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  • It’s one of the basic ABT properties we’ve realized with Story Circles Narrative Training. The quicker you can get through the AB, the more we’ll give you all day with the T. You can see it with the current Oscar-contending movie, “1917,” set during World War I. The movie takes all of about 3 minutes to get through the AB.

    In the first scene an officer tells a young soldier to pick a friend and report to the general’s tent. They do. The general says I’ve got a dangerous mission for you. The two soldiers take off running into No Mans Land and that’s it — about 3 minutes into the 2 hour movie — the “And” and “But” are over with — it’s time for 2 hours of THEREFORE — all the actions and events that occur in the search to find the solution to the problem.

    I noticed the same thing a couple years ago for another war movie, “Dunkirk.” It’s a general trend. As the public continues to lose interest in history, the people telling the stories are being forced to “cut to the chase” — meaning condense the AB down, just give us all the action.


    Theresa Sawicka is Director of Graduate Research and Research Evaluation at University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. She is participating in one of the circles there and sent me this article about Jeff Bezos and his dislike of Powerpoint. Actually, several people have sent me versions of this article over the past couple years.

    It’s nice that Bezos hates boredom and great that he’s figured out “narrative” is the antidote, but I’m not sure he completely gets it yet. One of his big criticisms is about bullet points, but that fact is, if the bullet points are story points, they’re going to be just fine.

    Bezos needs a tutorial on the ABT Framework.

    Jeff Bezos in South Park

    Mike Strauss is the former head of the USDA Office of Science Quality Review and has been a co-developer of Story Circles for the past 5 years, joining me at about 30 Demo Days so far, including 5 this year. He points out how the heartbreaking story of the one drowned child in the Mediterranean help bring world attention to the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015.

    This year there was a similar story told for Central American refugees trying to enter the US. It had the same effect — the US congress used it to motivate legislative action about the crisis.

    This week 60 Minutes ran an entire segment that told the story of the drowned El Salvadoran father and daughter from the perspective of the surviving wife. It was painful to hear, but a textbook case of using THE SPECIFIC (the one story) to convey the THE GENERAL (the story of all the Central American refugees).

    It’s a demonstration of the fundamental rule, “The power of storytelling rests in the specifics.”

    Drowning victims Drowning victimes

    Liz Foote is the brains of Story Circles. Based in Maui, involved in ocean conservation, she is the head trainer and runs all the organizational details for the trainings. She sent this article last week about a flap that arose on Twitter over the issue of koala conservation in Australia. Last spring the Australian Koala Foundation proclaimed the koala “functionally extinct” which helped light a fire (in a land currently filled with fire) that raised $1 million for them. The only problem is biologists pointed out that koalas are super-abundant throughout Australia and not even close to threatened. The New Scientist sort of revised the headline by basically saying, “Not functionally extinct, BUT in trouble.”

    Is this sort of fund raising ethical?


    Rocky Gutierrez (who was part of a circle from the Wildlife Society) sent me this article from celebrity neuroscientist/author Steven Pinker discussing the problem smart people have with communication. His big realization is that heavily educated folks don’t communicate so well. Which I hate to say a lot of us began talking about a decade ago. And does he offer a specific solution?

    And btw, look at the cheesy click bait presentation style, teasing you with both the headline and sub-title about THE ONE THING, but not telling you. blech.

    Stephen Pinker

    Michael Bart is with National Park Service in Colorado. He facilitated one of their circles last year, then gave talks about Story Circles at both the GSA and ESA meetings. He sent this bit about a story on NPR a couple weeks ago.

    Randall Johnson of the Nobel Committee explaining the 2019 prize for physiology or medicine today:

    “Oxygen is essential for life, and is used by virtually all animal cells in order to convert food to energy. However, the amount of oxygen available to cells, tissues and animals themselves can vary greatly. This prize is for three physician scientists who found the molecular switch that regulates how our cells adapt when oxygen levels drop.”

    The ‘AND’ part of this really caught my ear this morning, because it is such an effective statement that we can all agree with:
    Oxygen is essential, AND all animals use it.
    BUT, we have not understood how cells react to differing levels of available oxygen.
    THEREFORE we are awarding the Nobel Prize to this team of scientists who figured it out.

    NPR Logo

    Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker yesterday skirts all around the shorthand of just saying, “The Democrats (and the truth) are AAA, Trump is always ABT — which is a problem.”

    New Yorker Article Picture

    Here’s a 14 minute clip that all ABT fans should view. I go through 3 ABT’s at the end of the keynote address I gave at the joint meeting of the supercomputing organizations eScience and Science Gateways in San Diego a couple weeks ago. The first one, in particular, is interesting as I delve into the topic of WANTS vs. NEEDS in constructing a narrative. It starts to show how much complexity a simple one sentence ABT can represent.

    #173) BUILDING A BETTER ABT: A 14 Minute “ABT Build Session” from my San Diego Keynote

    Narrative is Everything

Submit items to Randy Olson at: rolson@usc.edu