An experiment in collaborative storytelling for onboarding

This post is about an experiment in collaborative storytelling for onboarding that we tried at Sprout Labs. Collaborative storytelling is a facilitation technique that can be used online or face to face. The activity is introduced with a statement like

Once upon a time a client contacted Sprout Labs about a ...

Then the participants take turns to expand the story. It makes for a great ice-breaker because it's fun. I think of it as a simple type of online role play or simulation.

We had a couple of new Sprouts starting in Hobart and as usual I was away for most of the week. So, doing an online activity as part their induction made sense. I had finally mapped out all the steps that we need for a blended learning project and I saw having a couple of new people starting as a chance to explore it with the team. I was thinking of the collaborative storytelling process as a way to quickly simulate a project. I took on the role of a client and we used a discussion board in Moodle.

storytelling for onboarding

What we learned from the experiment

  • Me being in the role of client was hard. It would have been better to get a client or one of our instructional designers to do that.
  • Next time I’d impose a deadline to help focus people; for example, we might have 48 hours to write the story. Sprouts were juggling their normal workload, and giving the activity a short time frame would have made this easier.
  • The same things that can go wrong when we deliver a ‘real’ project are what happened during the interactive story. Which means it was a good simulation.

It was a good experiment. Since then we have moved to using Podio (an online project management tool focused on social interactions and workflows) and we are developing automated workflows. It could be useful some time to try the collaborative storytelling approach in Podio.