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Material Matters

By Mike Bonifer 8 months ago
Home  /  Creativity  /  Material Matters

It’s good organizational practice to express stories in as many different media as possible, and by media I don’t mean the obvious platforms–video, audio, social, podcasts, press releases, books, memes, and what have you, though there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re standard story delivery systems. I mean media the way artists think of the substances they use to make art. Which can mean anything at hand that we can shape and move in the world. We call this stuff material. 

Material can be the ingredients of a product or the people and machines who manufacture it. It can be the soil or what grows in it, or both. It can be your fellow human beings, their generosity, desire, intuition or any other emotion that motivates us. Material can be virtual or physical. It can be a fish or the act of fishing. Money is material. So is poverty. Love is material. So is hate. Silicon is material and so is the Valley.

The point is, for stories to matter, they must matter materially. That is, stuff has to move in the world as a result of a story getting told or lived. The more materials your organization has in its storytelling inventory, the more ways it will find to tell its story, and the more ways it finds to tell its story, the more successful it will be at consistently connecting with its audience.

Here are a couple of examples of bigSTORY clients using materials to produce stories that matter, each in their own unique way:

Recently, we collaborated with the co-founder and head chef for our client, Nybll, Kristen Nelson Thibeault, to design a dinner we called Storytelling with Food. Each course of the meal is a different act in the story. The essential communication happens through the senses. This is as direct as storytelling can get. No brain, thought, ego or judgment intrudes on or re-interprets the experience. SalesForce.com executives recently tasted the truth of Nybll’s storytelling at a dinner Kristen prepared for them in Manhattan. Check out the material:

 

 

Ron Finley, ‘The Gangster Gardener,’ got to be a world renowned champion of the food justice movement because he told a story with a garden planted where the City of L.A. said you couldn’t do it. He’s currently in the process collaborating with artists in his network to tell a story with shovels supplied to him by the Fiskars tool company.*

 

 

*To our dismay, the Fiskars marketing team does not, as of this post, recognize the value of the story Ron and his friends are telling with the shovels-as-art. They sent him 30 shovels and called it a day. They apparently don’t understand the storytelling principle I’m describing here–material matters. The uniqueness of a story about urban gardening told with shovels can be incredibly valuable to them, because it will matter in a way that nothing else in their storytelling repertoire can. We’re still hopeful they’ll come around. Sponsorship support for Ron’s project will get them a 10x return or more in earned media. It will create a movement, and express an idea–gardeners are artists, whose medium is the soil–that will yield a bumper crop of business outcomes for their brand. Guaranteed.

bigSTORY comes together: Chef Kristen with Keven, her husband and business partner in Nybll, and their kids, visit Ron in the Gangsta Garden.

Categories:
  Creativity, Organizational Effectiveness, Process
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About

 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.