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Senior Idea Engineer Adam Nemett draws out the story structure for a StoryARC session.

We believe that storytelling with purpose is the only storytelling that stands the test of time and never, ever goes out of style. Stories provide context, frame a narrative and sharpen an organization’s focus. When used effectively, good corporate storytelling will drive brand awareness, improve stakeholder engagement and inspire consumers to action. Over the years, we have also found storytelling to be an extremely useful tool in navigating change management.

In 2010, one of our longtime clients, Washington-based law firm Hogan & Hartson, announced it was merging with one of its competitors, London-based Lovells. To build alignment within the cultures of these two highly distinctive organizations, we employed our proprietary StoryARC™ methodology. Inspired by the classic three-act dramas used by the ancient Greeks, StoryARC uses a setup, a conflict and a resolution structure to tap into the past as a means of inspiring individuals to begin envisioning a bright new future together.

We organized a multi-day partners retreat centered around the theme of “winning.”  The objective was to get the leaders at each of these prestigious law firms to believe and then act like they were now part of a single winning team.

Act One kicked off with a high energy video illustrating how Grand Prix race teams are comprised of engineers, designers, a pit crew and driver, all of whom work seamlessly together in pursuit of a shared goal to win a race. The case was made about how distinct practice areas within law firms also pull together in their common quest to win on behalf of clients.

Act Two began with a documentary about Ford Motor Company and its remarkable turnaround under the leadership of CEO Alan Mulally. It illustrated the power of belief and how an organization has to internalize a goal and make it personal to increase its chances of achieving it.

Finally, Act Three outlined the vision of what the combined law firm of Hogan Lovells might look like in the future, the goals it hoped to achieve, and how its shared vision would be rooted in the collective histories from the past of two great organizations.

It worked beautifully. Lawyers who had never met before walked out of the conference feeling like they’d known each other for years. You could feel the energy, pride and motivation. The outcome was a success because it didn’t include typical PowerPoint presentations and handouts. It was built around storytelling and the principle that great stories impel people to act—to go out and make a difference, not only for themselves but for the organizations and people they work with as well.

This experience exemplifies how corporate storytelling can become more than just content for your organization’s history book. By using a consistent set of themes and people, storytelling can foster change and cement new relationships.


The above is a passage from Start with the Future and Work Back: A Heritage Management Manifesto. The book offers a unique look at how leading global organizations are leveraging their heritage assets to drive real business advantage.