I was having coffee with someone yesterday to talk about his project, and I mentioned my background in creative writing, which led us to the current craze about story-telling.
There is even a med school program with a focus on storytelling for physicians, narrative medicine, which I think is such a great idea. Most doctors I’ve had couldn’t even listen long enough me to give them one sentence of information about my symptoms.
The gentleman yesterday had come to me knowing little about tech comm. In fact, he asked me about the term, “tech comm,” which he had seen sprinkled liberally throughout my blog. “Tech comm” is jargon for the industry of technical communication. Or, if you prefer, stories about using products.
He and I even laughed about his ad agency, which, sure enough, was touting story-telling as their focus. So is story-telling for products a stretch? Actually, no.
A five-step procedure might be technically accurate and pass QA, but a story-teller looks for signs that her audience is engaged. A good story is remembered and can be retold. This could be as simple as writing a short description that places the procedure steps in context. It could be examples. I’m excited to see what else it could be. I think this trend is gaining momentum.
All things being equal, hire the person who can write or speak the best. By definition, that means in story format. I recommend this for two reasons: a person who can tell stories can communicate with and motivate others, they can help define the narrative of the work they’re performing and plan to optimize that narrative, and they can do the same for themselves.
For me, that’s the main benefit of this blog: I tell myself the story of my career. When I take the time to articulate my experiences to myself, I can learn the most from them.
So, I’m a believer in the power of story-telling, even for specs and instructions. It’s just amusing to me that this isn’t obvious, and that companies can generate so much buzz by juxtaposing the term with their own industry jargon.