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EE BookA few days ago a book arrived.  It came as a clue to this year’s thinkAbout … a gathering of those eager to explore the nuances of the Experience Economy.  For 15 years, Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, authors of the 1996 classic, The Experience Economy have hosted this annual event in a new city each fall.  In their book, they described the shift to an experience-based economy.  They argued that consumers today demand experiences, not just goods and services.

This year they will gather in Washington, D.C for two days.  Those attending no longer debate if there is a shift to experiences in every aspect of commerce.  In fact, there is even less exchanging of new-found examples than in the past.  If anything, the terrain today is more about whether we have gone too far as debated in a recent NY Times article critical of the direction museums are taking.

Significant ObjectsBack to the book.  It is Significant Objects: 100 extraordinary stories about ordinary things by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker.  The back of the book asks, “Can a great story transform a worthless trinket into a significant object?”  Spoiler alert … the answer is “Yes.”  In their grand experiment, they recruited an impressive set of creative writers and gave each an item from a thrift shop or yard store.  Each was told to write a short story that would accompany and describe the item when sold (as a fake) on eBay.  The unloved items objects, now with a story, increased in value by more than 2,700 percent!

If any of you have ever cleaned out a parent’s home or helped a friend in this task, you have lived this book.  Surrounded by objects that at one time each had a story.  Without their stories, they are just objects heaped into garage bins or shipped off to the local Goodwill.

Watch the evening news.  Almost nightly there are clips of the homeowners sifting through the remains of their post-fire/flood homes looking for the items … the stories … the memories … of their experiences.

  • What are the significant objects in your life?
  • What are their stories?
  • How are they the memorabilia of your experiences?