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How to Measure Your Fire

By Mike Bonifer 4 years ago
Home  /  Data  /  How to Measure Your Fire

Our friend Paul Pedrazzi (@ppedrazzi) called our attention to this list by Jeff Jordan, Anu Hariharan, Frank Chen and Preethi Kasireddy of Andreeson Horowitz. It is comprised of “16 startup metrics.” The authors write that “good” metrics are “about running the business in a way where founders know how and why certain things are working (or not) … and can address or adjust accordingly.”

These metrics are “good” in the context of standardization across AH’s portfolio.  The goodness of any tool is contextual. Here’s a context for the goodness of the AH metrics: Trying to guide a start-up, or any organization for that matter, using only accounting data is like blacksmithing with 16 tools and no fire. What is the fire? The fire–the force that most profoundly shapes the behaviors of  individuals, organizations and markets–is story.

As the noted tech investor Chris Sacca says, “Good stories always beat good spreadsheets.” We agree. There’s no need, however, fret about a competition between spreadsheets and stories. It is a question of completeness, wholeness, unity. You can have all the data in the world about elephants, and it will not produce the story of Dumbo, or predict this meme. Until you can complement your elephant data with elephant storytelling,  your understanding of elephants will always be incomplete.

Here are 10 key bigSTORY metrics that can help you analyze the fires that will shape your future:


Influence – rankings of nodes (big ideas) and influencers (who connect and spread those ideas) in the company’s network

Resonance – measures how consistently and deeply the organization’s narrative connects with the story energy already in the marketplace?

Sentiment  – latent sentiment analysis compares use of language across different media and over time in order to identify relevant patterns and themes

Lift  measures the effectiveness of various games and strategies that generate stories and engage customers / populations

Toolsets  an assessment of the completeness of the company’s storytelling tools and lenses; its ability to distinguish between tools that are “present at hand” (licensed and used at the company) and “ready to hand” (needed for a particular task, process or story)


Equity   This metric looks at who has a say, inside and outside the organization, in the design and telling of its story. Who tells the story matters. Who designs the story matters more.

Formation – analysis of the four forms of “story energy”–linear, cyclical, assemblage and spiral—present in the company’s network. Assemblage and spiral are most desirable because they’re generative.

Voice  in how many contexts (i.e. functional languages) can the company fluently express itself? Functional languages are defined by context and lexicon. Examples are politics, entertainment, spirituality, finance, sustainability, etc.

Intention – analyzes the relationship between the company’s history (in start-ups, it is the collected histories of employees) and its desired future.

Levels of Meaning – rates the organization’s ability to contextualize data using emotional and meta language and expressions in its storytelling.

You’ve got the tools. You know how to start fires. And now you know how to control the burn and apply the heat in proper measures. That’s what’s good. 

  Data, Organizational Effectiveness, Story Organization
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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.