WHY WE BELIEVE IN FAIRY TALES IN BUSINESS

Did you know February 26th is international “Tell a Fairy Tale Day”? Of course not.

You might think, like most adults, that Fairy Tales are for children. Because they are naïve enough to believe Elves, Dragons and Dwarfs exist. We adults deal with serious matters, so we are not gullible enough to believe in magic, even less in fairy tales in business. Really?

Then how do you explain the huge commercial success of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit? How about all those “serious” guys who spend nights playing World of Warcraft, buy lottery cards every week and can’t wait for the rise of Virtual Reality?

As Tolkien, one of the most renowned experts in “Faëry” likes to remind us, fairy tales have primarily been written for adults, with the intent to inspire, comfort or help them grow. In our cruelly “disenchanted” business world, we have decided to confine dream and magic to childhood. Yet, most of us are fascinated (which is a form of belief) by magic and would love to believe in fairy tales in business, even if we would not consciously admit it.

So why not let go of our fear of ridicule and truly live this magic? As Harmonists whose primary mission is to help reenchanting companies, we believe there are many benefits in reintroducing some “faëry” in your organizations. How would Tolkien go about it? Here are his 4 dimensions of “faëry” and very practical tips to apply fairy tales in business:

Nota bene: We are not talking about “making up fake stories”, we are talking about adding some magic and fantasy in daily work so that others can voluntarily embark on a wonderful journey with you.

Fantasy: fairy tales trigger innovation 

Fairy tale writing is the most liberating-and liberated- form of art. Indeed, a few words are enough to create millions of worlds, for everyone creates her own when reading the tale. And creativity is a skill that need to be exercised by opening up to new worlds. So fairy tales in business are an excellent training to boost innovation because they:

  • Create what does not exist: the power of combining elements that would otherwise never meet, such as “cold fire”, “purple forest”, enables you to think out of the box and envision situations, products or services that do not exist.
    ⇒ Tip: Write the fairy tale of your business, and watch as amazing ideas are generated.
  • Turn people into “demigods”: For creative people, there are few joys greater than the joy of World Building. Beyond products, fairy tales enable you to create an entire world, your company’s world.
    ⇒ Share a common “fairy world” in which all innovations take place. It is much more efficient to ensure consistency than specifications or graphical charters.
  • Get rid of any constraints: imagination knows no limits in “faëry”. Because there is magic involved, you can dream big and overcome obstacles. Magic is an incredible problem-solving tool.
    ⇒ When faced with a difficult problem, write down magic solutions, then derive a feasible one from each of these solutions. You will be surprised!
vulnerability source of joy and innovation

Escape: fairy tales are wonderful communication tools

We all love to listen to a good story. Story-telling takes you on a journey and let’s you forget about reality for a moment. This is what good fairy tales do best. Start using fairy tales in business to:

  • Increase the impact of your marketing: science has proven we buy with our emotions, and emotions are triggered by images. So forget about rational arguments, tell a wonderful tale about your product, and make people dream.
    ⇒ Start your sale pitch with “imagine if…” and tell a fairy tale involving your client, always making a link with your core values as the “universal Truth” of the tale.
  • Share who you truly are: rather than boring presentations and yearly reports, write your own company tale. Make the abstract concrete and generate powerful images.
    ⇒ When presenting your company, turn your obstacles into dragons, your products into magical powers, your financial goals into quests and your key employees, if possible “ordinary people” into heroes. You might just get a standing ovation.
  • Make employees part of the tale: beyond clients or investors, use fairy tales with your employees. Share the ultimate quest you want them to be part of, and empower them to be part of the tale. Additionally, your clients will all the more be getting your dream if it is widely shared by all your employees!
    ⇒ Inspiration: Michel et Augustin trying to get Starbucks to sell their products is a wonderful example of collective fairy tale. They shared their quest, got their entire ecosystem to support them- “Howard, a coffee!”-and the magic happened.
Courage and vulnerability

Recovery: “reechanting your business” boosts Motivation 

Tolkien describes recovery as “the ability to see clearly”. Because a fairy tale allow you to escape reality and look at your world through a different lens. From far above or through the looking glass, you can actually see things much more accurately and with more genuine interest than before. Fairy tales in business enable you to:

  • See the world as it is: the world of fairy tale is highly unpredictable, with many situations and characters, usually extremely different, and experiencing drastic changes. Exactly as it is within a team. Faced with a new situation, what matters is to embracing unpredictability and understanding other points of views.
    ⇒ Rather than a business plan, write a fairy tale, and imagine both all the possible help you might get and the obstacles you will have to overcome, even the most unlikely. Then refine the scenarios as you go, adding or removing characters. This will be both much more exciting and much more accurate.
  • Get a new appreciation of things and people: like the hero coming back to the place he thought he would never see again, fairy tales give our world an additional dimension. It is about renewing with a prejudice-free look at the world, this childlike ability to see potential in each object, person or situation. Thereby increasing the probability they will achieve that potential (Pygmalion effect).
    ⇒ When faced with tensions between two people, have them create their fairy tale character faced with a metaphor of their problem, then switch roles to finish the story. I am confident they will find a happy ending.
  • Bring some magic into daily work: fairy tales are about regaining our readiness to be surprised. The suspense and excitation for what comes next. In your team it is all about small attentions and (positive) surprises. This a wonderful tool to fight “bore-out” and get your team motivated: suddenly unveiling the results of months of hard work, preparing a show, discovering that offices have been changed overnight…are all routine-killers!
    ⇒ Next birthday in your team, brainstorm to create a surprise that will make her –and your entire team’s- day magic. Film it and broadcast it widely.

Consolation: a happy end reinforces Courage 

Every fairy tale includes problems, obstacles or fights, but at the core of it lies the belief that things will turn out well in the end. With this state of mind, simple people can become heroes and go far beyond their limits. Because our beliefs shape our outcomes, Fairy tales in business will greatly help you:

  • Take risks and grasp opportunities: if your employees are convinced your business is living a fairy tale, they will feel empowered to take initiatives and step out of their comfort zone.
    ⇒ When faced with a risky situation, tell yourself and your team 3 business fairy tales where things turn out well. And collectively start writing yours.
  • Positively influence outcomes: being convinced that things will be alright is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-confidence help you negotiate, rally people to your cause.
    ⇒ Before a difficult meeting, take a moment to mentally visualize the fairy tale of this meeting, in every single detail, including magic if you need, and of course the happy conclusion. This is a wonderful mental preparation for you to actually make it come true.
  • Increase resilience: His everlasting faith allows the hero to rise again after defeat. And in the darkest place lies the path to a new level. From this perspective, downturns and failures are as many opportunities for improvements:
    ⇒ After a failure, ask your team what they have learnt during this experience and what new “weapons” they now have for the rest of your quest.
fairy tale business tool

Conclusion 

“So they harnessed the power of Fairy Tales in business and dared to collectively dream big. Little by little, magic returned to the organization. And the company lived happily ever after.”

THE END.

We Harmonist would love to help you start your own Fairy Tale. To get in touch, send us an owl ! (email works as well)

Interesting readings on this topic:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/12/05/j-r-r-tolkien-on-fairy-stories/

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2014/12/rowan-williams-why-we-need-fairy-tales-now-more-ever

https://www.inc.com/sims-wyeth/how-the-fairy-tale-fad-can-help-your-business.html

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