Lessons from Lego Batman and decoding your story

Warning - Spoilers ahead

One of the advantages of having young children is I get to see some pretty fun movies. One of the disadvantages is that I don't get to see as many "me movies", not in the cinema at least. Such is life.

Below I'll walk you through some of the key points of the Lego Batman movie's story and illustrate how those are common story elements. Then I'll show you how you can apply those elements to create a strategic business narrative. Then we'll apply it.

I had the pleasure of taking the family to see Lego Batman this weekend. It was a lot of fun and as with any good story it had a moral. This is enormously helpful for parents who are looking for every possible opportunity to get their kids to behave well. 

As with any good story it had a moral

Lego Batman played on the theme of the solo, orphan life of Bruce Wayne/Batman and how when he wasn't fighting crime he was wandering around his mansion, watching movies on his own, or going to parties as the perennial, superficial playboy. It was a kids movie so this was executed harmlessly while also having some chuckles for the parents.

At one of these parties, in honor of the outgoing Police Commissioner, the new Commissioner calls out how despite Batman the cities crime is still just as bad as ever and that Batman has failed to capture any of the main bad guys. She converts this into the point "It takes a village. Not a Batman" and that Batman needs to work with the police and not as a vigilante. Long term fans of Batman will recognize this master narrative. However in Lego Batman it's executed with comedic effect and plenty of Will Arnette fueled witty one liners.

"It takes a village. Not a Batman".

Batman forges on regardless until it becomes clear that the problems facing him and the city are simply too big for him to tackle alone. He teams up with Robin, who he inadvertently agreed to adopt when he was distracted by his infatuation for the new Police Commissioner.... Barbra Gordon.

After apparently agreeing to team work, and trying to fake them all out a few times, he finally submits and the good guys work together to win. Batman learns his lesson, that team work really is the best way.

He even hilariously upgrades the bat signal to include a symbol for all the other super heroes as well as himself.

Spotting story structure

Simply put the moral is about the power of working with others. And you can use this story in situations that call for you to invoke the importance of working together. Like all good stories there was great set-up: Bruce Wayne's solo lifestyle, the fact he "doesn't do 'ships', as in relation-ships" with the Joker in a hilarious interaction which is a parody on one person in a couple thinking it was a serious relationship and the other thinking quite the opposite - in this case it was a reference to not only having one arch enemy. There is interaction and struggle between our protagonist and the bad guy. And finally it accrues with the learning - it takes a village. 

When you are weaving your business narrative you don't always need the nuances that come in a movie or novel but sticking to these importance points; set-up, interaction, struggle and learning, then you will be on a good path to enhance how you tap into the power of narrative.

Apply narrative to strategy 

Let's take a look at an example. You are putting together a strategic narrative. So you sit down, break it down and it looks like the following.

Set up: Business has saturated in your key markets. You have identified where to expand to.

Interaction: There are players in this expansion. Employees. Competition. Rules and regulations.

Struggle: Resistance from the aforementioned competition. Cultural differences.

Learning: What you want to be able to hang your hat on; successful market engagement, great partnerships and uptake by customers.

Use your strategic narrative to pick powerful stories

With that strategic narrative you have the filter to pick the right stories to tell your employees to inspire them, your partners to rally them and ultimately your customers to create engaging experiences.

Try the following; for employees look to myths and literature for compelling and inspirational stories that will resonate and help them understand the journey you are taking them on. In the example above something like Moby Dick could work well. Or the historic tale of Columbus' struggle to get the resources he needed to go to the Americas.

For partners a strong recognizable business magnate who attempted expansion into foreign markets could be used. Such as Ford's struggles in China (often blamed on decisions by Henry Ford almost a hundred years ago) vs. GMs success - tension,  juxtaposition and failure are interesting and powerful story tools. "Do you want to be Ford, or GM?"

People love a story they can imagine being in

For customers it could be that you use you strategic narrative as a prospecting tool to find and select real customer stories that mirror your own - because people love a story they can imagine being in. Just like the parents among you will have been nodding as I described my movie watching habits above.

Have you tried building your strategic narrative yet? What stories align best to your journey and objectives?