DESIGN THINKER PODCAST

Ep#22: The Tale of Grandma Sue and Other Stories We Share with Each Other

January 17, 2024 Dr. Dani Chesson and Designer Peter Allan Episode 22
DESIGN THINKER PODCAST
Ep#22: The Tale of Grandma Sue and Other Stories We Share with Each Other
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Storytelling is everywhere. It shapes the culture of our families, social groups, and organizations. In part two of our series on storytelling, Dr Dani and Designer Peter explore how stories can motivate action in organizations. 

In this episode, you will 
• hear about how the stories we share shape culture 
• understand how stories inspire action 
• learn about different storytelling frameworks 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Design Thinker podcast, where we explore the theory and practice of design, hosted by me, donnie, and.

Speaker 2:

Me Peter.

Speaker 1:

Hello everyone and welcome to part two of our series on storytelling. In this episode we talk about storytelling in organizations. Let's dive into the conversation. Hey Peter.

Speaker 2:

Hi, donnie, how are you Good? Today we're going to talk about storytelling and storytelling and stories, especially in relation to human-centered design, design thinking, of course, and then we thought we'd get more focused and talk about storytelling and organization.

Speaker 1:

So In our previous episode, we talked about the stories we tell ourselves.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

So now we're talking about the stories that we tell in organizations.

Speaker 2:

And I think sometimes those can be similar but sometimes serve a similar purpose, but sometimes it can be you know slightly different stories and definitely serve a different purpose.

Speaker 1:

All right. So what are we starting with?

Speaker 2:

We usually start with a definition, don't we?

Speaker 1:

We do. I don't have it.

Speaker 2:

Go on, you're going to look up the dictionary. Boop boop, boop boop.

Speaker 1:

So, according to Google, storytelling the activity of telling or writing stories. Relating to the telling or writing of stories. Oh, here's a more nuanced one Storytelling is the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with the impromptu, improvisation, theatrics or embellishment. I also love this. So it goes on to say every culture has its own stories or narratives which are shared as means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation or instilling moral values. Oh, wow, I think that last bit is really important, because we do that in organizations, right? So if you think about an organization as a culture, in every organization there are stories. When we enter the organization, we hear stories. Actually, even before we enter the organization, we hear about them, which are stories and then, when we become part of an organization, we learn those stories and then we become tellers of those stories.

Speaker 2:

I don't think we're going to go into myths and legends today. Maybe we will, but some of those you hear stories about, well, you remind me. Actually, before I joined one organization, I heard stories about these amazing Christmas parties that they used to the spoiler story that they threw. They were kind of infamous and had the infamous elements to the Christmas stories and everybody talked about them, from the people that got me interested in working for the organization to the people involved in the recruitment process. So there's this big kind of story around those parties and they were kind of signifier of the culture.

Speaker 2:

It was only after I joined that people started to, I guess, reveal to me that, or I realized that that was a past story, it was actually history. The Christmas parties weren't quite as infamous. They had to be toned down because they were slightly out of control. So that was slightly disappointed but also understood. I was also very sure that whenever I spoke to anybody you might be joining the organization to let them know that the Christmas party stories were great stories, but they were definitely a representation of what used to happen, what currently happens. So don't join the organization purely on the basis of thinking you're going to have some wild party once a year.

Speaker 1:

I think that's a great example of sometimes storytelling helps keep legacy going.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, nice.

Speaker 1:

And we do that as humans, right Like even if you think about your family context. When you get together as a family, there's always a story about great grandpa Bob who did something that and at this point it's so many generations removed we don't even know if it's a true story anymore, but we tell the story.

Speaker 2:

We tell the story. So why do you think we tell those stories? Why is it about those stories that kind of makes us retell them or share them?

Speaker 1:

Because human storytelling is so much a part of our being. I think, whether it's a family context or a work context, part of what storytelling does is it helps us remember that we're part of something bigger. It's also how we. I think the storytelling process helps share who we are, where we've come from or what is. I can't figure out a different way to say this but what is our story? It's something that will really encourage us.

Speaker 1:

If you think about it, when you meet somebody new, you're curious, right. What's their story? What's their deal? What do they come from? What do they do? What are their interests? What are their motivations? Are they just things that our brains naturally want to know about?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, where are you from? Or imagining, wondering. Yeah, like you said, we want to know who they are. We want to probably deep down, establish really early on is this a friend or a foe? Is it somebody we can trust? Is it somebody we have something in common with or is it somebody we have nothing in common with? But perhaps we can learn from all of that stuff when we come back to them. I'm interested in what stories kind of do to our brain and why. You know, what is it about the wiring of our brain that makes two things stories so appealing? And also, what is it that we can learn from that to make our stories appealing when we're telling them, not just when we're listening to them, reading them, experiencing them?

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah, this is such a I love that. I love how you're going with this. The brain is my favorite organ. There's research that shows so. When we tell stories or we listen to stories, there is an actual chemical reaction that happens. We know that when we tell and share stories, we create bonding relationships with people. Like our brains release chemicals. I think we've talked here about the feel good hormones. So the feel good hormones dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin.

Speaker 2:

Oxytocin, yeah, so I'll try not to say oxycontin, because that's oxytocin.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I don't think either one of us are qualified to talk about oxytocin.

Speaker 2:

Moving on, so dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin.

Speaker 1:

No yeah, dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. Oxytocin we know from research that when we engage in storytelling, our brains sorry, not only when we engage in storytelling, but even when we're listening to stories it releases these hormones. When we hear stories about somebody, it kind of endears us to them, it helps us bond with them. From a human perspective, who we are, we use stories as ways of connecting with people, as ways of building relationships. That's why we do it. The fact that there is such a there's a physical brain reaction, a chemical brain reaction to storytelling also shows, like, how much it's part of our experience as humans.

Speaker 1:

The other kind of line of thinking that I often think about is stories are also a big part of how we learn about the world. So if you think about, our first experiences of stories is really when we're little children, right, like one of the first things that we experienced are our little storybooks. And also, if you think about that, like in a cultural context, there are a set of storybooks that everybody sort of reads Like I remember in my childhood Dr Seuss books were really big. We all read them, we all know about them and it kind of gets to be this thing that gets passed around and, I'm sure, in other cultures, while I'm not familiar with them. I'm sure every culture or even country has a set of books that are a set of stories that are just commonly shared with children. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

And maybe not necessarily written down stories either. It could be oral stories that are simply passed on with a word of mouth. Yeah, that's really interesting. You hear these kind of cultural anchor points or touchstones that most people have got in common and yeah, wow, Okay, this is. This conversation is expanding a lot more than I expected it to. I love that idea about stories that they're the way we learn about the world, the fundamental part of our experience of being human. I guess that comes from having language and I guess you know listening to stories or even reading stories. So you know, when we're sitting down reading a good book, then you've got dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and orphans going through our brains during that kind of reading experience and I love that.

Speaker 2:

The thing you mentioned about it kind of helps us remember that we're part of something bigger and then something else picking up that we actually go through a bonding experience with somebody if they're telling us a story or we become endeared with that person as we're reading a story about them. Yeah, a lot of this makes sense in the context of storytelling in an organisation and, specifically, storytelling as part of our design process. We're about sorry, in our structure, danny, in our conversation structure at least trying to take to what kind of is a good definition?

Speaker 1:

So we've got a definition, we've talked about why. Yeah, I wonder if we need to talk a little bit about why storytelling is important, specifically in the context of design thinking. And then we move to how.

Speaker 2:

Yeah or yes, maybe even if we, it can be beyond the context of just design thinking why storytelling is important and in organisations, and maybe specifically in organisations like how can it? Well, maybe corporates or organisations where the focus is tended to be and, let's say, on reports or and spreadsheets or you know basically non storytelling ways of conveying information, because you know all of the. You know a story, a report, a spreadsheet, a and a story. They're all different ways of conveying information, aren't they? And the different ways that might have emphasis on different parts of information.

Speaker 2:

I suppose storytelling is important in the organisation and because of the reasons you've just described, like when we I'm not sure about the neuroscience of Excel, spreadsheets or reports, because often they don't include reference to people. But yeah, for me the story is the way to remind everybody in the organisation what they're, what the purpose is. You know, either the organisation as a whole or the specific endeavor that we're kind of focusing on, and it bring it into our design work. Then it's really what one of the reasons we want to do is to really dial up the empathy, like talk about the piece of work that we're doing and helping everyone understands why we're doing it from well, a human-centred point of view, so that who is the person, the group of people that we're designing for, and why should we care about them? I think is one one good reason to incorporate storytelling into our, into our work so a couple of things that came up for me when you talked about that.

Speaker 1:

I think storytelling absolutely agree. Like when we use stories, it helps us remember why, why are we doing this, what's the point it? And I think it also reminds us that our work is always in service of somebody, right, like, no matter what your job is, your job is in service of somebody else. That helps.

Speaker 1:

That keeps us centered on the purpose of our work and we also know from other research that purpose people want to have, a purpose for waking up in the morning. For why am I working so hard? Yeah, why am I. You know, why do I thrust myself out of bed at whatever time, fight traffic to go somewhere, to sit at a desk, to do like why am I doing this? And having a strong purpose is a is a big motivator for productivity, for outcomes, for all kinds of things. Stories are fundamental to that. I also have a little bit of a different view when it comes to numbers and stories like.

Speaker 1:

So before I learned about qualitative research, which I know it's a lot I was actually a quantitative researcher and my fascination with with data, with quantitative data, which is very numbers heavy, it's always that I felt like there's a story in the numbers numbers are trying to tell us a story and our job is to really look at that and pull out the story it's telling us.

Speaker 1:

Even in the numbers there is a story. So that was my second thought, and then I also think that stories is also what makes our work interesting. When we hear about how something we've done impacts a customer and makes a customer's life better, there's a feel-good response to that yes, and probably involving some of the green game.

Speaker 2:

Of course. You mentioned earlier nice. I'm gonna look into the discussion here but there's some the story in the numbers. I wasn't a quantitative or qualitative research at any point, but I did. I described myself as a. I used to be a spreadsheet jockey, so I used to work with the data and numbers and and I wonder. So I told that I understand what you mean and I get what you mean in there. There is a story in the numbers but unlike and maybe this is down to our individual mental models of what you know of a story so let's say, one example of a story is a book or reading, or you know a story we might actually be telling each other, or a film we're watching, etc. The kind of the story is embodied in the medium if.

Speaker 2:

I make sense, versus when we look at a set of numbers, then then there's an extra. There's a least one extra step to do to go from that set of numbers to creating a story about, or that's contained within that set of numbers to some extent. What do you think?

Speaker 1:

there's two things that are going through my head when you say that, because one is it's very easy to use numbers to tell the story we want to tell okay, yeah yeah, so how do we, how do we make sure we're telling the story that the numbers are actually telling and not the story we want to tell? That's where my okay, when you were talking about that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's kind of where my brain got stuck yeah, okay, I guess why I was saying was I see that the numbers are the. In this case, the numbers are the source of the story rather than the story itself. I bet this is one of these things where it seems like it might be disagreeing. Perhaps they agree, maybe I'm thinking yeah, sorry, no, maybe.

Speaker 2:

And this maybe it's a good example of actually in in the workplace, we're kind of surrounded by stories, that, but they're not obvious and we don't pay enough attention and there isn't enough time and effort invested in organizations generally, not enough emphasis placed on taking some raw data, or even some, even some raw data that's been converted into charts, and then taking that to the next step or the step after that to turn it into a rich and compelling story. And what's also coming to my mind is that there's a, a LinkedIn sort of meme that does the rounds every night. Again, there's Lego bricks, yeah, and so there's like I think six maybe, pictures of different sets of Lego bricks, and there's what the first picture is a single brick and that's a you know, a piece of data. Data then and I'll skip to the end where basically somebody's built a house out of Lego bricks in the century. That's the kind of the metaphor says that the first picture is a data point, the last picture is a story built using that data which is where my comment.

Speaker 1:

Like you know, how do we make sure we're telling the story that we think I skipped a middle step there, right, yeah, so, yeah, so data in its rawest form is like, it's like a dictionary, right, it's just a bunch of things that, and. But we have to figure out what the story is and pull the story out, and how do we organize the information in a way that tells the story?

Speaker 1:

yeah and then my point was we have to also make sure that when we tell that story, we're telling it in an authentic way yeah, yeah, I agree, I agree. I think what you're saying is that the data provides us parts of the story, but we still have to create the story, or exactly? Yeah?

Speaker 2:

yeah, it's not the story itself. Just like if you don't mind me doing this like I'm right now we're looking each other on zoom. So you know there's Danny in her office and she has books on a shelf. You know there's they're arranged in a different way. There's a couple of other ornaments there, there's a wall, there's a door, there's a window, there's a curtain. Those are all kind of elements of the story. You know there aren't a story themselves. Like you know, a one and a zero and a ten are elements and a data story, but they're not a story in themselves.

Speaker 2:

I'm extended and I think often maybe we're, we're, we're getting to years and yeah again in organizations, even in our design process, we need to put effort into putting those elements together to turn it into something that bringing it back to one of our starting points where other people can start to and we feel the dope flowing through their brains and now some people might get a buzz out of a one, a ten and a zero, but if we turn it into something more interesting, then they'll, you know, they will make maybe more people who find what we're saying compelling.

Speaker 2:

And I suppose in the, in the context of our design process, what I think you know, stories telling is kind of central and fundamental to telling. Well, telling the story of our design process as we're going through it, to help people understand where we are, what we've got to, where we're going to, and those people are both the us as the team involved in the design process, that the stakeholders and, of course, the people that we might be designing for if they're not involved in our design process. Yeah, and I guess kind of jumping into the next, maybe conversation topic, but I think there's a case for having stories being almost continuous, not just like. So I think some people think, well, let's leave this story to the end, we'll tell people where we started, where we went and where we got to.

Speaker 2:

I think it's actually for me, when I kind of start to understand some simple story telling techniques and really combine them with our design process, then the power is helping people, early on, understand or feel compelled to act because of the story that you tell them. And the best stories that compelled people to act involve other people, don't they like, would you say? Like, how do we help people in an organization that is full of data and information and people are overwhelmed by you know, massive amounts of information flying their way every day? How do you create and tell a story that gets people's attention for the right reason, in the right way, and helps them dedicate their time, even if it's a small amount or, in the case of a stakeholder, prioritize your, the problem you discovered and provide you with the budget?

Speaker 1:

yeah, I think so. I guess I'll illustrate this by telling story. So in a past life, one of the things that I did was I worked in the regulatory change space, using things like design, thinking, human sense of design. It not wrong, yeah, and one of the one of the challenges that. So there's lots of regulations around privacy and data breaches and lots of regulations and fines that organizations are hit with us when there is a data breach. However, and companies have invested lots of money in terms of technology solutions and QA processes and all of these things.

Speaker 1:

Number one reason or one of the biggest causes of of data breaches is human error, and one of the most effective and the thing is you tell people look, you have to make sure you're not contributing to a data breach because we're going to get fine. You tell them all of these things and where I've seen it and it really doesn't it's not that people are just being dismissive about it. People get that it's serious, people understand it, but there's lots of things happening and these things happen. Where I've seen the needle really shift and people's mindset about it really change is when they've heard stories about people, individuals that have been impacted by a data breach. The specificity of that story. So it cannot be 10,000 people were impacted when it is grandma Sue whose identity was stolen and it impacted all of these things in her life and what misery she went through for X, many years trying to get all of that cleaned up. It's those stories that stuck with people. It's those stories that made people slow down a little bit and go hang on. I'm sending this to the right person, am I? So that is an example I like to share, because people won't remember the fine that their company is going to get if there's a data breach, but they will remember how grandma Sue's life was ripped apart because of a data breach.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, is that? Because, let's say, a fine is quite abstract and often if it's involving a corporation and a regulator, then the fine is probably going to be verging on the limits of our comprehension to imagine that amount of money that some of us might never see in our lives Versus. So, from the abstract fine to the really relatable situation that, in this case, grandma Sue might find themselves in, we can definitely empathize with grandma Sue versus empathizing with the abstract corporation being abstract fine, it's more difficult. Do you think that's one of the reasons that?

Speaker 1:

I think it's the abstraction of it. I also think this is concept and behavioral science, where you know how, like if there's a fundraiser drive and it's like, oh, save all the puppies in a pound, which is not as effective as here's Fido and here's Fido's story, it's like when there's a specific story, our brains can bond with that character. To go on back to grandma Sue, most of us have a grandma or had a grandma, or have a parent or a elderly and we can relate to oh my God, this could happen to my grandma, this could happen to my mother.

Speaker 1:

This could happen to me.

Speaker 2:

That's why Fundamentally people care about people, so yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

But also when there's a specific person or character, there's a specific example, right, like our brains, like concreteness, it doesn't like the ambiguity. So that specific case is the same reason. My personas are effective. Personas help us narrow it down. Like you can go from talking about a customer Like, if I say to you a customer, your brain is like well, what customer? What do they do? What's their name? Like your brain is trying to piece together, and the more ambiguous that person is, the less you care about it.

Speaker 2:

So specific and about an individual, not about a large kind of undefined group of people or nameless group of people.

Speaker 1:

But stories have specific people in them, right, like if you think about your favourite story from childhood as a specific character.

Speaker 2:

The first book that came to mind or story was Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. I was thinking well, maybe you could have a game, can you, where you change the title of books to make them a lot less interesting and appealing. So, Danny, Champion of the World, you go school kids between the age of nine and 10, who live in the countryside. Doesn't quite work, as well, that is appealing.

Speaker 2:

Whereas Danny, who's Danny? What's Danny all about? Ok, nice. So yeah, we're starting to get into some ingredients of good, compelling stories, and I suppose the purpose of the stories we are telling and your example of regulation we're telling stories, we want them to result in action. Don't we Something to happen as a result of the stories we're telling, or some other ingredients of a good story?

Speaker 1:

I don't think that randomly telling stories is going to drive action.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, OK.

Speaker 1:

So I think we also have to be very purposeful about where we place our stories. In the example of the data breaches, when those stories of people that were impacted were shared, it was in the context of we have a part to play in protecting our customers' information, and when we don't see that, here's what happens, whereas if we just randomly went around and talked about, oh, this is what happened to Grandma Sue, I don't know that it would have had the same impact. We really need to do an episode on context because I feel like it comes up in every episode.

Speaker 1:

So the context in which you are telling the story is important, because story has to align to context, otherwise it's just random.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's a great point when I think of, I guess, successful not necessarily stories, but successful storytelling that I've been part of then has never been as you steveously indicate. It's not you're walking down the corridor at work or in the lunchroom, or you're at your desk and all of a sudden you stand up and say, hey, I've got this story to tell you. Or even if you're to do a song and dance routine, I mean it could be memorable. Let's face it. If you do a Grandma Sue, it was struck by poverty. All because of us. It was our fault. We didn't pay attention to the fine print.

Speaker 1:

Keep singing and dancing. Routines are available for hire.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, anytime. Yes, I think that might be entertaining and get you somewhere, probably out of the door, but the efforts that I've been involved in that I've been successful. There's actually quite a lot of free work. So, in complete contrast to that song and dance routine where you spontaneously burst into it, actually warming people up to the fact that they are going to be invited to a session where they will hear some stories and hear the purpose of the stories, and having people step into that session in the right frame of mind to receive stories, I think those are just as important, if not more so, than the actual story and the structure of the story themselves. I think I mean yeah, but maybe if we think about yeah, yeah, I think having people's expectations set up and then creating the right environment for people to be receptive to the stories they're going to hear, it's super important.

Speaker 1:

So I think we said so. Character is important, context is important. Your story's got to have an arc right. It's got to have a beginning, a peak. It's the middle and then some sort of ending. The shorter that you can make the start, the peak and the end, the more impactful your story is. And it's not a science, because you don't, and it's not really about the speed right, because you want to provide enough detail that it's interesting. You also don't want to drone on for so long.

Speaker 2:

Why did you look at me like that?

Speaker 1:

You don't want to drone on. What I was going to say is everyone has that family member that tells a story, and when they start telling a story like you just know. Alright, I'm going to have to settle in.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Top my drink up please.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so you don't want to do that, but you also don't want to tell a story that's so void of detail that people are like what, what was the point of that? So it's that balance between right amount of detail and you're telling it at a pace that keeps people interesting and sometimes and this comes back to context right. So you might have one story that you use for different things and you might need to edit your story depending on the context that you're telling it, because in some audiences some details might be more important than others, and vice versa. Right, so you kind of have to be mindful and I guess this is the other point is, in addition to the context, you also have to be mindful of your audience.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, probably Is that number one, like know your audience.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, oh, I wasn't doing these in any order. No. Just kind of how they're popping up.

Speaker 2:

Sure, yeah, me neither, and I'm just reminded, as you said, I'm being reminded of lessons I've learned in the past and you know whether you're. However, you're telling your story, like knowing your audience is probably the most important, like knowing as much as you can about your audience. Some of the stuff I mentioned before about warming them up and different people will need, you know, some people. You can say, hey, come to this, come to this session in five minutes, and you know they'll be fine, versus other people we might need to. You know, give them, you know, lots of pre read two weeks ahead of time to get them to get into the right mindset to hear the story. You're good and probably jumping it out and not just hear the story but actually have them take the action that you really like them to take as a result of hearing your story.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Even thinking about where you place the story right Sometimes. So let's say you're doing a presentation or a training, or let's say you're doing a presentation on something. Sometimes, depending on the audience, the context, it might make sense to start with a story. Sometimes, again depending on the audience, in the context, you might need to start with some facts. The facts are in the past year we've had X number of data breaches. It's cost us X amount of dollars, or it might be. I'm going to start this off by telling you about Grandma Sue. I don't know where that sits in terms of like context, audience and where in the big picture of what you're doing, where do you place the stories?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean either, but I think that what we're saying is think about it. Like you're saying, I don't think I agree that it's not a science. There is some science involved in understanding why great stories are great stories, perhaps, but I think the creation and telling of a great story is maybe a balance of art and science, but certainly more for me anyway, more emphasis on art than science, the art of the art of a great story and the art of a great storytelling.

Speaker 1:

One thing we can also do better is, as you're thinking about the storytelling, put yourself in the shoes of the person that's hearing the story. Yeah yeah, because it'll help you think about how to structure it, where the placement is, what details are important, what details aren't important. Yeah yeah, nice.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, which goes back to your point earlier about you know the story might need to probably need to want to edit the story in a different way for different audiences. You know a certain group of a certain audience might want the kind of headline story and other groups might want all of the details. You know.

Speaker 1:

What now?

Speaker 2:

Well, we've got a little bit of time to go into some of the specific how. Yeah, A couple of storytelling frameworks. I like to use a framework and storytelling just doesn't matter what the framework is usually. But starting off with a framework and using it for me helps me hit that sweet spot of the right amount of information. Then I just just concise enough to get across, Otherwise I'm at risk of being the boring uncle of the party.

Speaker 1:

I think frameworks are and we've said this before right Frameworks and models. They're all flawed, they're all broken, but they're also useful. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

So I think it's also, before we talk about some frameworks, I think it's also important to say that your framework should be a guide. You shouldn't be so committed to the framework that you forget what you're doing, right Like, because otherwise it becomes a tick-the-box exercise. And on the other end, you shouldn't abandon a framework altogether, because then you end up being the uncle that tells the long-boring stories that you're not at. So this again, that balance of you know getting it in the middle.

Speaker 2:

Sorry, maybe just to you know slightly facetious about being the long-boring uncle, but I find in the work and organization company context, when we're telling a story, that one of the pitfalls we can fall into is, especially if we were, let's say, telling a story to some stakeholders or to people who you know have a bit of power in the organization, we can find ourselves falling into the pitfall of justification, I think, if it asks, you know, and that leads us to provide lots of embellishment and detail, and you know that the story starts to lose its impact because we haven't just kind of let the story tell itself.

Speaker 1:

The way I like to think about it is you tell the story, you let the story have the impact and let the questions come later. That should be where you provide the details, yeah, yeah. So if you think about it as a commercial like think about some of the most effective commercials that you've ever watched or seen they don't provide all the nitty-gritty details. They tell a story that gets you interested and then, when you're interested, you might go Google it or you might go to the store and look at it, but they don't tell you like the measurement, like the nitty-gritty details of the thing, right? Yeah.

Speaker 1:

They tell a story that gets you interested and then, once you're interested, then you go and ask questions yeah, nice, okay. So storytelling frameworks. The basic framework is simply a story has to have a beginning, middle and an end, and in the beginning you need is where you're setting the story up. So this is where who's the character and some details that help us understand the character, and then you take them on this journey and then there's got and then it gets to a peak. So this is usually conflict or something.

Speaker 1:

And then when you come down the peak, that's when the resolution starts right, and then you end. It has to come to some sort of conclusion. So, at a very, very, very basic level, that is a storytelling framework. Now there's other ones, and I think, Pete, there's a couple that you're a big fan of, so I'll let you talk to those.

Speaker 2:

Okay, yeah, nice anchoring in the very, very basic beginning and middle end. Here's the situation there's a conflict or a complication and then the end is the resolution. That's the bit that it's like the payoff, where we you know our brains get that kind of satisfaction from the circle being closed or the problem being solved. In our case, yeah, a couple of the. We're getting really specific, I guess, on into our design, human-centered design approach. I guess probably the first storytelling framework I got introduced to and started using and our reason of regular, basically probably I think it comes from the D-School and the standard D-School originally, but probably precedes that. But that framework of it's, imagine we've been doing some research and we've met some people and we've gathered some insights and gained some insights and we actually started to create some ideas, while the framework is first of all, you know, describe who we met. So we met and we might describe the person or a couple of people when he might describe their situation, and we'll describe it in such a way that we know that it's gonna have people care about they're like our audience. I should say, care about the people that we met. So we met and in this phrase we were amazed to realize. So we met so, and so we were amazed to realize something about something in their lives. And amazed is the right word to use, because often we set off to research something and discover something completely different. And this amazed to realize. You know the surprise. It's like the hook in the beginning of the story that gets people's attention, because you go, oh, that's interesting, I wonder why that happened. And then the next stage of the story so we met, we were ready to realize, and then the next stage of our design stories, and it would be game changing if. So I like this phrase it would be game changing, because what is compelling, if we're setting this framework up before we even start our design work and we're aiming to create something, might not be game changing in itself, but it would be game changing if it was part of this person's life. So it would be game changing if and you know, insert any number of different ideas, whether it's a physical product or a service or just a conversation, but game changing if and often that's where the story is left, because I think, as I hinted at, that I like to introduce storytelling into our design process, thread it through, don't have it at the end. So we might have done our research, we might have found something really important in somebody's life to try and help them solve, and we've come up with some ideas. So that's an early.

Speaker 2:

This like three stage story or three point story is a really great way to get people to, I guess, come on the journey with you. You might have been a small team doing some research in your spare time because you think there might be an opportunity for the organization to improve something for customers or for team members, and this like three stage story is a really great way to go. Everyone, there's a problem over there, your opportunity over here. It's affecting people's work lives or daily lives or broader. We've got a couple of ideas coming help us and then, as we maybe kind of fast forwarding further through the design process, we might elaborate on that story. So we met so and so we were amazed to realize something. We thought it became changing to do X.

Speaker 2:

The next stages of the story is so what we built was, and then you built a prototype of X and the next stage in the stories and we tested X with our design process for potential users or customers and what we learned was and we tell the story of the feedback we got by testing the prototype of X, and then the kind of culmination of the story of this stage is what we're going to do next is and it could be X, it could be through X in the bin and start again, or it could be nothing.

Speaker 2:

But yeah, that's a particular story framework that I think is useful during a design process and, from my experience, seems to get people's attention the right way and also I think of it as kind of keeps the conversation that they're the right level, because we're talking about the human centered first of all problem or opportunity, and then we're talking about the human centered solution and also, probably most importantly, from an organization point of view, it keeps things kind of focused on the person that we're designing for, because in that story we're not saying specifically how are we going to build something, scale something, specifically how much it's kind of cost?

Speaker 2:

We're really keeping it at that. Here's the problem from a human point of view, here's the solution and within that story there should be enough reason for people to get interested at least. And, as you were saying, keep it short and snappy, get the questions and then from the questions comes the detail, because to back up that story and make it help people sign up to helping you in that, the next stage of the journey. Then you should have all the detail about how might we do this, how much is it going to cost, what's it going to take? So that's one. Do you want me to recap it?

Speaker 1:

Well, I was trying to think about. I've got so many things going through my head. So the reason I love that format is it's something that you can use throughout the process, and I actually think it's something we can use. Look, in every organization we have to do reporting. We've got to give updates on what we're doing, and I think this format really gives us a way to be able to include storytelling in our reporting. The starting of the project could be we met with and we were surprised to learn. So we met with Grandma Sue. We were surprised to learn that she lost her house because of a data breach. We thought it would be amazing to something, so we decided to buy our house back for her.

Speaker 1:

So we thought it would be amazing to go do X and you can use that in your reporting, right? So this is where we are at today. This is what we're going to go do next, and we'll come back to you until you have the story, and then you can put in all your other boring reporting things that none of us like to do but have to do because it's our jobs. But it's a way that we can incorporate storytelling into something that we already do as an organization.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I love it. Yeah, you put the nail on the head there, Donnie.

Speaker 1:

OK, so now the second example I think you have of a storytelling framework.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, this one I'm not used to quite as often but I do like it and again, it's compelling. It comes from, or it's attributed at least to, pixar and probably has similarities to other storytelling frameworks, in Disney for example, and it's kind of like this begins with once upon a time, so something along the lines of once upon a time there was, and maybe there was a lady called Grandma Sue who lost her house, but once upon a time there was. Every day something's happening, until one day something happens Because of that, something else happens because of that, something else happens until finally the whole situation is resolved. Yeah, I've used that a few times. I think it can take the box off of character, of having this kind of dramatic arc and you know, definitely lights up all the, you know, gives us all of our brain chemicals. But once upon a time we're setting the stage every day, so we're describing the characters kind of daily routine.

Speaker 2:

One day there's something that kind of interrupts that routine Because of that, you know the kits, the kits, the hero or the character back on track and then ever since kind of share the new normal, until finally, and then it's like the climax of the story. So you know in the context of our design process and our research, you know we might find you know once upon a time. This is all about what we've discovered in our design research, we're bringing to life and that every day, what this person is doing, what they're like, what they need to do, you know one day something happens. Then because of that, you know, the kind of end of the story from our point of view might be will we design something that solve the problem? And ever since they started using our solution, then their life is back on track or gets better. Yeah, something along those lines.

Speaker 1:

I find that framework to be effective when we're getting into design work. Okay. Because I like to use it and then pause the story at the art. Like you know, they used to do this every single day, and then it got to a point where they couldn't. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And then that kind of opens it up for us to go do the design work, and then it's a good way when we're, once we've gone through the design work and we've gotten something out into the world, it's a good way to almost tell the story in retro. Yeah. Demonstrate how yeah, Demonstrate how we can use design to solve the challenge.

Speaker 2:

That makes sense.

Speaker 1:

I also think here, you know, there are some audiences that I wouldn't use that framework. With that I might use the previous frame with. Right. So again it comes back to even deciding how you're going to use the storytelling, which storytelling framework you're going to use. You still need to think about your audience.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, which? Where would you be cautious about using that framework, or I was going to say or, in contrast, where you find it to be the most effective.

Speaker 1:

When you, when you use language like once upon a time, like if I was working with a very conservative, very structured, or a team or organization that's very new into design thinking, I wouldn't necessarily use that model because I think it would be too big of a leap Right. And I think I wouldn't use that because it would be too big of a leap and I think I would lose the audience if I began with once upon a time. In contrast, if I took that same story to that same group of people and I started with we met with, it's like a very factual action oriented.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, once upon a time is a bit. It's a bit more of a playful structure and I suppose whoever your audience is, certainly in the western English speaking world like once upon a time, people will associate that with fairytales, I think, generally. So, yeah, maybe the one kind of add to that is, unless actually you're aiming to really kind of interrupt their thinking pattern and you're starting to, you know, sometimes a little bit of a contrast to what people might be expecting or what they've had up until then could be enough to get their attention right from the outset. But I think it's you were right to I would be really cautious and have to think and, you know, plan your way ahead to put for that to work.

Speaker 1:

I think this, this is where. So think about it this way, right? So let's say you've got a five year old child and you're picking a book for them, You're probably not going to pick out Shakespearean plays for them to read.

Speaker 2:

True yeah.

Speaker 1:

You're probably going to start at something like a Dr Seuss type book. One of the most important things to understand about storytelling is you've got. Your story has to meet the audience where they are. Yeah, okay. If your audience is, if the gap between where they are and where they need to be from a creativity innovation point, you can't start at the height of something because people won't. People will just disconnect.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay.

Speaker 1:

So you've got to. So your story's got to start. Your story has to be able to meet the audience where they are today. So your story has to meet the audience where they are today so that you can take them on this journey. If you want to use a story to jolt things up, that this comes back to context, then you've got to do something before that story so that something you're doing meets people where they are.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.

Speaker 1:

All right, so we've talked about what, why, how, and I think the next thing in our storytelling framework of this podcast is we talk about the design thinking capabilities that are oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, recognizing that they all play a role in everything we do. But what are the things that? What are the? What are the six design thinking capabilities are most relevant in storytelling?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think, empathetic, exploring, you know, both in your exploring your, the characters have become part of your story or that and also your audience. Idea generation is important to maybe kind of getting met or what you're designing a story to tell to people. So you know your point about frameworks are just guides and don't treat them as you know tick lists. So, you know, think about the best way to tell a particular story and for a particular audience that you've empathized with. Then that takes some ideation. We haven't really talked about it, but you know, and visual communication I think should be front of mind as well. A great story, even though we're on a, we're on a podcast so you can't see us, but you know, great stories involve the right balance of what do you think?

Speaker 1:

Absolutely Empathetic exploration for all of the things that we've talked about. Right, it's about building connection, understanding people. I think visual communication which is odd because our storytelling medium on this podcast is uh-oh but there is so when we are telling stories, the visual, so visuals have a big, have a lot to do with our comprehension of a story our remembering of a story.

Speaker 1:

So being very mindful of how are we visually communicating and also being deliberate on a podcast. There is an aspect to it. It's kind of universally understood If I choose to listen to a podcast, it's going to be audio. Even though you and I sit here and talk and gesture with our hands, nobody's able to see. I'm curious to see collective collaboration, because storytelling isn't a one-person act.

Speaker 2:

It's sort of a very least two, isn't it?

Speaker 1:

So that's the one that I'm yeah.

Speaker 2:

I mean it's a good yeah, you could highlight it because, yeah, we should be. Yeah, in a way. So you're maybe empathetic exploration, where you're seeking to understand, let's say, your audience before you tell the story, and then you could, in a way, you could say you know that the storytelling itself is actually a collective collaboration. It's a collaboration between the person telling the story and the person hearing, watching, listening to the story, sometimes in real time.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so it's this thought provoker, that one actually Because one thing we didn't talk about is sometimes, when we're telling the story, like I might have a story I'm telling, but in the process of telling that story. So let's say I'm saying telling you the story, peter. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And in the process of that, you're sharing some of your experiences, and now we're both creating a third story yeah, yeah, and that's often what this podcast is right. There's like we talk about these things and I have a view, you have a view, and then we put our views on the table and then we create this third view, that's this collective view.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, nice, yeah, you've really got me thinking actually yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

What I want to mention before we move on is you know, empathetic exploration isn't just when you're planning to tell your story. I think it's also in the process of telling the story. Yeah, okay. Like I'm talking to you and I'm watching your body language and I'm making eye contact and those are giving me cues, right? So if I'm watching and you seem interested, then that gives me feedback like okay, I've hit on some of your points. Yeah, nice.

Speaker 1:

So there's also that. Like we have to look at the audience, which, again in a podcast situation, people could be using this podcast to fall asleep for all we know. Hopefully not, but in most storytelling situations we have to. Those. Watching our audience and paying attention to their nonverbal cues is also part of empathetic exploration. Yeah, I love that. All right, okay, I think we've covered this topic through our framework.

Speaker 2:

We've covered a lot. Nice one, Danny, what yeah, that was nice, we covered lots there. What, what, what? What are we going to take away from this one? What's something you're going to do?

Speaker 1:

I think what, what's inspired me hearing you talk about the two different frameworks, is actually going out and looking at what are some other frameworks. I actually want to see if there's a framework that is embedded in behavioral science, like, is there a framework that marries the brain activity of storytelling to how we tell a story? So that's my takeaway, okay.

Speaker 2:

Can I? Can I add one more thing before we, before I give you the takeaway Just you've you're, you're a thought. There it's, I think you know. In fact, I'm sure I saw one of their books on your bookshelf, the chip and Dan Heath, the Heath Brothers. Yeah, I think you've got switched there on your book. Yeah well, their first book is called Mate to Stick everyone, and within Mate to Stick, they actually have a model for telling stories that stick basically in people's minds, and it's uses the acronym success. Principle one is keeping it simple. Principle two is making it unexpected. Principle two is making things concrete. Number four is having things be credible. Yes.

Speaker 2:

Number five is emotional. And then, finally, principle six is is tell stories, and I remember reading this book a long time ago, but you don't have to tick every box there. But the more of those kind of principles that you can incorporate into the message you're telling or the story you're telling, the more chance you'll make these, your stories, your messages, memorable and sticky and therefore the more chance people will take action on them. So you know, I guess that summarizes grandmasse versus fines.

Speaker 1:

Love it. I totally forgot about that book.

Speaker 2:

I do have that so yeah, it's at least 10 years old, maybe more. Actually, it's definitely more than 10 years old. Just remember where I bought it. But I bet there's behavioral science kind of incorporated, or you can incorporate behavioral science into each of those principles. Anyway, what am I taking away from this? Maybe the opposite to you, actually.

Speaker 2:

And I'm going to revisit and pay attention more to the kind of storytelling than the stories or story framework. You know that thing about the audience and the context. Yeah, I'm going to dust down some of that thinking in the past and refresh.

Speaker 1:

Which kind of prompts for me. Another one is thinking about where can I use storytelling more?

Speaker 2:

Well, we'll have a joint month. Thanks for that gift. I'm going to think about that as well. You look for opportunities to use it more, yep.

Speaker 1:

All right, I think that does it for us for this episode. It was a great chat later. Thank you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, same to you, danny. Thanks very much and thanks for listening, see you next time Bye. Bye.

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