Believe Me* - a storytelling manifesto for change-makers and innovators, Michael Margolis How “Life at Quest” can benefit from a storytelling call to action By: Jaime Cruickshank
“Humans have been storytelling for 100,000 years around the campfire; the media is now our campfire.”
-‐ Gloria Steinem, feminist icon, journalist and activist I would recommend this book to anyone needing a storytelling call to action. Margolis addresses important questions about a storyteller’s identity and provokes the reader to question their current storytelling tactics. The book is separated into three sections: How ideas become reality, engaging the status quo and finding relevance. Each of these sections is broken into 5 themes. Below, I have provided theme titles along with the Margolis’s key messages. In this review, I have addressed key philosophical challenges surrounding the Life at Quest website. In my final review paper I will address more of the technical issues and propose solutions to better move forward.
“We cannot think without Language, we cannot process experience without story”
-‐ Christina Baldwin, Author Section I 1. Meaning “People don’t really buy a product, solutions or idea, they buy the story that’s attached to it” 2. Perception “a brand is far more than just a name, a logo or a tagline; it’s the stories that people tell about you” 3. Relationship “Every story exists in relationship to everything else around it” 4. Memory “We all want to look back on our lives and know that is made sense” 5. Choices “The stories we tell literally make our world” “Those who tell the stories rule the world” – Hopi American Indian Proverb, also attributed to the Greek philosopher, Plato Although these are all important topic to be thinking about, I choose to focus on Perception, Meaning and Relationship. One of Quest University’s main challenges our lack of recognition as a credible university. We are a small university struggling for name recognition. Not a lot of people know who we are, what we do and what we are trying to accomplish. Even community members in Squamish still have virtually no idea what a Quest education is. The Life at Quest website can help bridge that gap. This site is a portal into the world of Quest, allowing outsiders and potential students a view into the dynamic Quest community.
The Life at Quest website is a time capsule and a relationship builder. By documenting the life going on around Quest, the site can create meaningful relationships – if leveraged properly. Not only can meaningful content drive traffic to the site, bringing new students to the campus, it can also position students well with potential employers. Let’s face it, we are living in a digital world. Social media is not going away. EVERYTHING you publish online can easily be used against you. Potential employers will be searching the web for content about you via facebook, myspace, flickr, twitter and blogs. Although this might sound scary, I wouldn’t let that discourage you from creating an online presence. Continually creating meaningful blog posts will allow students to show off their diverse education, as well as minimize the impact of embarrassing facebook photos. The more “traffic” (ie: people that click on your web address) your online content generates means your content will rank higher in search engines, like google. This means that high traffic content will be one of the top links for people to click on. Creating an online presence is highly beneficial in today’s digital world; make sure your name brings up meaningful content, Right now relationships are being built on Life at Quest. We are in the beginning stages of driving traffic to the site, however it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Conversations are not being sparked. Comments on user posts need to be encourage and responded to. However, right now our biggest missed opportunity on Life at Quest is our course section. We have some of the highest student engagement, student/teacher collaboration, and REALLY interesting courses. It would be highly beneficial, for everyone’s sake, to highlight this. As well, the current perception of the Life at Quest Website is creating a barrier. Right now, a majority of students and faculty see the site as a marketing pitch for incoming students. The meaning of the site needs to be changed. A clear, concise, Quest community driven message about the function of Life at Quest needs to be communicated. This site isn’t JUST a recruiting tool. The posts aren’t marketing pitches. These are the stories of Quest’s history. I see that as an indirect benefit. I see the site as a tool to write the history about our amazing university, a tool to set students up for the future.
“The ability to see our lives as stories rather than unrelated, random events increases the possibility for significant and purposeful action” -‐ Daniel Taylor, Author
Section II 1. Disbelief “The power of your story grows exponentially as more and more people accept your story as their truth” 2. Culture “If you want to learn about a culture, listen to the stories. If you want to change a culture, change the stories.” 3. Leadership “Leaders lead by telling stories that give others permission to lead, not follow” 4. Convergence “Storytelling is our most basic technology, evolved through twenty-‐ first century innovation”
5. Epic “We all seek to experience our life in the most heroic of terms”
“Whether you’re trying to Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube your way into popular consciousness, storytelling is still at the core of all effective communications. Even through the clutter of technology, we remain enraptured by the flickering flame of a good story.” - Michael Morgolis, author In this section I chose to focus on Disbelief, Leadership and Convergence I see three siginificant challenges around disbelief that Life at Quest is facing. The first challenge is changing the current perception around the site. Most students don’t see Life at Quest as a useful tool. Barbara Cummings “the marketing person” introduced Life at Quest to the Quest community. Although Barb did an amazing job of getting the website started and leading the Life at Quest Team, students saw her as the “marketer” So, the Life at Quest website felt forced, like a marketing pitch. Students felt as though they were being used to sell the school. It’s no secret that the students are the university’s greatest assets. Word of mouth “marketing” of current students is keeping the doors of this university open. Seeing the site as a PR campaign is extremely narrow-‐minded. Instead of being a victim of modern marketing, people should be empowered to share their stories. The student body needs someone who could lead the way as a regular contributor on Life at Quest. Which brings me to the second challenge: students and faculty don’t have time to write about their experiences on Life at Quest, at least they don’t think that they do. Okay, we are all very busy – I get it. In our busy lives, we barely have time for – well pretty much anything, let alone write…one…more…story. Of course you always want to post top quality writing, 3 short paragraphs are sufficient! It better to post shorter stories more often. And yes, writing online content can be difficult, especially when you have no idea what to write about. To be an active and effective Life at Quest Storyteller, share your activities – just tell others what you're doing and why it's important to you. (See below for a few tips on writing online content) The last challenge facing Life at Quest is student’s disbelief in own stories. Students don’t think they have a story worth telling. Most of us fall into that trap, and we need to get over that way of thinking. We were all chosen to come to Quest for a reason. We are talented young adults who envision a different future. We are passionate professors changing the education system – helping to mold the leaders of tomorrow. In the words of current Quest University President David Helfand, we are a “vibrant new community of scholars, students and global thinkers”. We need to share our culture, and we need our students to tell the story. In regards to leadership, I know I need to be a better leader. I need to lead by example in order to inspire people to contribute their stories. It takes a lot of courage for people to share their stories. It also takes dedication to continually write
content. I need to create meaningful content that will inspire our community and others to follow in our footsteps. If I am to be the leader of this site, I need to show it. Which is exactly what I plan to do! I want Life at Quest to show case the diversity of our community, because we have a story worth telling! And, I want to help make it easy for people to contribute. By creating a monthly storytelling contest with a specific prompt, I hope that more of the Quest community will be inspired to participate. Convergence will come about when we make our social media platform more exciting. We are starting to generate really interesting content, but that’s only half the battle. People want to be engaged online. Right now it’s a one-‐way diatribe. We need to flip that on it’s head. We need to be creating two-‐way conversations, use online polls, create contests and integrate with the community more completely. When students and faculty begin to see the benefits of Life at Quest, they readily share the content with the world, and also create excitement on the site.
“The most valued person in the first half of this century will be the storyteller. All professionals, including advertisers, teachers, entrepreneurs, politicians, athletes and religious leaders, will be valued for their ability to create stories that will captivate their audiences.” - Rolf Jensen, former director of the Copenhagen institute for future Studies Section III 1. Change “Nobody likes a change story, especially a change story we have no control over. What people really need is a continuity story” 2. Identity “Our fate as a species is contained in the story. Both tyranny and freedom are constructed through well-‐supported narratives” 3. Freedom “Storytelling empowers, because it escapes the need to claim absolute truth” 4. Evolution “Reinvention is the new storyline” 5. Prophesy “Storytelling is like fortune-‐telling. The act of choosing a certain story determines the probability of future outcomes”
It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story. - Thomas Berry, theologian, Philosopher, and Cultural historian
Margolis ends section III by stating, “The stories of identity are the foundation for everything else. Today, this can be summed up in a Facebook page. We seek stories in order to know who we are and where we belong.” This speaks directly to the primary theme the Life at Quest website needs to focus on regarding section III – Prophesy. What will Quest become? Who knows, but the students, the faculty and the Quest community will shape the future of Quest. The Quest story needs to be told, our legacy needs to live on. Life at Quest is an amazing resource for this purpose.