Influencing the future using the hero’s journey

Our life is what our thoughts make it” – Mar­cus Aure­lius

Often, when some sort of event is hap­pen­ing, that even­tu­al­ly also cap­tures everyone’s atten­tion, we don’t man­age to see or to have the whole pic­ture of it. This is main­ly because each one of us have our own per­spec­tive on what hap­pened. The top­ic might be then debat­ed on TV shows, dif­fer­ent experts will share their opin­ion on it, we might also hear our col­leagues at work pre­sent­ing their own ver­sion of the sto­ry. We will under­stand what real­ly hap­pened only in the end, once the event becomes his­to­ry and we start putting togeth­er piece by piece, the infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by books, arti­cles, dif­fer­ent opin­ions around it.

Agile teams do these reflec­tions at the end of every iter­a­tion, when every­body com­bines their lit­tle piece of the sto­ry and try to come up with the end-to-end his­to­ry of the iter­a­tion. This is an impor­tant part of team improve­ment, that allows us to refo­cus our pri­or­i­ties based on our past expe­ri­ences, iden­ti­fy­ing poten­tial areas of improve­ment to help us be more pro­duc­tive and increase the val­ue we deliv­er.

Some­times though, the action items geared towards fix­ing a prob­lem that occurred in the past, does not nec­es­sar­i­ly help us as a team achieve our goals over the next quar­ter or year. So instead of reflect­ing what have we done, why not imag­ine new things that could be done? Flip­ping the ret­ro­spec­tive from reflec­tion to pre­dic­tion helps us think more open­ly and cre­ative­ly but also to reach our goals!

Enter the futurespective, a retrospective where you start from the goal and explore different ways to reach it.

A future­spec­tive sets the team up for a vir­tu­al time jour­ney. It starts by hav­ing the team imag­ine they are, let’s say, 1 year in the future, that their goals have been reached and now they are hav­ing a final ret­ro­spec­tive to dis­cuss the insights. Option­al­ly the team can men­tion which were the ben­e­fits they got from reach­ing their goals and even cel­e­brate their suc­cess. This builds aware­ness on the impor­tance of reach­ing goals.

Next, team will reflect on their imag­i­nary past by find­ing out what were the pro­pellers for their suc­cess but also what slowed them down or what made it real­ly hard to reach those goals. For some peo­ple it will be strange to have such a dis­cus­sion giv­en they can­not relay on any facts or things that have actu­al­ly hap­pened. Nev­er­the­less, there are var­i­ous tech­niques that help in this kind of sit­u­a­tion.

Final­ly, the team comes back to the present. By explor­ing their imag­i­nary past, they can agree on what actions can be tak­en in order to reach their goal/s.

Hero’s Journey — our experience

A suc­ces­full 2017 is about to end. Togeth­er with our devel­op­ment teams we thought to be a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to start a jour­ney into the future and imag­ine where we would like to see our­selves in the next 12 months, refo­cus on our cul­ture and val­ues and come to an agree­ment on how to reach col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly our tribe goals.

We’ve embarked on a hero’s jour­ney.

The Hero’s Jour­ney is a pow­er­ful method of sto­ry telling that cap­ti­vates the audi­ence not only because of it’s struc­ture but also because it is easy for each par­tic­i­pant to see them­selves in the sto­ry, mak­ing all the mis­takes and achiev­ing all the glo­ry of the hero.

In 1949, Joseph Camp­bell pub­lished the book The Hero with a Thou­sand Faces  where he traced the jour­ney (rise, death, and rebirth) of the arche­typ­al hero. His the­o­ry sug­gest­ed that all his­tor­i­cal myths from around the world, many sur­viv­ing thou­sands of years, share a com­mon sto­ry, stages, and out­comes.

Over the years, Campbell’s work has become known as the Hero’s Jour­ney. The jour­ney that lies ahead of us is in many ways sim­i­lar to that of Campbell’s heroes:

A hero ven­tures forth from the world of com­mon day into a region of super­nat­ur­al won­der: fab­u­lous forces are there encoun­tered and a deci­sive vic­to­ry is won: the hero comes back from this mys­te­ri­ous adven­ture with the pow­er to bestow boons on his fel­low man.”

The hero is us, as a tribe/team . We are on the hero’s jour­ney. We can refuse the call to adven­ture, but it’s still there. And there’s no avoid­ing the fact that mean­ing­ful progress and change will take place. But, with the right strat­e­gy and approach to moti­va­tion, we’ll have the pow­er to change the game — to shift behav­iour, shape cul­ture and make progress hap­pen.

Our jour­ney is laid out in mul­ti­ple stages, with the first being that of dis­cov­ery & reflec­tion fol­lowed by intel­li­gence, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and for­mu­la­tion.

In order to make it more pow­er­ful, for each of the stages, we’ve used LEGO bricks to for­mu­late our sto­ries.

Stage 1 — The ordinary world — call to adventure

We start in the ordi­nary world by reflect­ing on our cur­rent envi­ron­ment: who are we as tribe? what are we good at? what are our super­pow­ers? what’s our DNA?

Why start before the actu­al adven­ture begins? Because we want to get to know the hero before we plunge him into the dan­ger, and to do that, know­ing his back­ground helps. It’s the per­fect moment to show him at his best. But 2018 is approach­ing, we know that there is much more for us out there, we want to stretch beyond the known even though there is some­thing that fright­ens us. It might not be that excit­ing like land­ing in Oz  but it’s still a change.

Stage 2 — Meeting the mentor

Some­thing impor­tant is about to hap­pen next: in order to cross the thresh­old and con­tin­ue the adven­ture, we need the sup­port of a guide or men­tor. The guide gives us infor­ma­tion and helps us make the right deci­sions. We don’t have to take it lit­er­al­ly. It also doesn’t have to be a per­son. It can be a book or a phone call, or some­thing that we remem­ber of. For Dorothy it was Glen­da, the good witch. For Luke Sky­walk­er it was Obi Wan. For us it’s our moti­va­tors, our pas­sions, what we love to do, what dri­ves us, what describes us as a team.

Stage 3 — Enter the cavern

There is no change process that is going to be easy. Every adven­ture, in order to be worth it, has to be chal­leng­ing: we meet friends and ene­mies (not always know­ing which is which), the chal­lenges faced allow us to learn and grow, along the way we will find out that we are so much capa­ble that we would have ever thought. That’s great and very help­ful news since the final ordeal is approach­ing. We now face the last great obsta­cles in order to reach our goal/s.  It’s going to be hard but not impos­si­ble, because we know we are pre­pared for some­thing big­ger.

Stage 4 — The Treasure and the road back

After all these expe­ri­ences, we need to recov­er. It’s time to come back in our “ordi­nary world”. We are able to share the gifts and wis­dom accu­mu­lat­ed through our jour­ney. We are greet­ed with joy and fan­fare.

The jour­ney returns to it’s start­ing the point. Will the ordi­nary world be the same?

For us it was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to end the jour­ney by set­ting the OKRs for the next quar­ter. We man­aged to agree on a set of clear objec­tives, a spe­cif­ic and agreed roadmap and mea­sur­able progress.

Where are you and your team on the Hero’s Jour­ney?

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