October 18th, 2013
This week we ran the 7th iteration of our Connection Storymaker Workshop with 32 staff of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. What a great experience. Nothing like working on storymaking with folks who are already great storytellers. This was our first experience where we had participants using the app in advance of our arrival, giving us some clues on their “storytelling culture” before we got there. Veddy interesting.
BROCCOLI, STEAK AND PEYOTE BUTTONS. Gotta read the book to know what that means.
TRAINING STORY EXPERTS
On Wednesday morning Dorie, Brian and I sat through several of the excellent and outstanding presentations at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, wondering, “what can we tell the staff here that they don’t already know?”
Of course the answer was, “lots.” Storymaking, Storybreaking and Storytelling is an endlessly challenging process for which nobody is really that great, though lots of people think they are. But just look at the very best people in Hollywood who are paid a fortune, spend their lives working on the craft, and still produce the occasional clunker.
My sales rep for Flock of Dodos wrote a popular essay years ago where he talked about how if you spend $1 million dollars hiring a crew to build a house, when it’s finished, the house is probably going to be worth something close to that amount. But when it comes to movies, you can spend a million dollars to build a movie, yet end up telling a boring story that leaves you with a piece of junk that is literally not worth ten dollars. It happens all the time in Hollywood, and at much larger scales. And it happens at smaller institutions.
I say all this because a couple months ago we spoke with a group at a major science institution who said, “we’ve already had a couple of storytelling workshops here,” with an attitude of, “we’re already good enough at that stuff.”
Yeah, right. If you think you are, then you probably are indeed done with the learning process — good luck to you. Story is endlessly elusive. The best you can hope to do is build a “storytelling culture” within an institution where there is the development of an inutive feel for story and attention to the need for on-going practicing of story. Which is where our new app fits in — we’re increasingly viewing it as something akin to a “Thighmaster” — meaning a workout device that really ought to be used on a weekly basis, if not daily, to help you keep your storytelling chops up.
It has to be an on-going commitment. There is no, “one and done,” when it comes to storytelling workshops (despite what those people at that science institution thought).
METRIC THIS: “STORY CULTURE PROFILING” WITH THE STORYMAKER APP
We had a very cool thing happen with this workshop. We had the participants download our Connection Storymaker app a couple of weeks before we arrived, fill out a WSP for a story they wanted to work on, then email them to a set address a few days before we got there. The results were fascinating.
This was the first time we had a snapshot of the “institutional story culture” before arriving. Without going into detail (a trade secret for us now), we were able to look at the WSPs of 23 of the participants in advance and pull out some actual quantitative indicators of how the people at this institution tell stories, BEFORE we got there.
The result was we were all “talking story” before the workshop even started. Which is a significant step up in sophistication from how we started this workshop just a couple years ago. All of which means we are engaged in a process that continues to build on itself. And was perfectly matched with the Aquarium folks — particularly the group involved in developing their upcoming, “Tentacles,” exhibit about cephalopods.
Great folks, great stories, and a great time. They left us with a lot of interesting thoughts on how we run the workshop. We left them with the app, which I think was a pretty good trade.