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An Inciting StoryWe are instinctively story seekers. We’ll finish the day with a chapter in a book, look to our connections on social media, or escape to the movies for the latest retelling of an old classic. We’re always on the lookout for a good story, but easily forget that we’re living one of our own. Our businesses and work tell a story, too. So, where does yours begin?

Writer Donald Miller calls the essential storytelling ingredient an “inciting incident,” and defines it as “an event that forces a character to move.” The inciting incident changes a character’s thinking, leading them to act. The rising action, climax, and resolution then follow, ultimately changing the character.

In business, an inciting incident could be anything from the resounding message that moves you at a lunch seminar, to the spreadsheet of numbers indicating you’re only breaking even this year. The rising action and climax are your strategy and implementation, the resolution, the ROI.

But, without an inciting incident, a story can only maintain the status quo. Keeping a look-out for the forces that move you, or your clients, may first require you to step back and ask yourself:

  • What is my story?
  • Can it be better?
  • Is it in need of change?

Recognizing an inciting incident requires an open mind. We need to be willing to stop, listen, and, sometimes, face the unfamiliar, in order to achieve the resolution we’re hoping for.

After we have been “forced to move,” we pursue the rising action, which may mean anything from building a new business process to implementing an acquisition. Of course, it also means being a courageous protagonist.

How does your story play out?

Miller, Donald. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. 2009. Thomas Nelson, Nashville.


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