The Importance of People’s Stories

While on a conference call today where people were going around and introducing themselves, I was reminded of how important people’s stories are. So much so that you ignore people’s stories at your risk. When helping people with adopting learning technology it is easy to forget this. We think we’ve heard all the stories and we just want to get on with implementation.

The thing is that stories contain the “why we are at this point” context that is so critical for people to express so that they can move on.  The “why context” had always been the purview of philosophy. Since our culture does not value philosophy there is no language convention for talking about the “why” of things. Therefore we use stories as the proxy.
Learning folk who are trying to adopt new technology are especially anxious to have their story heard because the “why context” for where they are is often very complicated. It becomes an existential imperative. “I need you to know why I do what I do.”  In corporations, the learning function has been marginalized to the point that learning folk clamor to hold on to their value proposition. This makes adoption of new technology very threatening. By the time they finally are forced to adopt technology and all it’s implications these people feel that they must justify the path they took.  This is why they must be able to tell their stories.
As a learning technology strategist, you must set aside your impatience and really listen to their stories. Embedded in the narrative is the message of hope that they are holding onto. It is that hope that you can use to build a partnership for the success of your project.
Anyone who feels that you have really listened to them automatically becomes your champion.

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