So there we were gathered together on an island, (the best kind of place to feel that you’re truly gathered) to talk about the future of storytelling. Some of the best and brightest in the storytelling business from Burberry CEO (soon to be heading up the retail story at Apple), Angela Ahrendts, to Robert Wong from Google were there.
It seemed that almost every person I spoke to was wrestling, not with the future of storytelling, but with the future of their story. How do traditional businesses born in the industrial age, those that thrived in a Mad Menesque world, adapt and find new ways to be heard? How do digital businesses create intimacy, when what they probably want is scale? How does anyone stay relevant, in a world where expectations shift daily beneath our feet and fickle people change their behaviour?
The future we seem to be imagining is about tactics, and platforms, and technology that makes us feel somehow more able to connect and less relevant all at once. That paperless and scary place where our messages and stories seem to lose permanence. We’re running in ever decreasing circles to try to catch up with the future before it gets here, just so we can stay ahead of the game.
And the irony is that the answers we’re searching for lie in the past and the present, in looking each other in the eye, and ourselves in the mirror before we try to preempt the future.
Before paper, ink and white space we had only words. The words and stories we paid attention to had to mean something to us, otherwise they didn’t get passed on. We gathered around campfires to listen, and sat at tables talking and drinking tea, or got comfortable with a book on our mother’s lap, the medium didn’t matter, what mattered was the connection, the animal warmth and the trust. Now suddenly we feel a bit lost as to how to recreate that at scale in a digital world, so we focus on the tactics instead of the truth.
As our circles of intimacy contract, and our circles of influence expand, it’s getting harder and harder to look people in the eye, to let them know that they can trust us. And yet that’s what we have to find a way to do, not because our businesses won’t survive if we don’t, but because we won’t survive without that connection to both doing work that matters and to each other.
The currency of the future was also the currency of the past, it’s simply about intentionally creating deeper connections to each other. Before we imagine a world through Glass, or a future of wearables, digital storytelling and connection platforms of every kind, we need to acknowledge the truth about where we came from and why we’re here.
The future might not be as unpredictable or complicated as we think.
Image by Antoine Walter.