Storytelling is the art of engaging, moving and inspiring people but it is difficult to do without a good story.  The stories that are most likely to inspire people will be about people.  This 4 point story method can help leaders to quickly identify and develop powerful stories of how an intervention, service or programme impacted upon patients, staff and organisations involved.

In my last post I showed how the results of a healthcare improvement project could be expressed as a set of outcomes (which on their own can be dry and unmoving) or as a story (which ‘makes it real’ as one twitter user replied).  As natural storytellers, it is easy to see the difference and, because we tell stories every day in our interactions with our friends and family, it should be straightforward to get the hang of what makes a good story.

The following method I have derived from the value creation framework developed by Etienne and Bev Wenger-Trayner that I am pioneering in the care settings that I work in every week.  This tool is designed to evaluate the efficacy of social learning interventions and communities of practice through ‘horizontal’ qualitative stories of how people engage with the communities activities that are then supported by ‘vertical’ indicators and data.  While this is a powerful method in itself, it is also more complex than is necessary for our storytelling needs and, if we look at the principle behind the framework, we find a very useful story structure.

As I explained, powerful stories centre on specific people.  The 4 point story method uses four questions to elicit the story of how a person engaged with a specific intervention, what they got out of it, how they applied this new knowledge and what the result of this was.

4 point story method for powerful value stories

  1. What happened?
  2. What did the person get out of it?
  3. How did the person apply this?
  4. What was the result?

Eg.

  1.  What happened? Doctor Smith watched a film on patient leadership as part of the 2016 Transformathon.
  2. What did she get out of this?  She was inspired to start a patient leadership programme in her hospital.
  3. How did he apply this? She contacted the Yorkshire and Humber Leadership Academy to ask about any other local programmes that she could learn from.
  4. What was the result? Dr Smith is now collaborating with a local established patient leadership programme to develop a programme in her context.

The validity and power of the story lies in the casual link between each of these questions and the emotional content of the story provided by Dr Smith.  For qualitative evaluations such as this to be convincing, the story must irrefutably show that the result is a direct consequence of the initial engagement with the intervention.  Further power can be added if the story can be supported by indicators and data.  For example, if the above story was used to support the evaluation of the Transformathon, such indicators might be the number of people engaging with the online patient leadership resources and the data might be website statistics.

These four questions help us to elicit these stories and I have used them with a lot of success, particularly in short video interviews such as this video I made for a responsive communication training intervention in a Sheffield special school.  All the staff interviewed were responding to the questions described above and I find that the interviewee is encouraged to talk directly about the important themes.

The next part of this series will look at the value creation framework in more depth…