Every journey of leadership begins with an origin story, right? Here’s one of mine.
I started my career as an advertising copywriter, working for big advertising agencies in Dallas, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1990s. I got tired of writing about hamburgers all day every day, and so I left the agency world because I wanted to write about leadership and teams and innovation. I still bring my old advertising copywriter sensibilities to my work in organizational leadership.
My “blue pill” moment of immersion into the Matrix of organizational storytelling happened in the late 1990s when I was doing some work for The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta. They asked me to create a communication solution to help employees understand what a “learning organization” was. So I wrote a crazy fable about a flock of sheep that outwits a pack of hungry wolves, displaying the capabilities of a learning organization in the process. I had my illustrator friend Bobby Gombert create some funny drawings of wolves and sheep, and I titled the crazy story Outlearning the Wolves.
It was fun and weird and honestly when I first presented it to my client I thought there was a decent chance that Coca-Cola would never hire me again. Later a publisher picked up the book, and it ended up being translated into more than a dozen languages and selling more than a quarter million copies around the world. I started hearing stories of corporate groups that were mounting stage productions of Outlearning the Wolves, and even one police precinct in Japan that presented a Wolves puppet show as a catalyst for change.
The Wolves phenomenon caught me off guard and made me ask myself, Why did this approach work so well in so many cultures? What was the mechanism by which it created so much engagement, and also led people into a learning dialogue? That inquiry put me on the story path. It turned out to be so much fun that I stuck with it. Over the years as I experimented with the topic and worked with leaders to find and tell their stories, the learning offering called The Storytelling Leader evolved. It has been a wonderful journey that has taken me around the world where I’ve had the honor of hearing amazing leaders tell unforgettable stories. What a crazy ride it has been.
And yes, you can order “Outlearning the Wolves” at our Story Store.
Meet the Team
David Hutchens has spent his career exploring the intersection of narrative, leadership, and complex systems change. He is a bestselling author who creates solutions for The Coca-Cola Company, IBM, PayPal, Wal-Mart, L’Oreal, The US Olympic Committee, and others.
A sought-after trainer, he has brought The Storytelling Leader to Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Russia, and more. His most recent book is “Circle of the 9 Muses: A Storytelling Field Guide for Innovators and Meaning Makers.”
Bay Area, California
Michael McRay’s extensive work in story has taken him around the world. The author of multiple books, Michael's newest book is the award-winning I Am Not Your Enemy: Stories to Transform a Divided World.
A seasoned facilitator, trained mediator, and storytelling consultant, Michael recently led a regional hub for the global story nonprofit Narrative 4. For seven years, he also produced and hosted Tenx9 Nashville, a long-running live community storytelling event. He holds executive certification in Public Narrative from the Harvard Kennedy School.
A growing team of global facilitators.
The Storytelling Leader team is growing, with a new roster of facilitators available across North America, South America, Europe, Asia and more.
To date, nearly a dozen learning professionals are engaged in the certification process. Their contact info will be added here as they complete the process.