How a storytelling tool can help us power through innovation.
Dystopias have always been a very powerful way to demonstrate a society in disrepair. With gut-wrenching scenes of grey rubble filled buildings, the visceral stripping away of freedom from protagonists and a constant fear of the outside world, Dystopias safely take us into a universe where we are both terrified and hyper alert of how grateful we are of our different reality.
Nevertheless, these impossible seeming stories portrayed in books and movies ranging from George Orwell´s “1984” to Margaret Atwood´s “The Handmaids Tale” seem to be hitting a little too close to home right now.
A couple of months ago, if someone told you you were going to be living in what seems like a faraway dystopian future, you would have laughed and shrugged the ridiculous idea off.
“What do you mean we won´t be able to leave our houses?”
“Why wouldn´t we be able to go to work?”
“There won´t be any toilet paper?”
Questions that would have previously elicited a confused face and a change of topic, now ring true. Which begs the question, are we currently living in a dystopia?
For the sake of the argument, let´s say we are. Even if we don´t currently check all of the requirement boxes for a Dystopian Story, let´s pretend we do in order to be able to work through this narrative tool to a more utopian solution.
There are two inherent strengths that can be seen in a dystopian story:
1. They tell a story through an engaging and compelling narrative.
2. Actions by the protagonist have a direct, visible and fast-acting storyline shift.
If we were to jump in to our current dystopian world and become the protagonist, what can we do to change the ending of our story? What actions can we take to create a storyline shift?
There are many possible paths that can be taken while inside the whirlwind of a dystopia, but there is one which will eventually lead to a brighter and more utopian future.
By using the Dystopian formula as a storytelling tool, we can communicate the relevance and importance of our daily actions through a visual, non-threatening scenario. Instead of bombarding people with exponential graphs and numbers that seem too big and scary to be true, let´s ground the problem and turn it into something we can digest a bit more easily: a story.
If we were to use our current situation as a baseline for our story, we open up the path to formulate innovative and radical ideas that can help our society transform itself into a Utopia. And because this is our own story that we are creating, there are no rules or boundaries for your imagination.
You can branch out into possible new futures, as radical as they may seem. There are no limits to what your protagonist can do or change, because in a time of constant uncertainty where we are met with a new normal almost every day, the only path out of it is to innovate.
Go further into the future and test out your storyline, what would you change from the way the world is currently handling the crisis? What are the different paths and eventual endings to your story?
You are the protagonist and creator of this possible Utopia. How would you solve this problem creatively if you didn´t have any constraints? If money or governmental bureaucracy weren’t a factor? Are there new paths our protagonist isn´t seeing for some reason?
This exercise in creativity can help us turn radical innovation into commonplace daily actions.
By viewing this current crisis as the turning point in our protagonist´s story, what could we do to change our world?
Even if the ideas you come up with seem far-fetched and unreasonable, keep going.
When we have such a complex problem as the one standing before us, ideas that are out of the norm could become potential solutions, or at least become a path towards one. This is not only an exercise in creativity, but an exercise in hope rooted in innovation.
By showing the problem and solution through a story, we can communicate different paths our society can take to solve this problem quickly and more efficiently. A well communicated story has the power to transcend socio-economic, age, race and gender differences, making it the perfect tool for a universal problem.
Innovation doesn´t come from safely following the guidelines set by people before us, but by imagining an entirely new and different world, and setting out to create it.
This is the power of a Dystopia.