Everyone loves a good story. Possibly more than we realise. Using storytelling in learning is not new; biblical stories, morality tales, fairy stories and Charlie the cat telling us what to do are all examples of people using the story form to convey information.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Stories recently, from Micro stories, the one that i shared with the taxi driver this morning about how i’d spent Christmas, through to Macro stories, the book i’m reading about the Long Range Desert Group, or the narrative that i’m building over time in this blog.
I’ve used the distinction between Micro and Macro, because i’ve been trying to look at how we use stories in the development of learning solutions.
I talk about this often in meetings with strangers. Yesterday i was with a group of three people i don’t know and one person i do. We’re developing a new sales training solution, which will involve building and showing a customer story (macro!), but we started the meeting by sharing our own (micro) stories about how we had travelled.
Susan had come from Ireland, bogged down in snow, delayed, unexpectedly staying overnight and not impressed by her hotel. Aaron and Dan had met up half way and shared a journey, old friends, catching up on the way. I had travelled by train for hours, sharing a story with a stranger on the train about my iPad, and a taxi driver about the weather.
When we got together, we all shared our stories, not in a structured way, but in that way that everyone chips in at a party, or in the pub. Susan and i established a line of conversation about hotels, the dislike of the Travelodge and the relative merits of the Ibis.
On the one hand, it was meaningless chatter, but on the other, we were establishing commonality, building shared experiences, positioning ourselves for the meeting and creating a foundation that we based the rest of the meeting on. When i raised it, half way through, we used it to shape and focus the story that we were building for the learning solution.
My point is this; there is a power in stories, and not just the obvious ones. When we build an e-learning solution, we often introduce characters. Guides and customers, experts and commentators. We need to include the micro stories about their journey. We need to include disposable information, but information that lets the user build a rapport and relationship with them. Sometimes, in the blur of projects, it’s easy to focus too much on what we are training, on the macro, and to put words into their mouthes that just relate to the subject matter, whilst what we should be doing is getting our characters to talk about the weather, the state of the NHS and, when they’ve built a strong foundation for the conversation, the actual subject at hand.