How Stories Create Reality #18 #cong23 #reality


Here we’ll take time to consider how we organise and process reality through storytelling, We’ll look at how collaborative sense and place making are needed for our shared reality. You’ll see how we use stories to narrate and define our own lives. We’ll examine how ambiguity can be used to challenge our thinking. In this Oral Storytelling session Tom will leave you with stories to ponder and unmask some narrative realites.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. If you really listened what would you hear?

  2. How stories shape reality.

  3. Change your mind and unchain your story.

  4. Stories – when giving things away is really the best value

About Tom O'Rahilly:

Tom O’Rahilly, is happiest chasing rainbows. Meantime he works leading the team at The National Leprechaun Museum. He is a designer, businessman, mistake maker, husband and father. Left leaning, forward moving, interested in “stones and every blooming thing”  

Contacting Tom O'Rahilly:

You can connect with Tom on Twitter, send him an email or check out the Leprechaun Museum.

By Tom O”Rahilly

“Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep ’til noon”

– Mark Twain

Once you have painted that picture perception becomes reality. Our human experience of reality is just that, an experience and one that’s easily manipulated.

This manipulation is not in what we see, or hear, or touch but in what we can believe.

This belief is absorbed into our minds through words and the ideas we form from the words we hear. The latin saying  Mundus vult decipi ergo deceipiatur The world wants to be deceived so let us deceive. It says we are complicit in the illusion of reality, an illusion in which we can exist. We don’t rely on what’s said, but on what we want to hear and what we want to hear most are stories.

A good story is one we repeat over to ourselves. Wordlessly we form paths into our memory. These trodden paths are our memory. In time they become as real to us as actual experiences absorbed into the flesh of our being. Just compare witness accounts of an accident and see how many true versions there are.

From an early age we learn stories, they imprint themselves on our minds. In the evening light our bedtime stories bring us to the edge our minds free, our bodies safely tucked up at home. One foot in the sheets another stepping out into a land of castles, giants and magic. Time flies by, time slows down, months and years elapse in seconds, or minutes become hours as the ancient grandfather clock in the hall slowly ticks toward the appointed hour.

When we tell a story we relive the experience of it or a version of that experience.

Now a fairytale with Ogres is not something we experience directly but who has not had to deal with Ogres and Ogresses or a Troll in real life? Their abstract nature allows us to express our emotional reality in the situation.

So let’s say you are in bed one night and you are woken, in the dark, by a noise inside the house, what do you think it might be? We project the fears we have nurtured onto the unknown and uncertain.

Oral stories have additional powers. Emotion, connection, presence and conversation a communion of people. Mirror neurons fire as we watch the storyteller and our brains become more active with greater degrees of activity across the hemispheres than any other medium. This is why telling, rather than reading bedtime stories is so powerful.

We humans have some superpowers. One of the extraordinary things we can do is imagine things into existence. Uniquely we are the only species that can do this together. We can collectively imagine the same thing.

The ability of a story to reflect reality and for a group to experience the creation of that reality is at once the greatest skill and Achilles heel of our species. This Mimesis (or representation of reality) is the basis for our communities and society but like any super hero we have our own Kryptonite!

Joseph Conrad writes about this in his novel Lord Jim. When a ship carrying pilgrims strikes an object below the waterline, fact, belief, fear and the unknown create a new reality for the crew and in the darkness they abandon ship and all its passengers. Later there is a court case the details are forensically examined.

“They wanted facts. Facts! They demanded facts from him, as if facts could explain anything!”!

Lord Jim,  Joseph Conrad

Reality is what we imagine it to be, and I don’t always see (takes off glasses) what is right in front of me. But it affords another way of being, one which relies on community and a collective imagination above the mundane and material. It allows us to transcend the factual to look beyond the shadows dancing on the walls of the cave and sense that we are all connected to something eternal.

In ancient times holy wells in Ireland were perceived as gateways to other worlds. On the surface they reflect this world, a thin superficial layer but deeper inside a place beyond our knowing where the rules we hold over ourselves vanish.

So come with me into another reality where time and space are fluid, and the truth is as clear and unobtainable as your reflection in a dark pool.

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

  • WBY

I Have an Idea, Tell Me a Story #65 #cong18


Don’t get into a Twitter argument, instead, tell a story.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Storytelling helps us to capture attention

  2. It also helps us to give context

  3. Twitter is a tough place for nuance

  4. Storytelling is a skill to be developed

About Rose Barrett:

Rose here, I like to paddle boats and peddle digital consultancy to small businesses. I also end up volunteering for all sorts, particularly when it’s related to improving rural communities or using digital resources to help spread ideas.

Contacting Rose Barrett:

You can follow Rose on Twitter or send her an email.

By Rose Barrett

“Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story” – Ivan Illich

We all know that it can be hard to communicate an idea.  For me I see this regularly in my life as an internet person and it’s obvious on a platform like Twitter.  And I’ve been there myself. Tried to communicate an idea only to fall flat on my face. I swear Twitter was designed with this in mind.

So I took a step back to see how those who are successful in getting an idea across do what they do.  And I noticed a pattern, many of them are great storytellers. I love storytelling. It brings back memories of my family pub when the electricity would go out, candles were lit and stories were told.  It’s no small thing that storytelling is so powerful a communication tool and in the communication of ideas, it is a resource ready to serve.

A struggle of communicating ideas we often encounter are patterns of thinking.  Many of us presume “You say → They think” but it’s rarely this straightforward.  When we communicate we’re often forgetting about the level of difference in perception, or thought patterns,of our intended audience compared to ourselves.  We might get that there are differences but we could miss the mark on how big those differences really are and fail to actually frame the idea as we would like to.  And these differences can make connection difficult.

Culture always complicates the task of communicating ideas and the greater the difference in culture, the greater the task.  But storytelling gives us a method of overcoming some of this difficulty through the use of framing. The words we use or how they use them can greatly impact “how” an idea is heard or understood.

Storytelling makes us more deliberate, which means we are paying more attention to which pronoun we use or the tone of a piece.  As a marketer, I’ve learned to test messages and see what works. I started to wonder about doing the same in my community work and behavioural research backs this up.  Communities that are more deliberate in their message, in the story they tell, have higher levels of confidence in their community.

Storytelling also allows an easier emotional connection.  Our barriers go down when we listen to a story and we’re more likely to connect with the teller of the story.  So if the idea they are trying to communicate is challenging for the listener, in the telling of the story there is a greater chance for the message to get through.  Basically, keep me entertained and I’m less likely to react to that uncomfortable feeling straightaway. If you’ve caused me to smile I want to keep liking you, so when your idea challenges some of my thought patterns, well you made me smile, so I’ll give you more of a chance.

I know I had a habit of storytelling in person from growing up in an Irish bar but I hadn’t brought it through to my online life, I hope to change that in the future.  So many of the best talks or presentations I’ve encountered have been well-crafted stories and those of us trying to spread ideas, particularly ideas that might be challenging, either in how radical they are or in their complexity, storytelling allows for better framing and to create a connection that keeps the listener on our side just long enough for the idea to be heard.

The Story Behind Big Ideas #37 #cong18


Stories spark ideas because they’re about problems that must be solved. So if you’re looking for that next big idea, figure out what the world needs fixing.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. “There are no bad ideas, just poor execution.”
  2. Stories and ideas have a symbiotic relationship.
  3. Problem. Idea. Solution. That’s literally the story of our lives.
  4. The truth about fish and chips… for batter or worse.

About Brian Mac Intyre:

Brian Mac Intyre is a journalist and screenwriter. He also owns, which helps companies make better connections with clients, customers… and even their own staff. In addition, he coaches start-ups in how to harness the incredible power of storytelling for great investor pitches.

Contacting Brian Mac Intyre:

You can contact Brian by email and see his work on

By Brian Mac Intyre

It’s 2011 and I’m at the Dublin International Film Festival where I see Irish crime fiction writer John Connolly sitting two seats away from me.

Given the chance, I like to pick a creative person’s brain to find out what golden nuggets of wisdom I just might learn from them.

So I introduced myself as a fellow journalist (Connolly had worked at The Irish Times) and soon enough we got onto the subject of ideas and what makes a good one.

Journalists usually have a pretty sound idea of what makes a good story.

So I asked him: “But what if your idea’s just bad in the first place?”

And he said something I’ll never forget: “There are no bad ideas, just poor execution.”

Ten million copies later, he should know.

But his quote, I hope, also illustrates the symbiotic relationship between stories and ideas. That’s because they’ve both got to do with problem solving.

Stories are usually about people with problems. In the world of film, for example, Luke is trying to defeat the Evil Empire, ET is attempting to phone home… and the Muppets will do whatever it takes to save Christmas.

So the survival, or existence, of someone or something is always at stake. And these are problems all these people need to solve… by having a good idea of how to fix them.

Long, long ago, when the first of our forebears was eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger, you can be pretty certain the rest of the tribe immediately learned to avoid big cats.

But given their main problem was survival – as it is for all of us – then you can also bet that at least one of them had the brainwave to go hunting when their prey was resting.

Problem. Idea. Solution. It’s a pattern that endlessly repeats itself over time.

For instance, it’s commonly held that fish and chips were invented by the British. But in this case a ‘one and one’ does not, in fact, equal two.

Without fried fish, this combo just wouldn’t be the same. And it turns out this part of the epicurean equation was invented by Jews fleeing religious persecution in 15th century Portugal.

Many of those Sephardic Jews, who relocated to England, took with them culinary treasures, one of which was Peshkado frito, commonly known as cod or haddock fried in flour.

It had to be fried on the Friday night in preparation for the Sabbath as cooking was banned on Saturday under the Mosaic laws.

It’s thought the batter preserved the fish so that it could be eaten cold the next day without compromising the flavour. Problem. Idea. Solution.

In another context, 40 years ago, American management consultant Marilyn Loden was taking part in a panel discussion about women’s aspirations in the workplace.

She noticed that the female panelists focused on how women behaved in a self-deprecating way and allegedly carried a poor self-image.

She recalls that it was a struggle for her to sit quietly as these criticisms were being aired.

While she agreed that it was hard for women to progress beyond middle management level, she said there were invisible barriers to their advancement that had everything to do with culture, and nothing to do with personal issues.

So she coined a phrase for this on the spot, calling it an “invisible glass ceiling”. And she said this was the main reason there weren’t more female CEOs.

That idea, partly sparked from the story of her own experience on that panel, has proven to be one of the most talked about ever since.

And finally, going back to films, some can ignite ideas that literally make the world a better and safer place for all of us.

In Stanley Kubrick’s satire Dr Strangelove, a mad general sparks a path to nuclear holocaust that politicians and other generals must try to stop.

In a key scene, one character uses a payphone to call the Pentagon to provide them with access codes, but doesn’t have enough change. He fails to contact them… resulting in nuclear annihilation.

That scene was later screened for the US Congress who collectively thought it raised real worries about communication blocks during a crisis.

There and then they decided that access codes to nuclear weapons should not be limited to just one federal official.

So if you’re looking for that next big idea, find a problem to solve first.

The Future of Innovative Ideas #14 #cong18


Driven by the vast amounts of data users generate and sensor technology, narrow forms of artificial intelligence may increase their capacity to solve business problems, loosening humans’ monopoly on innovative idea generation.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Humans may not have a monopoly on innovative idea generation
  2. AI may be able to tackle user problems
  3. Coming up with innovative ideas may be approached as a function of customer desirability, technical feasibility and financial viability.
  4. AI-driven flash innovation may address increasingly complex business problems

About Victor del Rosal:

Victor del Rosal is a lecturer in Innovation and Emerging Technologies at National College of Ireland in Dublin. Author of the book: Disruption: Emerging Technologies and the Future of Work

Contacting Victor del Rosal:

You can contact Victor on LinkedIn.

By Victor del Rosal

I used to tell students that coming up with innovative ideas was reserved for humans. Nowadays I make sure that I add a clause: “at least for a few more years”. With advances in AI, we may not have a monopoly on innovation.

If this seems far-fetched, there are a few examples to draw from. We used to think for example that driving a car was a human-only endeavour. It turns out that autonomous vehicles are much better at it.  Similarly, playing—never mind winning—a highly complex game like Go seemed to be out of bounds for humans. In both cases narrow forms of artificial intelligence (ANI) have proved to be better than humans at solving complex problems.

Could algorithms come up with innovative business ideas? Could AI “think” of creative ideas to solve real-world problems?

Defining innovative ideas

Coming up with novel ideas is only one aspect of innovation. Most entrepreneurs will agree that the urgency of the pain point drives innovation. That is, unless you start with a real need, an urgent problem to solve, you will be wasting your time building something few customers would be willing to pay for.

According to design thinking, the sweet spot of innovation is found at the intersection of customer desirability, technical feasibility and financial viability. In other words, innovation is about solving relevant problems, feasibly and profitably.

Innovation as an algorithmic problem

If innovation is approached as an optimisation problem that includes the desirability, feasibility and viability variables, could AI possibly optimise the function and come up with innovative propositions?

For the purpose of this thought exercise it will be assumed that the technical feasibility and financial viability could be successfully crunched by AI. That leaves customer desirability. Could AI pinpoint specific customer pain points or needs? The key could be in data streams.

Swimming in data

Today, our smartphones alone can gather copious amounts of information. A mid-market smartphone nowadays  typically includes a magnetometer, GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, proximity sensors, barometer, light sensor, fingerprint scanner, air humidity sensor, camera, microphone, heart rate monitor, pedometer (step counter), thermometer. The creative analysis of information from these sensors can generate highly useful insights. And as sensors become more sophisticated and wearable tech gains more traction it could be argued that this avenue of data ingestion will get bigger and more useful.

We are the sensors: Google Traffic

A simple example of how these sensors produce insights today is demonstrated by Google Traffic. If you zoom in at the street level in some cities you will be able to see streets coloured in red, orange, or green, depending on how busy a street is. What may not be so evident is that these colour codes are generated by analysing the GPS locations sent to Google by swarms of mobile phone users. In other words, we provide the sensors. If a lot of us are moving very slowly in traffic, this will be reflected on Google Maps.


Imagine that in addition to full access to sensor data we also give our phone permission to actively listen to conversations and to glean insights from anything we write (which we already do). Finally let’s say that we grant an algorithm the permission to offer us a product or service that would satisfy a need in a specific moment of need. Amazon has patented an idea related to this.

Anticipatory shipping by Amazon

Amazon is exploring a predictive fulfilment model whereby an order would be shipped to your doorstep before you even know you want to order it, based on your purchase history and multiple other data points. Amazon has patented anticipatory shipping to ship you a product before you buy it. They reckon that, if they get their predictive algorithm right, they should know you well enough so that you will like what they send your way, only rejecting a miniscule amount of packages (you would be able to return or perhaps keep unwanted items at no cost to you).

AI-driven flash innovation

This general approach could be called AI-driven (customised/ ad hoc) flash innovation whereby solutions could be offered to individual users or to a limited number of users who share a particular pain point.

But again this would depend on the correct assessment of pain points based on what algorithms can glean and would, at first, not be able to understand the complex variety of verbal and non-verbal human communication, among other complexities.

Starting small

As with any startup idea, algorithms would test relatively simple business ideas limited to narrow contexts of low complexity. If these experiments go well, AI could move on to more sophisticated exercises leading to business models where users’ needs are assessed and fulfilled in a growing variety of settings.

This could mean that, in some limited settings and under certain conditions, humans would no longer need to come up with innovative ideas, AI would.

Playing with ideas

Carl Jung said that “the creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct arising from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves.”

Coming up with innovative ideas, aka the game of innovation, will surely remain for a long, long time one of humanity’s favourite endeavours. The question is, to what extent will AI also play the game?

They are my customers and so I walk in their paw prints or building client relationships #13 #cong18


My life has been shaped by my experiences, some good, some not so good.
These experiences are what has made me, and have been added to my emotional knowledge data bank. This store of memories I regularly revisit, a bit like having my own Google search brain on board, one of the many dyslexic skills I was gifted with. Being dyslexic also gives me an ability to reverse engineer problems along with quick thinking.
Thoughts and ideas consume my brain most of the day.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Storytelling helps us to understand concepts quickly and makes them more memorable.
  2. Our brains have 50,000 thoughts a day according to the National Science Foundation of America, 95% which are repeated.
  3. The quieter voices of society are not always heard.
  4. Learning to walk in other people shoes also teaches empathy and makes us better people.
  5. I find storytelling a useful testing format to help me explain, to myself and others the many ideas that go through my head on a daily basis and where and why they originate

About Geraldine O'Brien:

I qualified from DIT in 1977 with a Dip I.D. I worked in New York and London using my design skills Then returning to Ireland in the 1980s worked with Kilkenny Design for six years before starting my own practice Geraldine O’Brien Design (1986-2009). My experience at Kilkenny Design influenced my freelance work considerably both as a designer and educator.

I have always sought variety in my interior/exhibition work and welcome the challenge and the opportunity for personal development. Projects have ranged from rehousing of Magdalen women to purpose built accommodation, refurbishment of a five storey Fitzwilliam Square Georgian house and mews, sheltered accommodation, nursing homes, general residential interiors and exhibitions for the craft industry.

I was commissioned by The Crafts Council of Ireland to deliver a training programme to benefit emerging crafts people across the country and developed a format incorporating lectures, mentoring and provision of workshops between 1986-1998.

Since 2009 I have been in practice with my husband in our firm McCarthy O’Brien Architects and Designers. MCOB in Dublin. We have two adult children in professional careers.

What is fundamental to the way I work, whether designing an interior, an exhibition or a craft display, is listening to the client or craft maker, getting to know their style and their story so as to create a space and ambience that preserves their individuality and help them create something special.

Contacting Geraldine O'Brien:

You can contact Geraldine by email or connect with her on LinkedIn.

By Geraldine O’Brien

Our dogs need to be walked at least once on a daily basis.
On one of these recent daily adventures into the unknown, Grizz our border terrier, came to a full stop at the fork in the road. Pulling or dragging the lead made absolutely no difference. I was impatient as I was in a hurry to get back home to do more important ‘things’.

Stuck Dog Syndrome.
The Grizz enforced stop is what we now call his ‘stuck dog syndrome’ forced me to find a solution and as I bent down to lift him wriggling into my arms it struck me “Ah he wants to go to the beach”. One fork in the road was more concrete and similar to more ‘lead of torture’ he remembered from previous walks and the other was much more inviting as it led to the beach, soft sand and no lead and oh so much more interesting smells.
I empathised with him and I gave in.

Enjoying and seeing him revelling in his excitement in his new found freedom, made me ponder. How could I give him that enjoyment more regularly?

It was a beautiful day anyway and so off we went to the beach and I joined him pulling off my shoes allowing myself to follow in the soft sand of his paw tracks.
I recalled the endless pacing of Spunky, Dublin Zoo’s famous female polar bear who was constantly depressed and I wondered was I responsible for making our dogs lives miserable as I was the one who ruled their lives and decided when they got their dinner and walks. They had to be endlessly patient. I felt horrible and until now never realised I was their jailor in effect.

“Wouldn’t it be good if we had robots for dog walking ? You could programme his favorite routes and other fun activities. Robots are more patient than humans, won’t mind the wet etc”.

I soon realised it would take some time before that would happen and finding a patient fun dog walker was a better option for now.

I still like that idea and have hung on to it just in case.

Fast forward a couple of years we have now been joined by Grizz’s twin sister Meg. They are both very cute and clever in their own ways. I find it fascinating to see how they have different forms of intelligence a bit like observing the differences between my son and my daughter.

Grizz is much much bigger than Meg, He is much softer and gentler but still can’t open doors like she can. Meg on the other hand spent her early years on a farm and as the baby of the litter had to fight for her place. Grizz should be the Alpha Dog but it’s little Meg who calls the shots.

Our recent walks to the park have been unusually peppered by “stuck dog syndrome” so finding an empathic way to stop it was on my mind, recalling my idea of robot walkers.
Just as I went to let them off the ‘lead of torture’ I spied another dog in close proximity and had learned by now that this might not be such a good idea. Grizz and Meg had told me on many previous occasions they did not like boxers.

“That big fellow bit me when I was a puppy” Grizz.
“He scares me and sniffs me without asking my permission” Meg.

My daughter taught me ‘dog speak’ when she was young. She now walks in her customers shoes as she is a vet.

I decided to go the other way around the park and so as not to meet the boxer full on and hopefully have a less stressful walk for all of us, I released them. Off they danced delighted to be free, both in different directions. Grizz was more leisurely and Meg hared off into the undergrowth, I followed her as she is the more unpredictable. Thankfully Grizz followed me and when the initial excitement calmed I saw happy excited dogs and resolved to try and make their walks more exciting in future.

I was beginning to feel good about myself as we walked home. Then passing a building site a builder dropped a very noisy metal canister on the road which turned them into two very quaking dogs straining on the ‘lead of torture’ desperately trying to run away into what was the path of a fast oncoming car. Thankfully I was able to hang on to them.
The disgruntled car owner drove away shaking his head. It took a little while for all of us to calm down including the driver. Aware of all the sounds around us – cars, lorries, jackhammers, drilling, screeching, door slamming, etc. it was no wonder we all were trembling.

It took a while to reach home as they ran away from all manner of distractions, passing runners, baby buggies and other dogs. I felt sorry for them. Could this be a possible form of posttraumatic stress disorder developing ? For weeks afterwards there was lots of ‘stuck dog syndrome. We now vary our routes to the park on a daily basis to help their PTSD. We are learning to understand what they are thinking and so better able to give them a better life. I like to try and tune in to my Grizz and Meg as I am their human robot for now.
They are my customers and so I walk in their paw prints.

Lessons to self for everyday negotiated living and survival.

Our human lives are not too dissimilar to Grizz and Megs. We are all trying to negotiate the ups and downs of our daily lives, finding new ways and ideas to make our paths easier.
I am a daily disrupter of anything that in my opinion is broken. Size doesn’t matter I’ll give it a go with my busy mind.I am mindful that the development of ideas often are not fully worked out can be harmful or user unfriendly. For me ideas come from knowledge and understanding and being open to how ‘the idea’ will be used.

I discovered my own “I have a dream” idea to give anyone a simple way to tell their life story. LifeStor is about building a Digital Story Archive.
It is not an easy project to develop and is teaching me the virtue of patience. As part of the learning curve, I pursued a HDip. in Entrepreneurship in AIT in 2014.

Lesson to self:
Our lives are not too dissimilar to Grizz and Megs, we are all trying to negotiate our daily lives finding new ways and ideas to make our paths easier.

Dogs helping us humans with tasks is not far off. Perhaps robots for dog walking may become a possibility. I know some very clever dogs that would be happy to test it.
However, whether footprints or paw prints, walking in them builds relationships.