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Total Eclipse of the Story

By Mike Bonifer 2 years 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 founder and Chief Storyteller for bigSTORY, a network of experts in diverse fields who specialize in effective communication and draw on breakthrough research that accounts for how stories affect business performance. We call our process Agile Storytelling. We apply it to help clients improve their communication processes, make more meaningful connections with audiences, drive customer advocacy and engage employees. Bonifer has been focused on new storytelling platforms and practices for his entire life, from the theme park his family built on the farm where he grew up in Indiana, through a long association with the Walt Disney Company, to bigSTORY’s contemporary work with Skype, Wipro, Manulife, United Airlines, and a host of mid-sized companies, and universities such as USC, Notre Dame and NYU. He has written five books on the subject of storytelling, most recently GameChangers—Improvisation for Business in the Networked World, and CTRL Shift—50 Games for 50 ****ing Days Like Today. In addition to its consulting work, bigSTORY develops and produces original stories. We are currently developing Death of Cassini, an opera about the last days of NASA’s Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, and Crypto Kid, a television series about Tinashe Nyatanga, a Zimbabwean hip-hop music editor living in Los Angeles who advises young music and entertainment stars on their cryptocurrency investments. The basis of all our work is a belief that our most optimistic futures are realized when we build stories together. When your story and my story become our story.