The StoryCycle

The SIDE StoryCycle is our approach for designing narrative (business) processes, investigations and serious games.


The core of the StoryCycle method consists of four phases that help your people and organization to see, understand and adapt to internal and / or external changes themselves in a timely manner.


The StoryCycle is supported by activities for designing and facilitating narrative applications and detecting and tracing transformations.

StoryConnect - Enabling Collective Intelligence for sustaining change

The StoryCycle methodology

The four phases Sharing, Insighting, Decisioning and Evolving help our clients to understand what is going on, so that they can make better decisions about complex challenges and in uncertain circumstances.

The four phases of the StoryCycle correspond to the way in which narratives arise, are shared, contribute to learning, knowledge transfer and insight and influence changes. Our investigations and solutions help to speed up or improve this process.

The four phases of the SIDE StoryCycle

Phase: Sharing & self-assessment

In the Sharing & self-assessment phase, narratives are collected via one of the many StoryMethods.

At the start of a project, observation and inventarisation are often the best way to build up insight quickly. For example, we walk with employees or dig through archives or e-mails or entries in idea or complaint boxes.

We also do literature study, studying background information on the subject. These can be internal documents, scientific models, existing questionnaires, etc.

Optionally we organize additional StoryTables or we hold StoryInterviews or us  simple StoryPoint. For example, if people cannot meet physically, have no time or interviews (due to distance or time or money) are not possible.

In later cycles an advanced StoryPoint is usually used, whether or not in combination with campaigns on social media to reach storytellers.

And so are many ways to realize StoryListening. We may also train your employees for this via the StoryAcademy ™.

Phase: Insighting & sensemaking

In the Insighting & sensemaking phase, groups of people work with experiences and / or with the patterns that have become visible in data that arises because people answer questions about their experiences. The goal is to discover its significance for the organization.

Groups of people discover signals, trends and connections. They do this by selecting experiences, aggregating information from experiences, together building timelines and landscapes.

This phase is also about how the insights should be translated into changes, interventions and stories that fit the found trends, developments, opportunities and threats. Deciding is therefore an important aspect of the StoryInsight phase.

Phase: Decisioning & influencing

In the Decisioning & influencing phase, the decisions from the StoryInsight phase are translated into interventions. High demands are made on this because the interventions must become a coherent whole. After all, the fact that StoryEcology has complex aspects must be taken into account. This means that it is uncertain how the system will respond to the interventions.

We have developed the SenseCanvas to estimate these uncertainties. The canvas offers 8 forms of interventions, all of which must be explained with a narrative. These interventions can of course be combined for more effect or precisely to test which interventions cause desired or undesired effects.

One of the intervention types is StoryTelling. This term has become known in recent years as a replacement for boring PowerPoint presentations by directors and a new form of advertising. In fact, all interventions are a kind of storytelling because they always cause new narratives in the StoryEcology.

Finally, StoryConnect does not provide substantive consultancy based on the insights as standard. Sometimes we are nevertheless asked – usually together with a partner with substantive knowledge of a market or field – to also provide advice as a result of an investigation or about substantive issues that arise during a process. In such a – quite exceptional case – StoryConnect itself becomes one of the actors in the StoryTelling phase.

Phase: Evolving & transforming

The interventions do their work in the Evolving & transforming phase. As a result, the organisational ecology changes, hopefully in the desired way. However, there are also external developments that influence this because competitors move, customers change their mind, crises occur (both physically and in communication) or government policy is adjusted.

In the StoryEcology phase, the activities of StoryConnect are usually limited to observing the effects of our development activities and the response to working with narratives. Unless – as indicated in the StoryTelling phase – we are asked as a content consultant.

The StoryCycle is run at least twice in a project.

  • Once to make the research plan or a process design.
  • And once to carry out the narrative investigation or to put the narrative business process into practice.

Both cycles yield both substantive results (insight, low-hanging fruit) and development of the solution. Only the emphasis in the first Cycle is always more on development than in the 2nd and later Cycles.

Investigations – for example, customer experience or product use – can be repeated periodically. Processes (for example quality, service or safety monitoring) can be further developed into continuous applications in the customer’s primary process.

When reusing a previously developed solution, the development effort is often more focused on adjusting the design (both process and technical) to the StoryEcology of the environment (customer, market, storytellers, etc.). So we always deliver customized solutions, but we also reuse as many parts of earlier solutions as possible.

Supporting activitities

With four supporting activities we design narrative processes and tools, we help to speed up the discovery of patterns, trends and weak signals, we facilitate groups to give meaning to them and shape interventions and we evaluate the effects on narrative ecology.

The supported activities Designing, Facilitatating, Detecting and Tracing ensure manageability, scalability and high-quality development, implementation and adoption.

Activity: Designing

Designing contains all supporting activities that concern the custom design of the StoryCycle and the associated tools. The design activities lead to:

  • The CyclePlan in which – agreements are made about the coming cycle
    • Goals – what do we want to achieve?
    • Focus – which substantive issue or challenge is central?
    • Size – How big are we going to do it. How many experiences do we want to work with? Whether or not a campaign on social media, etc.?
    • Relationships – Who do we work with? For example, to reach storytellers or to raise the quality of insights.
    • Width – What do we include in this cycle or not?
    • Focus – Which phases are important. For example, StoryListening or StoryInsight or …..?
  • The SharingFramework. This is the design for explaining the purpose of the project to storytellers. The elicitation of experiences, questions about the experience, context, narrator, etc. Over the course of time, the SharingFramework evolves from simple open designs to a coherent set with which weak signals of change and emerging trends can be noticed.
  • The SharingFramework is configured as a paper StoryForm or a digital StoryPoint on the web or in the StoryConnect App.
  • The CollectionPlan that describes how the desired size (and diversity) is achieved. And who will perform which activities for that purpose.
  • A ResponseDashboard with which the customer can continuously see how many narratives are being shared and / or a CustomerDashboard with which – trained by the StoryConnect Academy – customers can perform simple StoryMethods themselves on the narrative data.
  • A StoryWorkbench for the StoryConnect backoffice to perform a pattern evaluation (see StoryPatterns activity).

Of course we always take your planning, your wishes and your options into account when designing.

Activiteit: Facilitating

Our facilitators support groups in forming insight and putting together a coherent set of changes through Facilitating.

Activity: Detecting

Detecting pattersn in the large amount of narrative data. For this we design, among other things, StoryCards and StoryWorkbenches.

Activity: Tracing

The Tracing activity is about all aspects of the StoryCycle. For example, we evaluate how the StoryEcology changes, but also the StoryListening, StoryInsight and StoryTelling phases have expired. Both in terms of content and in terms of support and process. The StoryTracing provides the information with which the StoryProces and the supporting tools can be prepared for the next StoryCycle.

The science behind the StoryCycle

The StoryCycle is based on PNI, also known as working with stories. The most important changes and extensions compared to the original PNI are:

  • The names of the phases have been adjusted for better communication with customers and more focus on continuous applications.
  • The StoryTelling phase (a combination of Intervention and Return) has become a basic phase.
  • The supporting activities StoryFacilication and StoryTracing have been made explicit.
  • The supporting activities are placed next to the StoryCycle.