V31-Intro to Storytelling

Welcome to a month focused on the principle of Storytelling. Since the beginning of time, humans have used Storytelling and narrative to record the past, define the present, and dream of the future. Storytelling is the thread that binds us together and helps create shared Experiences.

Over the next five weeks, we’ll be exploring the stories we tell within our organizations, both internally and externally. Organizational narrative is defined not just by the people within it, but by the culture they create and the stories they weave and share. A single story has the power to change the conversation, change actions, and change outcomes.

This month will help us understand why Storytelling matters, where story appears in the health care Experience, and how to integrate the ancient practice of Storytelling into our organizations and our lives.

Remembering There’s a Story in Every Face

Resident physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital and contributor at The New York Times, Dr. Dhruv Khullar, is quick to admit that while he’s a successful clinician, he was not always great at seeing patients as people and listening fully to their stories…and he sees that as an enormous problem. It took an eye-opening Experience with a dying patient to remind him that it was the patient’s story that mattered—not the last time he’d had a bowel movement. As treatments and technology continually improve, we are slowly losing sight of the empathy, understanding, and ability to see patients as people.

For Dr. Khullar, one can only get better at practicing medicinediagnosing and treating the ill and helping the well thriveby understanding that the way to best serve patients is to “see not only who they are, but also who they were, and, ultimately, who they hope to become even at the end of life.”

Invite team members to learn the story of someone they interact with in a clinical, administrative, or support position. Have team members share the stories that remind us of why we are grateful to do the work that we do.

The Story Economy

Much like economics, story matters on both the micro and macro scale. The first part of micro Storytelling, both for the listener and the teller, is being empathetic. We have to know our audience—their needs, what they’re trying to achieve, and what they care about—in order to shape a story that matters. It’s about connecting and understanding at an intimate level. Once we understand all of these things, we can craft a story that serves as a bridge for connecting with others. The good news is that we can cultivate empathy within ourselves to help us better shape these stories.

As we expand story from the micro to the macro level, we can see that the future of our economy across all industries depends on Storytelling. The economy is seeing an increase in narratives and more and more brands are utilizing the power of a good story. Think of the difference between a mass-produced chocolate bar and one crafted by hand. People may no longer become loyal customers because they’re satisfied with a particular good or a service, but because the Experience evokes a feeling within them based on the story in their life, whether past, present, or future.

Think of a service or good you have recently purchased or invested in because of the feeling it gave you rather than the need it fulfilled?

Tesla: When the Story is the Company

When Tesla set out to change the automotive industry as we know it, they didn’t do it with a car. They did it with a Story. And that Story has evolved. What began as an all-electric, environmentally friendly, future without fossil fuels is now a promise of safety with autonomous driving technology and more accessible pricing. The very future of the definition of a car is being reimagined as a beautiful story of what is yet to come. Tesla’s market value shockingly surpassed Ford’s, not because of what they’ve already proven, yet because their stories are simply too good not to be true. Who wouldn’t want to invest in the future of clean energy, safety, ride sharing, and the future of transportation for the good of our planet?

As we set our sights on creating a bright future for health care, what do we want that Story to be? How might we invite others to be active contributors to that Story?

V30: Bringing Life to the Industry

Memorable Experiences don’t just happen by chance, they happen by choice. In Staging our environments and  Experiences, we have the potential to elevate the meaning of each performance. This week, we explore ways that leaders from across various industries are taking inspiration from our intrinsic human needs to help them Stage purposeful and meaningful spaces and Experiences. Take note in how they use props and how they bring forth their authentic selves to truly lead.

Stage to Farm to Table

In an effort to win over the millennial audience from low-cost fast food restaurants, like Chipotle, Kimbal Musk, the younger brother of Elon Musk, changed the game with a radically different affordable and nutritious option. His farm-to-table food concepts called Next Door American Eatery and The Kitchen are in 16 locations with plans to expand. In each, he has partnered directly with farmers in the area with a menu that will highlight what’s easy for local farmers to grow (and sell). These principles are trending across fine-dining establishments, but here’s where Musk differs: his average entree is priced at or below $10. He is also Staging the ideal environment for millennials to hang out (safely during the COVID-19 pandemic) including full table service, happy hour, patio spaces, and weekly events.

To drive appreciative younger consumers into his spaces, Musk started Square Roots, an urban farming incubator program that installed “Learning Gardens” in over 300 schools across the country. The students who benefit from Square Roots are sure to be loyal consumers of Next Door in the future. “Next Door is about human trust — Where does the food come from? Is the farmer treated well? Is it nourishing for the body? Is it nourishing for the community and the planet? Our constituency really cares about all these things,” Musk says.

Musk is setting up a group of future consumers through educational programs and shaping the business model to be in line with qualities that matter to millennials, such as eating and buying local. In what way can the health care Experience be Staged to better meet the needs of a certain generation or demographic? How might we better connect educationally?


The Riveter, Seattle’s first and only co-working space just for women, emphasized more than just ensuring the success of female professionals. Driven to encourage women to stop sacrificing self-care for success, The Riveter’s co-founders made a point of prioritizing the infusion of wholeness principles and practices into the physical space.  

With in-depth racial equality programming, yoga studios, and meeting rooms filled with vinyl records meant to be enjoyed, their places were Staged to disrupt the presumption that you have to choose work over well-being. We have been inspired by their holistic vision for physical places and have also been watching closely for how the pandemic will impact co-working spaces. Most recently, The Riveter founders swiftly pivoted from the power of physical placemaking to the energy of a robust virtual community for women and converted The Riveter to a completely virtual space.

In what ways might we Stage Experiences for our team members that are inclusive of self-care? How will our shift to untraditional work places and spaces create an opportunity to create more meaningful and robust online communities?

Life-Saving Body Art

This piece is really about new ideas taking the Stage. It makes us wonder – how might a tattoo save a life? Researchers at MIT Media Lab have a new project that might make everyone rethink how they feel about tattoos in health care. DermalAbyss explores the possibilities of tattoo ink that serves as a biosensor to measure changes in glucose, sodium, or pH. Those with the tattoos would merely have to look for a change in the ink’s color to know that there’s a shift in their body. It’s in its early phases, but this simple prop turns the body’s surface into an interactive display, setting the stage for a new level of awareness. To further dive into the idea of health care wearables, enjoy this incredible TED talk from UCSD’s Todd Coleman on a temporary tattoo that brings hospital care to the home.

In what ways can we Stage Experiences for our team members, providers, patients, and guests that not only makes their Experience more Personalized and enjoyable, yet also streamlines our internal processes?

V29: Setting the Stage – Tools and Props to Bring New Ideas to Life

As we continue to explore the principle of Staging, let’s shine a light  on the  fundamental concept of “onstage/offstage” – the understanding that whenever we are in front of or in earshot of patients or guests we are in fact “onstage.” We are performing our caring art for others. Staging is about planning for all that shows up in the spotlight—preparing our space, our Intention, and ourselves for positive interactions. Taking a few moments to consider how we will present ourselves and our environment can make a tremendous impact on the Experience we create.

 With so much of our caring time taking place “onstage” it is important to make room for “offstage.” Take time to step out of the spotlight and recharge, reflect, and rejuvenate.

Musical Stairs

: No one takes the stairs.
Opportunity: Change people’s behavior by Staging an Experience.

Take these Piano Stairs in Stockholm. In an effort to address the design challenge of subway passengers only using the escalator instead of the stairs, a team from Volkswagen engineered stairs that, when stepped on, acted as piano keys. Their stage was irresistible, and 66% more people chose the stairs over the escalator. Travelers young, old, and canine enjoyed making music from their normally boring daily commute. It goes to show – we can change the behaviors of others just by Staging Experiences.

In what ways might we encourage positive behavior changes by Staging a radically different Experience from the norm? What might happen if we invited our teams to use Staging and turn the ordinary into the extraordinary?