Telling Stories

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Why are we shying away from one of the most powerful learning tools in the learning designer’s arsenal? – the ability to tell stories. The use of narrative form stretches back into time as a powerful tool for pedagogy, and we now know it works well into adulthood. Ancient man swapped stories around a fire, that was ‘learning’ for them. Modern times have done little to take away the fascination with stories, a look at the bestsellers list makes that quite obvious.

So why aren’t we telling more stories to assist in learning? The truth is, we are, but it’s not something that you are likely to find formalized in workplace learning. So where are the stories? They are being told in books, on TV shows, on blogs, on YouTube and in varied forms, they are probably being swapped in your workplace too. In offhand conversations, water cooler gatherings and at lunch. You can find stories everywhere, they form one of the backbones of how humans share experiences. Humans telling stories embed information in them, and when someone listens to stories, the brain searches for a deeper meaning beyond what the words are saying. Stories are unique in how they use language; story writers use words with visual, auditory, olfactory, and kinesthetic associations, to evoke feelings in readers.

Here is an interesting article about learning using stories. What really caught my eye was this sentence – “Stories do not come out of nowhere, nor do they simply represent an experience or an event as it actually happened. Rather they are always a representation of that, and as such are a very rich means for accessing inner truths – those ideas, beliefs, and commitments that an individual holds dear.”

I have a suggestion for the business leaders out there, tell stories, encourage the telling of stories. Stories allow the creation of a culture, an attitude amongst co-workers, they eventually become part of the ‘mythology’ of the company. Great companies seem to have engaging, interesting stories told about them, both inside and out.

Some fellow team-members pointed this out to me – http://inform7.com. Looks like something we could use for learning. Tell stories using it.

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