A good story captivates an audience emotionally. A great story introduces an audience to a new idea – and encourages them to evaluate it independently. Storytelling helps an audience paint a clear picture of a situation.
So, how can we use the power of storytelling in learning and development?
Nick Hindley, Associate Director of Performance Improvement and Innovation at PPD, a contract research organization, says, “People won’t change if they aren’t emotionally engaged. Learning is change – so an emotional connection is critical.”
In learning and development, storytelling is an effective method of teaching something new and sometimes foreign, allowing people to connect emotionally and come into a new concept without the fear of castigation. Not to mention storytelling can add a layer of credibility (and sometimes humor when needed).
Here’s how you can tell a narrative that encourages action:
Step 1: Identify the ordinary and the call to adventure. The ordinary gives context and the call to adventure ignites the storyline. Take the classic film Jurassic Park, for example, the ordinary is when we first meet Dr. Grant, who is amid an archeological dig, and the call to adventure is when John Hammond invites him to the island.
As it pertains to learning and development, this is your opportunity to set the scene for how introducing a new concept may impact your students’ career. If they can envision themselves in your storyline, it will be more powerful.
Pro tip: Data can bolster a story, so use it (but sparingly and only when it’s particularly meaningful).
Step 2: Initiate the conflict. This is where the adventure starts the story in motion. In Jurassic Park, the initiation comes when Dennis cuts the power, ensuring the dinosaurs are let loose in the park. This initiation is what sets the major test, allies and enemies into motion.
You may question the reason to enter the conflict in the classroom. But if you set your student up with a problem, they can’t solve with their current skill set, that’s how learning and development can come to the rescue. They must see why it’s important they learn what you’re teaching.
Step 3: Enter the resolution. This step has three distinct parts:
- Reward: The knowledge and experience lead to a better understanding of the initial conflict and the ability to solve it.
- Roadblock: This is where the subject realizes that an old way is no longer a viable option.
- Elixir: The gained insights and lessons learned to lead to avoiding any potential problems as they arise in the future.
In our Jurassic Park example, the resolution is the power coming back on and the group reuniting. The ultimate elixir is that humans should not interfere with nature the way Hammond did.
For learning and development, your training session is the resolution. Be confident that your students will gain so much value out of it that ultimately take their career to the next level.
Your students should be clear about what they need to be successful. And they should understand how to realize that success. The key is to ask them to think about the goal and work backwards to ensure the desired outcome (and your training session is part of that plan).
A story can end one of two ways – the happy ending or the heartbreak story. Both can be used to prove a point; however, the key in both instances is to pull from relevant case studies. So, use these stories to inspire your students to become better employees – and help them get there.