I actually wrote about some time back in my article – A Matter of Space and Time – A New Flexible Workplace Model.

    Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the discussion was learning about the culture of Slack itself. For many of us, Slack has become emblematic of technology that is essential for flexible work environments, yet for several years the culture of the company itself was anything but flexible. The organization was firmly centered around a physical office environment headquartered in San Francisco, and it took a lot of work to make the transition to an organization that fully embraced flexible work.

    You can listen to the podcast on Substack, on your favourite podcasting platform, or watch the video below:

    Walking on Sunshine

    Video Length: 1 minute 9 seconds

    Walking is great for us. While the 10,000 steps many of us aspire to is a product of marketing (it’s a fascinating story that dates back to the 1964 Olympics) it doesn’t change the fact that getting outside and walking is one of the single best things we can do for our health, and it’s free!

    Interestingly, there is an increasing body of evidence that when we walk also makes a difference. Walking within a couple of hours of waking up has a disproportionately good effect, but sometimes fitting that in can be a bit of a challenge. Check out this weeks video that details how to find time for a morning walk, even on your busier days.

    About Us

    If you are worried about how prepared your employees are for change – change in work environments (like hybrid and remote), business strategy, or even technology changes, you should talk to us. Just reach out us here and we can get a call scheduled.

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