How To Create Stories Of Relevance And Stay Relevant In The Near Future
In the year 2000, I completed my first 120-page feature screenplay and submitted the masterpiece to a writing competition. The story rocked! It was action packed, emotionally charged, and tastefully funny with an unbelievable twist at the end. When I received the feedback, I was shocked. In fact, I didn’t read the whole feedback for weeks. The judge’s feedback delivered a sobering message, somewhat along these lines:
“Superb opening. You sucked me into the story right away. The end? Absolutely sixth-sense like. Perfect! But boy, what a pain to read in-between.”
To stay relevant in the near future, you may actually have to look into the past. In this high-speed changing world, why would anyone should pay attention to stories from the past? Storytelling is an ancient form of social learning. Our brain is literally wired to listen to stories, releasing Oxycontin, the drug of trust. I’m sure you can recall a meeting or speech where all you remember is the one personal story in the middle. Nothing else. If stories are so memorable, maybe there is a hidden agenda by the forces to teach us something? How can you create stories of relevance? Maybe that lesson is the story of transitioning from SORE to SURE?
How To Transition From SORE To SURE And Create Stories Of Relevance
A SORE -a Story Of Relevance- is an a-ha moment from the past. For a life-long learner, every story has potential relevance in the future, but without the proper process in place, a SORE will never become confidence for SURE; it may just remain a story. Here are 4 steps to ensure you learn and adapt via SORE to SURE stories:
1. Recognize And Act On A SORE!
In the “heart” of a SORE are the two letters: OR. Now, the words "sore", "pain" and "or" probably bring up a picture of an operating room in your mind. Your story lies on the bed, surrounded by surgeons, looking at the patient from various angles: Where’s the source of pain?
Remove yourself from the scene! Observe from behind a glass door. Keep the distance as you dissect and analyze the SORE. Studies show that talking to ourselves using our own name result in reduced anxiety, better performances, and less shame, negativity, and rumination. So, address the situation from a third person’s perspective:
"What worked? What didn’t? What did Zsolt learn? What should Zsolt do differently next time? What’s the gap; knowledge, skill, or motivation? What were external factors (environment) involved that Zsolt has no control over?"
- Action: With all the information gained from the operation, you can now assess what, if anything, you should do differently in similar situations.
2. Suspend Disbelief!
At this stage, you must exercise the suspense of disbelief. Suspense of disbelief is an essential element of any storytelling. In this case, you must be willing to turn off your critical view of the world for the time being to consider all options. You are now ready to internalize the findings from the OR.
Why is suspending the critical brain so important? One cannot adapt to change without changing their beliefs. If you keep your belief system intact, the change you impose will be only superficial.
- Action: Select maximum of 3 action items you want to prototype and playtest.
3. Prototype Relevance!
Change doesn’t happen overnight. You must apply the lessons learned when similar situations occur. Like growing muscles, resilience can be worked out but it requires conscious effort. Look for similar situations you encountered in your SORE and playtest your prototype.
In reality, this is not a straight line to SURE confidence. Every time you playtest your prototype, you’re creating a feedback loop by creating a new, tweaked SORE to explore.
- Action: Monitor, compare, and reflect: What’s working after adapting? What’s not?
4. Grow Confidence For SURE!
As you gain confidence, you’re not just telling the story to yourself over and over anymore, you are (UR) becoming the story. The lesson learned is now integrated into to the core of who you are: confidence for S-UR-E. That’s how you grow SOREs into confidence for SUREs.
Action: Celebrate! Celebrate inches, don’t wait for the miles!
A Personal Story: What About My Screenplay?
After the initial SORE, I analyzed what went wrong, and came up with two action items:
- Break out from the silo. Work out loud. Elicit feedback. (I joined zoetrope.com where fellow writers give feedback on each other’s work.)
- Focus on the experience, not the mechanics! Give the characters a vision to strive for, not turn-by-turn directions how to get there!
- Result: My second screenplay (10 years later) was a finalist in an international competition. What does writing a good screenplay teach us about creating engaging eLearning? One of L&D's challenges is that the value of our work is not the course content, it's in people's mind. Invisible, yet actionable. It's the knowledge, skills, and behaviors we ultimately change. While automation can replace us with tools to create content, we still have the advantage of creating good stories that resonate with the audience on an emotional level. The path to staying relevant in the the field of Learning and Development in the future may not hinge on new technology, rather than our ability to connect with other humans. And for that, telling and listening to SOREs with the purpose of adapting to change is a key factor for SURE.