The Element: Chapter 22


“I am your Team Leader for today’s meeting,” Rusty said. “The question raised at our last meeting, is why research the Hero’s Journey? Because we need a connection with our audience, one that they understand and remember. Memorable knowledge is most easily conveyed through storytelling, packing it away in the brain with triggers that are related and can be recalled when the user is put into a similar circumstance.”

Dragon's Den


Team Leader: Rusty
Point-Man: Coach
First Defense-Man: T
Second Defense-Man: Freelance
Rear Security: Test Drive

Rusty paused and looked at his team. They looked a little rough after a night spent in Louisville, Kentucky, where the festivities included local night life and bourbon.

“OK, I know you guys are tired,” Rusty said with a motivating tone. “Open yourself up in a way to be reborn, transitioning from what is known to the unknown, and then come to some sort of understanding for growth in knowledge and life. The goal is to make knowledge visible, but not only that, it must be understood and learned from. Now it is time for Coach to do some of that fancy Point-Man stuff.”

“Nice introduction,” Coach said. “Let’s start with the four basic acts that we will study, and two thresholds. Our journey has lead us into Joseph Campbell’s perception at the basis of our favorite stories found in novels and films. It is a familiar story, based upon the human condition where the individual truth is transformed through facing the unknown.”

1. Act I is the “Call to Adventure”
2. First Threshold
3. Act IIa is the “Ordeal and Initiation”
4. Act IIb is the “Unification and Transformation”
5. Return Threshold
6. Act III is the “Road Back and Hero’s Return”

“We have been trying to classify our knowledge search with other methods,” Freelance said, “namely Design Thinking and Boom’s Taxonomy of Adult Learning. What makes this any different?”

“It is different only in the terms used to describe the knowledge journey,” Coach replied, “but the steps and principals are the same. It also comes with a bonus in that most people have watched movies and read books that are based on its principals. Even if they don’t know the names to the literary acts in the story, they feel the familiarity. Now as a team, let’s create a sample script based on the Hero’s Journey, to judge its intuitive nature.”

Act I – Departure

Design Thinking Step No. 1 is Empathize, and Bloom’s Taxonomy is Remember.

The Ordinary World
“This is where we introduce the characters and the circumstances that make up their life,” Coach said. “What we are doing here is establishing our base knowledge of the story, and believe me, the audience wants to imagine themselves right in the middle of the action. The more sensory knowledge they can pull from their own memory, the more they will connect to it. The sky is not just blue, it is one of those cloudless days, where the light blue shades to white as your eyes drift toward the sun. The storekeeper is not just behind the counter, he is of mammoth proportion as he leans over the counter with his knuckles solidly grounded into the coffee stained counter-top. Where will be the setting for today’s story.”

“The Blue Tractor, in Ann Arbor,” Freelance said.

“Yes, OK, the Blue Tractor,” Coach said, “but in its early days it was known as The Blue Plow. Your afternoons are spent looking through the bar’s front windows while enjoying a Guinness that always has a light brown creamy foam, which is wiped from your upper lip after every sip. Most days you notice there is a dragon that flies around in the far away hills, but it does not concern you as you go about living your ordinary life.”

Call to Adventure
“The Call to Adventure is where we realize there is a problem to solve,” Coach said, “or something unknown to us. It is something that can be explored.”

“Then one day the dragon flies over a field of cows on the outskirts of your village,” Freelance said. “It has a hay fever attack, sneezing fireballs all over the field, and the last spew of fire hits a cow. The dragon makes another pass on the field, swooping down to where its belly parts the tall grass from its course. Opening its cavernous mouth, the burnt animal is snatched from the field as the dragon ascends into the deep blue sky until it becomes a small green dot.”

Freelance paused to think about how to setup a problem.

“The farmer that owned the cow is a little upset,” Freelance said, “but does not have the guts to defend his remaining herd from a dragon, so he moves them to a stable area that is directly behind The Blue Plow.”

Refusal to the Call
“The Refusal to the Call often occurs when the hero is not motivated enough to move forward,” Coach said. “We don’t want our hero to play the fool, with knee-jerk reactions. They need time to formulate the problem in their head, and often takes time for the call to be heard.”

“So I sit back and think, someone should do something about that,” Freelance said. “This is a Call to Adventure, but it is not strong enough to move me to action, and my ordinary life continues.”

“Exactly!” Coach exclaimed. “The dragon flies into the town one day, and just happens to fly by The Blue Plow bar. The farmer sees the beast through the window and rushes outside. In his haste, he also brings his pint glass of Guinness. He downs the pint of the smooth liquid courage, wipes the foam from his mustache, and hurls the pint glass into the air and right into the dragons open mouth. The dragon starts to cough to dislodge the glass that is now in it’s throat. Out pops the glass and a fireball that is sent directly to the front door of The Blue Plow, which burns the place to the ground.”

“Now that would really upset me!” Freelance gasped.

“So, the presence of the dragon has just created a little chaos in your ordinary life?” Coach asked.

“Hell yes!” Freelance said. “That dragon just made me really mad!”

“What is your next move?” Coach asked.

“I would go after the beast,” Freelance said, “and seek vengeance.”

“Do you know anything about dragons?” Coach asked.

“No, I don’t,” Freelance said. “Might be a good time to do some research.”

Meeting the Mentor
“It is always a good idea to take along someone with knowledge,” Coach said. “When we go on an adventure to gain wisdom, we will leverage any previous experiences to gain an edge.”

“I just happen to be the foremost expert on dragons in the city of Ann Arbor,” Test Drive said.

“Might be nice to have a mentor,” Freelance said.

“This is where I share a laboratory notebook full of my field sketches and research about dragons with you,” Test Drive said. “I also know a bit about thermodynamics. Noting the orange-yellow color of the dragons flame, it is about 1100 degrees Celsius, or 2012 degrees Fahrenheit. I would suggest using ceramic composites for a shield, just like those used on the space shuttle.”

“That actually sounds like some handy information,” Freelance said as the mentor connection from a flash of movies was recalled in his head.”

Act IIa – The Descent

First Threshold
Design Thinking Step No. 2 is Define, and Bloom’s Taxonomy is Understand.

“Now it is time to cross the First Threshold, moving from your ordinary life to the unknown,” Coach said. “You probably want to grab a few more team members to help you along the way.”

“OK,” Freelance said. “Let’s take a few of my cronies from The Blue Plow. If this is my story, might as well take our 5-Man Team.”

“That is a good move,” Coach said. “I will have a few weapons that will be good when used against a dragon. T and Rusty have studied dragon caves and their habits. We have already heard from our mentor, Test Drive.”

“I think we might want to have some weapon practice,”Coach said. “Heat seeking missiles sound appropriate for this job. We can practice along the way. You know, blow up a few things.”

Ordeal and Initiation
Design Thinking Step No. 3 is Ideate, and Bloom’s Taxonomy is Apply

The team finally made it to the dragon’s cave, just as it was flying in for a landing. The large beast gracefully set down in front of the entrance and lumbered along until it disappeared into the darkness.

“It is a Green Emerald Dragon,” T said. “Happens to be a vegetarian. It typically takes a nap around 2 PM in the afternoon, offering a great time for an assault on it’s nest. What I don’t understand is why a vegetarian dragon would eat a cow?”

“I guess we will soon find out,” Rusty said.

The team approached the cave entrance. It was dark. Coach quickly dropped and unzipped his rucksack, producing 6 night vision goggles, commonly called NVDs. These were state of the art, allowing the team to easily guide their way deeper into the dragon’s den. The beast came into view, and snoring loudly to prove T’s knowledge about afternoon naps. Wait, in the corner of the cave was a cow. It was not only a cow, it was the cow. Just then, the dragon awakened, and saw the team of tiny humans that surrounded it. The cow quickly moved between the team and the dragon, looked up and nuzzled the large green beast.

“They have become friends,” T said. “That is so cute. The dragon must have been lonely.”

Act IIb – The Ascent

Unification and Transformation
Design Thinking Step No. 4 is Prototype, and Bloom’s Taxonomy is Analyze.

“Now we realize the dragon was not really a threat, how do we deal with this cow ordeal?” Coach asked. “How do we create an outcome to grow from this experience?”

“It is a milk cow,” Test Drive said, “and has not been milked in several days. Looks like she is under a bit of pressure, and getting uncomfortable.”

“I am not even going to ask how you know that Test Drive,” Coach said.

“I spent a summer on a farm in northern Wisconsin,” Test Drive said.

Test Drive knelt down to the pressurized utters, and pinched one until milk came out with the same as a stream of brown liquid and foam.

“Taste it,” T said, as she gestured toward Freelance.

“You taste it,” Freelance barked in a quick response.

T pulled a pint glass from her rucksack and filled it to the brim.

“Alright,” T said. “Over the lips and past the gums, watch out stomach, here it comes.”

She smiled, as the brown liquid was emptied from the glass.

“It tastes like Guinness,” T said, “but even better.”

“Nothing on this world tastes better than a Guinness!” Freelance said with a fierce tone as he grabbed the glass. “Wow, that is special. How in the heck can this happen?”

“Look at the water source,” Test Drive said. “It is a mountain fed pool, in a Green Emerald Dragon’s cave. Must also be some serious beer magic going on here.”

“Oh, that explains it,” Freelance scoffed.

“If we are going to tell a story,” Coach said, “we might as well make it interesting.”

“So if the cow does not want to leave her friend, how do we make sure she gets milked on a regular basis?” Freelance asked.

“I have an idea,” Coach said. “Let’s get back to town and talk with the farmer.”

Return Threshold
Design Thinking Step No. 5 is Test, and Bloom’s Taxonomy is Evaluate.

The team walked the path back to town and felt pretty good about their understanding of the situation. Everyone was happy except Coach because they were not able to test out his heat seeking missiles. They had loaded up several growlers of the brown ale liquid as a sample of what could be something good for the farmer if he was willing to allow the cow to stay with the dragon, keeping it company.

Act III – Road Back and Hero’s Return

Road Back and Hero’s Return
Design Thinking Step No. 6 is Implement, and Bloom’s Taxonomy is Create.

The farmer implemented the team’s idea to make the daily trip up to the mountain and became rich from selling his new style ale. He eventually took the proceeds to purchase The Blue Plow’s property, and reconstructed it into what is known as The Blue Tractor. He also moved the entire herd of milk cows to the dragon’s cave to meet the demand for his dragon’s ale, which also kept the dragon so happy that it never returned to the town of Ann Arbor.

“The Blue Tractor is the new reality,” Freelance said. “THE END!”

“So let me see if I get this right,” Test Drive said. “We have been using a couple of the more popular processes to define our research and attempt to document knowledge. Bloom’s Taxonomy is very well known to the teaching community as a guide to develop lesson plans or a learning path. Design Thinking was born out of Stanford University as a method to tackle complex human issues with simple resolution steps. They both provide process for how people learn. Now we have the Hero’s Journey, which is based upon the human condition of transformation, which is a learning process. All three seem to be very similar?”

“You got it,” Coach said. “That is a great summary.”

“It seems that there are a lot of people out there that are trying to provide simple to understand steps in the human learning process,” T said.

“We can choose any of the three,” Rusty said, “but as we develop scripts for a podcast, our mentor is suggesting to use terms that a larger population in the world are familiar with. Remember that as we document knowledge, we don’t want to limit the number of users we can reach. I know several teachers, and they readily understand the Bloom’s Taxonomy. The same occurs with the engineers use the process of Design Thinking. Just start the conversation about Design Thinking with a teacher, and they are likely to say that I don’t get it.”

“That is why our mentor guided us to the Hero’s Journey,” Coach said. “We want to use process terms that are inherently understood by the majority of our user base. After all, they have been inundated with it from a very young age. Whether they know the actual step names or not, they will sense that it is familiar to them.”


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