Sunday, March 20, 2016

“Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, And Symbols”

In its quarter century, Duarte, Inc., a Silicon Valley design shop (with an office in Chico for a time), has often reinvented its services. CEO Nancy Duarte realized the creation of slide presentations for companies was just not sustainable.

Her TEDx talk on storytelling a few years ago garnered a million views, and Duarte scrambled to meet the demand for new designs. Recently, the company underwent reorganization, and that process, warts and all, forms the basis of Duarte’s new book, co-authored with colleague Patti Sanchez.

“Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, And Symbols” ($32 in hardcover from Portfolio/Penguin; also for Amazon Kindle) is all about the journey of what the authors call “the torchbearer.” “Torchbearers,” they write, “communicate in a way that conquers fear and inspires hope.” (A book sample is available from

Duarte is a visionary, but she admits that it’s hard to see how others might take her words. Enter Sanchez, who brings an empathetic understanding. Together they invite the leader to journey through the five-step “venture scape,” which is structured like a story. At the Dream Stage, “your travelers face a choice to stay put or believe they play an important role in making your new dream come true.”

But then comes the Leap Stage, a realization that the status quo is over. The Fight Stage means travelers must fend off opposition, only to be presented with the Climb Stage where they must gather their energy to “climb out of the pit.” The process repeats until the Arrive Stage where travelers “seize the reward you’ve promised and are celebrated for their efforts.”

All along the way, the book presents case studies of companies (from Chick-fil-A to Starbucks) and leaders who have used not just speeches and stories, but ceremonies (which “help travelers envision new behavior or purge old mind-sets”) and symbols (“visual, auditory, spatial, and physical means to create emotionally charged artifacts that remind your travelers of key moments along the venture”). Symbols can include images on a banner, bells, music, historic locations, hugs and dancing.

New dreams may be born. “When you discover a new ember,” Duarte writes, “let there be light.”

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