What about if we hide behind a table and sneak past the guard? Some insights in storytelling and innovation.

I wanted to challenge my kids to think different in storytelling and problem solving, so  introduced them to Role Playing Games (RPGs). For those unfamiliar with RPGs, you choose a character and play through a guided adventure as that character, fighting, finding treasure and generally reacting to the story told by your guide.

With me leading as the Story Teller (the guide), they (The Girl, aged 8, and The Boy, aged 6) chose an avatar (a Lego character for convenience) and were armed with a limited set of health, rechargeable magic spells, and a dice. They also drew a map of their journey as they went.


That question in the title? Within 2 minutes of starting the game, they were already picking the gaps in the story. Fantastic isn’t it, how quickly the mind starts to innovate when open to challenge?

It can be so empowering to balance adaptation while retaining focus on the end goal. After a sudden betrayal by one of the characters they were trying to help, they realised the need to understand a situation before rushing in, and used this to save time and effort while solving smaller side quests and still make progress in the overall quest.

Sometimes they adapted by testing new tactics – such as targeting the hearts of the bad guys when fighting. In RPGs, fighting is resolved with dice to see who wins by rolling higher numbers. Even though targeting the heart is a more difficult roll, they still chose to pursue that option. In accepting the risk and challenge, they innovated a solution (that I had not predicted) to a problem that was blocking their progress. As reward, they got more valuable treasure than they would have otherwise received.

By working together and questioning the story as I told it, they chose not to accept the rules wholesale, but as a guidebook to solve quests and tell their story. When presented with a dragon whose best friend was the magic rhino they had killed the day before, they negotiated a clever win-win compromise to get out of an impossible battle, and even scoring a ride home at the end of their quest.


The kids absolutely had a blast, and at the end, we looked at the map they had drawn and identified other side quests that they had uncovered but not completed along their journey. They’re mapping a much larger story to tell in their RPG project.

By adapting to challenges, they went far beyond the story I thought I was going to tell, and told a more fulfilling one. Maps, risk, reward, solutions. They’re all familiar terms in office innovation, and connect with different types of stories, whether at office or at play.

We know how curiosity and discovery in play can benefit creativity and innovation. It’s also important that innovating is fun, by making us engage with the story directly to turn it into something unexpectedly better, and even when targeting the heart of solving problems in novel ways.

The only problem is whether to begin a new story, or solve the remaining quests on this one.

Any comments, ideas or quests I can throw at my kids in future? Roll the dice and message me.

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