Star Wars. Indiana Jones. Shrek. Your medical group.
What can they possibly have in common? The answer is that they involve stories.
"What story?" you may be asking yourself. That's the problem.
Inherent in their relationship with you, the other party to any contracting or business relationship has already told themselves a story about your group, and that story has a significant impact on their relationship with you.
Stories are as old as human society. Stories such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Shrek follow very closely the formula laid out by the late Joseph Campbell, professor and author of Hero With a Thousand Faces, who studied the myths of world culture. Many of those myths followed a similar pattern, which he described as a "monomyth" or the "hero's journey." Because so many of our stories follow this same pattern, a new story built around similar elements resonates particularly strongly.
Roughly speaking, the sequence of the journey story, which I have greatly simplified, is as follows:
1. Call to Adventure - The hero, living a normal life, realizes that everything is about to change.
2. Refusal of the Call - The hero refuses to heed the call.
3. Mentor's Aid - The hero commits to the journey and is aided by a mentor or guide.
4. Crossing of the First Threshold - The hero ventures past the limits of the known world into the unknown.
5. Belly of the Whale - The final separation from the old, known world and known self.
6. Series of Trials - The trials and tests that the hero must endure in order to transform.
7. Unconditional External or Internal Love - The hero experiences an all encompassing, unconditional love.
8. Temptation - Temptation leads the hero to stray from the quest.
9. Atonement- Confrontation with something of incredible power which initiates the hero.
10. Divine Knowledge or Rest - The hero attains divine knowledge or takes a peaceful rest before moving on in the journey.
11. Achievement of the Goal - The hero accomplishes the goal of his quest.
12. Refusal to Return - The hero may not want to return to the ordinary world.
13. Magic Flight - The hero starts his return, but it is often as dangerous as was getting there.
4. Rescue - Powerful guides or third parties aid the hero in his return.
15. Crossing the Return Threshold - The hero must survive re-entry into the normal world, but with his newfound knowledge intact.
16. Master of the Two Worlds - The hero has achieved a balance between two worlds, the material and the spiritual.
17. Freedom to Live - The hero is free from the fear of death.
As I stated at the outset, someone is telling the story of your group. That story impacts the way that those hearing it deal with your group. Therefore, it's critical that you be the one telling the story.
Consider the impact of the story in the following example:
Your group provides a certain type of specialty services, say radiology. You are planning to approach another hospital to expand the scope of your business. If you have no packaged story, what story will the administrators of the new facility tell of your group? That it is simply another radiology group, one of several that are vying for the exclusive radiology contract. That it provides the same services that any radiology group provides. That those services are a commodity. That price-related terms are the only issue. That an RFP is the best approach to push that price to the bottom.
Is that the story that you want told about your group?
Let's look at another example.
Over recent years it's become known that Steve Jobs bristled over each of the unauthorized biographies written about him and was even said to have retaliated against their publishers. Jobs had carefully guarded the "Steve Jobs" myth and had not cooperated with anyone else telling the story. Recently, however, it was reported that Jobs is now cooperating on an authorized biography.
The "story" of Steve Jobs is not new - it's been told for years. But that version was, from Jobs' own perspective, the default version, the one that others told and therefore controlled. He had fought to control the story but, when it became obvious that there was no way to stop publication of "default" versions, he finally decided to participate in documenting his "official" version.
As Professor Campbell discovered, the stories that most closely follow the hero's journey resonate the loudest.
I'm not suggesting that you need to hit all of the elements of the monomyth in building your story (although it could get you elected President). I am suggesting that the most persuasive stories are built around as many of those elements as possible.
If you haven't already begun, start scripting your group's story and work it into your relationships with your present, prospective and future business partners.
Looking once more to the initial steps in the hero's journey, you're already on notice that the world of healthcare business is changing (the Call to Adventure). You may have refused to heed the call (the Refusal of the Call).
Let us show you the way (Mentor's Aid) -- together we will get you across the threshold.