Stories give meaning to data. Stories stick. And using stories in your training can product impact that increases retention—and changes behavior.
The Impact of Storytelling in Training—A Powerful Example
Sixty-five percent of deaths in confined spaces occur due to air quality problems.
Let’s say that your company sells toxic gas monitors, the kind that can detect carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and oxygen levels. Too much carbon monoxide, people pass out and die. Too much hydrogen sulfide, people pass out and die. Too little oxygen, people pass out and die. You need to train sales and channel partners to show your customers why they need to use your equipment.
By itself, the idea that 65% of deaths in confined spaces result from air quality issues is impressive, but it lacks meaning.
On the other hand, last April, seven workers died cleaning a tank at a brewery in Mexico City. Four contractors went in to clean the tank; after they passed out, three brewery employees went in to rescue them. They also died. Why? It’s not known for sure, but the mostly likely cause is that there wasn’t enough oxygen in the tank; there could also have been deadly gases present.
The point is, if these people had been trained to use detectors, they could have taken proper precautions. Sadly, the three employees who sought to save the contractors also failed to check the atmosphere, and they also died.
This happens far, far more often than it should. Almost ⅔ of deaths in confined spaces happen because people don’t check the air quality before they go in.
See what happens? It’s no longer a statistic. Stories give meaning to data. Stories stick. It’s not about an abstract percentage–it’s about seven people who are now dead.
Why Telling Stories during Training Is Effective
By providing context, stories make learning stick, help it to be easily recalled. Annie Murphy Paul has researched and summarized how actors manage to learn their lines. Basically, actors figure out why the characters say the things that they do; they coordinate their words with their actions on stage; and they link their words to the emotions that the characters feel.
Stories work in a similar way. By nestling facts in the context of experience, facts become real, influencing behavior just as living the character allows actors to accurately portray them on the stage.
The next time the learner is about to enter a confined space, the thought isn’t—wait—what percentage of workers died due to poor air quality?
The thought is, seven guys died going into that storage tank because they didn’t check. I think I should probably take a moment and run the test.
Learn More about Engaging Your Learner
Our learning and development experts can help you build custom training that works and advances your business and training goals. Contact our team anytime to discover how we can support your training efforts through using stories and proven instructional design principles.
In the meantime, here’s more on creating effective training using various methods:
- Microlearning—Is it a Good Fit for Your Training Program?
- Using Video in Training: Should You or Shouldn’t You?
- Controversy over Objectives – How to Communicate Objectives to your Learners
- Quicker Development: Use a Storyboard