Storytelling & The Learning Experience

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  • Overall timing: 30 min; This slide: 2 min“Two little mice fell into a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned, but the second mouse, he struggled so hard that he eventually churned that cream into butter and he walked out. Amen.”Anyone know where that story is from? Anyone know what the point is? Inspiration. Where one person gives up and "drowns" under the pressures of adversity, a stronger person takes that bad situation and really makes something out of it. In this case, butter, but you get the point.Hi everybody and thanks for taking time today to hear me discuss with you one big takeaway from TK11 that I had. The focus of this quick teachback is on storytelling. Hopefully this will enable you to, at the very least, think about how you can incorporate stories in what you create going forward. We’ll talk a little about the history of storytelling, how to approach storytelling when designing content and whether or not you’re actually a storyteller to begin with.Alright so let’s get to it.Click the Next button to continue.
  • Timing: 2 minAlright. By the end of this module, you’ll be able to:^Identify stories and storytelling among us. This includes a brief history of storytelling. Really, when I say “history of storytelling” here, for the most part I mean that of storytelling in the corporate world.^Differentiate conversation and storytelling. Is there really a difference? We’ll find out.^Construct stories in a minimalist fashion. We’ll go over a few examples of stories that have stuck with me personally over the years, and why subscribing to the KISS theory when putting your story in writing is imperative.^Evaluate your abilities as a storyteller. Do you think you’re a storyteller? Again, we’ll find out.Click the Next button to continue.
  • Timing: 3 minLet’s start off with a little interaction.^ Who doesn’t know who Christopher Columbus is? Ok good, just checking. Who can tell me the short story, or limerick or rhyme if you will, regarding Christopher Columbus? Nice. The neat thing is that here we are, alive and well in the 21st century. We didn’t live in the 1400’s (and that’s as far as I’ll take that comment), we didn’t personally know Columbus and most of us probably didn’t take a class on Christopher Columbus specifically – and yet, most folks can tell you when he sailed that ocean blue.Great. How about this?^ What story comes to mind when you think about someone asking for help repeatedly, perhaps when they don’t really need it? The boy who cried wolf. Right. Does anyone know “The bald man and the fly”?^ Here’s how it goes: “There was once a bald man who sat down after work on a hot summer's day. A fly came up and kept buzzing about his bald head, and stinging him from time to time. The man aimed a blow at his little enemy, but smacked himself instead; again the fly tormented him, but this time the man was wiser and said: You’ll only injure yourself if you take notice of despicable enemies. The point? Consider the source. For example, do you really want to take to heart the opinion of someone whom you don’t really care for in the first place? Again, why do we remember such simple fables such as these? What is it about them that makes them “stick”. Did you know a boy who faked pleas for help only to later actually have his flocks threatened by a wolf, cry for help and not get any? Hopefully not. Sure, repetition is key, and if we could count, we probably would have heard these stories hundreds of times over the course of our lives. That’s because stories engage the imagination, stories trigger emotions and senses, stories are conversational and they stimulate others to tell their stories, stories grab attention, stories illustrate points that are more convincing than simply “telling” facts, and stories are memorable.The three stories we just discussed weren’t created just to sound cute or fun. They were created to sound cute and fun AND help us remember a notable date in history, help us remember a strong moral lesson and help us handle adversity in a profound yet obvious way.Click the Next button to continue.
  • Timing: 3 minHere comes the science.^ In terms of teaching, for the most part it’s been accepted that there’s a clear separation between mind and body. There’s also this notion that knowledge, as it were, is a substance. A physical substance, and teaching professionals seem to treat knowledge as a substance, and I think that’s ok. Often, the thinking regarding training, or corporate training more specifically by and large, is: how do you find a way to efficiently “pour” knowledge into a learner’s head with the understanding that there’s already something in that learner’s head? So that’s the question, in weird layman’s terms... how do you pour a substance into this receptacle while keeping in mind there’s already stuff in it. At the same time, this receptacle isn’t bottomless, so there’s a good possibility for overflow to occur. In a nutshell, that’s the challenge. I know that I personally, can get better using stories to enable faster comprehension and better retention in the content I create. I think we understand better through participation, and stories provide a good springboard for that participation. Consider the old saying “I think, therefore I am”. With storytelling, participation and conversation “We participate, and therefore we are.”    Click the Next button to continue.
  • Timing: 3 minThe more I think about stories in general, the more I happen to believe that a good bit of learning,^ even in the office during the typical classroom timeframe, happens outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, you get information (hopefully not just a data-dump). Outside the classroom, you can start to socially build-out your own understanding. This is especially true regarding Y-ins, side-by-sides or ride-alongs. Anyone who’s done a new hire class knows that learners come back to the classroom, even if it’s the next day, and have stories to tell about what they heard or saw on the job. I’ve yet to encounter a learner in the classroom that didn’t have at least one story to tell. These stories resonate with them, and the other learners in the classroom. Why? What does this really mean? Personally, without necessarily creating a thesis, I feel it confirms that virtually everything we know today, we actually learned from and with others – not from books, powerpoints, websites or job aids alone. Click the Next button to continue.
  • Timing: 3 min^Einstein once said: “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.” I think this is a great approach to take insofar as storytelling. You might be surprised to learn that when put into simple, engaging narratives, you’re looking at a retention rate^ between 65-70%, compared to that of 10% when slides alone are used. This does NOT mean that the bulk of the training content should be “simple”, per se, because there may be occasions when a deep, granular, extensive module is required. But keep stories in mind – perhaps they will make those big pills easier to swallow.^You only have so much “real estate” in the learner’s head to begin with. This real estate can be viewed as a threshold of sorts. A threshold that is different for each learner. I’ve facilitated classes before, as have all of you. Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve crossed that threshold? That the heads are full and that substance, or information, is going in one ear and out the other? You’ve crossed the too much information line (or the TMI line for acronym lovers). The beauty of this threshold, though, is that you can’t permanently cross it. That is to say, the next day in class, the learners have had time to decompress overnight or over the weekend. They’ve had time to dump some of that stuff out. You wish all of it stuck, but you know it didn’t, so you just hope some of it stuck.Here’s a couple of simple stories I’ve heard that take the minimalist approach.A tenured sales agent, 3 months ago, shared with me how he builds value for SEO (search engine optimization) with a customer. This story takes place prior to his becoming a sales agent, and before he even knew what SEO was. ^He says: “I was sitting at a traffic light one day. In front of me there was a truck with Joe’s Plumbing on the back. I thought nothing of it – until of course I needed a plumber. I Googled “plumbers” in my area and Joe’s plumbing came up. I knew I had seen them somewhere before, and then it donned on me – the truck! I called Joe’s and the problem was fixed the next day.” Taking into consideration his personal experience, this agent had a simple, but effective story to tell on the value in having an SEO subscription. A story that hits home, and one that I remember 3 months later.Here’s another. No less than 6 months ago a co-workerwas speaking to one of my new hire classes. He didn’t want the sales agents to underestimate customers and how much money they truly had to spend. ^He said: “I was on the phones talking with a customer, I had built as much value around SEO as humanly possible, but the customer wouldn’t budge. She thought that the price was too high, for a good 45 minutes at least. I should mention to you now that throughout this entire call, I would sporadically hear a sound. Sounded kind of like a fluttering or sorts, and I couldn’t put a finger on it as to what it was. I finally asked him what that sound was. She said ‘a money counter’. I said ‘Judy, you know that piece of plastic in your back pocket? Go ahead and read those numbers to me.’ And she bought the SEO subscription.” Now whether or not you agree with his strategy here, you can’t ignore the stickiness of this story. It’s short, kind of humorous and it gets the point across, that being, don’t underestimate or assume a customer can’t afford or hasn’t budgeted for the solution you’re trying to sell.In terms of creating a minimalist story, first off it’s easy to get carried away and really overdo it all. The more detail you provide, the less likely the learner is to notice and takeaway the root point of the story. Too much detail can cause the original message to be distorted, people can get mixed messages, and folks will just flat out get confused – and all of this would be the exact opposite of what was envisioned at the outset. Minimalist, basic stories are simply another tool in your tool belt for driving points home efficiently.Click the Next button to continue.
  • Timing: 2 minSo, are you a storyteller? [ask everyone].You may not realize this, ^but we spend most of our lives telling stories. Stories that are funny, sad, unbelievable and stories with happy endings just to name a few. It’s something we do, day in and day out. You may not even realize many of the stories you tell. Many scientists believe that storytelling is hard-wired into our brains. Science shows that sometime during elementary school, we start having abstract language “poured” into our heads by schoolteachers and the education system. Abstract language doesn’t occur naturally in children, and as such, it’s something that has to be systematically taught. And most of us learned it, almost like a foreign language. Some of us get really good at this abstract, formalized language thing, but whenever we get a chance, when we are relaxing with our friends outside of school or work, ^we fall back into our native language of narratives and storytelling. We’re more at home in our native language of storytelling, we can relax in it. We find ourselves refreshed when we exchange stories. It’s energizing, unlike the foreign abstract language which most of us find tiring. It’s the language of choice that we feel comfortable in.^There’s plenty of resources available that might help you hone your skills as a storyteller, but remember, it all takes practice and time. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Speaking of practice…Click the Next button to continue.
  • Timing: 5-10 min… let’s practice!Now it’s time to put pen to paper, finger to key, etc. ^You will now spend the next 5-10 minutes creating a story, limerick, fable or short narrative of some sort designed to help encourage retention with the rest of the group. Each of you will most likely approach the creation of your story differently, and that’s ok. Some of you may already have a story you know that is unique to you, and some of you might create one from scratch. ^Consider the short stories we heard here today – these are stories that aren’t JUST silly or cute – these are stories that help us remember specific information, moral lessons, different points of view, etc. ^Consider choosing an issue near and dear to your heart, identify a pivotal point, objective or takeaway and develop a short story around it.Any questions? Go!Click the Next button to continue.
  • Timing: 2 minFantastic. You should now be able to:^Identify stories and storytelling among us. Once again, storytelling is all around us and most likely isn’t going anywhere any time soon. However for some, including myself, using storytelling to convey a message in training content I create has escaped me for the most part to this point.Differentiate conversation and storytelling. We discovered that semantically there is a difference of course, but fundamentally free conversation and storytelling are very similar, just delivered differently.Construct stories in a minimalist fashion. We’ve talked about how important it is to keep our stories (if the topic at hand is conducive to such) as short and direct as possible, and that this aids retention when properly written. It’s easy to see how an overly detailed story clouds the water and makes the root point and takeaway much more difficult to actually takeaway.Evaluate your abilities as a storyteller. In our activity we all created a story of some kind. You may have been satisfied with yours, maybe not. We all know that if given the appropriate amount of time, we’re able to really channel our creativity and produce something we’re satisfied with. Today you only had 5-10 minutes to come up with a topic, and write a story around it.The End.Click the Next button to continue.
  • Storytelling & The Learning Experience

    1. 1. Storytelling & The Learning Experience Steven L. Haney
    2. 2. Objectives By the end of this module, you will be able to: • • • • Identify stories and storytelling among us Differentiate conversation and storytelling Construct stories in a minimalist fashion Evaluate your abilities as a storyteller
    3. 3. Stories & Storytelling Among Us • • • Columbus? – In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue Not asking for help unless you really need it? – The boy who cried wolf The bald man and the fly – You will only injure yourself if you take notice of despicable enemies
    4. 4. Stories & Storytelling Among Us • How do you pour a substance into this receptacle while knowing there’s already stuff in it? • Here at [your company], some of us already tell stories. They’re right under our noses.
    5. 5. Conversation & Storytelling • A lot of learning takes place outside the classroom, stories bring those learnings in • Positive and negative sales/customer service experiences we share
    6. 6. The Minimalist Approach • “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.” - Einstein • Simple narratives = increased retention* • Less can be more 80 60 40 Data Dumping 20 Present w/ Stories 0 Retention % *London Business School
    7. 7. Storytelling & You • We’ve already spent most of our lives storytelling, we’re hard-wired • We always fall back into our native language of narratives and storytelling • Not to worry if you don’t feel you’re a great storyteller now, Rome wasn’t built in a day
    8. 8. Storytelling & You - Activity • Spend 5-10 minutes creating a simple story, limerick, fable or short narrative designed to help encourage retention • Stories that help us recall specific information, moral lessons, etc. • Consider an issue close to you, identify a pivotal point, objective or takeaway and develop a story around it
    9. 9. Summary You should now be able to: • • • • Identify stories and storytelling among us Differentiate conversation and storytelling Construct stories in a minimalist fashion Evaluate your abilities as a storyteller

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