Story Spines Can Inspire Change

Once Upon a Time, You Created Change…

Storytelling has long been a vehicle for creating a journey of the imagination, a journey in which a transformation happens. In his March 2012 Fast Company article, “Using Great Storytelling To Grow Your Business,” Kaihan Krippendorff writes about how to use effective storytelling to drive change and growth in an organization. He references a tool called a Story Spine, which is a simple bunch of sentence stems that provide the skeleton for building a story. The Story Spine is a tool developed by Kenn Adams as a way for improvisers (actors who work without a script) to build a classic story.

The basic Story Spine structure

Once there was…
And every day…
Until one day…
And because of that…
And because of that…
And because of that…
Until finally…
And so…

Optional ending line: The moral of the story is…

Sound familiar? Many fairy tales and children’s stories, as well as novels and movies,  fit in this story structure. Elegant & easy! So, what if we could use story spines to map out a vision for changing ourselves? Simple genius! Here’s a great Harvard Business Review article that guides us on using Story Spines to craft a vision for changing our own circumstances:

Bonus Freebie

There are hundreds of possible Story Spine variations, and here’s one:

  • [The balance]: Once upon a time … and every day …
  • [The un-balance]: But then one day …
  • [The quest for a resolution]: … and because of that … and so … until finally ….
  • [The new balance]: … and ever since that day ….


Your Turn

Now, how will you use a Story Spine to create change in your own life? Share your thoughts in a comment here!


20 Ways to Communicate With Employees

  1. Share credit. Always.
  2. Praise in public and give feedback in private.
  3. Include affected employees in goal setting. 
  4. Give frequent and meaningful recognition for a job well done.
  5. Interact with employees on an informal basis.
  6. Go to shared work areas. Meet them on their own turf.
  7. Ask for team members’ opinions and listen with an open mind. Try to understand their point of view.
  8. Share non-confidential information with team members, and ask for their input and response on issues.
  9. Offset demoralizing actions and events by emphasizing what went well, and use the experience as a learning opportunity.
  10. Listen 80% of the time and talk 20%.
  11. Ask team members what rumors they have heard, and address them.
  12. Get into the “trenches” with team members. Look for opportunities to understand employees’ jobs better.
  13. Give information to staff after management meetings.
  14. Ask team members. “Have I made our vision, mission, and goals clear and understandable?
  15. Ask team members, “What can I do to help you with your job, and what am I doing that gets in your way?”
  16. Ask team members”What is making our clients/customers the most and/or the least satisfied?”
  17. Find something to like about each team members with whom you work.
  18. Actively make a point of speaking to all employees seen each day.
  19. Build bridges with people with whom you are uncomfortable.
  20. Set goals each month on ways to accomplish “Managing by Walking Around.”
  21. Occasionally have lunch with team members.  Use this as an opportunity to build trust.

Adapted from “A Checklist for Managers,” by Robin Reid