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As instructional designers of custom training material, we’re always tasked with creating learning solutions that are successful. How do we deliver successful learning? Well, you have to start with a proven Course Development Methodology and produce solid, measurable Learning Objectives. And, I think we can all agree that “successful learning” is learning that sticks - students actually remember what they learned! To achieve success, the best way to make learning stick is to make it relatable to the student. Agreed? Well, there’s no better way to accomplish that goal than to tell a good story. At Orgwide, we pride ourselves in our ability to “tell the fascinating stories of inherently dull things.” Let’s face it, as trainers; we are often faced with creating learning solutions on some pretty dry topics. Taking that training material and making it interesting and engaging for our audience is critical to ultimately changing behaviors.

From movies to books to music lyrics and art, every day, we are surrounded by great stories! How many times have you listened to a song on the radio and recalled a fond memory or event? Everything we do can be molded into stories that help us retrieve information from memory. By weaving good storytelling into the work we do as learning solutions specialists, we set the tone and establish context for the information presented in our training. With stories, we’re able to create links, connect ideas, and make the information relevant and relatable.

We’ve studied the best practices of some of the top storytellers, and one of the tried and true methods we follow when designing learning experiences is Kenn Adam's "Story Spine". And it starts with …

  • Once upon a time … a phrase we’re all familiar with (and it doesn’t have to involve far away kingdoms). This is where we establish the setting for the story—we introduce the audience to the characters and the setting or environment.
  • Next is “And every day …” This is what’s happening now … it’s the current state … what the behavior or performance currently looks like.
  • Until one day … This is the catalyst or trigger. Something happens that triggers a change and new information to be learned. It’s the “cause” to the “effect.”
  • And because of that … This begins the “effect” – introducing “consequences” experienced as a result of the catalyst or trigger.
  • And because of that … Again, our story introduces “consequences” if behavior isn’t changed.
  • And because of that … You get the idea … There is a “trickle-down” effect to the new current state… and our audience begins to realize the impact and are motivated to continue and learn more. At this point they may even be cheering on the main characters. They want to see them succeed!
  • “Until finally …” The climax of our story, the moment of truth … what we’ve been working towards all along—the desired result … the behavioral change!
  • “Ever since then…” or the moral of the story and resolution. This brings our story to a logical and comfortable close.

In short, when you combine solid principles of instructional design and tell a good story, you can create a learning experience that changes behavior, improves performance, and achieves goals! And they all learned happily ever after!

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