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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Telling Stories

People really like to tell stories.  A few weeks back I was leading a workshop where I was trying to get a bunch of non-technical folk to explain to me what their needs were.  I had blocked off some time in the workshop to get into the details of what they needed.  My visioning exercise had totally bombed a half hour before (from my perspective).  Trying to get people to imagine what technology could do for them who hadn't ever been exposed to anything like what you have to show them is really challenging.

So what I did was ask them to tell me a story.  I broke the group up into smaller groups, and separated them from their usual cliques and colleagues, making them work with people in different specialties that they wouldn't normally run into.  Then I had each group tell me two stories.  The first story was about a normal event, when everything goes the way it should in a text book.  The next story was to expand on that, adding detail that can only happen in the real world.

PAYDIRT!  I hit Gold, or perhaps Oil, and it sure was a gusher.  The amount of information that shows up in a person's story (or a small group's) is tremendous.  As one of my instructors hinted there's untold information in the smallest details.  This is a really simple exercise to execute on, yields a wealth of information, and really gets the people participating with each other.  The next step was to have one person from each group tell their story, and have the participants comment on it.  If you ever need to fill a two-hour block in a workshop, this is a great way to do it.  And the content you get (especially if you are requirements gathering) is tremendous.


P.S.  In case you hadn't noticed.  This too is a story.