Harness the Power of Your Origin

Describing the rationale for your product or company is an inspiring message for all your stakeholders

Why you need an origin story

As described in our previous article ‘Get What You Want by Mastering This Critical Communication Tool’, storytelling is a crucial skill needed to inspire, motivate, and persuade others, no matter what business you are in. But the type of story you tell depends on your objective, and the ‘origin story’ is a powerful technique to help you explain why your company/product exists, and why investors, employees and customers should support you.

How to craft a compelling origin story

Like all other the story types shared in our previous article, it contains 5 elements, but the emphasis is different than for other stories:

  1. Character: Who came up with the solution to this deplorable state of affairs?This is a brief description of the person who started it all — the hero of this story. Whether that’s a founder of a company or the designer of a product, audiences pay more attention to stories that are about people (even if the story is about the idea that started it all)
  2. Conflict: Who had a vested interest in preserving the status quo, and why? Audiences love stories about villains that get vanquished and every origin story has a villain: competitors, regulators, or other companies whose business model is being disrupted by yours. The more powerful you paint these villains, the more powerful your solution (and story) will be.
  3. Action: What did you do to deal with the conflict you just laid out? This describes the early days of your efforts to overcome the many obstacles that any new company faces. You can keep this short, because presumably you are telling your origin story at a time when you’ve already overcome the obstacles, so the audience already knows the outcome (you succeeded!).
  4. Result: What did you achieve and what did you learn? The takeaway of an origin story is that any challenge can be overcome if you put your mind to it and persevere, so it’s more important to describe the results (“and after 2 years of toiling in a garage, we rolled out the first personal computer”) that justify all actions up to that point. This is also the proof point for why employees should be excited about your company, or why investors should pony up.

When to tell your origin story

Origin stories have great motivational power and are meant to inspire and to align employees and stakeholders around shared values. Thus, don’t be shy about repeating your story over and over again, because inspiration and motivation are not one-time actions. The Pethealth founder never missed an opportunity to tell his story. Whether you are trying to rally the troops in the face of difficulties, or attempting to wrangle more money from investors, or simply want to remind customers and employees about the true purpose of your business, you can see how the story of PetHealth’s origin is one of the best ways to achieve those objectives. Just remember to keep it short (so others can retell it), and be conscious of the fact that origin stories can become obsolete and less relevant as they recede into the distant past. You’ll recognize it when people take your business model for granted and stop asking what life was like before your great idea came along. At that point, you can shift from an origin story to a more forward-looking ‘vision story.’

Regular and orderly in life, chaotic and sort of original in my art

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