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Developing a narrative for your organization requires a deep understanding of your surroundings. It requires you to be a student of culture and systems. Not just as they currently are, but also as they have played out historically.

By wrestling with the past and present perspectives, you can better understand the deep structures that influence the systems you are working within. This gives you a better idea of what is broken, why, and how to imaginatively and appropriately respond to the problems you are solving.

You’ve gotta know where you’ve been, so you can know where you are, so you…


Four elements of a good story

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It’s easy to spot stories. They come bound in the pages of books, or with popcorn and a Coke, or while sitting around a campfire. They come in different sizes and genres, like fiction and fable. You can even find them in other, less obvious forms, like a painting or a dance.

Organizations also have stories. Like the stories you are familiar with, they also come in different sizes and forms. You might have your organization’s origin story or founder story that you share in a blog post or a video. Or you might…


Finding Opportunities for Growth in Crisis Moments

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Sketching ideas during a FiveStone strategy session

I was hanging out (on House Party, a video app designed for people at least 20 years younger than I am) with a group of friends last week and one of them asked, “when do you think we will meet in person again for breakfast?” My son, who is a high school senior, is asking “will I be able to go out to college in the fall?” My friend, who is in b-to-b sales is asking, “when do you think people will start buying again?” We all just want things to go back to normal (or, at least we want…


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FiveStone working through a design sprint.

The last month has brought with it a new level of uncertainty about the future. Old assumptions no longer hold true as organizations scramble to make sense of their current situation and wonder what lies around the corner. In many ways, the “normal” that exists on the other side of COVID-19 and the economic downturn will look radically different than today’s normal.

And while we can, with a good degree of certainty, predict that the world will look different, we don’t yet know in what ways it will change. …


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Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in our March 16, 2020 newsletter. You can subscribe here.

With COVID-19 punching the market, restricting travel, closing stores, and canceling big gatherings, we are all navigating uncertainty. The events of the last few weeks remind us all of how fragile the world is. But, disruptions, even unfortunate ones, invite opportunity.

At FiveStone, we are taking time to examine our posture during this situation. We want to be a group of people who are both at peace and prepared. We want to be both comforting and truthful, both hopeful and grounded. …


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When we were kids, my brother and I spent long summer days at our grandparents’ house while my parents worked. Every year one of the TV networks would air The Wizard of Oz. My grandmother loved that movie, and she’d make us sit down and watch it with her.

But I hated The Wizard of Oz. The first bit of the movie is in black and white. Lame. The second bit is about a girl in ruby slippers — not having it. Oh, and it’s really scary. Our 6 year old just watched it and had nightmares for two weeks…


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Hans Hess, the founder of Elevation Burger, and his wife dreamed of owning a company that paid their dues to their customers and to the earth. They believed that every industry, even the fast food industry, should do its part to steward the planet. This thinking was rare among their competitors, and it seemed like their fanatical obsession with ingredient integrity and waste reduction would put them at a disadvantage. But caring about the environment hasn’t halted Elevation Burger’s success. In fact, it’s given the restaurant a remarkable edge against the competition and is now being copied.¹

Before he founded…


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I once sat in on a conversation with a wildly successful CEO. His company created wonderful policies for their employees. They cared for them and paid them well. The CEO was thoughtful about how his philosophies drove all that his organization did — except when it came to their products.

Yes, their products were thoughtful, inasmuch as the company didn’t make obscene things, but there was no philosophy of aesthetic or consumption or even obsolescence. No one asked, “Is this product too kitsch?” or “Should this product even exist?” or “Will it last?” …


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Artist Ai Weiwei is known for provocative works that speak out against the norms of Chinese culture and politics. For one piece, he dropped and broke a 2,000-year-old Han Dynasty urn that possessed considerable financial and social value. The act, and the shattered remains of the vase, are preserved in a triptych of photographs. Historians and artists were outraged by Weiwei’s casual disregard of the object’s value.


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In the mid-2000s, The Sundance Channel aired a show called Iconoclast. In the show, two iconoclastic people are paired up while a film crew follows them around for a few days to record their conversations and interactions. In one episode, the show paired big wave surfer Laird Hamilton with grunge rock poet Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

The two spent a good portion of the show surfing and enjoying the natural beauty of Hawaii, where Hamilton lives. In one scene, Hamilton and Vedder drive out to the edge of Hamilton’s property, where they sit on a cliff overlooking the ocean…

Jason Locy

Founder of FiveStone, a strategy-led design studio.

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