Creating innovation strategy using narrative-based design methods

Abram Anders
October 2nd, 4-5 p.m.
Innovation Leadership and Mindset Workshop

Creating innovation strategy using narrative-based design methods

This session will introduce narrative-based design methods developed to support a human-centered approach to creating an innovation strategy and communicating it through mindsets and practices that can impact behavior and performance. After a brief overview, participants will engage in a co-creative workshop based on these methods to explore opportunities and to envision innovation strategies for adaptive leadership at ISU.

Why narrative-based methods?

Recent studies of creativity, innovation, and adaptability have found that a fundamental challenge for organizations is to become ambidextrous in order to both exploit existing capabilities and explore new capacities. Put more simply, organizations must be able to efficiently execute on a strategy in order to perform, while also investing in research and development to innovate. At a basic level, organizational innovation requires a process that supports choosing ideas to pursue, organizing teams to implement these ideas, and completing projects in a way that leads to progress and learning.

A less frequently recognized aspect of effective innovation is the role of abductive reasoning. Recent studies show that highly innovation organizations, teams, and individuals find ways to engage noisy information, search for alternative and intermediary models, and engage in holistic and recursive processes. A key component of abductive reasoning is that deals with developing and evaluating explanations for poorly understood aspects of a problem space.

In order to support adductive reasoning, innovation strategy can be linked to practices of storytelling and narrative creation. We are, perhaps, already familiar with the ways that stories can support strategy through communication and dissemination. A story links a strategy to the reasons it matters in the form of concrete benefits for specific human beings: partners, clients, customers, users, consumers. However, stories can play an equally crucial role in discovering worthwhile problems and opportunities for innovation. Furthermore, storytelling can be crucial to creating the types of unanticipated connections that facilitate novel idea generation and development of effective solutions.


Abram Anders is the Director of ISUComm Foundation Courses and an Associate Professor of English at Iowa State University. He received his Ph.D. in English from Pennsylvania State University. His research interests include:

  • Academic innovation and learning experience design
  • Business and professional communication
  • Creative collaboration and design practices
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Leadership and strategic communication

He has taught undergraduate, graduate, and MBA courses addressing diverse topics in academic and professional communication. He has also led leadership development and communication training sessions for professionals from organizations such as Allete, Inc., Hormel Foods, IBM, Mayo Clinic.

The Association for Business Communication (ABC) has recognized Dr. Anders as an outstanding researcher and teacher by honoring him with the 2016 Rising Star Award and the 2014 Pearson Award for Innovation in Teaching with Technology. Dr. Anders currently serves on the ABC board of directors. See more at