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ATD Blog

AI Isn’t Human—But Storytelling Is

Tuesday, May 14, 2024
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A lot of us are excited about how artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the world of work. And plenty of us are skeptical.

I wasn’t surprised when a colleague expressed a touch of cynicism as we discussed AI’s impact on talent development over the last year. With AI permeating so many of our tools, technologies, and even time-tested strategies, it seems like no corner of our world has been untouched. “It’s not going to be long before ChatGPT takes our jobs,” my friend sighed, gazing off into an unsettling future. “If it’s faster and better at our work than we are, why do we even need humans?”

That has quickly become the question of the day. If AI can write a course outline or even create a video from a single prompt, where do humans fit into the new equation? Although we’re still learning and experimenting, we know there are so many aspects of our work that can be improved when we embrace AI. We’re already experiencing new heights of productivity, improvement, and efficiency—all of which contribute to better experiences for our learners. As it turns out, it’s that space where the real opportunity shines through. When we employ AI to tackle the more basic or technical aspects of our roles, we free ourselves up to do what we do best: to be humans.

In the human experience, there is one clear commonality: each of us has a few stories to tell. Storytelling is, perhaps, the most human of all the things we do. Our brains are wired to process and make sense of the world around us through stories. That’s why storytelling has experienced a renaissance in training; telling learners why something is important can be helpful, but framing it through a narrative that draws them in and connects to their own lived experiences creates real neural change.

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While AI can generate good content, it can’t give instructional design or training delivery the same human touch that we can. Here are a few compelling reasons to incorporate storytelling into AI-generated content:

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  • Create emotional connections. No learner welcomes dry training content, and AI-generated content often feels sanitized. Incorporate stories that encourage learners to feel something: empathy, excitement, and even frustration are relatable emotions that can produce memorable learning experiences. When you use storytelling to evoke an emotional response, your learners can connect with you and the content in a more personal way.
  • Highlight real-world application. Using AI-generated content to explain an idea or process can be a good start, and storytelling can bridge the gap between conceptual and practical use. When reviewing content, consider what experiences you’ve had with it and how you might weave those experiences into a story you can share. Through case studies, scenarios, and anecdotes about what can go right and wrong in the real world, your learners can connect your stories to their own as they prepare for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
  • Build trust. We have no greater responsibility than building trust with our learners, and storytelling is a wonderful way to achieve that goal. Select authentic, relatable stories that help you to establish credibility and present yourself and others as real people who have faced problems like those your learners may encounter. When your learners process AI-generated content through stories, the content becomes more meaningful at the same time you establish yourself as a reliable part of their learning journey.

It’s understandable—and very human—to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism as we incorporate AI-generated content into training. That is especially true as we identify how it will—and will not—fit into the flow of our work. Using AI-generated content does not require us to abandon everything that makes training meaningful and enjoyable. Take time to explore what it’s like to let AI support your work, and use time saved to incorporate storytelling into AI’s outputs. AI might not be after our jobs at all; it may be the key to building lasting human connections through our best learning experiences yet.

Ready to learn how to humanize your content with storytelling? Join me in the session If You Give a Robot a Story: Humanizing AI-Generated Content at the ATD International Conference & EXPO in New Orleans, Louisiana, on May 19–22, 2024.

About the Author

Stephanie Hubka, CPTD, wants to live in a world where learning is exciting and inspiring and training is recognized as a natural driver of an organization’s strategy. For the past 15 years, she has provided strategic leadership and expertise on professional learning and organizational performance solutions to companies in more than 50 countries. As the managing partner of Protos Learning, she specializes in developing strategies and products that advance a company’s mission and vision.

Hubka holds a bachelor of science degree from Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and is a Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD. She volunteers for the Metro DC Chapter of ATD and served as the chapter president in 2016, and she has served as a National Advisor for Chapters since 2017.

2 Comments
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Stephanie, I love this post and I'm excited to hear your session at ATD24 on this topic. It's so refreshing to hear a fellow-TD pro touting the benefits of stories for training. Thank you for sharing!
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Creating a deep emotional connection is very important. Excellent insight.
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