Learning and the Power of a Good Story

© sherrie smith | Dreamstime Stock Photos
© sherrie smith | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I recently finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s new book. Before you stop reading, let me start by saying that this post is not about contributing to either side of the spectrum of reviews of Sheryl Sandberg’s (Facebook COO)  Lean In: Women, Work and the Desire To Lead.  What I did want to share, however,  is my respect for Sandberg’s storytelling skills in supporting her larger message/teaching point (what is holding women back from getting into the C-suite).

The sign of any good autobiographical style book,  is the author’s skill to use meaningful anecdotes, personal stories, and life experiences that hook the reader, connect with them on some level, and keep them reading. It doesn’t really matter what the topic is – if the storytelling is there, even what we might consider the most dull of topics, can be brought to life.

When I started reading Sandberg’s book, it was her anecdotes and personal experiences in the C-suite at companies like Google and Facebook that hooked me in. I mean, who wouldn’t be interested to know what feedback Mark Zuckerberg gave Sandberg at her first performance review? ( ok, I’ll admit, maybe not everyone finds that as intriguing as I do).  I’m not saying that I agreed with everything Sandberg put out there in terms of her theories of why women aren’t in the C-suite, and her supporting research, but she was successful in capturing my attention with her storytelling, which kept me motivated to keep listening.

Storytelling is not a ‘buzzword’. Think about a conversation you had at work recently where a story (experience) was being shared and where you were drawn to listen. Maybe that story motivated you to ask questions (and even to want to learn more).  This is the power of a good story. Weaving storytelling into learning doesn’t have to be complicated or intense, but it does require us to reflect and to do our homework so that we really understand how to connect and what is meaningful to those we want to reach.

Once we’ve crafted our stories, we as learning professionals really have an unlimited number of creative and collaborative ways to share those stories. It’s precisely in this area, where K-12 teachers are leading the charge and where L&D folks could find some inspiration in how to make storytelling simple yet engaging.   Some of the tools I’ve used  include Bitstrips, Voicethread,  GoAnimate, but the options don’t stop there. I’ve included a few sites below that provide great options to get started with storytelling (digital) in learning.

The research on the importance and significance of storytelling in business, leadership, learning, health, and parenting is immense. I’ve shared some resources below (some are blogs, some are articles that require access to the publisher databases)  that I’ve found useful.

If you have a few minutes, please leave me a comment letting me know how storytelling has impacted your learning and/or your learning design.

Storytelling Resources


Kean Univesity has a great page of resources here: http://www.kean.edu/~cnelson/elearning/storytelling.html

Edtechteacher – Storytelling Tools – http://edtechteacher.org/index.php/teaching-technology/presentation-multimedia/digital-storytelling

Research & Reading

Barker, R., & Gower, K. (2010). STRATEGIC APPLICATION OF STORYTELLING IN ORGANIZATIONS: Toward Effective Communication in a Diverse World. Journal Of Business Communication47(3), 295-312. doi:10.1177/0021943610369782

Fawcett, S. E., & Fawcett, A. M. (2011). The ‘Living’ Case: Structuring Storytelling to Increase Student Interest, Interaction, and Learning. Decision Sciences Journal Of Innovative Education9(2), 287-298. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4609.2011.00307.x

Malamed, Connie (2011) Why you need to use storytelling for learning. http://theelearningcoach.com/elearning2-0/why-you-need-to-use-storytelling-for-learning/

Sharda, Nalin (2010).  Using Digital Storytelling for Creative and Innovative e-Learning http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=1773975

Taylor, S. S., Fisher, D., & Dufresne, R. L. (2002). The Aesthetics of Management Storytelling: A Key to Organizational Learning.Management Learning33(3), 313.





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