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Objectives Are Different From Outcomes

By Mike Bonifer 5 years ago
Home  /  Process  /  Objectives Are Different From Outcomes
It’s important to the work we do that our clients understand the difference between the Objectives and the Outcomes of the quantum storytelling process. Of any complex system, really. Your objective is what you focus on. The outcomes are where the money is.

I’ll repeat that.

Your objective is your point of focus. The outcomes make you money.

One reason we make this distinction (side from the fact that it’s true) is that our process uses game structure to generate stories at network scale, and a game must have an objective. But just because a game has an objective, a certain definition of “success,” we do not want anyone thinking that the objective is the sole reason we’re playing the game, or that it’s our only definition of success. Our objective is important, yes, but it’s more important for holding ours and our audience’s focus than it is for delivering value. Most of the value of a game isn’t in achieving its objective, it’s in the outcomes the game generates.

Herb Kelleher played a game a friend of his diagrammed on a napkin. Its objective was to connect short-hop air routes between Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. An outcome of that game was Southwest Airlines. Another is the livelihoods of 44,000 employees in 2014.

John Lasseter’s objective was to marry the heart of classic Disney animation to the computer technology of Silicon Valley. The outcomes include everything produced by Pixar ever since, and yeah, a railroad Lasseter bought from one his Disney animation heroes, Ollie Johnston.

Dr. Taryn Rose’s objective was to design a shoe that eased her patients’ pain, and at the same time would be stylish enough for her their refined fashion tastes. An outcome has been that Taryn Rose no longer practices orthopedics, she is a shoe brand.

Here’s another example of what I’m talking about, using a game just about everyone knows…

Answer this question: What is the Objective of the game of baseball?


Chances are you know the objective of baseball is to score more runs than the other team. This objective has not changed since the Knickerbocker Rules codified the game in 1845. It’s the same as it ever was.

Now…what are the Outcomes of the game of baseball? You can begin by thinking of outcomes within the field of play: home runs, pitchers and catchers, errors, injuries, stolen bases, and the like. And then let your mind wander outside the lines. What kind of outcomes does baseball produce off the field of play?

You might come up with things like concession sales, fans, family outings, cross-generational comparisons, video games, souvenirs and autographs, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, a steroid scandal, games of catch between parents and children, the Hall of Fame and the local economy of Cooperstown, NY, beer sales, endorsement deals, television programming, card collections, pride, careers, the Little League pitching sensation Mo’ne Davis…you get the idea, we can riff on the outcomes for a long time.

Where do you think the money is? In achieving the objective of the game, or producing its outcomes?

That’s right. So–

Focus on your Objective, yes, absolutely! From a process standpoint, it is the most important thing, the target, the intention. It can fire your intensity. It can even be your motivation. But if the only reason you play baseball is to win games, you’re going to miss most of the opportunities and most of the stories that the game makes possible. Merely achieving your objective, however worthy or lucrative it may be, limits your possibilities for growth and extension, and for making good stories. If all you want out of your game is a single goal, all you’ll produce is one story—who won, who lost, and how it happened.

Keep your eye on the ball, but always play toward the possibilities.

The objective of the game is to score runs. The possibility is Mo’ne Davis.

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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.