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Storytelling for Engineers
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Storytelling for Engineers

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Storytelling is a skill that I wish I had learned in school. This presentation was given on 9/8/12 at the University of Houston's "Maximizing Your Power Weekend," which is the Cullen College of ...

Storytelling is a skill that I wish I had learned in school. This presentation was given on 9/8/12 at the University of Houston's "Maximizing Your Power Weekend," which is the Cullen College of Engineering's "annual fall semester Welcome and Orientation event for” the Program for Mastery in Engineering Studies (PROMES).

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Storytelling for Engineers Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Storytelling for EngineersSteve MylesHewlett-Packard Company8 September 2012© Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
  • 2. OverviewSpeaker BioSomething I Wish I’d Learned in School: StorytellingHow to Tell a StoryBenefits of StorytellingQ&ARaffle2 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
  • 3. Steve MylesHP ExperienceLead Technical Analyst (Decision Support and Optimization)(2011 – present)Operations Research Analyst (2004 – 2011)Other ExperienceMaterials Management Coop (Ethicon Inc., 2000)Education*MBA (UT Dallas 2012)BSIE and MSIE (Texas Tech 2002, 2004) http://about.me/stevemylesCertification3 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.Engineer in Training – Texas *I didn’t go to UH, but my wife did.
  • 4. Something I Wish I’d Learned inSchool: Storytelling© Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
  • 5. Something I Wish I’d Learned in School: StorytellingThere is more to life than circuits, thermodynamics, and linear programmingWhy do engineers need to tell a story?Stories provide summaries of the pertinent details• They give an audience “the basic facts; it doesn’t need to read like Hemingway” (Perry)• This can be very useful in a business settingAudiences may be non-engineers*• Business (and life!) puts engineers in contact with all types of people – They may not have the background to understand technical details – They may have a wide range of responsibilities – They may only be interested in the bottom line• A basic understanding of organizational psychology and sociology is useful for relating to people *In this context, “non-engineers” refers to anyone not working as a front-line engineer5 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
  • 6. Something I Wish I’d Learned in School: StorytellingThere is more to life than circuits, thermodynamics, and linear programmingWhy do engineers need to tell a story?Engineering education focuses on scientific thought and solving formulated problems• Not all people can relate to information presented as facts and numbers• Facts and figures may not be sufficient to explain a product or process• “No one cares about your facts and figures as much as you do.” (Ruger)Abstract thought is key to innovation (Ben-Heim) and formulating problems6 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
  • 7. “A story takes all the senselessdata that the world provides andturns it into somethingmeaningful.”Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars(qtd. in Parks)© Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
  • 8. How to Tell a Story© Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
  • 9. The Five Ws (Plus One H)An invaluable lesson from elementary schoolWho? Where?Who does the story affect? Where will it happen?Who needs to know? Where else could it happen?What? Why?What is the bottom line? Why will it happen?What actions are needed? Why does the audience need to know?When? How?When will it happen? How will this happen?When will it happen again? How many/How much?9 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
  • 10. The Five Ws (Plus One H)Who?“Characters”Who is the story about? Who is affected?• Yourself• Coworkers• Boss (or boss’s boss, etc.)• Customers/Suppliers• Etc.AudienceWho needs to know?• Frame the story for the audience• Avoid technical jargon with non-technical audiences10 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Photo credit: Mary Paulose
  • 11. The Five Ws (Plus One H)What?The Bottom LineWhat is the problem to be solved or the information to be conveyed?• Summarize when possible (get to the point)• Keep details to a minimum – Be ready and able to discuss details if askedActionsWhat do you want the audience to do?• Is this a status update or a request for action?Relates to “who”• Who needs to take action?11 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon
  • 12. The Five Ws (Plus One H)When?When will this happen?Timeliness is keyIf asking for action, the audience and the “characters” need time to react• Take into account: – Project due dates – Budget cycles – Resource constraints – Seasonal demand patterns – Etc.• Will the actions need to be repeated?Note: you may need to reconcile your timeline with that of youraudience12 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Photo credit: Brenda Anderson
  • 13. The Five Ws (Plus One H)Where?Where will this happen?If your organization has multiple locations or departments, specify the relevant one(s)• This can implicitly answer some of the other questions: – “Who” could be the employees at a given location – “What” could be a project that is focused on one department – “Why” could be a need of a single location or department13 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Photo credit: Anonymous Account
  • 14. The Five Ws (Plus One H)Why?Why will this happen?For example:• Why is the project necessary?• Why is this a good use of resources (i.e., what value will the project add)?Why does the audience need this information?Everyone’s time is valuable; don’t waste it!• A rule of thumb is to spend “ten minutes preparing for every minute you expect to meet” with a manager (Maxwell 127)14 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Photo credit: Bart Everson
  • 15. The Five Ws (Plus One H)How?How will this happen?What techniques will be used to solve the problem?• Minimize technical jargon (depending on the audience)How many/How much?How many will be produced?What resources are necessary?• Time• Money• Personnel• Equipment• Other resources15 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Photo credit: somjuan
  • 16. Visual StorytellingA picture is worth a thousand wordsRules for visual storytelling:1. Include basic factual details as necessary• For example, title and/or caption images2. Any assumption a viewer could reasonably make must be true3. Use more than one image4. Know the story before you start and connect all parts of the story• At least know the destination before you start the journey5. Edit ruthlessly6. Ensure that the visual story makes sense if it stands alone• For example, a viewer should be able to interpret a graph without accompanying narration7. Show new things and/or show familiar things in unfamiliar ways16 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Adapted from “10 Rules for Visual Storytelling” by Mindy McAdams
  • 17. Visual StorytellingBut how to show that picture?A (non-comprehensive) list of visual storytelling toolsTraditional tools• MS Office (Excel, Powerpoint, etc.)• OpenOfficeData visualization tools• QlikView• Spotfire• TableauDesign tools• Autodesk/AutoCAD• TurboCADEtc.17 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. All logos and trademarks are property of their respective owners
  • 18. Visual StorytellingExample18 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Data visualization by Craig Butt
  • 19. Benefits of Storytelling© Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
  • 20. Benefits of StorytellingHelping ensure that the audience understandsStories alleviate uncertainty and doubtThey help people cope with change• Change can be uncomfortableThey can help audiences understand the need for compromiseStories simplify complex issuesThey persuade when facts are not enough• “No one cares about your facts and figures as much as you do.”They help the audience reach the desired conclusion by evoking strong imagery20 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Based on “Storytelling In Business: How Can It Benefit You?” by Kelsey Ruger
  • 21. “Telling stories is an incrediblyeffective way of gettinginformation across and makingsure it sticks.”Robert Kosara, Associate Professor of ComputerScience at UNC-Charlotte© Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.
  • 22. © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Photo credit: Steve Myles
  • 23. © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Photo credit: Horia Varlan
  • 24. Works CitedBen-Heim, Yakov. “Why the Best Engineers Should Study Humanities.” International Journal for Mechanical Engineering Education . 28 (2000): 195-200. Web. 4 Sep 2012.Butt, Craig. “The Total Medal Count.” Tableau Public Viz of the Day. Tableau Software. 13 Aug 2012. Web. 5 Sep 2012.Kosara, Robert. “Storytelling with Data.” Tableau Software Blog. Tableau Software. 14 Aug 2012. Web. 5 Sep 2012.Maxwell, John C. The 360° Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization. Nashville: Nelson Business, 2005.McAdams, Mindy. “10 Rules for Visual Storytelling.” Teaching Online Journalism. 6 Sep 2011. Web. 5 Sep 2012.Parks, Bob. “Death to Powerpoint!” Bloomberg Businessweek: Lifestyle 30 Aug 2012. Web. 31 Aug 2012.Perry, John. “How to Be a Better Procrastinator” Wall Street Journal 10 Aug 2012. Web. 31 Aug 2012.Ruger, Kelsey. “Storytelling in Business: How Can It Benefit You?” TheMoleSkin. 3 Mar 2010. Web. 5 Sep 2012.24 © Copyright 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice.