Make small experiments.

About two years ago I had a chance to meet with Tom Kelly from IDEO and he said something to me that really inspired me to take more risks. He told me to “make more experiments. Make small experiments”.

As a storyteller, quick victories come from quick, small experiments. Try new ideas. Share more ideas. Quick ones, too. The more you do, the more comfortable you’ll be to share. Because they’re quick, it’s easier to keep your confidence and adjust for your next idea project. Listen to feedback, yet, consider the source. Some people only see the surface, other see beyond. Find them. Ask them, adjust where needed and apply the tweaks.

Some examples of quick victories for me:

Example 1: at an education conference years ago, I was working with kids in San Diego and we came up with a quick experiment to capture interviews of participants, conference go-ers as they went up or down the escalator. The one question interview worked! The escalator took 1.5 minutes to climb or decent and the kids asked the question prior to the escalator travel, this, a loosing more time for the answer. It was a great victory that created a smart and efficient way to work, shoot, edit, and leverage the new world of podcasts (at the time). By the end of the conference, this interview series was the most popular web showcase for the entire event.

Reflection: there was an interesting catch, authentic interviews, there was content people can connect with, it was visually interesting, it created a buzz (people sought the students for their own interview), and they were short, sweet, and quick.

Consider your quick and small experiments.

Example 2: at a Teacher learning meeting, I was asked to teach a tech tool for digital storytelling, however, I taught storytelling strategies that teach the tools in context. For 15 minutes, I asked the teachers to interview their elbow buddy about those “B-sides”. A B-side is an old 45 record reference. The A-side was the hit song, the song everyone knew. The B-side was the unknown song, many times, it wasn’t even on the album. It was a side you didn’t know. For my teachers, the goal was to find out their B side– what is something people don’t know about you. In 15 minutes, the noise level rose, the laughter, the “oooohhs and awes” were sounds of people connecting with stories. This part worked!

Afterwards, they took turns (at locations of their choice and they were given 1 hr (start to finish) to shoot the interview, edit, and save for sharing in the afternoon. To assist them, I told them to keep it simple– here was the recommended template for the project.

1. A-side: what’s your name, what do you do at school.
2. B-Side: what is your B-side, describe it if needed (but don’t explain too much. Stories love ambiguity). Some examples that came out that day: a goat judge, rail road train hobbiest, judo instructor, former MLB catcher, and a former drummer of a heavy metal band.
3. Why: Why do they do it, why did they do it?
4. Connection: how does/did it help your A-side.

That’s it! Simple cuts in between the parts and save!! Afterwards, we shared! The teachers really enjoyed this! They connected in new ways!

Reflection: Another cool result was during viewing, we asked what could we do to make them even better– people suggested text, fades, and B roll (supported footage: photos, videos of the action/ activities). This was great because day 2 focused on the tech tid-bits needed to add value to their project. Learning was in context!

This too turned into a very successful video storytelling project at many schools. Teachers used this technique to get students to get to know each other quickly in the first week of school. This was a quick victory that built will. These were small and quick experiments that turned into quick victories that helped me build my own confidence.

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