Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why Stories Drive Social Learning - Tip #111

Why did Susan Boyle become an overnight sensation?

According to Jonah Berger and Katherine L. Milkman in their paper What Makes Online Content Viral?, “Virality is partially driven by physiological arousal.” The authors explain how evoking certain emotions in people increases the chance of a message getting shared. “If something makes you angry as opposed to sad, for example, you’re more likely to share it with your family and friends because you’re fired up,” Berger says.

Awe-inspiring content strongly influences emotions and increases action-related behaviors. Boyle's impressive and remarkable story captivated the hearts of her listeners and gave them hope. People realized that new doors can open at any point of life. Many were inspired to follow her footsteps.

Thanks to YouTube, Boyle became an instant international celebrity. Inspired by what she accomplished, millions of viewers exchanged insights about their feelings, their opinions and their own hopes. People from all over the world learned about each other. Boyle's story affirmed what Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer said: “The power of YouTube has made it the most valuable storytelling outlet our planet has ever seen.”

The challenge then becomes: How do we leverage social sharing behavior and formal learning content and instructions? Here are some ideas to help you get started on arriving at an answer.

Tip 1: Use language that encourages experience sharing.
Stories arouse emotions and enrich the mind. Consider these two approaches of giving information.

The first approach: “Constant exposure to loud noise is harmful.”

The second approach: “Do you know that Roy lost his hearing due to too much exposure to noise?”

The first approach states a fact; the second invites the listener to engage in a conversation and thus has a stronger impact than the first because it evokes an emotional response and a desire to know more.

When we get so emotionally involved with a story, we begin to identify ourselves with some of the characters. Because we are social beings, we are always in a relationship. Sharing what we feel, what we think and what we do just follows spontaneously. Emotions are as contagious as viruses.

To make experience sharing smoother, use language that encourages it. Examples include:
  • What has worked or not worked?
  • What are the frustrations?
  • What are the joys and dreams realized?

Tip 2: Encourage sharing of factual content.
Social learning, unlike formal instruction which is highly factual, is contextual and emotional, thus elaborates on a the wider scope of the story.  It melds facts with emotions and context, and weaves stories and factual content into seamless lessons. This is facilitated by stories, which act as emotional drivers and help create context for learners.

Present factual lessons using an emotional context that learners can immediately relate to. Introduce facts by highlighting its impacts on living situations.

Consider the following scenarios and how you can seamlessly incorporate facts into their emotional context:
  • What would a broken spare tire do to the health and safety of a worker?
  • How would listening help establish rapport?
Tip 3: Allow learners to share their interpretations of factual content.
When people share stories, they begin to ask questions. Have you experienced something like that? Did you ever feel the same way? How did you resolve it? Did it work? They share factual content that are meaningful to them.

Encourage learners to share their experience about a specific problem or situation. Guide them by asking questions like “Have you seen or experienced this in your life or situation?” or “What would you do to resolve this?”


Stories enhance successful social learning because they add meaning to factual content. They encourage learners to share their own stories. Hence, stories are preferred methods in social learning projects.


Jonah Berger, Katherine L. Milkman (2012) What Makes Online Content Viral? Journal of Marketing Research: April 2012, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 192-205

David Brooks. The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens. Short Books: April 1, 2011

David Brooks. The Social Animal. March 2011

Brian Grazer. Susan Wojcicki. Time: April 16, 2015

Association for Psychological Science. Why Do We Share Stories, News, and Information With Others?. June 28, 2011

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Are We Stuck in Big Content, Unable to Think Micro-Learning? - Tip #110

Habits are like chains. According to Warren Buffett: 

I have been discussing the implementation of micro-learning projects with clients and colleagues. It should be obvious to me, but I failed to recognize that many professionals including designers, learning and training specialists, "are chained" to certain habits. 

Almost No Link Between "Now" Habits and New Habits
There are overlapping worlds that chain us into habits.  Our current habits  drive us to build our strengths and contributions. On the other hand, the new habits encourage us to continue to learn newer ways. The stress and failure come when there is almost no link between the  current/existing habits and the new ones we are starting to adapt.

Micro-Actions Versus Micro-Content
One of the exercises I ask clients to do in micro-learning implementation is to recognize the difference between Micro-Actions and Micro-Content.

The concept revolves around the situation of a worker carrying out tasks at work. In the process, the worker applies Micro-Actions: Often, the worker wants to fix, change or find a new solution and uses experience and/or seeks out answers from others or documentation. The worker applies the answers and learns something along the way.

"I have this screw that does not seem to fit onto the equipment. I tried several ways and I could not make it work. So, I checked the documentation and confirmed this screw is the correct one. I tried again with another twist and still continued to fail. So, I checked my colleague. He said the same thing. It is particularly difficult to use this screw. Finally, I called the supplier wanting to know if the screw is the correct one and expressed my frustration. The supplier said, screw no. xx2, is the same as xx3. But it has to be heated slightly before it can fit exactly. Based on this I learned that there are temperatures that affect the use of some screws and to factor this in the next time."

The worker in the above situation applied Micro-Actions. This happens in an instant. The focus is on solving problems and fixing things immediately.

When I presented this situation to the designers and trainers, their solutions were not just surprising, they threw me off. I was expecting them to provide a quick solution or an instant direction to the workers. Instead, they provided lengthy details and elaborate content like these answers:

  • Complete checklist
  • How-to procedures
  • More product information
  • Quality control steps
I failed to recognize that designers and trainers are "chained" to the correctness and completeness of content. They were not able to focus on the worker's problems and the micro-actions needed.

Unchained from Content to Actions

To help in unchaining "now" habits to new habits required in Micro-Learning, I summarized the very simple steps of Micro-Actions.


  • Workers want to fix, change and find new solutions
  • They use their experience, ask others and check documentation and resources
  • They apply ideas to fix the issue
  • They learn how to fix similar future problems
Micro-Actions Requirements
  • Low effort
  • Fast
  • Easy
  • Quick to apply

"The ZAP Micro-Learning Principles is one key idea learned during the Micro-Learning for Disruptive Results  - An Action-Driven Online Workshop

Focus on Work Conditions of the Worker and Learner

It became clear to the designers and trainers and my clients that in Micro-Learning, the focus is the worker and learner while in action at work.

Other lessons learned:

  • The completeness and thoroughness of the content does not support Micro-Actions.
  • Complete and elaborate content slows down or worse, are ignored and not accessed by workers when implementing Micro-Actions. They become nuisances, not productive tools.
  • Designers and trainers need to "unchain" themselves from thinking of content instead of solutions for workers on the job.

Although it seemed simple, I realized Micro-Learning challenges us all to think differently. Focus on Micro-Actions, not Micro-Content.


How to Create 5-Slide Micro-Learning - Tiny, Succinct, Fast 

Capture Financial Impacts of Micro-Learning - Download the 22-Page Case Study

Breaking 10 Training Rules Using Micro-Learning

How to Add Depth to Micro-Ideas

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, October 17, 2016

12 Metaphor Story Questions to Engage Learners - Tip #109

Do you know how many metaphors we use every minute? According to research, we use up to six metaphors per minute, though most of the time we just don’t notice it.

Metaphors are abundant in the English spoken and written language where they are used as a tool to communicate thoughts, feelings, and abstract ideas to others. By comparing something difficult to something more common and tangible, metaphors aid in the audience’s understanding of what the speaker is trying to say.

Like stories, metaphors evoke images in our minds. Because of this, metaphors have potential as a tool for training as well.

Here are some ways metaphors can be used in training.
1. Avoid Technical Jargon

Legalese and other technical jargon make learning hard. But replacing the jargon with a metaphor allows trainers to present difficult or complex ideas in a way that learners are familiar with and, as a result, helps them digest the information better.

2. Use Clean Language Questions
Because learning happens when learners are able to connect a new concept with something they already know, it’s important that they come up with their own metaphors. One technique trainers can use or learn from is Clean Language.

Prompt learners to develop their own metaphors with the phrases “It’s like...” or “It’s as if...” instead of using technical jargon. Training professionals can use Clean Language questions as an example. 

Clean Language is a psychotherapy and coaching technique developed by counselling psychologist David Grove. The approach makes use of questions that are free from the questioner’s own thoughts, assumptions, and metaphors. Below are the 12 basic Clean Language questions.
Credit: David J Grove

Watch this video to learn more about Clean Language.

3. Metaphoric Landscape
Cognitive linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, authors of “Metaphors We Live By”, believe the metaphor is a “fundamental mechanism of the mind” that uses what we know to help us understand what we don’t know. This process happens subconsciously in what is known as the Metaphoric Landscape, which contains symbols that are embedded in an individual’s metaphors. These elements shape a person’s perceptions and actions. For trainers, the challenge is in finding the right set of symbols and metaphors that will result in the desired behavior.

4. Self-Direction

Metaphors can also be useful in an interactive learning environment. Designers can incorporate a self-contemplative mode to encourage learners to reflect deeper and create their own context. Their metaphors will assist them in connecting the content to their real-life work.


The use of metaphors should not be limited to the English language. Training and development professionals can also take advantage of metaphors as a tool to help learners gain deeper insight from unfamiliar concepts.

In what way do you envision using metaphors in your next training session? Share your thoughts below. 


Raymond W. Gibbs. Categorization and Metaphor Understanding. Psychological Review, Vol 99(3), Jul 1992, 572-577.

Caitlin Walker. Clean Questions and Metaphor Models. TEDxMerseyside

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. University Of Chicago Press (December 2008)

Ray Jimenez Transforming Minds - Using Metaphors in eLearning

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Friday, September 23, 2016

How to Create 5-Slide Micro-Learning - Tiny, Succinct, Fast - Tip #108

Micro-Learning is serving “slices” to learners instead of the “whole pie.” It supports “get-it-now,” “do-it-now” learners who require timely solutions and information in the rapid changing work arena.

I have always visualized micro-lessons as kernels of knowledge that enable trainers to trickle down valuable, high-impact yet very short lessons over a period of time. For organizations, the value of such micro-learning efforts not only allow them to adapt to rapid business changes and accelerate learning in micro-ways. An equally important value is it significantly reduces cost, and increases speed of development.

Let me share with you some pointers on how to create a 5-Slide Micro-Lesson.

1. Focus on what matters 
Choose a micro-idea, focused on one central point. It allows learners to “chew” on bits and pieces of information immediately applicable to the work environment. Pluck out that most important learning point from the entire knowledge source that is deemed most useful to the learner.

2. Use a hyper-story 
Hyper-stories are very short but are actual day-to-day events that allow learners to quickly connect the lesson to its application in real life. It takes learners from Crisis to Resolution very quickly. Learners stay glued, involved and totally focused. Choose a very short event your learners can relate to.

3. Ask questions
Well-prepared provocative questions lead learners to think through the lesson.  It triggers the process  of reflection and encourages learners to dig deep into their minds  for experiences, memories, emotions and judgment that allows them to interact with a given situation.

4. Provide detailed links 
A proliferation of knowledge-enabling tools to improve productivity such as Evernote, YouTube, DropBox, Basecamp, PDFs, Blogs, etc. - enable open-ended transfer of knowledge and assist in quick learning.  Provide links to tools, references , etc. that help learners acquire access to immediately useful information or which they can study and review when needed.

5. No need for multimedia 
If you apply the above ideas, in most cases you don't need a video, an audio or elaborate multimedia or animation. Learners are quickly engaged with the provocative story and the shortness of the lesson. Be a minimalist.

These are examples of proof-of-concept projects that show you it can be done.

#1 Gas and Fire

This is a micro-lesson which is a part of a larger series of driver training for petroleum companies. It is often said that most drivers are aware of the safety policies, but once in awhile, some stupid mistakes can cause catastrophic damages to life and property. See how short and succinct the demo is. This is intended for mobile delivery.

#2 Kitchen Safety

In the kitchen, employees need to be reminded about some basic yet oftentimes forgotten practices like how to handle sharp tools and not hurt others. See how short and succinct the micro-lesson is.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Friday, September 16, 2016

Capture Financial Impacts of Micro-Learning - Download the 22-Page Case Study - Tip #107

Micro-Learning has gained traction these recent years, thanks in part to millennials entering the workforce who are clamoring for results with the least amount of effort. The learning strategy is popular and in fashion today. But how do you know that it works? How do you capture the data to demonstrate its value? How do you use MICRO as a technique in tracking Micro-Learning?

A Study on Micro-Learning Even Before It Became Popular

In 2007, I developed a small study on how to measure the impacts of Micro-Learning. Through it, I wanted to find out what methods participants use to apply learning and if these methods work and produce measurable results for businesses and organizations.

To achieve my goal, I developed two sets of tools as shown in the table below. The Seven-Step Process works with a questionnaire about participants’ activities. Meanwhile, the Web-Based Tool allowed participants to track real-time data as well as network and collaborate with their leaders and peers.
One of the study’s participants is Elle Callahan, who was cMarket’s Training Manager. She joined the training to improve her goal-setting skills. Elle learned to create shorter and smaller goals. This helped her boil down her objectives and break down her action steps so that she was able to meet daily expectations. All throughout the training, she received feedback from her VP. Elle was also able to share her simple plan with her team.
In summary, these are salient points from the study. Participants learned that: 
  • Micro-learning enables trainers to be more intentional with what topic they choose and how they’re going to deliver it. 
  • Being clear on the topic and delivery method makes it possible for trainers to improve systematically how they work with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).
  • Micro-learning allows learners to focus on taking immediate action on their learning, rather than having it sit on the shelf gathering dust.
  • Measuring return on investment (ROI) doesn’t require complex details.
  • Measuring training results is quick, easy and verifiable.
  • This immediate demonstration of value allows for rapid and instant feedback.
  • Micro-Learning is a big win-win for the employee and the organization.
In what way do you envision using metaphors in your next training session? Share your thoughts below.

Related tips and blog posts

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Friday, September 9, 2016

How to Combine Gamification with Stories and Micro-Learning (Live Prototype)- Tip #106

Smorgasbord and Buffet

Smorgasbord and buffet of learning approaches and technologies are abundant. It’s always like party time. The challenge, of course, is that one can only eat so much. So in this tip, I am posting ideas on combining of stories, micro-learning and gamification. Let’s see if you can use this palate tasting.

Karl Kapp and Thiagi

Karl Kapp and Sivasailam "Thiagi" Thiagarajan, leading thought leaders in games and gamification, suggest that at the heart of gamification is the use of stories and discovery. When combined with gamification elements from marketing and customer engagement solutions like Bunchball, gamification becomes a highly productive learning methodology.
However, most gamification tend to be long and tedious gaming activities. The extended time involved and extensive content coverage are common temptations as well as challenges for both designers and game developers. But how about if we create micro-sized lessons just as Karl Kapp suggested in gamification?

Types of Structural Gamification

Karl Kapp has provided a good insights on Types of Structural Gamification. Essentially what Karl suggested is to combine the elements of Gamification with some more content. Preview the video explanation and then join the group Stories & Games on Leadership HR Policies  

Video Explanation of an Example of Structural Gamification
(Part 1)

Click here to the video explanation.

Live Example - Stories & Games on Leadership HR Policies
(Part 2)

Click here to play the live example.

Join the group to see a live and active prototype of Structural Gamification. You will be required to register and login.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, September 5, 2016

Breaking 10 Training Rules Using Micro-Learning - Tip #105

Rule-breaking is important and  necessary to change things that have ceased to work. In the training world, however, it appears safer and far easier to continue following the old rules, even if conditions have changed and their value have diminished.
Micro-Learning will only work if we break adherence to the 10 Training Rules. If we slot in or force Micro-Learning within the confines of these training rules, it will fail. It just becomes a fad and a great marketing hype.

Rule # 1 - Requiring Tests

Training dictates that all learners must complete tests to show proof of knowledge retention. Micro-Learning advocates that immediate application of small ideas at work or in practice is good learning. Testing slows down micro-actions and is anti-micro-learning. (See more about adding depth to micro ideas)

Rule # 2 - Training Away from Work

Training requires that learning is an event, a place and a singular moment. Learners have to wait. It takes away a lot of time from actual work for participants and even tends to be forgotten. Micro-Learning, on the other hand, is learning when there is something to be fixed or changed. It is about instant solutions. (See more about Instant Learning.)

Rule # 3 - Follow All Required Steps

Training implies that to learn means to follow all the steps without missing anything. In the process, much time and resources are wasted since not all required steps are critical. Micro-Learning only uses the steps that are needed to do a task.

Rule # 4 - Cover All Content to Learn Properly

Training requires that learners must learn all content. It is like going back to school. Most content are forgotten after the school year ends. As a result, learning has not been achieved and efforts are wasted. Micro-Learning only requires learning the content needed to solve a problem or make the change. It is incremental learning. (See more about Small Content)

Rule # 5 - Engage the Learner

Training points out that courses and lessons must be engaging. So interactions, multimedia, games and social learning need to be added. The trainer should induce engagement. Consequently, training ends up being costly. Micro-Learning engagement comes from real work problem-solving and trial and error learning. In essence, engagement comes from curiosity and discovery of learners.
Rule # 6 - The Relevancy

Training insists on delivering relevant content. How can this be, if content is not immediately used? Absence of immediate application is the main cause of irrelevant training. Micro-Learning allows learners the freedom to use small content when the moment of need is highest. Then learning becomes relevant because it is useful. (See more.)

Rule # 7 - Sorry, It’s Boring

Training is always boring. It is concerned with theory, principles and ideal situations. It talks about the entire ocean. It is an instruction-led method. When trainers are the center of learning, it ends up being boring. Micro-Learning is driven by the learner and worker. It is “my learning” and not “you ought to learn.” Micro-Learning talks about the gap to be filled.

Rule # 8 - Consistency and Standardization

Training is the source of all knowledge and content. It insists on this dictum due to its need for a semblance of consistency and standardization. Although this goal sounds logical, it focuses on content rather than the ability to look into the relevance of deviations from standards and consistency. Micro-Learning usually aims at how best to handle errors, troubleshooting and critical exceptions at work.
Rule # 9 - LMS Central Training Delivery

LMSs and learning platforms are extensions of Training’s need to control learning. Often, they are rigid and administrative, and usually has nothing to do with learning. Rather,it is focused on delivery and tracking. LMSs are anti-micro-learning. Micro-Learning has to be free, floating objects, flexible, configurable, highly searchable, useful, approachable and responsive.

Rule # 10 - Follow the Curriculum and Certification

Training must follow curriculum to achieve certification. Curriculums and certifications often focus on the eventualities (aimed at the future) when skills and knowledge are needed. They are too costly and slow processes. Micro-Learning is focused on using knowledge and skills now, not in the future. (See more - Cut costs to 30%)

The successful implementation of Micro-Learning means you need to break the top 10 Training Rules. To require Micro-Learning to follow and stick to them, means death to Micro-learning. 



How to Add Depth to Micro-Ideas 

Instant Learning Impacts Performance: One Idea, One Action Learning Events

How Small Should Small Bites Learning Be?

Is your content out of context or in context?

Cut to 30% eLearning Development Costs

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Laptop Horror Story" - A Demo Story Lesson (Only Available for 10 Days). - Tip #104

Brenda LaRose’s Workshop Proof-of-Concept Prototype

Brenda LaRose is the Training & Development Specialist from Levitt-Safety. The demo provided here is her mini-project as a participant to the Story-Based eLearning Design workshop. We thank Brenda for allowing us to share the content.

From Very Dull Technical Content to an Engaging Story Lesson

The small lesson is intended to help learners understand some basic concepts of the company’s policy and process on Record Retention. We present here the prototype and a video explaining the method that we employed in converting the small content into a Story-Based Lesson.

The demo lesson is only available for 10 days. Please access it as soon as you can.

For further references on the Story-Lesson Design, please read this blog “How to Use Questions to Immerse Learners in Your Lesson“.

More Demos from Last Week

In case you have not reviewed the two demos on the 5-Step Scenario Learning Design,

  • Technical: Too Much Downtime
  • Software: HRIS Software

You may access them here.

Preview Ray’s Storify Micro-Ideas

This is a summary of Twitter postings to recap some highlights of micro-ideas. Click here.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Change Learners’ Minds By Changing The Stories They Tell - Tip #103

What is the Story Picture in Your Mind?

Suppose you received a message from your boss that he/she wants to see you as soon as you come in. However, it doesn’t say why. How would you react? What scenes are running in your head?

Here’s another scenario. What if your loved one is out of town on a business trip. You expect a text once he/she has reached the destination. True, the scheduled arrival was late last night but it’s already morning and no text has arrived. How does that make you feel? What thoughts are rushing through your mind?

Give yourself a few minutes to go through the questions and answer them. Is there a common thread in your answers? 

These events are both imagined situations and the answers you provided were based on a story you’re telling yourself. Whether positive or negative, the story you tell yourself is about what could possibly happen or what possibly happened.

Making Inferences, Recognizing Patterns

Telling ourselves stories isn’t limited to exercises like those above, though. Without even realizing it, we tell ourselves stories all the time. We go through a narrative or several narratives from the time we wake up until it’s time to sleep. Geez, even our dreams (or nightmares) are stories, too!

Stories are natural for humans. They’re central to our existence. Cultures worldwide have their own stories to share. In fact, we’re so enamored with stories, that we find stories even when there aren’t any!

Have you ever looked at the clouds on a clear, sunny day and thought you saw a unicorn (or some other figure) taking shape? Our brain is so hardwired to recognize patterns that we imagine seeing patterns when in reality they’re just puffy balls of mist. 

Why is this fact important and how can trainers and designers use this to their advantage?

In one study, scientists found that when someone tells a story, their brains and the brains of their listeners synchonize. When certain parts of the storyteller’s brain lights up, the same parts lit up in his/her listeners’ brains as well. This amazing phenomenon occurs because the brain can’t tell real experiences versus imagined ones.  As a result, the storyteller was able to let his/her listeners experience what he/she experienced. In short: “By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains,” according to Uri Hasson from Princeton University, one of the study authors.

Social psychologist Jennifer Aaker adds, this means stories should be able to take listeners where you want them to go.

Craft Your Signature Story

As trainers, we aim to see our learners take on the desired behavior. Stories should reinforce the lesson. Since stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone, it’s a great tool to use especially when we want a lesson to stick to our learners’ minds even after the session is over.

Aaker suggests, trainers should develop their portfolio of signature stories. A signature story is “a story that after you tell it, people who listen to it somehow look at you differently.” Signature stories (1) shape how learners see you and (2) can be used as a tool of power and (3) persuasion.

When crafting your signature story, remember to ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Why are you telling the story in the first place? 
  • Why would the audience want to listen? 
  • Why would the audience care? 
  • Why would the audience want to share the story?


Stories are powerful tools to persuade people to change their perspective. Asking questions helps learners make inferences to make the story, integrate themselves into it, and as a result make the lesson more memorable.

As a trainer or designer, what is your signature story? What kind of stories are you known for or would like to be known for? Share your thoughts.


Tip #102: Cognitive Tunnelling: How to Achieve Focus Through Stories 

Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel. An Experimental Study of Apparent Behavior. The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 57, No. 2 (April 1944), pp.243-259

Greg J. Stephens, Lauren J. Silbert, and Uri Hasson. Speaker-Listener Neural Coupling Underlies Successful Communication. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2010 Aug. 10; 107 (32)

Jennifer Aaker. Harnessing the Power of Stories. Stanford Graduate School of Business, 2013

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"