Inspired by the Journey

10 Jun 2010|Kelli Peterson

Storytelling has experienced an upswing in importance over the last decade. We preach it, we know its power, and we are held captive by its humanity – even, or especially, in the business world. At the Sustainable Brands conference, we have been empowered by and reminded of the importance of a well-told story.

Over the past few days we’ve listened to a range of professional’s journeys, on the road to understanding and then initiating the first stages of their own company’s sustainable strategies. Very few of these are public yet. As one presenter mentioned “it’s like putting a large bulls-eye on your back if you start talking publicly about sustainability”. Many of these stories have been very moving. From a business perspective you don’t often get to hear first-hand how corporate giants set out on a risky mission to address a problem with unknown and potentially very messy ramifications. A reminder to all of us passionate about the topic but not necessarily cut from advocacy cloth: these movements all started with individuals – real people like us – who became convinced personally and professionally that there was something important at stake.

The impact of these stories has been inspiring. And only possible because the presenters dared to share the details of their pain points – their questions, fears and the unexpected moments of the discovery process. These professional journeys are very personal and are a result of business professionals bringing their “whole selves” to work.

Vulnerability is the result of genuine transparency. Transparency is a hallmark value of the sustainability industry. Vulnerability sits on that emotional spectrum somewhere near intimacy and joy – all three of which fall very close to the balance we seek from a well-balanced planet. This is why these stories are so powerful. There is a protagonist (us, as business folks with our personal selves very much on the line), there is a journey (the one that considers saving the planet) and there is an adversary – public scrutiny, unpleasant and potentially politically contentious outcomes, executive management – and all the raw emotions that surface in that process.

This “inside-out” storytelling has held us under its influence and hopefully has re-energized many of us – as it has me – to pick up the mantle (and shield) to battle our way towards what we believe is necessary for our planet, our businesses, and our communities to survive.

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