The Power of Storytelling

The power of storytelling became most apparent to me several winters ago sitting on a chairlift with my kids and wife, heading up the beginner-most slope at Mammoth Mountain in California.  We were with two of our kids, and my 7 year old daughter turned around in the chairlift to look behind her.  My wife threw her hand over my daughter’s lap in a motherly instinct like Ninja reaction.  She then chose what was probably a bad time to tell the following story:

 

“Allison, when I was your age, I turned around while sitting in a chairlift to look at a friend behind me.  I had really slippery snow pants on, and by the action of turning around, I slid off the chairlift while it was in the the air.  A teenage girl sitting next to me grabbed my hand with her right hand, and her left hand was holding onto the seat back of the chair.  I was dangling in mid-air, when a good Samaritan saw me and stopped quickly under the lift, and took off his skis.  He told the girl to let me go, and he would catch me.  Sure enough, she let me go, and in a less than graceful manner, he caught me.  I was OK, but I was as scared as I’d ever been.”

 

My kids heard that story and were in utter shock.  You could see it in their faces that this chairlift was evil, and they needed to escape.  We got off the lift without incident, but thanks to my wife and her story, that was the last time they rode the chairlift that season.   It is three years later, and while they’ll get on the lift again, they remind me of that story frequently during our trips to Mammoth.

 

Had my wife simply said “Don’t turn around in the chair, as you can fall off” things would not have been the same.

 

Telling a story has the ability to imprint a permanent image in the mind, regardless if you are 7 or 70.

 

When it comes to education, I’m of the opinion that we don’t tell enough stories to imprint the teachable moments into the learner’s mind.  A lesson without a story has a lesser chance of being memorable.  Are you more likely to remember a great movie that you saw 10 years ago, or an hour and a half lecture that you sat through 10 years ago?  My guess is that you remember the movie.

 

At NINJIO, we are applying the same school of thought toward educating the general population of corporate computer users on cyber-security.  We feel strongly that our approach will not only educate our learners, but will help shape their behavior, and we do it all through telling stories.  How much fun is that?!?!?

 

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