Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Telling Life: Technical storytelling

Last week I had the honor of presenting a storytelling workshop to a group of IT executives. It was great. I love working with technical people on storytelling because they are so good at it. I expect there is something deeply liberating in the permission to be human and connected in a technical context. Technology, after all, is part of what it is to be human; we've been using tools (and tools are technology) since we first picked up a rock.

We need to be able to talk about technology in understandable ways and storytelling, of course, makes the technical accessible. People who work in technology are still people and so want to know that their work has positive impact or want to learn from their mistakes. Stories are a great way to do both.

I asked the group to work on stories of a time when their organization overcame adversity. This meant that they were working on stories about when they overcame adversity, solved problems and made things better, just in the context of work. I loved watching them.

The first time around several people seemed to feel awkward. This makes sense, how often do we have a chance to tell a story of our own success without judgement or apology? By the last time they told their stories I could see people sitting up straighter. Their voices were lighter. They were more connected with one another. They were more aware of the human impact of the work they do every day.

Yes, they were telling technical stories, some of which were highly detailed and well beyond my understanding, but they were all stories of overcoming obstacles and helping people. They were all stories of human understanding, teamwork and achievement.

It's easy to think that the technology we use every day - whether it's a computer, a car, a hammer or a phone - has no emotional weight, but that's a lie. How often have you felt frustrated because your computer, car, hammer or phone didn't work the way you had hoped? When we let the technology of our lives be part of our stories it becomes easier to understand and perhaps easier to be patient with because we are reminded that this is another kind of story we all share. I was late because my car wouldn't start is a simple story we all can relate to because we all have experienced it. What if we add in the stories of connection such as I fell in love with someone I met online or I used my grandfather's hammer to build my home or My team solved a software problem for a program that's used by thousands worldwide.

Everything we do is part of being human because it can't not be. And humans use story and technology every day. Like everything else, when we tell stories about technology, about success and failure, we allow our humanity to permeate everything and we become more connected with other people through that shared experience. Let your computer, car, hammer and phone become stories.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

No comments:

Post a Comment

True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Related Posts with Thumbnails