Articles: Storytelling

One Hundred Years

One of my favorite books about history is Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence: From 1500 to the Present: Five Hundred Years of Western Culture Life. It’s an impressive career summation, published in 2001 when Barzun was in his nineties. I love how he looks telescopically at broad historical trends, while also zooming into the messy details of specific times and places along the way. In the past two years, the long decline that Barzun observed has…

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What is positioning?

Positioning is important for every organization. Yet there is no consensus on what the term means. Among positioning experts, Michael Porter talks about strategic advantage, Seth Godin talks about purple cows, and Clotaire Rapaille talks about tapping into enduring cultural archetypes. Are we really all discussing the same thing? Here is a simple description that I use to align teams and viewpoints: Positioning defines how external audiences see a company or product relative to its competitors. In…

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Becoming #1, part two

I asserted in my last post that every organization, in every space, is forced to describe itself as the best at what it does. Something about this is clearly bananas. First of all, the notion that everyone is the best defies basic logic. It’s as delusional as saying that in Lake Wobegone, all the students are above-average. If every company is #1, then none has any meaningful competition. Yet venture capitalists, who tend to know a thing…

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Unstorytelling

Our default way of experiencing the world is through stories. Whether they come from the latest Good Wife episode, the companies we purchase from, or the theater of our minds, stories are safe-to-consume simulations about how things were, are, will be, or could be. I love stories, and they can do many good things: They entertain us. They help us contemplate what we would do in unfamiliar situations. They help us act. They make abstract concepts┬árelatable and…

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One book, one idea: The Caryatids

Bruce Sterling’s The Caryatids is one of the most delightful and educational near-future sci-fi novels to come out in the past few years, sharing company with Rainbows End, Makers, Little Brother, Daemon, and World Made by Hand. Set in 2065, it’s essentially the fictional version of Sterling’s earlier and excellent Tomorrow Now, where all the forecasts of that earlier book come to pass and hybridize. It’s dizzying and smart. And, although I often recommend it for its business…

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