As human beings, we’re natural storytellers. Outside of the confines of academic and scientific discussion, much of our communication is done in the form of stories. When we talk about our weekends, what happened to us at work today, a great day out we had or a sporting event we attended, we do so as stories.
When a significant event happens in our lives – a child is born, we get married, a friend or relative dies, we get a new job – we don’t tell people about it by just reporting the facts. We tell stories about it; how it happened, how we felt, how people reacted, where we were.
It’s how we make sense of things, and that’s as true of conversations in the workplace as it is of those that take place outside.
In fact, the idea for this post came out of a conversation with some collaborators on a recent project during which we talked about our experience of conferences and similar events. We all agreed that we learned something from presentations about theoretical subjects, learned a bit more from case studies, but gained the most from the conversations with other delegates in the breaks.
We asked ourselves why this might be the case? The conclusion we reached was that the break time conversations are more likely to be in the form of stories. In those stories we share our own experiences, both good and bad, and in doing so we take the theoretical and make it more real. We also agreed that the most memorable presentations we saw were the ones that were story based, or at least had a storytelling element to them.
Stories also provide a form of learning that is safe and risk free. One example we discussed was surgeons, who can learn much about routine operations from typical theory and practice, but often learn about more advanced techniques from the stories told by other surgeons.
Just to prove that you can’t get away from storytelling, the previous three paragraphs are just that; a story about a conversation I had.
Social Media and Storytelling
When we talk about connected learning, we often start by saying that it’s nothing new; that in fact it’s just the application of technology to the things that we’ve always done. We may have replaced the coffee machine conversations with Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. Indeed, we might have moved much of the in person social interaction online, and in doing so opened up those conversations to much wider groups of people. What hasn’t changed is that at the heart of each and every one of those conversations is a story.
What social media does is open up new possibilities for how those stories are developed, shared and adapted. In part two we’ll explore some of those possibilities.
In part two we’ll look at four ways in which we can use social media to enhance our storytelling.