Wasps, Inverness Creative Academy, Midmills Building, Stephen's St, Inverness, IV2 3JP

Looking back to the future

Every year StrategyStory begins by looking back to its story of the previous year. Here, we share some highlights and explain why our stories of the past can be so important in shaping our future strategies.

So, here we are – nice to meet you 2023, what will you bring?!

As many of us use January to plan our year ahead and revisit our strategic goals, we at StrategyStory began our year by reflecting on our story of 2022.

But why is a future-focussed strategy and comms consultancy beginning by looking backwards? Well, it’s all part of our strategy method. We ‘diagnose’ our position before we plan, and we specialize in a field of management called ‘emergent strategy’.  Essentially, we pay attention to what has emerged, what is emerging, and build those insights into our planning.

Stories with a message

This is where our business stories are so important – they tell us what has worked, what hasn’t, where doors have closed, where new opportunities have appeared, what we’ve been good at and what has surprised us. Reflection time is essential time. We reflect on what’s felt good, and what hasn’t so that we can decide on what we want to do more of – and less of.

There are many things in each of our stories that we could never have planned for, so it’s important to pay attention to them when thinking of where we want to take our businesses. All stories tell us something – they convey a message and our business stories are no different.

Storytelling is the way to keep the strategy alive

So, in the year that we have celebrated our 5th birthday, what did StrategyStory’s own story of 2022 revealed to us? Well, quite a lot actually. Like all good stories, ours has been a story of brilliant characters, interesting places, eventful surprises and ongoing tension. We are sharing ours with you now in the hope you will share yours with us, and it may inspire some future thinking for your own business.


With a mantra of ‘people working together’ it’s not really a surprise that people have been a huge feature of our 2022 story, and there have certainly been some fascinating characters in this year’s story that we are so grateful to. We’ve reconnected with the XpoNorth team and HIE’s Head of Creative Industries, Iain Hamilton to bring Strategy and Storytelling workshops to rural and creative businesses. We met some fantastic people through these workshops, highlighting the breadth and talent in the region, and together we have created a new cohort of Red Squirrels!

Red Squirrel pic

We’ve got to know the cultured cast at our new home – the Wasp’s Creative Academy – and fulfilled one of our business ambitions: to have our own HQ in a centre with artists and creatives.


Donald and Kate with artists in the new Inverness Creative Academy.
StrategyStory sets up HQ in new Inverness Creative Hub. Photo credit: Martin Shields.

Our location has opened doors to different visitors, and we’ve been visited by HRH Princess Royal, Scotland’s Chief Entrepreneur and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance.

Donald and Kate from StrategyStory meeting HRH The Princess Royal
Photo credit: Paul Campbell

We’ve joined the Scottish Council for Development and Industry,  Highland Business Women’s Network, and Creative Director, Kate has joined the Scottish Rural Leadership programme. We’ve engaged in many discussions around strategy and storytelling with new friends and colleagues.  Discussions that have led to meaningful friendships and partnerships that continue.

We’re so honoured to work with brilliant minds, and particular mention this year goes to Professor Robert MacIntosh as we embarked on a very enjoyable year working together with the pioneering security firm, Pointer Ltd, another company that puts people at the heart of what they do.

Key message?

The story of the cast of 2022 reinforces one very clear message to us – we will continue to do business ‘our way’ in 2023 – relational and friendly while working with kindred spirits who are striving to innovate, leave tired old ways behind, make things much better and progress positive change.


Every interesting story contains a strong element of place – ours has continued to be local, national and international. Our HQ is firmly located in the Highlands and Islands – home of our oral storytelling and cultural traditions which we care deeply about, and so we have now opened our ‘Story Studio’. A place that will help businesses craft their stories.

Eilean Donan castle in background with words: A strategy with a story turns wishbone into backbone. Prof Donald MacLean.

Our national and international presence is also a significant element of our story as we continue to share and learn with friends and colleagues across the globe. Our partnership in Australia continues and it has been so good to meet once again with brilliant people who we have worked with but had not seen in years due to Covid. It was great to welcome them to WASPS. Donald spent a good deal of time in Australia this year working with our pioneering partners there, and we are delighted to have rolled out a StrategyStory programme in  Victoria.

He wasn’t long off the plane from Australia and we met in London to host a StrategyStory panel at the international Strategic Management Society Conference, where, for a live audience of interested experts, we conducted a panel that showcased  the growing role of story in strategy with an esteemed group of colleagues that are part of our GameChanger community.

Delegates at this year's Strategic Management Society Conference
Delegates at this year’s Strategic Management Society Conference

Key message?

That our local-national-international approach is more important than ever. As our worlds change at an unprecedented pace, learning and sharing with colleagues and clients from different disciplines across the world is so important to finding new ways forward and we will do more of this in the year ahead. The great news for our local businesses is that the international draw is so strong for what we in the Highlands and Islands can offer.


There were plenty of surprises along the way – things we could never have predicted. StrategyStory picked up the Award for Digital Innovation at the Highland Business Women Awards which we were delighted and humbled to receive.

StrategyStory's Kate Hooper picks up Digital Innovation prize at Highland Business Women Awards
StrategyStory’s Kate Hooper picks up Digital Innovation prize at Highland Business Women Awards

We were also finalists in three of the SCDI’s Business Awards. Donald, in bardic mode as poet, toured the Highlands with the Talamh Beo set performed by a group of brilliant Musicians led by MaryAnn Kennedy. The music, poetry and song in Gaelic and English,  celebrates the many wonders of Coigeach and Assynt and scooped the “original composition” award at Na Trads in December.

StrategyStory hosting Pointer Ltd's all staff day to celebrate the pioneering firm's 50th Anniversary
StrategyStory hosting Pointer Ltd’s all staff day to celebrate the pioneering firm’s 50th Anniversary

Then there were surprises in our actual day to day work – we hosted the largest all staff day we’ve ever done with our partner Pointer Ltd. 170 folk, and what a day it was. There’s nothing quite like bringing an organization together to work through challenges, share ideas, create its story and get inspired about the future.


Kate hosting a storytelling workshop at Moray Business Women's event
©Image Highlands Photography

Kate was asked to do the keynote and storytelling workshop at Moray Business Women’s Week. It was an honour to be part of such an inspiring day. A lovely surprise was that friend and colleague Jane Cumming of JMC Communications was asked to be involved too so we doubled up for the keynote, which was great fun.



Kate and Jane Cumming getting ready to present the keynote for Moray Business Women's about storytelling for rural businesses
Kate and Jane Cumming getting ready to present the keynote for Moray Business Women’s conference about storytelling for rural businesses

The collaboration with Jane has been a friendly and ongoing relationship that also saw StrategyStory team up with the brilliant film-maker Paul Campbell to create a film about Jane’s other business: The Downright Gabbler – another storytelling experience!

And we also turned 5! We were delighted with the turn out for our 5th birthday bash on a cold December evening where we shared a dram and Iain Hamilton played us Happy Birthday on the pipes. Thanks Iain!

Key message?

We could never have planned for all of these events, or the inspiring people that entered into the story, but we do believe that by doing work that we care about things can happen that are beyond what we could ever imagine….and we can take strategic action to build on the good things that emerge.

So, what does this tell us about what we want to do, what we enjoyed? There will be more public speaking, more staff days, more content-production, more online courses and more events in the year ahead. Keep a look out for us!




Of course there have been set-backs, disappointments and things that haven’t gone our way. Conversations full of possibility that have led to very little. We’ll be more mindful of how and who we spend time with in the year ahead. Every minute counts in business.  We want to work with people who take action and make things happen. We feel that the word ‘strategy’ is often misunderstood and that there are too many strategies out there that do not deliver enough for people. (About two thirds of strategies fail). We want to help sort that.

When change is most needed it's often least wanted

And then of course, our biggest challenge, a constant tension – just what do we do with this exciting business that has made it to five years? How do we spread the word and get more involved in the new way? Is scale the answer, if so how? How do we grow in a way that remains faithful to our roots? Who will be involved in its development?

Of course, we have some ideas around the answers to these questions – some emerging strategies no less.  We’d love to say more but we wouldn’t be a very strategic business if we shared it all here! For that, you’d need to talk to us. Come and visit us – a warm welcome awaits.

Whatever happens in the year ahead, one thing is for sure, the plans that we create will be here to serve us and will no doubt change. As Donald so often says: “We are not here to serve the plan, it’s here to serve us!”

Stories though – now that is another matter! So why not start your plan with a story of where you’ve been before getting too far down the road of where you want to be. Why? Because it works.

Thank you to a brilliant cast in 2022. We are so very grateful.

2023, let the story begin…


About StrategyStory

StrategyStory supports businesses and communities to develop strategies that work. This means strategy as collective action rather than a dusty document. We deliver through partnership programmes, online learning, workshops, seminars and public speaking. We also deliver lectures, talks and sessions on strategy and storytelling at private and public events, and host events, workshops and training in Strategy, Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Storytelling in our new studio in the Inverness Creative Academy.

If you are interested in finding out more please get in touch. hello@strategystory.co.uk


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *