Hero’s Story and Archetypes

I ran a workshop a couple of years ago on adopting a Hero’s story plot with its archetypes to organisations to outline the narrative journey of foresight.  Everyone loves a story and hero stories are the most common type.  They are so well known that they are embedded in our subconscious so that we know what is going to happen before the story unfolds (especially for formulaic Hollywood movies).  I find that it is best to bring out this plotline when a group is a bit stuck with what to do next or if time is quite short and some structure is required.

Below is a template for the Hero’s story from a book by Chris Vogler who has adapted many of the themes from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 

ACT 1 (Departure, Separation)

  • Heroes are introduced in the Ordinary World, where
  • They receive a Call to Adventure
  • They are reluctant at first or Refuse the Call, but
  • Are encouraged after Meeting with the Mentor
  • To Cross the first Threshold and enter the special world, where

ACT 2 (Descent, Initiation, Penetration)

  • They encounter Tests, Allies, Enemies
  • They Approach (to the

    crossing a second threshold

  • Where they endure their Supreme Ordeal
  • They take possession of their Reward and

ACT 3 (Return)

  • Are pursued on the Road Back to the ordinary world
  • They cross the third threshold experience a Resurrection and are transformed by the experience
  • They Return with the elixir, a boon or treasure to benefit the ordinary world.

This journey follows that of the Transformation Cycle.  Act 1 consists of the first stages of breakdown of meaning (refusing the call) and reconceptualisations (meeting the mentor and accepting the challenge).  Act 2  is the next stage or negotiations and conflicts with the final stage of selective legitimation in Act 3.

The plot is quite standard but the archetypes are what makes it interesting.  There are seven main archetypes and below lists them with some of their attributes in various people at different stages of projects (foresight of KM related).

  • Hero – Winning a project or business case, walking the talk, expanding one’s own learning
  • Mentor – Providing leadership, introducing and using foresight methodologies or KM enablers, leadng a shadow network
  • Threshold Guardians – Facilitator, deal with boundary spanning, knowledge validation
  • Herald – Announce the burning platform, launch a project
  • Shapeshifter – Navigate through the politics of the organisation, multi-level approaches
  • Shadow – Being a Wholesale Antithesis Generator, So-What and What-if perspectives
  • Trickster – Creating humour, left-field perspectives

Carolyn Myss describes archetypes as guides to “get beyond reason to where you can see and understand the symbolic or greater meaning of experiences.”  Think about that next time someone is pissing you off or creating a block or helping you out – they have a role to play in your life’s story – you just have to work out what that role is!


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