Session Tasks

Stefan Sagemeister reminds us that the story concept has been used and and abused.

Not all writing is brilliant. And not all writing has to be brilliant. To understand this better we have to understand the contract around a piece of text. Is it like a parking ticket that doesn’t have to be particularly well written?

Communication and change of state or status. This piece of footage shows a rich sequence of these elements in a 5 minute zero to hero sequence that got a million hits. It tells us a lot about the relation between story and change.

All the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. The classic Morecambe and Wise sketch which shows order matters.

Prints on the Gun exercise. Group investigation into the motor of writing. We take a piece of writing from a typical detective situation and ask how persuasion is operating in terms of beats. These are fundamental story units that are found everywhere.

The once upon a time exercise to see what happens in the kingdom. This exercise is about feeling our way to the critical ingredients of a super simple story.

Remember your school food? Unless you lived in Sweden where people report their school food as being excellent, you’ll remember it with some mixed feelings. This exercise is simple. Write to your dinner lady and get her to change what’s on the menu. Remember, she’s not minded to change anything, but something inspiring and not too manipulative might work.

The hotel letter you wrote. What does it tell us about what works when we’re the other side of our own writing? What works, and what doesn’t?It may be the first time you’ve read your work as a competitor to others on exactly the same brief.

Reading out pure drivel is interesting. We read this text out aloud while standing up. We sit down when we’ve had enough then we ask the question: when and why do we give up reading? This exercise shows how a logic or flow glitch sheds readers like a leaky pipe. You can use this tool to fix any script.

Mr White, a la Breaking Bad, narrated in super simple storyline. Complete with predicament, dilemma, and character arc. It shows us how clear storytelling can be.

Martin Luther King’s 1963 speech here in an abridged form shows some of the key beats of a great piece of writing. From fact to inspiring principle; it also shows how to manage conflicting interests by finding the largest common denominator.

Winston Churchill’s finest hour speech is a masterclass in structure. Probably the most famous speech in the English language it shows the power of going taking an idea to its logical conclusion.

Two presidents, two inaugural speeches, in the early mid section where the pain problem or situation gets developed. Can you guess who did which on? Spoiler alert: don’t watch the  Video if you’ve not done the problem. What does this tell us about quality as opposed to what we think is quality?

Working with really simple types helps gets things clear. We do a lot of this on the course. Reducing complex multi-stakeholder interests to one dimension makes things much simpler and doable.

How do you sell one of these cars to one of the Mr Men? This exercise clears out all of the clutter in our thinking. It also helps us get to grips with the difference between features and benefits, because benefits connect to the psychology of an individual where features do not.

Stephen Hawking’s book sold more copies than the bible, 9 million copies in forty languages. And yet the subject matter is to say the least, quite complex. His gift is that he’s trying to help you understand, not to bamboozle you. His opening story demonstrates how the entire theme of the book can be summarised and illustrated in a single child like story.

Some brands have a clear consistent voice, and then there are all the others than merge into a great nothingness. How do brands connect with us as human beings and why are they so powerful? We look at the fundamental jungian archetypes and practice working with them.

The creation of a brand. And a kind of case history of a strategic insight for work yet to be done.

Nigella Lawson’s tone of voice as spoofed by Private Eye. Can you write something that positions a tone so clearly? It’s not as easy as you think.

What makes big ideas? Time for a quick look at creativity as a thing in itself. Finally if you’re working on a project, we can arrange an Skype call two weeks later, and see how you’re getting on with putting everything into practice.

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