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1) Resource recommendation: a business book with major implications for storytelling.
This book can change how we think about our work, how and where we present stories, and how we market ourselves.
The subtitle of "The Experience Economy" (Harvard Business School Press) is "Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage." Joseph Pine and James Gilmore argue that the agricultural, industrial and service economies are now making way for businesses that sell experiences - whether a "living room" environment for your book-buying, a rainforest around your restaurant meal, or a climbing wall in your sporting goods store.
The experience economy is already arriving. But Pine and Gilmore claim that another stage is a-borning: the transformation economy. When a capable guide brings people through carefully customized experiences, they say, transformation occurs. "With transformations, the economic offering is the individual person...changed as a result of what the company does....The customer is the product!" (p. 172)
Does this sound familiar to us storytellers? I would argue that we have been in the business of providing experiences and transformation, all along. Instead of continuing to mistake ourselves for service providers, we can now re-position ourselves as "experience providers." And when we guide people through an effective series of experiences, we become "transformation providers."
Why does this matter? Two reasons. First, the good news: just as a "coffee drinking experience" at Starbucks is valued more than the same coffee delivered as a bare-bones service at a fast-food restaurant, transformations are the most highly valued economic offerings possible!
Second, we face challenges: how can we provide fully integrated offerings, in which every detail - every sensation, every interaction - supports the storytelling experience? Further, how can we provide integrated experiences that support transformation? Successful answers to these questions may lead storytelling to new horizons.
(By the way, one attempt at an answer follows. Please read on!)
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2) Workshop announcement: Sapelo Island Storytelling Adventure.
Jay O'Callahan, Pam McGrath, and I were talking one day about our "big stories" - the long transformational stories that each of us find ourselves telling (such as Jay's "Pouring the Sun," my "The Soul of Hope," and Pam's stirring story about Victoria Woodhall - now nearly written out of history, but the first woman to run for president of the U.S. - with Frederick Douglass as a running mate!) Such stories stretch the boundaries of ordinary venues. They are often of substantial length and high intensity - and they leave people with a need to talk about their reactions.
What if we re-thought the experience of hearing such a story? (See the resource recommendation for "The Experience Economy," above.) What would we want it to provide?
First, we said, the listeners should form a community. A three-or-four-day event provides a sense of connection that allows listeners to respond more deeply than during a one-evening show.
Second, people should be able to think about the themes of a story before they hear it - and to respond from their own experience, afterwards. The community support shouldn't end ten minutes after the story is over.
Third, the experience should resemble a pilgrimage - a deliberate journey away from ordinary life, in search of transformation.
After months of inquiries, we found the perfect place for a transformational storytelling adventure: Sapelo Island, off the coast of Georgia. Just a thirty-minute ferry ride from Meridian, Georgia, Sapelo is ninety percent nature preserve, five percent historic African-American community, and five percent state-owned historic mansion.
A year in the planning, this unique storytelling adventure will take place from Thursday afternoon, November 30 through Sunday afternoon, December 3, 2000. Jay, Pam, and I will be your guides through four days and three nights on an unspoiled, spiritually revered island, through three major stories, and through a chance to find your personal responses to these life-changing works of art. It's not too late to join us!
For more information, email me for a packet. Please specify whether you'd like the snail-mail packet or the abbreviated email version. You can also go to the website at http://storydynamics.com/services/workshops/sapelo.html. Or call 1-888-446-4738 for a 1-minute, free recorded message.
In any event, I hope you act soon. A special offer of free tapes (with your paid application) expires October 25, 2000. Please email, call, or click for the whole story.