Lessons From Rory’s Story Cubes; Part One
While I don’t claim to be an author, or even storyteller, I have spent the last 6 years encouraging people of all ages around the world to share their stories with each other. And I don’t mean blogging! During that time I have learned a few things I think might be helpful for anyone wanting to be ‘published’ in the widest sense.
Lesson #1: ‘New’ ideas, contrary to popular belief, do not come out of nowhere. They are built on the combining of previous experiences and inputs. So if you want to have ‘fresh’ ideas, you have to seed your imagination with fresh experiences.
Back in 2004 I ‘discovered’ a creative thinking tool while practising an invention technique which I teach, called Advanced Civilisation. The tool I ‘discovered’ in my mind’s eye was based on a Rubik’s Cube. Instead of colours however, each face displayed a unique icon. You could ‘shuffle’ the MetaCube (as it was called then) to generate a new story made up of 9 images. I quickly prototyped the concept by buying a Rubik’s Cubes and sticking fifty four iconic images, which I had drawn, onto it. Looking back, I realised how two books I had been reading at the time acted as the seeds for this new idea.
Lesson #2: If strangers are willing to buy your product, even a hand-made prototype, then you might just be on to something.
I tested out this creative thinking tool with colleagues and clients. It seemed to work. They all loved the kinesthetic nature of the tool, and how the stories they told provided valuable ideas and insights. They liked it so much that they were willing to pay. I went online and bought some fake Rubik’s Cubes from eBay and started to make MetaCubes, scrubbing of the colour stickers and replacing them with the 54 icons I had designed. It was tedious and time consuming, but luckily my partner Anita was willing to help. The handmade MetaCubes sold for £20 (€25). They did not make us rich, far from it, but we did learn something.
Lesson #3: There are no dead ends, just another question that is waiting to be asked, and answered.
At this stage, we saw our audience consisting of life coaches, trainers and therapists who saw the value of storytelling as a means to gain deeper insight into our thinking. While we could sell the MetaCubes to them, it was not a business. We would have to stick to the day job of providing creativity workshops and training as well as group facilitation.
I knew that if I was to bring the MetaCube to a wider audience, I would need to address the fact that I was using the Rubik’s Cube without permission. So I wrote to the license holders for the UK, and asked if they were interested in licensing the idea. They were not. Instead of giving up, I asked what is it about the MetaCubes that makes it the MetaCube. What features or functionality must I keep. It was the tactile and kinaesthetic nature.
While attending a Creativity Conference hosted by Kate Jones (founder of Kadon Games), Kate and I mocked up a version of the MetaCube using 9 dice. Kate pointed out that 6 (sides) to the power of 9 (dice) would result in over 10 million possible combinations. I was sold. It was Kate who christened them Rory’s Story Cubes. The name stuck, mainly because the words of Doug Hall from the Eureka Ranch rang in my ears – if you’re not willing to put your name to the product, then you obviously don’t believe in it. I also saw it as my revenge for all those years as a child, listening to people sing ‘Rory, Rory, tell me a story.’
Lesson #4: Make commitments that create conditions that force us to take action and grow. This approach may not suit your personality, but it is helpful to discover what it is that will motivate you to take action.
It was now 2007, I had a large corporate client for whom I was provided training. As part of the contract I promised to provide a set of Rory’s Story Cubes® for each participant. I used the money from the contract to help pay the manufacturing costs of 500 sets of Rory’s Story Cubes, even though we only needed 20 for the client. This meant we could see if there was a market by selling the remaining 480.