Once upon a time, in a land very different to ours, Tweeters from all over the realm gathered to celebrate the Power of Storytelling in Learning and Development and to share their experiences.
We opened with how stories have been used, what counts as a story, the importance of context, and the valuable role humour plays in any great story. We debated how embellished a story should be and the importance of protecting the innocent, making sure that situations or people are relatable but not recognisable. The community converged on the point that the stories must be believable in order to illustrate a point and that they have greater impact when learners can easily digest them and 'own' the learning experience. A key point was made:
A1) Using a narrative helps people move sideways from their inhibitions or ego. They can talk to the story, forget about defending #ozlearn— Dangerous Meredith (@DangerousMere) May 12, 2015
The chat then moved on to how we can create authentic characters, we focused on the importance realistic context as well as recognisable and relatable flaws which allow learners to invest in the hero or loveable rogue. Many people talked of the importance of naming their characters and providing them with rich backstories prior to scripting that encouraged better narrative and create a world that felt genuine to the learner. The community often circled back to the importance of understanding the audience and designing the characters appropriately:
This fed neatly into our next section which discussed the 'Disney Moment', the relevance of Action Mapping and building the story to a point where the learner can see the light understand what it is they need to DO differently.
We talked about the fact that stories don't necessarily need to be nice to be effective; sometimes you need a villain, and sometimes the hero of the story doesn't have any great options to choose from but instead makes the best decision they can in the circumstances. Think Hans Christian Anderson rather than Disney! Life is messy and not always clear cut but:
Opening stings and hooks were debated as we swapped notes on the best ways to hook learners early with various methods discussed but surely the most memorable was an immediate call to arms:
4) one of my favourites was from one of my clients whose opening screen was "The photocopier is on fire! What'ya gonna do?? #ozlearn— Michael Gwyther (@mickgwyther) May 12, 2015
Most of the community felt that stories work because they provide relatable touchstones to the business, allowing the learners to engage with the business in a relateable but safe space, and to learn from the character's mistakes as if they were their own.
In summary, the power of storytelling in learning design is clear; when taking this approach you may want to consider the following:
- Create realistic situations and characters that your learners can relate to,
- Develop rich backstories for your characters to ensure they remain authentic throughout the learning,
- Hook your learners with great opening scenes to your learning, forget the boring 'in this module you will learn about...' your learners will thank you! Design as a movie trailer, why should your learner be interested?
- Think ROI - how can you prove to the business that your story approach has a measurable impact on the business over a more linear approach?
- Let your learners choose their own adventure, design rabbit and rat holes that allow them to navigate freely through the content.