The idea of imagining and creating new worlds does not immediately make us think of business.  Most world building books are about games, fantasy or science fiction and most of the online world building communities discuss swords, orcs and distant planets. 

There appear to be at least three possible applications of these same ideas, however, to help organisations transform themselves for the future.  These are reimagining marketing and customer engagement, strategy planning to meet new challenges and using storytelling to create new culture.  These form core ideas at the heart of Business Transformation; adapting companies or whole industries to make them more fit for the future.

I’ll dive more deeply into each of these in separate posts but let’s explore each a bit to start our thinking.

Marketing in complex multichannel environments

Marketing is about reaching out to audiences to show how products and services meet functional and emotional needs.  Great marketing tells stories that show us how we will feel when we use their product and help us separate this brand or solution from the vast range of alternatives available. 

In the past we created marketing with two goals: build awareness of our brand and encouraging purchase to solve immediate needs. For over one hundred years, Madison Avenue had honed it’s storytelling, designed funnels and created ways to engage.  And then along came digital and shattered the marketing landscape into thousands of new pieces; allowing consumers to talk back, influencers to influence and big technology companies to grow rich on laser targeting and retargeting (especially of those who would have bought anyway).

Companies are struggling to decide how to market in this new world and perhaps World Building offers some solutions.

Instead of funnels, think about stories in a world constructed around a brand.  At the centre of this world is our consumer, free to move around and explore at will.  We cannot force them to follow a specific path and should stop trying.  Instead we should actively create a world for them to discover, giving them engaging roles, encouraging them to interact and only when they are ready to buy our products when they know the time is right.

Planning strategically for the future

World building offers an interesting alternative to scenario planning for identifying the challenges that are likely to face a business in the medium to long term.  

We need to assemble a team to make the future and then tell stories to each other to test out the resilience of the world we have created when faced with interesting challenges we have devised.  

The world will be a world that contains our brand and also our customers, suppliers, staff and competitors.  We start by describing that world now and then project it into an imagined future by following trends that we identify.  As with scenario planning we don’t try and imagine all the possible trends or changes that might occur but focus on interesting trends that we suspect will affect our business. 

At the core of this exercise is asking “what if” and through world building techniques of locating, scaling and imagining, we can test out how our imagined futures feel to each of the stakeholder characters we have created; asking how they would respond and how we would engage and involve them in our business.

World building new culture

We know that evolving culture underpins virtually all successful transformation in organisations.  It is essential to take our company with us as we make changes; without buy-in and engagement our changes will fail. This involves consultation, experimentation, new ways of working and lots of storytelling,

World building provides us with a powerful setting to tell those stories and to involve everyone in constructing the future.  Instead of just informing and explaining, we have the opportunity to immerse our teams in the future, to let them experience what it feels like to live, work, shop and play there, and allow them to be part of making it with us.

Three ways to start thinking about world building in business.  More to follow… what do you think?

Categories: Learning


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