Stories are a series of interconnected events that tell how and why life changed. They generally follow a common structure of setting up the situation, providing some complicating sets of circumstances, and resolving the complications with a lesson about what has changed and why it’s important to you. Stories are powerful learning tools and motivators. 

At Emerson, we use stories in change and learning settings to make a strong case for why people need to behave in a new way.

Follow me as I tell a personal story about why taking a risk can have enormous payoffs.

I was adopted as a child. At the end of last year, I decided to take a DNA test to see if I had any genetic anomalies that might cause health concerns. I used 23 and Me because it is their specialty. The good news: I don’t have any known indicators. The more interesting news was finding people I am related to, but really distant relations. I never really wanted to know the identity of my biological family since I already have a loving, supportive family. But seeing all of these people inspired me to try Ancestry DNA since they specialize in family relationships.

I sent my sample off and about a month later my results came back. It matched me to my biological father. My life had changed from that day forward. I immediately researched him. Once I learned all I could and asked for advice from friends about how to make a smooth connection, I reached out to him through Ancestry. I shared some of the details of my life and made an invitation to continue the conversation. He responded almost immediately saying, “you’ve got the right guy.” He gave details about his life and asked if I wanted to talk live.

Later that week we talked on the phone. I had a plan for what I wanted to say and how I wanted to come across, but all of that flew out the window the second I heard his voice. We talked about our lives up to that point, our interests, and health. I learned about my extended family, half-brother, nieces and nephew, uncles, and grandparents. And he told me what he knew about my biological mother. We agreed that we wanted to meet each other and made tentative plans to connect in early 2019.

I met him face-to-face in January. It was all I could have hoped for and more! Suddenly, I have a large, crazy family that I never knew about. And my journey continues as I learn more about my increasingly growing family.

Stories are powerful learning tools. They inspire action and show people how things can be different. My story may inspire other adopted children to change the way they think about finding their biological parents. Instructional designers can use stories to help learners make sense of what they’re learning and to provide context. A good story can set the tone for the information to come. How do you use stories when communicating with your employees?