I first heard the phrase Inside-Out Storytelling via the young author I work with to design educational resources around her work. Clare-Rose Trevelyan is passionate about philosophy for children. She’s written five beautiful small books for young philosophers.
The first in the series is entitled The Book With No Story in which Clare admits to her young readers that a squad of creatures have escaped her imagination. Sadly for her, she says to them, they found her stories boring. The best that she can do, then, she confesses, is round them up into a book of their profiles. Clare then shares another revelation, from one writer to another, the book has no story. Could her inside-out storytelling, that is, the way she writes her books, be useful to her readers? For instance, could they 1) write the creatures into their own stories and 2) create more creatures and stories of their own?
Thinking up a creature’s INSIDE and OUTSIDE stories show the philosopher at work… looking for reasons, proof, knowledge about who these creatures are… and what experiences might really suit them.
The second source comes from Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” which, last time I checked on 1/2/2020, had been viewed 48,370,841 times. Regretfully, I only heard of Simon Sinek and listened to his talk I was completing an online course on Hubspot Academy last Monday (26/1).
Wow! Sinek’s insight into effective storytelling moved me beyond words. His ‘Golden Circle Method’, a stroke of genius. Begin with why you do what you do, he says, then go onto how you will help your audience and only then communicate what you offer as a solution.
Remarkably, Sinek’s ‘inside-out’ storytelling speaks to my training in the performing arts and in education. Both have taught me how ‘affective’ responses always come before intellectual understanding. This is because evolutionary forces have hardwired our ‘fight or flight’ response into us. Quite literally, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our emotional responses. Furthermore, how long have we been told by marketing people that the ‘sizzle’ comes before the ‘steak’?
None of that matters, however, because of the beauty of Sinek’s solution to deeply touch both the ‘heart and mind’ at the same time. Put dramatically, to begin with asking ‘why’ is to engage an audience into saying a form of Nicene Creed and singing Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ simultaneously. It’s like a Greek chorus from Sophocles who speaks in an I/We voice, personally, yet also on behalf of everyone. It’s just brilliant!
The value of making new connections
Why am I connecting a young writer wanting to engage children as young philosophers, to Sinek’s advice to leaders and business owners? Ok, I can see, at one level, both seem to call up dreamers and thinkers. But beyond that, I see my own need to reconcile the teacher-artist to the business-owner in myself.
You see, this week I’ve finally found the courage to relaunch Fantastic Learning Systems, the educational services side of my work. I’ve made several attempts to get it going since returning to Australia from the UK in late-October 2014.
I do creative projects for a living, for indie authors and for schools. Straddling the artistic and online business knowledge needed to project manage and write in these two spheres of my life has been taxing. This is particularly true as I’ve tried to change towards a more agile methodology.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Agile philosophy and using Atlassian’s team-based software. The problem is my age. As a ‘baby boomer’, my positive outlook doesn’t save me from the aches and pains of climbing the mountains of new knowledge I seem to have to confront on a daily basis.
As connections meet the need for meaning
But the truth is, I first set FLS up in my home State of Western Australia in 2008, after seven years of researching creative learning. I then run out of money and it broke my heart to tell the kids I had been working with that finances had defeated me. So I gave up!
In 2009, I went to London, convinced that I should stick to just one thing, researching in my expert area of theatre history. However, working as a theatre reviewer in London’s prolific fringe theatre scene, my thoughts soon turned towards how cultures sustain teaching and learning creativity. And because I was working alone, I became more and more interested in technological solutions to connect with colleagues, research institutions, digital archives etc. My partner is a very tech-savvy person, so it wasn’t long before I had my Gmail account and learning all about Google apps, WordPress and e-learning packages like Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate.
When it was time to come home, I felt sure I had found a new focus for Fantastic Learning Systems. With each attempt, however, I’ve failed to get started. Instead, I found myself ‘frozen in the headlights’ time and time again, compelled by shame to pathetically cry ‘communicating in a digital world, a world of information tidal waves and Google analytics, is extraordinarily hard’.
Not only inside-out but also upside-down
So what? If the best my ‘baby boomer’ generation can give the world is Trump, Farage, politicians that walk into parliament with chunks of coal and who knowingly deny climate-change, then what will I say and do differently from the egoism and short-sightedness of the aforementioned.
As I searched for ‘the answer’, I came across Olivia Ilic’s Creative Destruction: How rising from the ashes of failure fuels new growth. I was blown away by Olivia’s honesty, courage and sheer intelligence on how she grasped learning from her failures to start a new business.
I have had to come to terms with the failure and so-called ‘creative destruction’ of my own business recently and despite a sense of loss, am proud of the evolution of the skills, knowledge and attitudes I have formed as a result. I look forward to seeing how these manifest into new outputs, new teams, new projects and new forms of creative expression and to sharing my learning along the way.
Yes, I have lived the blessed life as a ‘baby boomer’, in which I have never even come close to imagining that learning begins with humility. Instead, in my upbringing, as the child of Italian migrants, my confidence was off the chart. I arrived at the University of Western Australia, barely 17. When the Dean of Studies advised me I was too young for university life, that I should at least wait for a year before starting, I wouldn’t hear of it.
I just knew I would be up to the task because all my life I had been encouraged to achieve the unthinkable. In the home and in the welcoming Australian culture which reared me, I watched hard-working and self-sacrificing people make great institutions in which I was to thrive. Today, with these blessings in mind, I wonder if what I developed wasn’t also a hefty sense of arrogance.
By contrast, Olivia Ilic seems to know that she will always live through the cycle of competencies, beginning with ‘I do not know what I do not know’. Consequently, I believe, her self-regard, based on the need to fail in order to learn, seems to have sustained her through the relentless change of digital disruption. Furthermore, she is remarkably matter-of-fact about learning and failing. The baby boomer in me can’t believe the lack of high drama she shows for just getting on with the job of dealing with change.
My advice is to treat all creative destruction and near misses the same, as learning. Whilst it is not always easy to admit failure there is a high likelihood that some form of learning will occur as a result of this experience.
The irony, of course, is that in accepting that failure is part of learning, Olivia’s stories are always, by Sinek’s description, inside-out because they reveal her beliefs around giving service. Remarkably, I see that they may also fit Clare’s yearning to tell inside and outside tales through sparkling philosophical discussions.
With both these things in mind, as I stumble through my business planning in the coming days, I shall seriously consider Olivia’s questions about creative destruction:
Is it a literal ‘fire’ such as an act of burning something to the ground? Who sets light to the fire? The founder? The competition? The customer uprising? How long does a flame stay alight before it disintegrates into ashes?
What amazing questions to consider as I try to ignite a small campfire discussion with different generations of readers around this post. But if I fail to raise a response, I look forward to learning from what I hope to be the first of many posts.