Big Picture

Martin Johnson Big Picture Big Picture

Credit: Martin Johnson Big Picture

STORYTELLING: seven plots in the workplace

Is there a monster to overcome? Are you on a determined journey of your choosing? Or, is it a voyage of uncertainty? Are you surrounded by confusion and misunderstanding? Does it have to end that way? Could you break free and start again? Do you see yourselves on a roller coaster ride to rapid success?

These are rarely the questions business leaders ask of themselves and the company they work for. Yet the essential meaning in these questions serves up the seven plots that form the basis of all the best storytelling we know. While we may not recognise these patterns in our workplace, we are very familiar with them in books, films, theatre, TV, gaming and all kinds of media.

Martin Johnson did not see any reason why he couldn’t use the power of storytelling in his day-to-day business activities with Big Picture – training company teams to understand how the business works, identify the challenges and agree the opportunities to make things better. He asked Ideal Worldsmiths to help him produce a series of printed training resources on different workplace themes. Each theme had to adopt one of the seven plots and involve a series of invented characters to carry a 1,000-word story.

Earthy Induction used the plot of Rebirth to tell the story of a company that learns to invigorate the way it inducts its new intake. All brought to life by characters with names like Deadwood, Stuck-in-the-mud and Box Ticker. Bang On Biz Change featured characters like Sicknote, Spark, Livewire and Snitch to tell the story of the importance of working with change. Here, the plot was Overcoming the Monster. Using these in his training sessions, Martin found he was justified in his decision to incorporate the basic elements of storytelling we all know and love.


“I’m a really visual trainer. I prefer to draw pictures and even named my company that way. But great stories need pictures and words. And we spend such a lot of time in the workplace that I thought, ‘Why not use simple stories to illuminate the everyday things we do to earn our livelihoods?’ I needed someone really creative with words. The great thing about working with Mark is the co-creation aspect – we worked this one out together. He showed me ways of telling these stories, by sticking to the plots and finding names that I knew my customers would relate to. And I still got to draw the pictures. My clients love it. We’ve done four of these themed plot stories now. The next step has to be a book.”
Martin Johnson, Founder, Big Picture

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