So Alternative Fruit may have turned a few heads a couple of weeks ago when we reported on top educational podcasts and included an entry for science fiction. What? Some of you asked, why fiction for education? It sounds like we're teaching lies to our kids perhaps? Not really, you know we take it for granted that the stories are not true. It's the context and morals within them that cause us to learn about life. Stories have been used to communicate wisdom for millennia, modern stories are no different. Famous fables and parables have us all thinking along the same lines in certain situations. Books like Terrance The Shy Hedgehog by yours truly are more modern examples of the same thing. Useful for knowing how people are going to behave, as well as making sure everyone knows the rules. There are key features in fiction that communicate good wholesome education. It is a longer stretch for the mind, we have to think about it, it requires us to analyse and weigh up various points. Encouraging us to think independently based on given criteria, like those found in a well-written story, helps us to do the same thing in real life. It makes good practice. Here are some of the main points we can look to when finding the benefit in reading fiction.
Reading makes us happy and content. This sets the perfect atmosphere for good learning. An environment of quiet thoughtfulness without stress makes everyone's life better. When students are happy and content they will naturally learn more and be willing to discover things for themselves. They'll have the energy to muster the confidence to tackle the big ideas they need to succeed.
Reading fiction helps us to be creative. When we don't know how it ends, when your guess is as good as mine, our minds naturally try to decide for itself what comes next. We make guesses and educated hypotheses to get to the bottom of the conundrum, to know what happens next. Reading fiction encourages our minds to test our perceptions against an unravelling reality. Being comfortable with not knowing is another key feature in this area. Because we don't know and only guess, we learn to be okay with not knowing and if we're wrong, accepting it as part of the journey.
Reading teaches us new words and phrases. Our vocabulary normally comes from the people we speak to regularly. If we read a book then we're listening to the words of a writer who wants to use the best words and speak with perfect clarity. There's no better place to learn vocabulary than from someone who uses it to make a living.
Reading teaches tolerance. We sometimes don't like people for certain things they think or do. If we read about their lives from a non-biassed point of view, it can help us to see another side of the equation. Reading about different cultures and lifestyles can help us to stop judging others for being different and can enlighten us to their plight as individuals in a world that sees them a certain way.
Reading strengthens the brain. Many studies have shown that readers and people who use their brain regularly go on to have less likelihood of degenerative brain problems in later life. It helps us to retain memory and helps us to remain intelligent and alert even when our bodies are getting old. It's also good for mental health, with reading providing an escapism from life's troubles and helping us to cope with difficult emotions.
Fictional characters have lives which mirror our own. We can learn a lot about people and the way social circles work by reading about them from an external and non-involved point of view. Often when we're in the middle of it, our emotional attachment to certain people and their opinions causes us to misunderstand the reality of a situation. This can cause upset and conflict, reading more helps us to avoid this from happening by teaching us about how people treat each other and the consequences. Reading well-written fiction helps us empathise with people better and understand ourselves in more detail.
We all love to read, and we can't do much of it without a few books. We know about Amazon, what else is there? Here's a run down of some great bookshops.
Abe Books - These specialise in rare and collectable editions, they also have a weird book section and all the usual suspects.
Alibris - Now we're talking books, films, music, and games. It's a media haven for worldwide customers.
Smashwords - Go digital, save waste and money. This independent book retailer offers books from authors all over the world, each with their own story
Associating an artist with a story gives their customer base a sense of comfort and attachment that helps to sell their work. There are many proven psychological effects in the brain when listening to stories. Putting people's minds at ease with a short story about the brand and its products is a way of offering transparency and nurturing trust. We have to earn the respect of our potential customer by always producing good quality works and relating to them. We are all emotional beings, whether we admit it or not, and this means that the way we feel is a clear factor in the decision making process. If a brand hasn't taken the time to tell the story behind it then winning over this element of our personalities will be harder. We don't spend our money unless we want to or really have to.
As with all stories, there are certain rules that apply. If we follow these rules in some form for our stories then it will do the job you need it to when it comes to communicating the desirable side of your wares.
Ask yourself, “Who am I talking to?”. Knowing your audience means appreciating what they're into already and who their influencers are. What kind of people are you aiming at with your arts? You need a story that says something to them. Think about the language you'd use, the metaphors, the literary quotes. Try to tailor the story to meet the emotional landscape of the audience, let them feel comfortable with the whole message.
What are you trying to say? There has to be a point for your story, and it will be concerning your brand and products. Whether you've engineered a new toaster or created a batch of acrylic paintings, the story has to be about these things and how they fit into the lives of your audience through examples.
How will you tell it? The individual stages of your story need to make logical sense to the audience. If they don't understand it or if it makes them feel uneasy then the audience will quickly lose confidence in the brand. The story must have a clear structure that can be easily understood.
Are you being honest? If the truth is sabotage then you're not ready to sell. Your story needs to represent the truth about your brand and product in a way that makes it clear for the audience to understand it and accept it. If they can't see the elements of the story for themselves, they won't be interested.
What problem does it solve, what effects will it have on the lives of your audience? The story has to make it absolutely lucid as to what your brand does and what it is for. If it's arts then explain the medium, influences, emotional background, be creative! People want to feel a connection to their art so build as many as possible.
Tell, don't teach. We're all on the same team, we created our brand because we want to enrich society in our work. Teachers are good in the classroom and in lecture halls but in the marketplace people want to talk to a friend. Casual language makes it more digestible for people and a non-authoritative tone will be listened to a lot more.
Put pictures in people's heads. Memorable stories stick in our minds because of their imagery. We imagine the setting and the situation so the more detail and imagery we get gives us a clearer picture. The better the resolution the more memorable it is. Visual story-telling is a great way of achieving this.
Remember the human side. It is never just about your brand or your product. It's about how it fits in with the lives of everyday people. There are emotional reasons people like particular brands and names as much as they like the style. Customer loyalty is difficult to establish so it's vital that your audience likes you and accepts your brand. Nurture the emotional side with empathic relations and demonstrations of authenticity.
A good story will sell itself, it will be retold and changed over time. If you can tell a story that becomes one of these, and it's clearly involving your brand, then that brand will stick around forever. If you want to continue on the journey towards telling a great story then you can read this inexpensive book.
Targets and workstations have a purpose, they get the job done. The job that's making the money at the moment. But what about tomorrow, what about the other money you could be making and employing people with? True innovators know that the work is never done when it comes to designing a product and service. If something works well, it's easy to get complacent and just stick to what works. The thing is, that in today's society, we're all becoming the designers and the innovators. A business model of the 21st century needs to constantly look out for the best ideas and innovations in order to improve what they do. If you follow a routine at work and you get your jobs done but you wish you could be more innovative and expressive about your ideas, you're not alone. Most people feel stifled in an environment that doesn't allow for a less regimented regime.
Here are some things that teams can do to loosen the mind and let the ideas flood out.
Learning information is valuable work time. Even if it's negative information. This means that ideas that don't work out the way they were expected to are not matters for discipline or wage cuts. They're learning experiences that if used properly will ensure the same road isn't taken again. It doesn't lead to where you wanted it to go. Knowing this is priceless to a business, so reward the acquisition of good information. The way we ensure our ideas don't waste resources and time, even if they fail, is to keep track of the method and rationale at every turn. Sometimes it's just one of the two that isn't right and sometimes it's both. We have to be able to isolate at every turn what works and what does not. So reward effort as much as results.
We have to enable the team to try out their ideas. By encouraging the team and re-assuring them that their ideas are valued, the team will be much more fluent in good ones. Protocols are in place because quality matters. It's not necessarily the protocol itself that matters but the result it gives. Every step is worth time and money to the business and it's often in this area that the innovation happens. If a person can invent a new method of doing the same job which continues to ensure the same quality then time and money are saved. If, as well, a person sees how the method could produce another product or service without little change, that's another line of income for the team. More jobs, better equipment, and happier workers.
Allow risk. Risking everything is folly but risking something for a better thing is not. Especially when we've learned so much already and when even if we fail, the information is vital. Looking at everything in black and white terms is unhelpful, like the two previous points, failure is not a dirty word. We have to be prepared to experiment and try out our ideas. This all involves risk, and so we have to learn to be comfortable with this.
Change the scenery regularly. It's valuable time to take the team out to a park or museum once every few weeks. It's also good to go out for meals or drinks. By putting the same people in a new situation with less formal associations, the mind feels more able to produce handy ideas that may just be of use. When at work, we're often just on the job with our list of things to do and people to appease. This is an automatic mindset that knows it just wants to get through the day. It's actually really stressful and this drastically reduces the amount of energy our mind can put into the imagination.
Remember you are a team. We can spend our whole day in isolation with our computer and telephone. If everyone is working hard that might be the image you have. The thing is this is mechanical work that doesn't do anything for innovation, progress, and future services. Allowing the group to talk about the things that interest them and the events of their lives not only encourages bonding but also gives people ideas about what sort of things might be worth looking into. Naturally, a person who works somewhere every day will have an interest in the things the work involves. They'll likely pick up all manner of ideas and information from their home life.
In short, ease the pressure off, listen more, and remember to take notes.
Rowan Blair Colver for Alternative Fruit
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