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Once Upon an Innovation: Business Storytelling Techniques for Creative Problem Solving

ISBN: 9781592986019
Binding: Paperback
Author: Jean Storlie
Author: Mimi Sherlock
Pages: 152
Trim: 8.5 x 11 inches
Published: 6/23/2020

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." —Albert Einstein

Since the early 2000s, business storytelling has become a widely accepted strategy for companies around the world. Stories are harnessed in advertising, marketing, PR, and even leadership and culture development. Now for the first time ever, Once Upon an Innovation builds upon these practices and applies story techniques to creative problem solving and innovation.

Stories light up the imagination, fostering the creative collaboration necessary to inspire, develop, and commercialize winning ideas. Stories also trigger the brain to release oxytocin, the trust and empathy hormone, making them a powerful tool for understanding and addressing users' needs. This also means that storytelling methods can be applied to the other half of the battle-getting others on board with new ideas as they move through the various checkpoints in an organization.

This easy-to-read, "how to" guidebook provides story-based strategies and tools to:

  •  generate rich and meaningful ideas.
  •  rally stakeholders and a team around a vision.
  • gain empathy for user and insights into users.
  • bring formative ideas to life for testing and prototyping.
  • develop storytelling skills to persuade and inspire others.

With an engaging balance of anecdotes, theories, and tools, Jean Storlie and Mimi Sherlock take their combined 50+ years of experience to illustrate how storytelling can be applied to accelerate innovation and lead change.

Gather around the campfire—your story starts now.

As President/Owner of Storlietelling LLC, Jean Storlie uses story-based techniques to design and facilitate highly engaging strategic planning, innovation, and team-building sessions. She also runs training programs in business storytelling skills for clients that span boutique consulting firms to Fortune 500 companies across a range of industries. Jean has facilitated innovation in consumer-packaged goods, supplier, and direct marketing companies, focusing on building their innovation pipelines. She worked at General Mills for over a decade, where her knack for distilling complex content into compelling communications helped business teams drive business growth for consumer brands like Cheerios and Yoplait. As a child, she loved reading books, playing dress-up, and solving puzzles, foreshadowing the work she does now-solving problems with stories.


Mimi Sherlock is the Director of Global Strategic Insights for IFF Taste. She is responsible for inspiring and motivating creative teams by bringing actionable insights to life and facilitating end to-end innovation. Prior to this, Mimi was the Principal and Owner of Sherlock Creative Thinking, a creativity and innovation consultancy that served a variety of clients and industries across the globe. Through her highly engaging and experiential approach, Mimi helped business teams in companies like Visa, L’Oreal, and Nestlé crack the code on gnarly problems . . . and enjoy the process. She has been a leader and facilitation trainer for the Creative Problem Solving Institute for close to thirty years. As a natural ideator, if you give Mimi a challenge she’s likely to spew out twenty-five ideas in under five minutes.


"In addition to marketers, insight professionals, engineers/scientists, and product developers, others can apply the lessons and approaches highlighted in Once Upon an Innovation. I can see plant production managers, government leaders, schoolteachers, and social entrepreneurs benefiting from this book. Virtually anyone focused on advancing change or driving meaningful improvements can learn from this content." —Peter Erickson, retired executive vice president of Innovation, Technology, and Quality at General Mills

"Once Upon an Innovation is a treasure trove of practical knowledge, tools, and techniques on how to be more persuasive in any corporate environment through the power of storytelling. A well-executed story helps people remember what you said and gives them permission to take the risks to seek out new and better solutions. Never have I seen such a complete accounting of the mechanical application of storytelling as a business skill. I wish I had this book when I started my advertising career thirty years ago!"  —Scott Buckley, founder and principal of Buckstarter Branding Studio

"Once Upon an Innovation is the unique alchemy of storytelling and the creative problem solving process. The result is a highly engaging and effective method for bringing about positive change in organizations, systems, new products, and beyond. As both a facilitator and qualitative researcher, I view Once Upon an Innovation as a valuable resource to any team or individual in search of a clear roadmap to breakthrough innovation." -—Jean Bystedt, principal of J. Bystedt & Associates and co-author of "Moderating to The Max"

"Storlie and Sherlock have created a unique meld of innovation, creativity, and storytelling designed for those of us who want to use, not just read about, these skills. Their talents as communicators-combined with the book's skilled organization, attractive graphics, and relevant stories-make the book a delight to read as well as a valuable resource. As someone who has taught business storytelling and gathered stories from the workplace, I only wish the book had been available sooner! It's practical and inspiring, a book I could give to clients as well as use myself." — Sally Fox, PhD, owner of Engaging Presence

"In Once Upon an Innovation, Jean Storlie and Mimi Sherlock share a structured and relatable approach to storytelling as an essential means for progress. The book is a practical guide for developing your storytelling skills and a must-read for any change-making leader boldly seeking to productively transform ideas to reality." — Emily Riley, innovation practitioner and director of Business Development and Strategy Planning at Mondelez

"In Once Upon an Innovation, Jean Storlie and Mimi Sherlock masterfully blend storytelling and deliberate creativity skills and tools to help teams surmount barriers to innovation. Smart and easy to read, Once Upon an Innovation makes science and scholarship accessible and applicable to a range of business situations, from work culture to product development. This insightful resource-born at a cafeteria table during the Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI)-is emblematic of collaborative innovation." —Beth Miller, executive director of Creative Education Foundation and CPSI

"For many years I've understood the link between business storytelling and innovation. And for many years I wished someone would write that book. Finally, it's here. Storlie and Sherlock published Once Upon an Innovation and hear me applauding! My favorite chapters are 'Storytelling for Ideation,' 'Develop, Test and Prototype with Stories,' and 'Strategic Framing for Stakeholders.' I love the graphics guiding readers through the book, the tools included, and the specific practical ways to use storytelling to innovate new products, services, markets, and companies. Every business will benefit from this work." — Karen Dietz, PhD, speaker, consultant, coach, and author of "Just Story It" and "Business Storytelling for Dummies"

Once Upon an Innovation is a wonderful addition to the genre of business storytelling.  Jean and Mimi’s book brings inspiration and clarity to the field, melding right-brained creativity and left-brained cognition, both of which are essential to using business storytelling in organizational communication and problem-solving. Jean and Mimi have created an inspiring and useful guide for people who want to use business storytelling tools but aren’t even sure where to begin. The book is delightfully easy to read with engaging visuals, inspiring stories, and practical tools.” -- Claire Taylor, co-founder ofThe Story Mill and author of The Tao of Storytelling

“From the early days of the creativity movement, stories shared by the forefathers of deliberate creativity, Sid Parnes and Alex Osborn—even more than their models and processes—helped people truly grasp and internalize core concepts of deliberate creativity. So it is fitting that Mimi and Jean developed a process for storytelling (and do so by telling stories) that will spread the wisdom and knowledge of creative problem solving and innovation for generations to come. This is not a textbook that bores you with what Mimi and Jean know, but rather a book of compelling stories that you won’t want to put down. And when you do put it down, you’ll immediately want to use what you’ve learned.” -- David Magellan Horth, director of Innovation Venturing and Partnership and senior fellow of the Center for Creative Leadership

Once Upon an Innovation is an engaging and user-friendly resource that sheds new light on innovation and change management. The authors offer multiple examples on how storytelling can be used to capture the hearts and minds of your audience. It has tools and tips for identifying a strategic or consumer need, creating an aha moment, and launching a new strategy or successful product. The authors also provide leadership tips, including the fundamentals on how to capture a team with an engaging story, build stakeholder support, and inspire action. This is the best book I have read on how storytelling can be used to see an opportunity more clearly and drive change.” -- Lydia Tooker Midness, president of Spring Brook Farm, LLC and retired vice president of Innovation, Technology, and Quality at General Mills

“Tell a story, the right story, and spur people to change, growth, and innovation. In Once Upon an Innovation, Jean Storlie and Mimi Sherlock show you how.” --Sarah Thurber, managing partner of FourSight and author of The Secret of the Highly Creative Thinker