Tag Archives: arts

Innovation (and great storytelling) happens at the intersections

When I took Barkada Circle® through a rebranding process in 2017, my biggest challenge was being able to create a clear pitch with a simple narrative behind it. Yup! There I was, storytelling consultant to nonprofits, trying to write my own story, and not knowing where to begin. The problem was not a lack of vantage points. It was quite the opposite; I had too many. Eventually, I was able to buckle down and figure out my story about storytelling.

My challenge stemmed from multiple interests I’ve accumulated through the years.
In my 20s, I was an undergrad with academic pursuits in art, engineering and design.
In my 30s, I was a full time graphic artist for a global manufacturer of dental products
and building a freelance business with clients from various industries. When I turned 40,
I launched Barkada as a birthday gift to myself (What normal person does that?).
Storyteller, designer, illustrator, writer, industrial engineer, public speaker, workshop
sherpa⏤you get the picture.

According to Emilie Wapnick, author of How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who
(Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up
, folks like me are called
“multipotentialites⏤those of us with many interests, many jobs over a lifetime, and many interlocking potentials.” A multipotentialite herself, Wapnick has been a musician/songwriter, a web designer, filmmaker, writer, law student and entrepreneur. As a career and life coach, she helps other people with wide and varied interests understand and appreciate who they are in a society that asks us to pick a lane and stay in it.

In her TED talk, Wapnick points out three multipotentialite super powers. I’ve realized
that these qualities enhance my abilities as a storyteller, or they’re probably the reason
I am one:

Idea Synthesis⏤Combine two or more fields and create something new at the intersection. Innovation happens when seemingly unrelated concepts converge. It’s where we can spark new ideasjust like in the movieswhere two opposing characters meet to spark tension, intrigue and an interesting journey that changes them forever.

Rapid Learning⏤We’re less afraid of trying new things and stepping out of our comfort zone. Helping clients to become better storytellers requires me to approach them with
curiosity. Listening to their stories while keeping an open mind means that I have to be willing to move aside my preconceptions, absorb new information like a sponge and,
in some cases, even relearn what I thought I knew.

Adaptability⏤In today’s world, change is fierce and it comes fast. Shared stories can hold members of an organization in a common personal bond. A culture rich with storytelling helps to anchor them to the mission so together they can weather the storm and thrive.

We have a stack of complex, layered problems in the world, and we need creative,
unconventional thinkers to tackle them. Multipotentialites make great connectors and
collaborators. Armed with their breadth of skills, knowledge and vocabulary, they can speak multiple languages across various fields. They can translate information into stories that can be understood and acted upon by others to get the work done.

Wapnick closes with this message of encouragement: “Embrace your many passions.
Follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes. Explore your intersections. Embracing our inner wiring leads to a happier, more authentic life. And perhaps more importantly
⏤multipotentialites, the world needs us.”

This multipotentialite storyteller is ready to help you find the intersection where a new
story can spark your next innovation. Fill out our contact form or call 773.852.3522 today.

Always imagine change because security is an illusion.

The only blog that I subscribe to is that of Seth Godin. Wikipedia describes him as an American entrepreneur, author, and public speaker who has written fourteen bestselling books on topics including the post-industrial revolution, how ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and changing everything. Seth Godin introduced the concept of “permission marketing.”

What is Permission Marketing? We’re all familiar with traditional advertising on television, radio and now the internet. According to Seth, these are classified as “interruption marketing” which tries to grab the customer’s attention while they are doing something they prefer. The same goes for pop up ads on the internet. An example of Permission Marketing is asking someone if you can include them on your list for receiving your e-newsletters. It’s mostly used by online marketers as well as some who do direct marketing and send a catalog or brochure in response to a request. The point is engaging a customer by providing them something they are anticipating. The transaction becomes personal and relevant. With Permission Marketing, you’re going beyond having a transaction with your customer. Instead, you’re having a meaningful relationship with them.

Seth’s blog is perhaps the most popular in the world written by a single individual. His post on Saturday, Feb 2 talked about a paracosm which Seth defined as an ornate, richly detailed imaginary world. Growing up, I remember creating imaginary worlds with my brother and cousins. Our toys were stashed in my father’s office in the home of my childhood. It was the only room with enough storage for our stuff. We would drag the toys out into the living room and take over the entire first floor. There was a rock garden below the stairway, and this added another dimension of possibilities for our afternoons spent in the fairy kingdom, the village of the future or the lost city under the sea.

Seth also wrote in his post that “whether you’re a three-year old with imaginary playmates, or a passionate inventor imagining how your insight will change just about everything, a paracosm gives you the opportunity to hypothesize, to try out big ideas and see where they take you.” This is used widely by managers and teams at established organizations when they try to come up with new strategies to keep moving their organizations forward. However, more often than not, their behaviors reflect that of a rigid institution when challenged to envision the future without the key components that made them successful in the first place. They feel they have to remain loyal to what Seth calls “their founding precepts.”

Is it really about loyalty? Or is it about feeling insecure about abandoning what has always been perceived as the pillars of the organization? Could it be about fear of not having a safety net? Seth gives the example of the publishing industry. Imagine a world without books published on paper. To a major player in that industry ten or fifteen years ago, not having printed books was inconceivable. But as you all know, a new business model has since emerged which changed the entire world of books.

At this point, my question is — What does your paracosm look like? Who are the major players? What do they care about? What must you take away from your current reality? What can be added? What emotional responses ensue? Why is it important to imagine this world where new challenges and new opportunities converge?

My message has always been consistent. An organization must have a compelling story behind its mission to stay relevant and valuable to the community. What is also consistent throughout our lives is change. And in order to stay relevant to the lives of the people in our community — the people we serve, the volunteers, the board members, the advocates, the donors, the people who care about the work you do — in order for your organization to continue doing the work that matters to them, you must always anticipate change and imagine its impact on your organization and your community. Change must always be part of your story. If you’re able to re-invent your story and live it, you will be able to empower your organization to remain at the helm directing your future and the future of the community you serve.

Storytelling Jam Session: The Perfect Pitch

Today and every day until March 7, 2013, I will share with you an article on whatsyourread_bkgdstorytelling, a remarkable video or my own thoughts on the subject. I believe this will help us calibrate our minds toward the possibilities for creative expression. I’m also hoping it will get everyone excited about coming to What’s Your Read — Barkada Circle’s storytelling jam session.

So my first honest attempt to make that happen is by sharing with you this article from Andy Goodman’s Free-Range Thinking newsletter. It’s called The 5 Parts of the Perfect Pitch. In it, Goodman gives his assessment on the components that are common between winning pitches based on his observations of LA’s Social Innovation Fast Pitch Competition.

According to Goodman, your pitch must answer the following questions in order for your audience (or potential donor) to get the whole story:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What problem does your organization solve?
  3. What is distinctive about your solution?
  4. What evidence can you offer of impact and sustainability?
  5. What do you need now, and how will it help?

Click here to download the article’s pdf. Once you’ve got something going, we’d love to showcase your pitch at the March 7 Jam Session.

Creativity x Community = Change

The other day, I had a conversation with a friend who was contemplating a new direction for her art. Lindsay is a fine artist, author, educator and a crafter. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally. She also received a prestigious grant to organize a large community art program involving thousands of knitters from around the world. She has taught adults in a world-renowned art institution and major universities.

With all her impressive achievements, I still consider Lindsay to be typical of artists today who exercise their multiple capabilities for personal fulfillment and largely for practical economic reasons. Artists, especially those with families to support, have to secure at least two or three jobs. If these jobs match their talents and passions, then all the better for the communities that benefit from their work. Fortunately, I live in a city that has grown to value their artists. Chicago is a multi-cultural melting pot of artistic talent celebrated in the art museums, live theater, musical and dance concerts, galleries, humanities festivals, and the list goes on.

Although the ability of the arts to bring about cultural and economic vitality is well promoted, beyond this, I believe that the arts is the key to preserving humankind. Art holds up the mirror that reflects the truth about what we do as a society and its consequences. Art provides us with the context for having the clarity and the courage to ask the difficult questions and wrestle with them. It can be an arduous journey, but it is necessary for finding real answers.

Artists create. And they can create from nothing. What this world needs moving forward are more people like my artist friend Lindsay who finds that it is in her nature to pull from her many facets as author, educator and crafter all the necessary skills, ideas and inspiration to create something that will benefit her community.

Imagine that we had at least one artist on every block of this city, of this country, of this earth. Imagine what we could accomplish by multiplying that amount of talent by each artist’s stretch of their imagination. Given that opportunity, what can we as a civilized society accomplish? What can we create? The problems of this world can be overwhelming. The only way we can begin to wrap our minds around them is by wrapping them with our imagination–with ART–to see what’s possible and to boldly reach for it.

To an artist, the most important question is “What if?” What if the artist on my block got together and collaborated with other artists in my neighborhood? What if we went to the alderman with an artistic approach to address a specific problem in our ward? What if we grow this to be a city-wide initiative? What if Lindsay found this to be the new direction for her art?

Now, more than ever, is the time to ask the hard question. And you may find the answer in your block living next door.

Where Are You in the Story Cycle?

Think back to elementary school when your teacher showed your science class a diagram that explained how water took various forms in a never ending loop. The illustration below might seem familiar, but what’s wrong with it? I think this version of the water cycle is missing one critical player — You. Human impact on the environment has evolved enough to drastically change the story of water. But that’s a whole different subject. I want to focus instead on positive transformation.

Today’s blog post from Seth Godin talks about demand – should you harvest or create?  According to Mr. Godin:

“You don’t need to persuade everyone that you have a great idea, you merely need to persuade one person. And then make it easy for that person to share.”

Key word: Share. How can your new evangelist do that? Only if you give them a story they can easily understand, be passionate about and spread. Only if they can easily make it their own. It’s still your story but in a different form that their audience (hopefully to become yours) can relate to. As your story continues to be retold, it reaches a different audience – like water taking the next step in the cycle.

The difference between your story cycle and that of water is that it stays essentially the same: two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. On the other hand, your organization has the opportunity for real transformation with every turn in your cycle, becoming more relevant and more in sync with your growing community as their stories feed back to you and yours to them. There is one element that must be present throughout – trust. It’s what keeps the cycle going.

And it all starts with one person and your story.

Coming up in November:

November 13: Write Your Story for Video
5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Fine Arts Building
410 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

November 15: Engage Your Donors with a Compelling Story
8:30 am – 10:00 am
Mayslake Peabody Estate
1717 W. 31st Street
Oak Brook, IL 60523
Host: West Suburban Philanthropic Network

November 16: Create Your Compelling & Memorable Elevator Pitch
11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Letizia’s Fiore Ristorante
2456 N. California Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647

A Timeline Tells Your Story

The other day, a friend posted on Facebook that he finds their new feature Timeline confusing. Others commented that they too were not loving it. I was about to join the club but decided to take a step back and have a closer look.

Given that Timeline groups your activities and posts by day/month/year, it does more than that. Look at your Facebook page and see if you agree. The first that jumps out is my billboard — the large picture on top showcasing a recent highlight of my life. As I scroll down, I see large image after large image showing me what I’ve said and who replied, where I’ve been and who were with me, what friends have shared with me and why I felt it was important, who joined my tribe and when they came into my life. Image after image after image. The cliché is coming to me but I’m not going to write it 🙂

It’s my life in pictures!…and yes words, but lots of big pictures. I’m a visual person so I am loving it. It’s a pictorial scrapbook with captions included. What’s fun is that I can go back in time, post a comment then reconnect with a friend and reminisce with them. (There’s someone I haven’t spoken to in years!)

Whether or not they meant to, Facebook’s Timeline organizes the dots of my life so I can connect them and tell my story. They make it visually engaging. My job is to reveal the meaning. Does your page help you tell your story? Like. Comment. Share.

As a reminder….

There’s still time to reserve your spot for our storytelling workshop and get the early bird rate. Register by Thursday, April 12.

Our workshop series kicks off on April 18 with Your Story Can Make You Extraordinary: A Writing Workshop hosted by the Rogers Park Business Alliance.

Imagine your organization has a spot for a tv commercial during the Super Bowl. What do you say to a captive audience of millions — in 30 seconds? This workshop challenges the conventional use of words. Stripping down your message into the bare essentials can be the key to revealing the most valuable aspects of your organization.

Space is limited to 12 participants. Register now for early bird rate. 

Click here for more information and to register.

See you April 18!