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Beth Graybill

  /  Articles   /  What is an Origin Story?

Have you ever noticed how great you are at telling people what you do for work and how you do it as an individual or as an organization, but you’re often at a loss for words when it comes to why . . . why you do what you do and why it all started in the first place?

We’ve all been there. We’ve all been in enough conversations with a seatmate on an airplane, with colleagues over happy hour cocktails, or with friends and family around the dinner table, to know we need to find a better way to talk about not just what we do or how we do it, but why we do the work we do . . .  and why it actually matters.

The most effective way to talk about your why, and make sure your colleagues and teammates talk about it in the same way too, is to understand your origin story.



An origin story is more than just a historical timeline or updated marketing material, it is the heartbeat of the organization. 

It’s the human story behind the organizational story. 

It’s the face behind the logos, products, and services.

It’s the emotional and inspirational impact of the company.

It’s the heart and soul of what it means to be a part of the team. 

And here’s how they work. The best origin stories are meaningful, impactful, and essential because they:

  • Reveal heritage, sincerity, and commitment to quality
  • State a higher purpose
  • Grab our attention with a question or unexpected challenge, tell a story about an emotional experience, and leave us with a call to action
  • Include villains, heroes, and some sort of struggle
  • Narrow the focus, make it personal, and tell the story
  • Follow the (unofficial) rule of 3’s using the Three-Act Story Structure

These are the essential ingredients of your origin story–to the pages and the stories you will illuminate and add to over time. Because origin stories are not static. They don’t just happen over time. They are constantly developing and ever-evolving. That’s the beauty and the magic.

And here are how origin stories can be a necessary guide:


  • Messaging Architecture 
  • Brand Cue Card
  • Website, Marketing Material & Social Media (lifestyle graphics & conference rooms)
  • Storytelling videos
  • Documentary
  • Team talks
  • Company or team pitch for anyone, anywhere 
  • Celebrations


  • New Hire Orientation
  • Performance development:
  • Overall employee experience
  • Participation incentives 
  • Organizational behaviors
  • Team/Unit town halls
  • Employee mentoring programs 


  • Employee Culture Days
  • Internship programs
  • Town Halls
  • Highlight stories of leaders, employees, shareholders, interns, etc.


  • HR
  • Departments, Campuses, Subsidiaries
  • Customers
  • Clients
  • Community
  • Shareholders

And here are a few fantastic ORIGIN STORY Examples:

 But here’s the challenging part: origin stories often require a fresh set of eyes with an outside perspective to make them come alive. If you or your organization are interested in doing a better job at explaining your why by telling your origin story with an experienced guide, drop us a line at

Consultant & Collaborative Storyteller in South Bend, IN.

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