Why stories / narratives can improve your training?

Throughout history all cultures have used the power of storytelling to instruct, inspire, caution etc. As young children we have sat rapt on our mother’s knee as she shared stories with us.

Because of this familiarity we sometimes overlook the fact that stories / tales or narratives are very powerful and sophisticated means of #learning. (I have had many clients object to the use of the word “stories” and so I have started calling them narratives. )They are unique in that they engage both the left and right hemispheres of our brain i.e. both reason and emotion. Narratives are engaging, effective and memorable. Who does not remember the story of “Little Red Riding Hood”?

When we relook at even very common stories (and some ridicule it as childish or simplistic), we gain massive insights. I conduct an exercise on perception “A twist in the tale” where I ask people to take a common tale and write it from another characters perspective. i.e. Cinderella from the ugly step sisters perspective, the Ramayana from Sita’s perspective. This drives home the point of perception almost magically.

We need to appreciate that underneath the simplicity of a narrative it is a very sophisticated tool, it promotes:

  • Whole brain thinking
  • Reflective, imaginative and productive thinking
  • Encourages learning by patterning (a story template)
  • Learning is enhanced by use of imagery and metaphor
  • Uses emotion to aid memorability
  • By bypassing conscious resistance it encourages the change process
  • Helps bypass habitual thinking patterns by reframing.

When we are listening to a well told story we experience “narrative transport” i.e. we can feel what is happening in the story… As per Csikszentkihalyi (1990), the ideal state for learning to occur is high challenge, low stress and immersed. Just what is our state when engrossed in a story.

I hope by now you believe that narratives are a useful arrow in your quiver as a HR/ L&D/ #Training professional. For those who want to understand the power of narratives deeper, I would recommend “More Tales for Trainers” by Margaret Parkin.

Narratives can be used in many areas in business. However, I am going to focus on how we can use it for learning and training.

As trainers we first share the story. The best story tellers use dramatic flair, bringing the setting and characters alive. We could also ask participants to silently read a narrative. Post the story telling we debrief. The most common format of debriefing that we use is:

  1. What? (What is the message of the story?)
  2. So what? (Does this mean anything to me? Can I relate to it?)
  3. Now what? (What can I do with this insight / additional understanding?)

The more reflective and open ended the questions that you use while debriefing the more varied and creative the responses are.

We will be curating interesting stories / narratives for training workshops on our blog: www.larkslearning.com/blog , you might find them valuable. Please share the stories you use along with the key message you use it to drive.

Contributed by: Lovely Kumar, Chief-Projects, Larks Learning

For customized training workshops and psychometric assessments please contact at 91-9899108659 or lovely@larkslearning.com