Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Garr Reynolds celebrates learning via narrative

You don't have to read this blog very often to learn that I love the work of Garr Reynolds on developing and delivering excellent presentations. I've bought his book and plan to read and review it in the next few weeks. In the meantime, however, Garr continues to give away his knowledge and learning via the Presentation Zen blog and today he touches on (among several other items) one of my favorite topics: learning via narrative.

In reviewing a Google Talk of Cornell economist Robert Frank, he highlighted some of Frank's thinking about learning, and in particular two remarkable quotes:

At its core, the narrative perspective holds that human beings have a universal predisposition to "story" their experience; that is, to impose a narrative interpretation on information and experience.
Walter Doyle and Kathy Carter, University of Arizona


[children] turn things into stories, and when they try to make sense of their life they use the storied version of their experience as the basis for further reflection.... If they don't catch something in a narrative structure, it doesn't get remembered very well, and it's not very accessible for further kinds of mulling over.
Jerome Bruner, "Narrative and Paradigmatic Modes of Thought"

Exactly right. This is about the most straightforward and commonsense explanation for the value of narrative in the businessplace that I can imagine. Given that, everyone involved in business leadership should work on understanding and using these concepts to teach their staff--and to learn from them.

It starts now.

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The full Robert Frank speech is below: