You, the elearning storyteller

Dear Jane,

I am going to be blunt: No, we don’t need a storytelling workshop. No, I don’t think we need to review our solution portfolio to include storytelling.

It’s not that I don’t believe in storytelling. I get it. But frankly, I think we are all well beyond the basics of writing a story. In fact, I believe we are accomplished storytellers.

But wwoman-reading-a-booke are not that good at reminding ourselves of the things we do well. Or perhaps the hype that surrounds some topics drags us into self-doubt. In hindsight, making so much fuss about that Forbes article a couple of years back was a mistake – it turned us blind to our own storytelling abilities.

So it’s almost insulting, yet vital that I remind you of your own portfolio. No, not the work you do today: I’m talking about the elearning work you were doing back in 2012, before you read that article. Here’s what you will find:

Case studies

Remember those compliance courses where you used case studies with narrative? Rather than explaining how to be compliant, you showed actual cases of good and bad compliance behaviors and results. Then, you let learners explore what makes them compliant. That, Jane, is storytelling. Yes, that was back in 2012.

Personal accounts

In solutions ranging from onboarding to change management I see good elearning examples where you used senior and executive videos capturing values, humbling and inspiring experiences. Candid stories told in the first person. That was pre-2012 storytelling too.

Vicarious learning

Although some people may not see it that way, I believe that learning by watching others learn is also telling a story. Their mistakes, their wins, all captured in a reality show of sorts where personal experiences as they discover new skills become the narrative. More stories, your stories.

Past events

One of your favorites: in your brainstorming and idea generation workshop, you explain how 3M’s Post-It notes were invented. You use a story, the story of Arthur Fry.


So turning to your Health and Safety portfolio, how could you forget the hassle of finding “actors” for the manufacturing plant accidents, or even better, getting permission to cause the “accidents” in front of a camera? To us, those videos were artefacts in an accident prevention strategy. For the learners… they were stories.

All these stories are the result of planting the right foundations: using personas and scenarios. Personas help us connect with learners as we work through the elearning design, and they make storytelling much easier, authentic.

I hope it makes sense now when I say you don’t need a storytelling workshop. In fact, you are in a position to deliver one. After all you, Jane, are an accomplished elearning storyteller. So please, please stop reading posts about storytelling. You should be writing one.

Thanks Jane. See you on Monday đŸ™‚

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