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3 things Hollywood and business “origin” stories have in common

Every business and every professional needs an “origin” story which shares with others why you do what you do, why it’s important and how you came to be doing that work.

These stories are not heroic – they’re rather akin to a small anecdote but a very foundational small anecdote. They are stories that may seem mundane to others but represent a turning point for you, your ideas, your business or your career.

In my case for my business, I tell the story of meeting a German engineer named Sascha who had fascinating ideas about how river turbines can be used to produce clean energy. He claimed that Europe could use them to meet most of its energy needs without harming the environment – and he convincingly backed it up when I dug deeper.

This was the moment that I began to realize how many fascinating ideas are going unheard in this world, many of them because they need to be communicated better. That was a turning-point event in the practice I’m building to train the world’s subject-matter experts to find and frame their best ideas.

This is a story I tell often – verbally and in writing. It’s the basis of the origin story for my business.

Let’s look at the way Hollywood does origin stories and how those stories may have parallels to what’s needed in the business world.

Generally, origin stories in Hollywood are the backstory to a character that helps viewers understand why the character becomes a protagonist or antagonist. Origin stories may also explain how a character gained their superpowers.

Let’s play with that a bit.

Similarity 1-How a character gained its superpower is like how your business found its purpose

There’s a link between the way a story is used to understand a character’s superpower and the way a story is used to help your audience understand why you do what you do in your business.

A superpower is what sets a character apart from all the rest, and in your business, your purpose is what makes you work with conviction. It's what sets you apart.

It’s important to understand why a person does what they do, and providing your audience with an origin story helps you accomplish that.

In Batman, for instance, the young Bruce Wayne suffered the trauma of his parents' murder, and that helps people understand why he uses the alias Batman to fight criminals and avenge his parents’ deaths.

Similarity 2-How a character came to exist is like how your business was founded

Your clients and investors will at some point need to know how and why your business was founded. You may have non-spectacular beginnings, but audiences can love that.

That’s probably why we hear about so many large, successful companies having been started in a garage.

Similarity 3-How a character was shaped and influenced is like how your business came to be what it is today

Finally, origin stories should also capture what makes your company the way it is.

From the inception of the idea behind the company, to the watershed moments, to the building of the business, these points belong in a business origin story, just like they are told in Hollywood for a character. This is the kind of detail and context that helps the audience understand what your company stands for today and who you are as a business owner or entrepreneur.

If you haven’t been telling your origin story, it’s not too late to get started.

Moviegoers had to wait decades for James Bond to get his own origin story in 2006 with Casino Royale, when we finally learned about Bond’s childhood and some of his vulnerabilities.

By Rhea Wessel

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