|January 2007 issue (Vol 12, No. 3)
The Power of Storytelling
By Karen Bachmann, UUX Manager
A significant theme for me in 2006 has been storytelling. Here are a few ways this theme developed for me:
I have learned about the power and importance of storytelling, and I have heard many stories that have deeply affected me.
I had an opportunity to hear the Society’s new Executive Director, Susan Burton, speak about the state of the Society, actions on the strategic plan, and how the Board is building the foundation to successfully communicate the Society’s story to the world. I realize that we in the User Experience (UUX) community have some additional information to add to such a story, and that we have some foundation building to do.
One of the activities that we, as a community, should do first is to collect stories about how members learned about usability, how they changed their work to incorporate usability, and how they tell that story to their employers and colleagues. We have tried to do this in several forms over the past few years, and have not had much success. I know that my own life story keeps writing in other events that have limited my time to spend on these activities. We all have demands and roles to play beyond that of UUX member.
I believe that our lack of success to collect our stories is not because we are all busy, but because we haven’t realized how unique, powerful, and beneficial our own stories are. This is something I have seen when I attended sessions where people share their stories about changing their work to include usability or about changing their job roles entirely to usability. Attendance at these sessions is usually very high and often amazes the speakers. More than one speaker has commented on how surprised they were that people care, value, and listen to their stories.
So why is our story so important?
First, a story teaches and inspires in a way that a less personal message cannot. People who are looking for guidance gravitate to stories to learn.
Second, a story naturally uncovers certain fundamentals about the person and the situation. In our case, each personal story that I have heard reveals and reinforces what we as technical communicators uniquely offer to the field and practice of usability.
Third, stories connect and build community and identity. In disciplines as diverse as both technical communication and usability are, this sense of community and identity is necessary to establish credibility before we can share our story with people outside of our community.
There is certainly more to the importance of storytelling than these few points. I hope that they are sufficient for you get you thinking about your own story. In the coming year, I would like to see us start collecting and sharing our experiences, successes, and failures. If you are interested in helping work on such a project or have ideas for such a project, please contact me at email@example.com.
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