The Hero’s Journey and How to Create Places that Enable Collaboration

The key first job is not 6 months of wordsmithing nor is it drawing a building, the key first task is to describe five steps of a journey. That’s all. Here’s how.

Last week I was told a story about an office manager calling a longstanding office furniture supplier and asking for a table which would encourage greater collaboration amongst his team. Sadly the supplier had no such table in their stock (I do hope they looked!), but just imagine if they did, how prized that would be! And just imagine if the longstanding urban designer and architect of choice, could really deliver on their ambitious rhetoric and supply a space, a building, a piece of city even, that would enable collaboration, where everyone’s individual multi-sensory experience would unfold over time with predictable results? But is this really so fanciful?

Ask any street performer or live entertainment director about how to turn a passive audience into an active participating audience, and they will have the answer. Or put it to any curator quietly observing their visitors by day and adjusting their exhibitions and programmes by night, and they will give you the right steer. And certainly, spend any time in the Placa Reial in Barcelona or Lina Bo Bardi’s social and cultural centre in Sao Paulo and you will experience that same answer made physical. In fact for maybe 30,000 years narrative environments, from a shamanic caves in Namibia to Second Home off Brick Lane, have existed to carry talented lone wolves to the point where they actively belong to a group of like-minded individuals.

Let me tell you how one can wrestle all this knowledge to the ground. The key first job is not 6 months of wordsmithing nor is it drawing a building, the key first task is to describe five steps of a journey. That’s all. Here’s how.


STEP 1 COLLISION
Describe in words or pictures one moment that will spark collision between two different target people.
Ask yourself, is it disruptive?

STEP 2 CURIOSITY
Describe in words or pictures one moment that will inspire your target audience’s curiosity in what might happen next.
Ask yourself, is it delightful?

STEP 3 CONNECTION
Describe in words or pictures one moment that will involve connections between the curious and an authentic experience. 
Ask yourself, is it meaningful?

STEP 4 COLLABORATION
Describe in words or pictures one moment that will challenge those passive connectors to actively collaborate in the experience.
Ask yourself, is it memorable?

STEP 5 CHAMPION
Describe in words or pictures one moment that will amplify the contribution of the collaborators.
Ask yourself, is it intuitive?


That’s it! Now tell your story to others.

Does it sound compelling to them? Is your first tester audience engaged, are they curious, are they keen to know more, are they asking questions? Can they imagine the journey now, do you think they can easily tell others about it, and do you think they would like to go to your collaborative place? If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these points then ask your audience where you lost them, because in that empty moment is the missed opportunity that is without doubt the key to creating a more compelling narrative journey, and ultimately a more successful place of collaboration. And then repeat until you have your audience right where you want them!


From the Shaman’s Cave in Namibia to Second Home off Brick Lane we see a long tradition of places that enable and inspire collaboration through the design of narrative journeys that warmly and generously lead their carefully chosen audience to activate the environment themselves. Each in their own way understands the importance of designing and curating experiences that unfold over time, of caring first and foremost about what people are DOING rather than what they are SEEING.

So, put the architect and workplace designer on hold, don’t order any furniture hubs or agile workstations, and tell the developers to put away their renders of shiny facades. What we really want to know is what people are going to DO here, what they are going to EXPERIENCE here, what they are young to FEEL here, and most of all, we want to be taken on a journey which begins with a chance encounter and leads to a place of collaboration!

The shaman nods her head in agreement!


Right, that’s enough from me. Over to you, and do let me know how you get on! And also, as ever, I would love to hear how you yourself create environments that enable collaboration. 

And… If you are interested in getting deeper into this way of working I am doing an evening workshop next Monday December 7th for ArchiBoo Live on ‘How to Tell a Compelling Story’. During the 2 hour session you’ll learn how to strengthen your storytelling capabilities, how missing the ‘story’ leads to difficulties, how to storyboard, followed by teamwork and presentations to an expert panel. CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR SEAT.

And finally… How to create places of collaboration will be part of our forthcoming webinar on ‘Innovation Places’. If you’re interested in finding our more, please sign up HERE

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