Stories that stick: from Takayama to London by way of Paris

It’s Sunday night and I’m on my way back from a day in Paris. My wife who is an interior designer has been at the annual Maison & Objet event at the Parc Des Expositions north of the city and was so enthralled she was late for our rendezvous; it’s pouring and visibility is lousy on the A26 as we rush towards the tunnel to make our 20.20 EuroShuttle.

Its a strange backdrop to a conversation about what sticks and why.  I asked Ana to share with me some of the most memorable conversation and objects she saw (at Sparknow we practice what we preach even in our personal lives).  After some deliberation and expressions of delight that many innovative ideas had come from fellow Portuguese design companies, including how to grow an indoor plant wall, and an astonishing set of letter furniture used in corporate settings

she settled on an encounter with a gentleman by the name of Yoshio Kan from a village in Japan called Takayama.  Ana’s reasoning was as follows:

Of all the people I met and displays I saw, Yoshio stood out because he told me a story about the products his town makes and how they came to be at the event. It was a communal effort to get their displays to Paris in time. Built in wood in Takayama it shows how the village uses recycled materials such as broken crockery to make new objects; how they have responded to changing cultural tastes by using Kimono fabrics to manufacture bags and; how they use lacquered wood as a substitute for glasswear.  The display reflects the village and its culture and Yoshio was its storyteller.

That the story was the thing that stuck from a day of glitzy presentations and amazing art, furniture and textiles reveals the power of face to face conversations and of story in underpinning brand, in this case that of a village. Ana felt a sense of co-ownership and is more likely to use them as a supplier as a result.

Which leads me nicely onto an event run by Shawn Callahan of Anecdote, Sydney that’s being held in London on February 16th. Entitled Storytelling for business leaders it builds on some of the techniques I describe in the Yoshio story and having attended previous events Shawn has run I can wholeheartedly recommend his style and guarantee attendees will find it money well spent.

Oh and in case you are wondering we made the shuttle with 2 minutes to spare.