Storytelling with The Hero's Journey

Once upon a time

The 5-man team from St Joseph Institution (SJI) won "Best Team" and "Most Popular Team" at the 2nd Young Innovator Challenge 2022 organised by NTU! The team of 14-year-olds had set out to improve environmental sustainability by encouraging their fellow students to recycle more.


And every day

The team spoke about their observations and the tests they ran. They shared about the surveys they had conducted to validate their hypothesis and how they involved their classmates and rallied others to support their project.


But one day

As their mentor, I listened to their discovery, invention and pitch. It struck me that the team is no different from entrepreneurs - innovators are problem solvers first!

I wasn't sure if the methodologies we teach to adult learners are appropriate for the young innovators, but I shared anyway.

Because of that

We discussed the Value Framework that successful innovation satisfies the desirability, feasibility and viability criteria. And the importance of validation at every stage to ensure that hypothesis is valid and relevant.


Because of that

The team followed through with more surveys and built their prototypes and validation.

Until finally

When the team was ready, we discussed "Screen Presence" in place of 'Stage Presence' in preparation for the virtual demo day. But the most helpful bit, I think, is the brand storytelling, The Hero's Journey.

Demo day arrived. The team pitched.

According to the team, recycling bins are often contaminated with non-recyclables, making recycling difficult. They also observed that single-use plastic bottles form the bulk of the contents in the bin. If only they could get their schoolmates to recycle more.

The team observed that rubbish bins are located more conveniently than recycling bins. So they placed a recycling box conveniently in the classroom and encouraged their classmate to recycle. By the end of the week, the recycling box was full, thus validating that many are keen to support recycling if it is convenient.

Then, they observed that all the bottles were 'contaminated' by leftover juices and had to be cleaned before recycling. So they built a functioning recycling bin prototype with a jet spray that rinsed the insides of the bottle. They shared a video of their prototype and validated that 95% of schoolmate accepts and will recycle more if they are deployed.

The team convinced the judges that the recycling bin can be made affordably, and plastic bottles could be sold to recycling companies for a fee.

And ever since then

And congratulations to the team for winning "Best Team" and "Most Popular Team" at the 2nd Young Innovator Challenge 2022. I'm proud to be part of the journey.

Figure (in no particular order): Gabriel Low, Kayden Cheng, Nicodemus Lim, Linus Lee, Lim Ee-Ruey, Patrick Ng


"On behalf of my 5 students in Team Rinse Together, SJI, we would like to express our sincere thanks and appreciation to Mr Patrick Ng who was our assigned mentor in the Young Innovators' Challenge 2022. Mr. Ng spent 2 sessions giving excellent guidance in pitching an idea to how an idea should be validated. Under his mentorship, the team clinched Best Team Award and Most Popular Award. Linus Lee, Team Rinse Together member, shared that he learned how important it was to interview and create a survey on the users to ensure that they would create a solution that would be used. He also learnt from Mr Ng that many startups failed because they created a product that no one would use. Thank you, Mr Ng, for your invaluable feedback and mentorship for Team Rinse Together." - Pennie Ong, teacher-in-charge, St Joseph Institution, Singapore.

And That's why (moral of the story)

In business storytelling, we use four main components to convey the opportunity:

  1. The main character with a dream or problem

  2. The conflicts and challenges the character must overcome

  3. A resolution, achievement or success

  4. Your customer: the beneficiary of the story

In retrospect, the main character was Ee-Ruey, the storyteller and how he spoke about the three conflicts and their resolution.

Figure: Lim Ee-Ruey, the storyteller




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