Round and Round
Here is another interactive storytelling technique. Round and Round combines the ideas of co-creation with the use of story formulas.
The version of the activity explained below was used in a workshop on innovation management. The frame of this activity can be used as a template to explore any other training topic.
To explore a workplace situation by using a suitable formula to create a story.
A group of participants take turns to create a story, using a suitable formula. Once completed, they retell the story with intentional or accidental changes.
Maximum: Any number, divided into groups of 3 to 5.
Best: 12 to 20
20 - 30 minutes
Double Jeopardy Story Formula, one copy for each participant
Koosh ball or any other soft ball, one for each team. (In case of emergency, or if you are cheap, you may use a wadded-up piece of paper.)
Explain the formula. Distribute copies of the Double Jeopardy Story Formula handout. Demonstrate how to use the formula by co-creating a story with inputs from the participants.
Identify a suitable theme. Work with the participants to identify a theme for a story that is relevant to the training objective.
Organize teams. Divide the participants into teams of three to five members each. Ask the members of each team to stand in a loose circle. Throw a ball to each team. Explain that the person who caught the would be the first storyteller.
Narrate the first part of the story. Ask the first storyteller to start the story by describing the initial problem. Encourage this person to keep the narration brief and to the point. Ask the other participants to listen carefully to the narration because they may be selected to continue the story.
Choose the second storyteller. When the first storyteller has completed describing the problem, ask him or her to throw the ball to any other person in the team. This lucky person gets to continue the narration by describing the first solution.
Continue the story. At the end of each section, the current storyteller chooses the next person to continue the narration by throwing the ball to someone. Explain to the participants that it is acceptable to throw the ball to someone who had already told an earlier part of the story. (This keeps everyone on his or her toe, listening carefully to the story.)
Conclude the story. The story proceeds through misuse of the first solution, second problem, new and improved solution, and conclusion. The person who concluded the story throws the ball to someone else in the team.
Restart the story. The story starts all over again, with different participants adding different sections. The participants may repeat the details and events from the previous round or they may change the details to improve the story or to cover up their memory lapse.
Conclude the activity. When the story reaches its conclusion for the second time, announce the end of the activity. Conduct a debriefing discussion of what the participants learned about the training topic by co-constructing their story.
Don’t have enough time? Conclude the story at the end of the first round.
Have ample time? Ask the team members to reconstruct the story several times. If you have more than one team, switch the participants between rounds.
Don’t like the double-jeopardy formula? Use some other formula for the story. Or leave the structure of the story completely open.
Want a follow-up assignment? Tell the participants to use the Double Jeopardy Story Formula to write one or more stories on the same topic at their leisure. Encourage the participants to share their stories with each other.
Here’s the story constructed by the team during the first round:
First problem: The CEO of our company gave me an important task: I should encourage the managers to fail frequently and to learn from their failures. Apparently his Executive Coach had suggested this idea to him.
First solution: So I ran a workshop on failing fast and recommended to all the managers to invite their employees to fail frequently and learn from their failures.
Misuse of first solution: The failure rate in our company increased rapidly. People shared their failures proudly to the others. The CEO gave rewards to the Failure of the Week.
Second problem: Our customers were affected by our employees’ failures. They started complaining. They stopped buying stuff from us. They cancelled their orders.
New and improved solution: I analyzed the data: When we were coming up with new ideas and procedures, failures were useful. It made us more creative and nobody was affected. However, when we were executing established procedures that affected our customer service, failure was undesirable. It produced negative results. I explained these differences to our CEO, the managers, and employees.
Conclusion: We identified projects and functions where failure was to be encouraged. We trained people to decide when to take risks and when to avoid them. We also made sure everyone had some creative tasks to perform. This resulted in greater learning without irritating our customers.
Here’s the reconstruction of the story during the second round:
First problem: The CEO of a consulting company was unhappy about the way failures in her company was punished and mocked. Employees were afraid to take chances. The hid their failures. He decided to change the company culture.
First solution: The CEO had an off-site retreat and extolled everyone to fail fast and frequently.
Misuse of first solution: More people started failing. They sent emails to the CEO bragging about how they failed and how much they learned from their failure. The CEO responded to emails and congratulated the failing people.
Second problem: Customers were upset by the company’s failures. The company lost its reputation. People stopped hiring consultants from the company. The profits went down.
New and improved solution: The CEO analyzed the data and discovered that failure was positive when coming up with innovative ideas. Failure was negative when meeting customer expectations. The CEO explained the difference to his employees.
Conclusion: The employees identified internal projects where failure was to be encouraged and external projects where failure was to be discouraged. This resulted in regaining the market share and increasing the profits.
Double Jeopardy Story Formula
Whenever I introduce a new principle or procedures to my training participants, I take great care to warn them against the mindless misuse of what they learned in the session. To drive home the point that the overuse or abuse of any technique could result in more problems than it solved, I use engaging stories. I noticed that these stories fall in a standard formula and I specified this formula. I call this formula Double Jeopardy. The reason for this name will become clear as we explore the formula:
First problem. The protagonist faces a problem.
First solution. The protagonist masters an effective technique for handling the problem.
Misuse of the first solution. Carried away with the impressive success in solving the problem, the protagonist begins to misuse, overuse, and abuse the technique.
Second problem. The misuse of the technique results in a set of new problems.
New and improved solution. The participant thinks through the limitations of the first solution and comes up with suitable modifications to the technique.
Conclusion. The new and improved technique prevents the types of problems created by the mindless application of the original technique.
Here’s a sample application of the formula. It’s a story used in a train-the-trainer workshop:
First problem: Participants are bored by my technical training workshops. Most of them multitask while I make my presentations and some of them even fall asleep.
First solution: I discover the power of training games.
Misuse of the first solution: I begin the training session with an icebreaker in which each participant discovers which animal he or she most closely resembles. Later, I insert a bridge-building activity in the middle of the session. In addition, I repeatedly use a set of engaging games throughout my training sessions.
Second problem: The participants are engaged. They run around the classroom as headless chicken. They focus on completing the activity and winning the game. But they don’t learn anything useful. They soon discover that they are wasting their time with all this fun and games.
New and improved solution: I think through the advantages and disadvantages of using games in training. I discover the relevance of the activity to the training topic is a key factor. So I select or design activities that clearly and directly incorporate the principles and procedures taught during the session. I highlight these principles before the activity as briefing, during the activity as coaching, and after the activity as debriefing.
Conclusion: As long as I link the game to the training objectives, the participants are engaged more and learn more. The instructional and motivational effectiveness of my training improves significantly.