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Storytelling Superpowers


Michael Margolis

Michael Margolis, founder and CEO of Storied, is an expert in constructing intentional narratives about the future. The stories Michael tells are not about people but, rather, about products and technology. He has developed a unique approach to navigating digital transformation and change management. This inspiring and provocative episode covers a broad range of topics including the fundamental human need for narrative structure in industry, politics, technology, mass media, machine intelligence, and more. Michael reveals the hidden dynamics of narrative structure that frame our understanding of the world and our shared perception of reality.

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[Music] this week on the futurists Michael Margolis I believe that narrative is our
number one superpower of humanity and as we Outsource more and more to
machines what is the role value and contribution of us as humans what is it that we can do that others
can't hey there welcome back to the futurists I'm Rob Turk and joining me
this week is the inevitable and inexorable Brian siss Brian hi hi hi hi and welcome back
to the show it's good to see you Robert it's good to see you Michael I am so excited for this one too this be a good
show it's good to be back with you uh I've missed a couple shows that you've been on uh you know how it works here we
uh we swap off as we're traveling around different hosts in this in the hosting chair this week Our Guest is a close
friend uh someone I've admired and respected for ages who's an expert in the subject of Storytelling but in a
very interesting and constructive way welcome to Michael Margolis Michael hi
good good to have you on theut robt hi Brian so good to see you guys man so Michael is the CEO of a company called
stored and um that is a a transformative narrative company or narrative
transformation company there's all kinds of transformation consultants and digital transformation experts but
Michael your expertise is narrative tell us a little bit about that yeah well look in in the context of the future
so much of what we're all doing is selling the future so it's one of the ways you can look at the work that we do
which is you know we work with uh heads of product and heads of design in the world of tech and they constantly have
to sell the future uh what's unique about what where we tend to focus is we
focus on the internal narrative right in order to create Clarity alignment
velocity and whatever people they're building and and and the challenge when you are telling a story about the future
anytime you present the new story anybody that lives in the old story is likely to feel wrong bad judged stupid
or defensive so the art science of our work is is unpacking that yeah so
there's a little bit of a social engineering that has to occur around that huge it's basically how do you tell
a love story about the future um and so we do this for everybody from uh Google meta Uber Shopify and the like have
worked across 40 different Industries I started my career as a social entrepreneur working on the digital
divide uh poverty and race and basically who has access to technology so I've always been like an armchair
technologist but I'm actually trained as a cultural Anthropologist which is how Brian and I I think also are you know
have have had a bromance for for a long time as well kind of an overlooked part of software development you know in the
technology world there's a lot of folks um who build products who assume that the product speaks for itself and that's
just not the case uh someone actually has to construct The Narrative around that around that product otherwise
people don't know what to do with it and we see that happen all the time where products are launch and it's like here it is and nothing happens and it sinks
Without a Trace you know it's just a ripple in the ocean um how do you help companies deal with that like what is your strategy for doing that well like
at the Practical level it actually is things like H1 H2 reviews right so like
every six months heads of business units have to go in front of the executive team or in front of the board and
present their vision and their strategy for the future what what we did the last six months what we're doing going forward so we'll build the narrative
That's The Upfront that then goes into here's what we're doing on the road map and the features here's the data and so
on so it's it's contextualizing helping people see the bigger picture right of what's at stake um and being able to
humanize a product so that's a big thing um a lot of it is also helping with change management so a lot of internal
change initiatives in the various different things that people are trying to drive and addressing cross functional
collaboration or xfn it's actually like a series stor yeah so there's a story you tell your boss and the story that
you tell the board and then there's the story that you tell the team and then later when the product is ready to launch there's the story that you tell
the world is that kind of the way it works yeah and think about it to use a software metaphor one of the biggest
challenges is Version Control things are moving so fast people don't know what
story they're in anymore yeah that's true that's a really good point yeah one of the things that I I always found
interesting about story yeah and whether it's the future the present is the audience and
that there are usually a couple of audiences one is the the person on the other side of of the table yeah or the
screen and uh and then there's also Their audience and connecting to that person
and through that person in order to you know this you know better than anyone
you in order to evoke that sort of human- centered empathy yeah to not just
have that entrepreneur or that founder or that Creator sort of fixed mindset
but also to allow it to be permeated by the feelings and opportunity of the
people that they're trying to connect with as well how you I'd love to hear how you sort of navigate that because
especially in Silicon Valley or anyone with any kind of confirmation bias yeah that is one of the challenges to to
navigate it's a great question and I mean what I hear in that question is a lot of kind
of the enduser um sort of you know from a user Centric or consumer Centric you know
human Centric perspective of um in that side of it we work with a lot of heads of design
who do that foundational research um and they have the insights from the user I
typically spend less time though focusing on the market facing or consumer facing narrative it's really
important I think there's an overlooked part of the equation which is the
internal story that drives hyper growth and transformation and it's kind of like
the old uh what was it Richard Branson who was like Hey if you take care of your employees they'll take care of your
customers they'll take care of your shareholders so similarly I think the Nexus point the acupuncture point of
transformation is creating Clarity and Alignment inside every major organization on the planet
and that's where there's there's so much thr and disconnect right now um so that's that's the place that we play and
and what we hear all the time is there's a there's a word for it at Google they call it how to influence without
Authority right so people are constantly in a position no matter who you are you constantly feel like you don't have the
power permission or authority to shape the narrative or
craft the narrative oh no that's that's above my pay grade so a lot of what we do is we help people actually take
charge of the narrative no matter their positional Authority um and that becomes like literally rhetoric like applying
structured thinking and how you make a business case how do you get buy in for your ideas how do you humanize the data
how do you how do you contact switch depending on the internal stakeholder audience so our work is almost more like
leadership development organizational change focused as opposed to the way we
typically think of Storytelling more in a brand Centric and advertising consumer
Centric manner that's a very constructive approach and in a way you can see that as like professional development for people yeah um and in in
in the absence of like a structured way of thinking about narrative and how to tell a narrative that is constructive
and positive um you can kind of see what people do that that maybe goes wrong that goes sideways uh because you know
today there are an awful lot of people who feel empowered to complain at work you know so they'll come forward with a
negative statement or statement of resistance or they'll point out that you know something that's being done is unjust or unequal or whatever cause that
they want to espouse for that particular moment um the problem is that kind of feedback does two things I think are not
great first it creates dissent uh and it kind of like you know causes the whole organization to respond in a defensive
way that's not constructive but the second thing is um I don't think people realize when they when they voice
concerns in that unconstructive fashion they're actually earmarking themselves for future dismissal because they're
seeing as someone who can't think constructively how how to move this forward or how to address those things so what you're what you're saying is
here are a set of tools yeah that are communication tools internally um you're using the term story or the term
narrative to describe them but what you're really saying is here's a better way to communicate constructively to build team uh consensus and and shared
understanding and a Clear Vision of where we're going uh so in a way it's like how to clean the mud off the
windshield we're all on the fast lane we're driving fast but we can't see much uh I get it that's a really good story
talked you about this dozens of times I'm so surprised it's still taking me this long to get my head wrapped around it it's it's coming at things sideways
but to your point um here's here's an interesting lens to look at this from um
most organizations today are suffering from an autoimmune
disorder let me explain that so I struggled with with with autoimmune challenges earlier in my life so when
you have an autoimmune challenge um what happens is the boundary
between self and not self right like we have like an immune system that literally guards us friend versus foe
that which is external threat and when you have an autoimmune challenge the boundary gets blurred you don't quite
know what is me what is not me and what happens is the immune system starts attacking itself or starts attacking
your own body yeah this is what's going on in most organizations today as well as what we're seeing in our society
right now we're dealing with an autoimmune disorder and from a and you
can look at it it's fascinating you can look at it from the perspective of like your brainon story and from an anthropological perspective so let's
talk about that for a moment because this will this was a big aha for me which is when people experience a story
there are three biochemical hormones that are activated cortisol dopamine and
oxytocin right and these may be familiar to some of us because we've been talking about these and how these play out in social media and how these play out in a
lot of different contexts cortisol is fight flight freeze it's literally the stress hormone yeah and it's the binary
we're constantly eval threat evaluation friend versus foe is this me is this not
me do I belong do I not belong right that's that's cortisol then dopamine is instant reward yes this what we're like
going after instant gratification Reward Center and then lastly is oxytocin that's the belonging molecule it's
literally that which binds us together um and that's what happens when you know newborn child we fall in love an amazing
meal oxytocin so the thing is most of the most of the stories that we consume
in our social media feeds in our email inbox like all of our inputs have us in a Perpetual state of cortisol cortisol
cortisol and we're chasing the dragon of dopamine right so the cortisol dopamine drip it's like the one arm bandit from
Las Vegas but ultimately what we're all desperately wanting is more oxytocin
where we discover the invisible lines of connection how we are more similar than different
okay so this plays out this is literally when we build the architecture of a narrative we're playing with those dials
we're reducing cortisol we're increasing dopamine and we're really figuring out how to unlock oxytocin because we're in
an environment right now that is so polarizing and it goes back to your point earlier Robert around around this
this notion of people being on the defensive our society is obsessed with what's broken what's wrong with what
needs to be fixed instead of celebrating what's right what's possible Right the
inherent potential in something and I think that's the way we have to be looking at the future because when we
start with what's wrong we inherently activate that cortisol fight flight freeze and the conversation's over
before it's begun so these are this is the slipstream that I think a lot of us often Overlook you're thinking like a
game designer those are the same levers that game designers use to get to propel you through to the next level uh so um
Okay so somebody listening to this show I'm sure right now they're thinking wait a minute this is a show about the future they talk to futurists and now we're
talking to a guy who focuses on story which is about the past and even the name of his company is the past tense
it's storied how does that fit explain how your work the future well so
actually I'm gonna I'm gonna I have to lovingly challenge you on this so storyed for instance Okay the reason
we're called storied is because the power of story is revealed not as a noun but as a verb
story right it's in the conjugation it's in the verbalization right verbs are action
verbs actually move us forward most people think of story as a static
artifact people think of a story as beginning middle and end right and this is one of the most important
distinctions by the way for everybody listening most people do not understand the difference between Story versus narrative and 99% of most storytelling
trainings and books overlook this a story is a specific event beginning
middle and end it's an anecdote it's a thing it happened a narrative is a more abstract concept it doesn't necessarily
have a clear beginning or an end you can think of uh you know a narrative is the
Christmas tree stories are the ornaments that go on the Christmas tree and that distinction most of the
time we're swimming we are lost in a Sea of Stories an infinite Sea of Stories literally billions upon billions and
trill millions of stories right now most of us have lost the plot we don't understand what is the narrative or how
to construct a narrative much less create one that is a unifying narrative that's the ultimate lever of power of
change and transformation okay let's zoom out from the tech industry per a second and and let's think about um
Society in general yeah are there any public figures that you feel are extraordinarily good at this process of
building unifying narratives anybody that inspires you or you were you you know derive some inspiration
um there definitely folks out there I'm I'm a little bit biased I tend not to look externally for sources of
inspiration in all areas of my life but um to this point I think someone who
came close to it for a good period of time was Obama as a
campaigner not Obama as you know as a governor right um but but on the
campaign he did it effectively um and then when he actually got into office he thought you know what we're going to let
the facts speak for themselves we're going to let the work speak for itself right and we actually saw the cost and
the and the impact of that because he lost control of the narrative so I think that's a really important one yeah I I
think we're we're frankly there's a lot of what I call narrative collapse right now yeah I was gonna say that I'm trying
I'm racking my brain trying to think of a great Storyteller you can't find one in politics because all they do now is press the fear button and um it's true
on both you know both parties uh it's just you know get people to react to stuff that's outrageous or shocking or
you know something else um that's not what you're talking about and actually that doesn't really Propel us forward that keeps us sort of locked into our
positions I suppose that's good politics you know one one to pay attention to and
um is VC so um he's a former Silicon Valley guy right who's um running for for
president on the Republican side um yeah I I don't connect in to his policy he's
a you know hyper libertarian not not quite my my um we
can still still check out his narrative skill right pay attention to his narrative skills he actually has
incredible understanding of rhetoric and Communications and frankly by the way while we're on the subject let's you
want to talk about Trump from a narrative perspective brilliant at narrative challenge though and here
here's what I want to say to all of us who worry about this stuff about narrative because look narrative can get weaponized and it and it has as long as
human beings have been on this planet yeah the thing though that is a self-regulating mechanism about
narrative is that if if you are not telling a love story about the future if
you ultimately do not have a life affirming narrative it will not scale and
perpetuate over time It ultimately collapses you just have to be patient
and you have to just trust the process right so this is why like I look at yeah please
let me ask you something there because the cassandre complex is is also let's
say Trump is very good at weaponizing the cassandre complex yeah explain the
Cassandra complex for all of us and everyone listening well for without going all the way back into ancient
history it's just the concept that for people who are saying there's trouble up
ahead or there's something bad that's going to happen if we stay on this path we need to do something about now they
tend to get hit with the most negative of responses because nobody like you're saying wants to hear what's wrong they
want to hear what's good but the the thing that I've always struggled with Trump is that or anybody like that is
that not only not only are you lying about the future but when you're
weaponizing the future in that regard yeah it's it's supposed to have a lifespan but it's only it's only
spreading like a forest fire uh and so I was curious about that like what stories
that Inspire the future are involving they're inclusive they're inspiring
they're optimistic what what where's the balance here yeah well there there's a a so at a
foundational level before we get to a a narrative that is a life affirming and
generative narrative there's a more basic fundamental human need from a narrative perspective and that is simply
I need a story that explains how the world works that's it how does the world work
and in anthropologically that's how stories like that was their function right we had Elders who told us the
stories here's how the world works this is your place in the world don't eat the purple berries this is how we hunt the
Buffalo and you knew your place right and so that is where some of these you
know any big narrative from a position of authority can feel that need so if someone is feeling feeling disconnected
and is feeling um you know displaced or is looking for wait the world doesn't make sense like it used to right we're
open we're looking for a narrative to basically fill that void and I think that's the appeal that you'll find from
for many different political movements um whether they're life affirming or coercive yeah so okay with politics you
know there's the battle right now is between people who want to preserve the status quo and people who want to demolish the status quo so that's
neither of those is a very con Rive vision of the future and we tend to look to the tech industry to give us that
kind of Beacon of light for the future and around in the tech industry they're
they've been extraordinarily successful in constructing a narrative of invincibility or inevitability right so
the idea is that there the future in the in the tech world is is coming fast it's always bright it's going to be
incredible transformative it's going to confer superpowers on us and so on you to some extent that's true and to some
extent it's just the purest [ __ ] and it's magically powerful we all seem to
believe it although lately that story's got a little tarnish on it that story hasn't aged uh particularly well this
year uh now you don't help companies with their outbound messaging and you
don't help them with um the doctors yeah yeah we're not putting lipstick on a pig
can you comment on that though can you talk a little bit about the Fall From Grace of the big tech companies maybe
it's that classic hero story you know where we build something up and then it's fun to watch it crash and well yeah I think that's more commentary
on frankly journalism and modern mass media right
like there's a few ways to look at this let let me let me put it to you this way so first of all um 99% of
most stories that we tell are morality tale right we're focused on who's right
who's wrong what's good what's bad okay and and this again this worked great when we were like small tribes where we
were you know monotheistic religions when we were a a closed system but you
see we're in an environment now where World Views and value systems are colliding and so one of the biggest
evolutionary shifts that I'm seeing right now is we are looking for a new narrative framework Beyond morality tale
but it takes rewiring because we're so we're so obsessed with labeling right
wrong good bad okay so this is what the media does this is frankly what we all do this what we do on social media and
so on so that's one and we can unpack that a little bit more if you want um the the other piece of this though to
your your question like what's the commentary about the tech industry and sort of the hype cycle what is often
missing or overlooked is discourse right which is as an executive
being able to talk about the role function and value of your technology or
product in people's lives including the second order or third level order effects now someone who's really good at
this by the way is someone like Tim Cook at Apple right he has a very soral perspective of zooming out um Sacha
actually does this pretty well over at Microsoft as well um you know it's it's really being able to talk about like
philosophically what are we grappling with and thinking about the the role of this technology and how do we as a
society interact with it and adapt to it that's what the tech industry needs to doing more of um and some executives are
really naturally good at it and sometimes people just are so obsessed with the function of the tool they think
that it's just function function function instead of aspiration and emotion in the cultural social context
yeah that's how people come away with the impression that the tech industry is immoral or indifferent to the consequences and sometimes there are big
social consequences of new technologies yeah Brian you go there's oh gosh I want
to pick that one up and maybe we can do that after the break you Michael to your point there's another there's another
type of leader that I would love to see more of in Silicon Valley uh Johnny IV
Brian chesy storytelling from a design perspective yeah and that it takes it's it's almost like
a Whimsical style it takes it takes you to a place because they know you so well
they don't just know you they know the you aspirationally which is all and
Steve Jobs had that same gift uh they want to take you to a better place and
that man I've just been I'm writing my next book and I've just been breaking down uh these their their capacity uh
and and I don't know for those listening Brian chesky is the co-founder of of
Airbnb but he's also a student of Johnny IV and a client of Johnny IES new uh
company love from and there's a wonderful story that Johnny tells of his
advice to Brian it was when Airbnb was facing one of its many challenges and they were they were going to have to
make a lot of cuts and Johnny said you know
Innovation is is is a constant challenge basically and he said you're never going to cut your way to Innovation and even
how these storytellers talk to themselves it's incredibly aspirational what what is it about the designer that
has never really been able to break Beyond this little niche of Storytelling in Silicon Valley I'm just curious on
your thoughts I spent a lot of time with designers um in design leadership
and I I've got a few perspectives on it I think one is inherently designers tend
to be an introverted profession and one that is like a lot of
other crafts they tend to be obsessed with the craft and they focus so much on describing the
craft and what we're doing with the craft instead of being able to translate the philosophy and the discourse and
there's so much philosophy and discourse in human- centered design and design thinking and Design Systems and design
Ops all of these things but they don't spend enough time Translating that into the language of business so that's a lot
of the coaching that we do with right now we're working with with a headed design one one of the biggest tech companies um on the planet around the
evolution of their design system and how to communicate that um the relationship between the design organ engineering
right and building that bridge so I think that's a big part of it um but I think you're also speaking to something
else Brian inherently which is I think designers have an appreciation for
experimentation for prototyping for beta for for for really the inherent messy
process of creation and I think that's the other critical part we have to learn how to celebrate that and memorialize
that and and really turn that into something that uh is more than just lip
service right because the challenge is the moment you get out of kind of early stage startup or if you have a or you
have a really protected Skunk Works there's this immediate pressure to you know I've worked with a lot of R&D labs
and the pressure they're under to like we better make sure we com get something commercialized on the product road map
right like that path or like you know corporate disruption we want disruption
but you know we want it to be well behaved measurable disruption right like
just like the fundamental pressure of a corporation which is in the risk management business which is inherently
different Paradigm than what it means to be on the front end of innovation where you're you're you really are in that
place of a mergence I don't know what do you think I I I I I this is part my this is
my work you know I'm I'm internal and external yeah and I I spent a lot of
time Building Bridges and one of the things that I've had to understand
is even though I'm not designing products I am designing a version of the
future or versions of a potential future that has to be inviting inclusive uh
maybe less scary but also the thing that
that I've I've I've struggled with is the uh what's in it for me and that's
I've always I've always admired Steve Jobs ability where he he tells you that
you're gonna be better in his version of the future uh and that part uh is is the
magic it's the magic uh because as you said earlier you know change and and
Robert said this too the status quo you know no one really inherently wants to believe that what they do and what they
believe is not necessarily the right thing for tomorrow but together if we follow this
Vision this aspirational vision and we all net these things yeah we're in a better place and this is what the road
looks like to get there but I'll be there along with you the each step of the way that that that's the art in
science I've I've I've with my entire career I think the key word that many of
us as innovators Overlook though is safety right we're comfortable in the
unknown and most people in an organizational Matrix are desperately trying to manage the known and I mean
they're trying to manage the unknown but to them the unknown is pure is just risk and I think there there it's that Gap
that we have to learn have having compassion for how to make it safe for those who aren't inherently wired like
maybe the three of us might be who love being on the Leading Edge of pioneering
and you know sort of like inventing the future that's a little bit about transformational leadership and good
stuff let's take a break here but before we go to the break Michael we love to administer this
procedure which is called speaking of safety the lightning
round all right let me buckle up so Michael margas you are in the hot seat um we want short answers here this is
just a chance for audience to get to know you a little bit more uh we love to ask people the first question is always
what was your first experience of Science Fiction the earliest science fiction movie or book that you can
remember I'm not a big sci-fi guy Buck Rogers Buck Rogers okay great that would
be a first for the show um now is there a particular person who is uh
future-minded maybe a technologist or a leader of some sort maybe a Storyteller a particular person whose vision of the
future future inspires you this going to seem random the first person who comes to mind is Terrence
McKenna who actually was an ethnobotanist and cultural Anthropologist but he had something
really important to say about the future which was um that time is
accelerating if you think of time as a function of the quantity of experiences
that it contains right so if you think of what what was the unit of one year like
10,000 years ago how much life happened in one year if you were a human being on the planet versus how much happens in
the unit of time of one year today that's cool it's the same right same reason why I'm like hey live in New York
City like living one year in New York City is like dog years right it's like seven years of ordinary life um but this
notion of time as a function or measurement of the experiences that it contains and understanding that as as
one of the lenses about the future um has always deep deeply inspired and influenced me that's cool Terence
McKennon now we sound like a bunch of college students in the dorm room with a bong um moving on to the next question
is there a particular um particular forecast or prediction that has in has
influenced you um the first I think my first exposure
to futurists or forecasters was um this merry band of of
a a futurist called icon CL they were out of Minneapolis and um they they were really
great um they have a great book which um was called the future ain't what it used to be um and they were really good at
talking about the future through the lens of of of changes in culture from a
values-based perspective and that that's something that always really influenced me like um the way that uh you know like
say like take Whole Foods today right Whole Foods is a company they understood that people wanted to care more about
where their food comes from and how it's made right like that bet on this underlying cultural value seeking
expression has led to the organic natural foods movement which is a you know God knows you know tens of billions
of dollar industry today but 30 years ago was you know a bunch of um hippie granolas you know in a college dorm room
with a bong there we go bring it it full circle we're going to take a break we are
listening to Michael Margolis on the futurists Hang Tight cuz we're going to come right back after this
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show welcome back to the futurists I'm Rob Turk and this week my co-host is
Brian Sol and we're talking to Michael Margolis the CEO of storeid uh hey Brian
I want to talk to you a little bit about your new book because I know you've been thinking about scenario planning and that's a topic that comes up quite a lot
and that's kind of a narrative as well it's a narrative about the future tell me a little bit about what you've discovered in terms of scenario planning
as you're writing the the book is about how you spark a mind shift in someone in
the best possible way rather than being held back by everyone we find a way to
inspire everyone forward and we learn unlearn and grow together and the idea
of that is painting versions of the future that are compelling and
motivating uh and understanding The Art of Doing so so I combine it with this
practice that I learned as an analyst which is the whim exercise or what it means exercise so you take any Trend uh
you you that that's important to your business or to your world the series of
Trends and you try to understand at an individual level what each means to your
world on a horizonal level immediate longer term you know maybe 10 years out
and then you take those what it means uh exercises and then you try to apply the
narrative and then the arc the story arc to those those narratives of possible
versions of the future that would then be opportunities to unite people
around this is this is a a scenario that could happen
these are some of the things that I found in terms of evidence and and research and let's be collaborative
about one way to solve for that and you create a scenario planning exercise that people feel included in rather than you
telling them what to do in this particular scenario and so the the book
is an approach to unlocking that inner futurist in everyone so that it makes it
meaningful at an individual level so that people feel like parts of the
ideas of what we do differently moving forward are theirs and it's this sort of
I don't know maybe a Jedi mind trick around getting people to embrace a bit
of the unknown even though this hasn't happened yet the conversation itself is
starting to make it a little bit more known so that's that's how I'm thinking about it yeah that's necessary I mean
look if you're trying to get a team to focus on building something that doesn't exist you've got to get them to live vividly in the in a scenario in the
future and um and what we've seen on the show because the topic comes up quite a lot with the futurist the scenario
planning is a you know quite popular technique it's a useful technique uh Thomas Frey in the in the interview we
did with him he demonstrated live it was really great he showed us how to interrogate possible Futures so you pait
something you know in the future we're going to play golf on Mars cool and then you start asking question how do we get there what does the club look like what
kind of tool what kind of equipment do we use how far does the ball go and you you you cause people to kind of athletically about that scenario and in
the process they're going to cover some pros and cons some unknown opportunities and some new obstacles and so forth all
things that can be solved for or addressed uh that's that's one technique um we also had Julian bleer on uh on the
show and he talked about narrative fiction um which Michael I forgot to mention this to you earlier such a good
show because he's a designer he's a special human yeah so you know a moment
ago before the break we were talking about designers and and how rare it is he has this incredible technique for
envisioning the future he makes an Ikea catalog and and shows how you would Market that product like what what the
product benefits are for and so for and shows like people using it and so forth and it's you know a product that doesn't
exist for a world that hasn't come yet so that's another way to vividly project people into the future um Michael talk a
little bit about scenario planning and your narrative practice because an internal Focus the ones we're talking about so far are more like product and
Market um but you're thinking more like team process and I'd be interested to
know if there's an analog there yeah
so I'm GNA be a little bit contrarian here in that
um no sorry can't do it
well I'm trying to temper my Bluster because I I so I so love Brian and and
and all of your work and I think I think I'm excited to read this next book I would I think one of the an one of the
things you need to answer in the book is the following which is is scenario planning dead because when I have
conversations with Executives they seem they're so
overwhelmed about um that the fundamentals are upside down what worked
what worked to now is not what's going to work going forward people are in such a place of not understanding which way's
up down left or right that people don't feel they have a luxury to do scenario planning or the idea of having a
three-year plan a 5-year plan a 10-year plan like I don't know what organizations have a 10-year plan
anymore other than um I'm doing a little bit of work with NASA's JPL like you know what they have a 10-year plan but
you know what they're working on some pretty Monumental interplanetary stuff I can understand why they might be looking
at a 10year horizon um so that said I do think look we're the future matters the
future I've always been about living in the future and working Your Way backwards and so I think the thing
that's really interesting and you were talking about this earlier Brian as well is what is it about the future that's
inevitable right like for instance is the future going to be more open or closed right is the future going to be
more transparent or more opaque like what are fundamental forces economic
political cultural technological and for us to say you know what this is where the world is
going right so let's Skate to where the puck is going and I think that's the way
that I have seen in this in the in the executive boardroom being able to to make a bet or have a thesis about the
future or dealing with VCS and basically having a thesis about the future of we
where the world's going you're talking about VCS and boardrooms and often those two mingle sometimes there's crossover
and here we have the uh the challenge of the Charis IC egomaniac who understands the future who
understands the future and is going to tell you how the Future Works I mean every one of us has encountered that person in the boardroom and they have
like one that person we've all been that person yeah okay so there's like one future right for that person and they
really can't tolerate the diversity of scenarios the key to scenario planning is that you look at all the possible Futures you don't put a waiting on it
you don't put a judgment on it it's like you're neutral you're looking at all of them you're going to interrogate all of them the failure to do this is how
companies go wrong right because they convince themselves we saw this recently with uh social media companies that
launch products kind of a vain glorious notion about the future that they were the you know leadership team was
obsessed by and sent the whole team charging down the trail spending billions of dollars you know exactly who
I'm talking about um and you know there was obviously spectacular failure uh and
actually you can say there have been a number of different instances where that's happened in the last 10 years as the tech industry has sought to find a
successor to the smart smartphone the phenomenal success of the smartphone hasn't been replicated in 10 years we've tried everything from you know um
everything from metaverse to cryptocurrency uh now we're trying with artificial intelligence maybe that'll
stick um but the challenge there is that you've got a charismatic leader who has a very clear Vision he thinks or she
thinks of the future and sends the whole team charging down that track without sufficiently interrogating a range of
possibilities and evaluating all the possible future the fact is there's many different Futures right we don't really talk about the future we talk about the
Futures because of course there's a branching phenomenon that happening here many things are possible some are
probable yes okay so on that note let's talk about some news because uh you know
the theme lately has been social media is melting down I've seen all these news articles lately about the end of social
media the social media era is over no one's on Facebook although I'm on Facebook it seems like there's plenty of
people on Facebook Twitter's melting down well it like there's plenty of activity on Twitter as well perhaps
these stories are exaggerated from the Doom mongering press that's possible um but there's actually news so tell me
Michael about meta's big announcement yeah well literally yesterday uh meta
just uh released threads um which you know the media has quickly framed as the
Twitter killer um but it's basically uh right like text based threaded
conversation it's actually a spin-off of insta which I think is is a really smart
move by by meta and they're also building it um with underlying
architecture of active Pub so that it can be what is it feder federalized or federalized so it will ultimately be
able to be interop with Mastadon and some of the other um type of like you
know Global Town Square places um here's I think the thing um and by the way
within less than 24 hours 10 million new accounts right opened up on threads so
you know people love to talk about meta is dead like there there are plenty I know most people's relationship with
Facebook is it's complicated and I get it right um it's there there are many aspects to
this um I do have a privileged relationship with that company being being an adviser to them since 2016 um
but the reason why I've always really been fascinated and appreciated our
partnership is it's the biggest storytelling platform in the history of the universe
right there's nothing else on the planet that re that is a greater reflection of collective Consciousness or that engages
in reaches more people you got three billion plus monthly active users so um
what they're doing with threads here's the significance of it that I think we should not Overlook people are like oh
it doesn't work yet like it should and all right great it just launched in
24 hours give it a Break um but keep this in mind um why did Elon by
Twitter big picture why do we think Elon bought Twitter I'm sure you guys have talked
about this I mean there's an ego reason there certainly no no strategic from a strategic business perspective why did
he buy Twitter what what's the what's the what's the Greatest Prize asset of Twitter tell us what you got because we
could go off on a tangent there cut cut to the chase yeah I'm hold the one of I think the most
fascinating perspectives on why Elon bought Twitter is that in the context of generative Ai and large language models
is that it represents a realtime santic like uh basically Collective
Consciousness right he's talking about that now that's not the reason he bought it but yeah of course he's putting a fence around Twitter data right now
because he sees it's a tremendous asset and he is trying to build his own generative AI system that's certainly the case yeah no doubt about it I don't
think that people talk about that no when when when the acquisition was happening actually this was one of the grand theories behind it um but here's
why I bring this up because um what what meta now will have with
threads is a realtime large language model neural
network of collective Consciousness that's what threads will allow for and all the things that then emerge out of
that I mean don't they already have that with um with with all their other app platforms with WhatsApp and insta and
Facebook no not in the same you know for remember what's WhatsApp is um you know
small group messaging well but also like it's encrypted both ways so they don't right from a data perspective that's
closed insta is more visual driven right Facebook had a lot of that um but
Facebook also is a lot of other things right yeah Twitter or FRS has always
been that Real Time news media commentary sort of the pulse of what's
Happening fair enough okay so and it's also going to be more concise because Facebook is a little bit spread across
the planet and and actually insta has turned into television you know it's now it's like video and ads and stuff it's a bummer because I loved it as a visual
platform uh okay so so yes that makes a great deal sense there's been a lot of speculation about the value of um the
value of the data for generative AI purposes in Social platforms and it's not limited to Twitter or Facebook of
course because Reddit has done the same thing and actually other platforms uh have started to ring fence their data as
well everyone understands that this this information can be useful this brings us to the topic of data and I want to talk
to you a little bit about that because I know you got some thoughts about data um you know my sense is often um the people
who focus on data uh it's we have an interesting time
because you can you can stop a conversation it's literally like a thought terminating comment to say like I've looked at the data the data
suggests this and it's like okay end of discussion right no more debate because we've looked at the data or someone says
they have what data who knows uh you know often we use data as a proxy
for making decisions or for intelligence uh and we're going to allow the past to inform the future I question them um I
question it I think data might be overrated um in one case for instance uh data is definitely an abstraction away
from the original source so what we call data is often uh you know the work of a human being and in particular the the
data that's being mined or used um without permission to train large language models uh that data represents
not some resource some natural resource it's not the kind of data smog that Facebook collects when you traffic
across the internet where they're tracking you uh the data that's being used by companies like open Ai and the
other companies that are training large language models is the work of human beings and very often it's the work of human beings working at the peak of
their intellectual output at their peak of their abilities uh it's the years and years of effort and training that have
gone into these concise statements that are being used to train these systems and they're used without consent without
credit and without compensation a lot of people resist that a lot of folks are starting to speak up and it's not just
the writer Guild that's on strike here in Los Angeles among their complaints is the use of generative AI for
screenwriting uh seems like a legitimate complaint we've also seen news journalists uh strike and we're starting
to see artists organize and speak up against this practice as well this idea of um of data mining the work of human
beings and in sense it makes I can understand it I'm sympathetic to those groups because uh effectively their data
is being used turned into weapon to replace them to make them irrelevant uh to build something that might potentially replace them in the future
or devalue their work and this idea of uh using the term data to describe the output of human beings in a way is
dehumanizing uh and it devalues the work of humans talk a little bit about that if you will because I want I know you
have many thoughts on this subject and I want to hear you I'll stop opining and hand the mic over to our guest to talk
yeah well so I mean I work with some of the biggest data science organizations on the planet so I I I and I and I've I
like helping them actually communicate their role and value and one of the places that we actually often start with
is from the place that data is dead right we have to remember that data
is a story of the past yeah right whereas disruption is a story about the future so we always have to start with
the future first and what you're pointing to Robert is there's an inherent bias heuristically with data
that we think data is objective we think data is the truth but data often has
many filters right in labels that like you can take any position that you want
and we can find data to support it so I often say to people right if data is King context and emotion are queen and
the queen should always go first right well the the data part is a critical part of a business case and
value propositions and persuasion but what we tend to overlook is context zoom out big picture let's capture the
imagination have people thinking about the future what's possible now that wasn't before and then let's zoom in get
up close and personal get people to emotionally self-identify oh yeah I belong in that
story that's for me so if you do those two things really well the zoom out big picture and then the zoom in emotional
like leaning in now people will be begging you for the data that supports a
promise right of the future that you're selling because it's a positive promise of the future tell us about the future
of generative AI talk a little bit about where you see this heading oh man
um well uh boy there there don't even know where to start with this but the first thing is words are the new
code what do you mean by that well so there are three most important
scientific revolutions and discoveries of the last hundred years one was DNA
biologic code right understanding the basic building blocks of of human biology number two was binary code
computer programming right zeros and ones now we've entered this new phase
where the semantic code literally language right by the way words create
worlds language has always been right how we build and create and interact
with reality but now this is the underlying currency of the tech industry
and ultimately what's going to be driving our economy and our society this is just to break that down people are
listening so what you're saying is the idea that anybody now can write software simply by talking to a chatbot by by
using regular language human language um you can start to write code is that what you're saying no I mean that that's one
like one one derivative Downstream consequence absolutely what I am saying
is that that um and this is the premise we we recently had stored forgive the
Shameless plug but we've just launched the world's first Learning Community for narrative
intelligence right I I believe that narrative is our number one superpower of humanity and as we Outsource more and
more to machines what is the role value and contribution of us as humans what is it
that we can do that others can't right and it has to do with narrative but
understanding how to have narrative fluency and narrative agency knowing how
because literally what is what is generative AI right it's a language model you have to understand language
and how to interact with language if you don't have a relationship with language
right this is going to become the new digital divide does that make sense it makes sense and it's also
uh speaking of language yeah it's it's this is really important because for example in my work uh we're we're
experimenting with generative AI as a form of of Robert how you described it
for coding uh and I I brought this I actually said these same words that
words well I said I said it this way words are the new code and then I had to
add via a prompt so that people understand that you're using the prompt as your opportunity to tell a version of
the outcome you'd like to see and how you'd like to see it but it's also the prompt as the UI as a new form
of of user interface and creating sort of this new world this new opportunity of then we play out the spatial
Computing we we play out to neuralink just even thinking in terms of the prompt uh it it still all comes down to
Michael what you're saying well I think what I hear you saying is that the words that we use in that moment of the prompt
will create whatever it is that we're looking to create whether it's words
whether it's software whether it's a game whether it's a script whether it's uh it's whatever it is on that other
side that we're using our language to create cre reality has always been a large
language model like let me give you guys this example right that's a bumper sticker right
there it is it's it's ontology so ontology is the science of being and
it's all all about literally language so let's let's play this this little parlor game My my friend udy um this comes from
the world of landmark by the way um to give credit but let's take a look at this all right so um what is this if
this if this is a number what is this so for the people who are listening to the show Michael's holding up one index
finger right now all right so this is yeah so if this is if this is a number what is this so one index finger would
be representing the number one okay if this is a direction what is it so an
index finger pointing up is direction is up yeah if this is a body part what is
it it's um oh boy my mind goes straight to the gutter um it's uh you said it
earlier no I know it's it's a it's a single finger yeah right so this same this same
object right is the number one is the direction up and is the body part of a
finger yeah it's all in the labeling this goes to the heart of what you were
bringing up Robert around data right and that we have we don't we Overlook the
fact that everything is labeling it's language what language are we putting on things and think of how often you fight
with your spouse with a coworker or some other audience and all we're fighting
over is we put different labels on the same thing so Laing is truth of that one
label that we think is the absolute truth okay so the so what you're saying to to uh just to bring home the the
analogy um when you're saying that you know the example the finger you're given us it could mean many different things
in different contexts and the label that we apply is the is the contextual framing for that particular facts so
here's data it's a bunch of facts and different frames are basically like different lenses that bring that data
into focus and allow us to make use of it in some practical way I'm getting it I'm learning I'm learning from this is
why this is why what you guys were what what you were saying Robert and and Brian as well context is everything
context is how you frame the future right it's it's all about zooming out we've lost the plot people need to see
the bigger picture it's context give us the future us a vision of the future tell us what's going to happen in 10
years 20 years 25 years what's going to happen are we going to continue fighting are people going to get along in the
future and then and then to your point Brian then show us that you give a [ __ ] that you care like like empathy emotion
bring it back home to me in some visceral emotional way you do those two things context and emotion great now I
want the evidence the data that validates the premise that that we're looking at um this is actually arist
three proofs of rhetoric ethos AOS and logos okay we we our job here is talk about the future not Aristotle so show
me where this is heading tell me seriously I want to forecast give me 10 years 20 years out in the future U right
now we're in a time of we're Riven with conflicts and people are riddled with doubt fear uncertainty I haven't seen a
time of of less optimism in my entire life and I don't really understand it because uh by most metrics things are
getting better yeah right and and and just to build on that you've you've said it a
few times and I love it we've lost the plot yes so maybe putting in the
context how do we get back how do we get how do we get back to the plot for the future that you see I'm gonna I'm gonna
give you guys a rhetorical question you mean you're gonna Dodge the question but go for no no I'm not no no
no no this is actually this this is the you asked for my prediction and I'm gonna unpack this um happily all right
here's the question um do leaders have to have faith in the
future fa faith is Faith or conviction I think they have to have conviction very specific faith in the future do leaders
have to have faith in the future so so this this is an interesting question
because the I do so much work in in helping leaders see alternative future
to what they have faith in already or or what they believe in because faith and
belief you know they we can all peel that banana back to to confirmation bias
but another way to ask that question is do they have faith in a version of the
future that is your version of the future or Robert's version of the future because I
I don't know that I've seen that leaders have faith in the future they have faith
in to Robert's point they have faith in themselves yeah and they might speak
with conviction but I I think there's plenty of faithless leaders and and and unfortunately when I'm on the spot right
now I'm thinking all the examples I can think of are faithless leaders Michael what's your point help us out bring this
put a button on this episode please um so do leaders have to have faith in the
future if leaders don't have faith in the future that do they belong in the seat of leadership I I I think that
faith in the future and by the way faith is a critical word here because faith is actually belief in the unknown it's
belief amidst uncertainty the lack of predictability
do you still have fundamental inherent enduring faith in humanity and our resolve our creativity our adaptiveness
and so on I think by the way a lot of leaders have faith in the future I just think most leaders do not know how to
build the narrative that conveys faith faith in the future right lot of them have faith the next
quarter yeah but but faith in the future is is that's at the end of the day
that's the fundamental human need right we looking for a story that makes sense of the world our place in it and what
comes next so you have to fill that vacuum and the reason I bring this up
Robert kind of you know as kind of the closing point my biggest prediction about the future and especially with
generative AI as a forking moment for Humanity it will make us not only better
storytellers better philosophers and better ethicists it will also inherently
Force us to strengthen our spiritual practice because um in the face of
existential crisis it's amazing how we as human beings find God or whatever version of
that you want to name or put a label on faith in the future wow
okay taking us all the way to spiritual conviction I'm with you Michael Margolis
CEO storyed uh expert in narrative transformation thank you for joining us
on the futurist this week where can we find you on the web if people are listening will be interested to learn more and learn about your courses in
narrative uh narrative comprehension yeah yeah so uh story to inc.com uh
we've just launched the world's first Learning Community for narrative intelligence we have courses coaching um
we have a new flagship program called narrative influence a five-week Sprint method you'll find that at story inc.com and then you can also get my latest book
story 10x Turn The Impossible into the inevitable you'll find that on Amazon
Kindle uh Audible and all that good jazz and then lastly for social find me on
LinkedIn is where I share the most okay that's great Michael thank you for joining us on the show Brian s always a
great pleasure to see you again my friend so thanks for coming and a big shout out to the folks that provoke
media who make the show possible thank you very much Kevin Elizabeth and the rest of the crew at provoke if you're
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