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Total Eclipse of the Story

By Mike Bonifer 8 months ago
Home  /  Data  /  Total Eclipse of the Story

You know how the astronomers said not to look at the eclipse with our naked eyes, or we’d go blind? That’s the way I feel a lot of times about how managers look at data. They stare at it so hard they go blind.

If the eclipse itself is all that’s in your frame of reference, your data isn’t worth much, because everyone has that same shot. There’s nothing particularly unique about it, you’re adding nothing new to the narrative, and your data quickly becomes a footnote to history, diminishing in relevance and value with each passing day. Imagine, by comparison, that you’re a six-year-old looking at the eclipse with your fellow Explorer Scouts. The eclipse is part of a story–a context for your data–that can last a lifetime.

Over time, the value-creating context for data is story. 

Check this narrative about how energy traders mis-played power demand during the eclipse.  

I know zero about power grid management. Naureen S. Malik’s report does, however, fit a pattern we see in many organizations, communities and business sectors: An over-reliance by managers on data, in and of itself, to ‘make the call.’ Data is a subset of stories; and stories, not data, are how human beings see and experience the world. Parents don’t describe their children as statistics.  No car lover confines his or her love to cubic inches.

The story of the eclipse is what caught everyone’s fancy, and got us motivated and moving. Not the data. The data is part of the story. It’s the rest of the story, the lived story, that includes emotions and intentions, that the traders missed.*  Was the eclipse a ‘distraction to the market,’ as one trader claims in Malik’s piece? No, it was the market.

*Per the piece, Alphabet, via its Nest app, claims to have read and load-balanced energy demand in real time, in a private-public collaboration with the State of California. If true, well played, Nest and Cali. Well played.


  Data, News, Process
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 Mike Bonifer

  (57 articles)

Mike Bonifer is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer for bigSTORY, a company of strategists & practitioners who are first in the world to utilize quantum storytelling, an emerging organizational science that accounts for how stories are created, live in networks, and influence behaviors. Throughout his professional life, Bonifer has been in the forefront of emerging storytelling practices and technologies. As the publicist on Tron, the author of The Art of Tron, and the writer and producer of Computers are People, Too, he explained computer-generated imagery to the analog world. As a founding producer of The Disney Channel, he pioneered the Walt Disney Company’s entrance into cable television with the legendary documentary series, Disney Family Album. As the producer of the award-winning website for Toy Story, he introduced movie fans around the world to Pixar’s extraordinary storytelling. He co-founded Network LIVE, which lives on as Control Room, producer of some of the biggest online music events in the world, including 2007’s Live Earth concerts for the environment, for which he served as Chief Storyteller. In 2007, he wrote and published GameChangers – Improvisation for Business in the Networked World, and, with Dr. Virginia Kuhn of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, co-founded GameChangers, a learning company that applied improvisation to business communication. His work with GameChangers dramatically improved the performances in units of companies such as Skype, Gap Inc. The Walt Disney Company, United Airlines Media, Gawker Media, NetApp and GE. He has conducted university workshops in Public Health, Entrepreneurship, Engineering, Sociology and Cinema; collaborated with Alan Alda on a workshop for the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC; explained quantum storytelling to physicists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; coached Ron “The Gangster Gardener” Finley on his famous TED Talk on urban gardening; and returned to his old hometown in Indiana, to tell stories about the legendary smalltown Hoosier baskeball team, his childhood heroes,The Ireland Spuds. He was the featured storyteller at the 2014 San Miguel International Storytelling Festival in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He and his son, Alex, perform a two-person improv act called BonBon, the only father-son comedy improv act in the world (that they know of). In 2015, he will tour Panama, Guatemala and Nicaragua on behalf of the Notre Dame Executive Education program. With bigSTORY, Bonifer and Jeremi Karnell have created a home for one of the most remarkable advances in storytelling of our lifetimes. A way of seeing the world through the lens of the stories we create together. A theory that accounts for the brilliant possibilities that await us when your story and my story become our story.