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Chapter 8 | Narrative Guidebook


Every innovation requires a new way of thinking.

Your narrative can help people make the right shifts in mindset to understand how new digital products and business models connect to previous ways of doing things, and why change is required.

Help people make the leap

Mindshifts help people make the conceptual leap needed to understand something truly new.

Change is like a trapeze. People don’t let go of the old bar until there’s a new one within reach. The problem isn’t getting them to learn or accept something new, it’s helping them unlearn something they already know.  

Here are three steps to help someone achieve a shift in thinking:

  1. See that the rope is fraying. Recognize when mental models are obsolete.
  2. Distinguish the old and new bars. Understand the differences between old and new models.
  3. Bring the new bar within reach. It’s not enough to show that the new bar is better. People need to see that there’s a viable alternative.

When trying to change someone's mind, we tend to focus on the second step to persuade people why our way of thinking (or product or company) is better than others.

But most people on the trapeze get stuck when it comes to the first or third step. They can be convinced your solution is better, but they don’t think they have the problem, or they aren’t ready to make the jump.


Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was a master of mindshifts. He knew that his products were so innovative that people didn’t yet have a way of thinking about them.

When he introduced a new product, he didn’t focus on features and benefits. Instead, he gave people a new way to think about the technology. By selling a new mental model, he sold a new solution.  

We see this in the first Macintosh commercial in 1984 with its famous “Big Brother” theme. Jobs shifted people’s thinking about computers from what they could do for you to what they said about you. By buying a Macintosh, you were saying something about yourself: that you didn’t conform and could “think different.”  

Jobs showed us that the rope was fraying (the existing model of computing was turning us into automatons), there was a new bar (a truly personal computer), and it was within reach (easy to use and better designed).

In 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. He began his talk by saying that Apple would be introducing three new products: a touch iPod, a mobile phone and an Internet communicator.

Then he showed how the three products were actually one device: the iPhone. To drive the point home,  he presented a picture of how other companies might have combined these three devices into one—a sharp contrast to Apple’s sleek and elegant product.

In his announcement, Jobs attended carefully to his audience’s existing mental models. If he had just said “Introducing the iPhone!” and showed the product, they wouldn’t have known what to make of it.

So he moved them carefully from the old bar to the new one, making sure to show how the existing bar was now obsolete.

Find a “horseless carriage”

To help people make the leap, describe the new in terms of the old.

When the automobile first came into existence, it was known as a horseless carriage, because it was like a horse-drawn carriage but without the horse. Only over time did it take on its own name.

We can see the same thing in phrases like “driverless cars,” “digital wallet,” and “internet of things.”

One part comes from the existing model and one part is from the new model. This helps people understand and become comfortable with the new mental model.

Finding a horseless carriage gives people a way to have one hand on the old bar and one hand on the new before you ask them to let go of the trapeze.



Use this worksheet to imagine the change in thinking you want people to have about your product, brand or industry.

1. Pick an audience

Who are you helping to make a shift in mental model? You’ll want to complete these steps for each audience.

2. Identify the domain you’re innovating in

For example, transportation is the domain for horseless carriages.

3. Replace the words in the [brackets] with your terms

Today, they think about [domain] as [existing mindset].

Example: Today, they think about transportation as horses.

4. Find the words to reframe that mindset

In the future, they could think about [domain] as [new mindset].

Example: In the future, they could think about transportation as automobiles.


Horseless Carriage

Use the following worksheet to complete the mindshift by helping people think of the new in terms they’re familiar with.

Restate your new concept in terms of the old one. Replace the words in the [brackets] with your terms.

A way to think about the future of [domain] through the lens of the past is as [new mindset].

Example: A way to think about the future of transportation through the lens of the past is as a horseless carriage.


What new mindsets do people need to understand an innovative offering?

  • Mindshifts help people make the conceptual leap needed to understand something truly new.

Helping others take the leap:

  • See when the rope is fraying. Know when mental models are growing outdated.
  • Distinguish the old and new bars. Help clarify the differences.
  • Bring the new bar within reach. Find a horseless carriage to present the new in terms of the old.