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The Storytelling Lab - Ep65: Cultivating Empathy in the Digital Age with Miri Rodriguez

On this episode of The Storytelling Lab, Rain talks with the Head of Global Internships at Microsoft, Miri Rodriguez. And if you think her title is impressive, wait til you hear the conversation! Miri is an expert at brand design thinking AND empathy and it truly shines through. This episode is perfect for anyone who is struggling with their brand storytelling strategy.


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I’ve been fascinated with the concept of using design thinking for story development since I had Denise Withers on my show back in Episode 42.



I first learned about the concept of design thinking at a workshop during my StartingBloc Fellowship in 2018. As someone who has been his own boss for the entirety of his career, it was nice to see a good model of how a group of people could problem solve.



But when I learned about how you could use that concept to plan out stories and essentially see their future outcomes, I was hooked.


A few months ago, I was connected with another storyteller on Twitter named Miri Rodriguez. She works for Microsoft. I kept seeing her tweet about how using design thinking and storytelling had made significant changes in how the Microsoft teams proceeded forward.


Miri, who has a communications background, was initially brought on to help the engineering team tell the stories of their digital transformation as they moved their data from on the premises to the cloud.


This was not a world she was accustomed to and she failed. Miserably, as she says.


After months of struggling to get the stories to stick, she remembered what she had learned about design thinking and tried a new strategy: to use design thinking to design the data-driven stories and not just tell them.

That’s when things started to click in her work and when Miri really understood the depth of how stories can shift culture and change.


Things clicked so much, in fact, that Microsoft gave Miri a second role in which to use her storytelling power, as the Head of Global Internships (I sure hope they gave her the money to match!).


Now she helps empower young people to use their origin stories to craft their careers.


I had Miri on the show to talk more about how we can use storytelling in the ever -increasing age of AI and how we can connect as humans in such a data driven world.


What Miri understands that most novice storytellers do not, is that storytelling does not just start and end with telling a story.


“I turn storytellers into "storylords." Brand storytelling is two fold: it's building the story of the brand and then consistently telling stories for the brand.”


It’s not just about creating one story for your brand, it’s about creating a world within which your stories exist. The demand to hear your brand stories is consistent and exists over the long term.


You need to understand your “story world” and how to be the “storylord” of it. That means at any given moment, regarding any given topic in your realm, you can craft a story based on your beliefs and business model that communicates the way you create change.


Even in the impending world of robots where human relationships are digitized, we will still have to use empathy, emotion, and creativity to connect via storytelling.



If you struggle with how to structure your stories and lead with empathy, and want to know how to become a Storylord, this is the episode for you!



Some of the highlights of our conversation:

  • Managing the intern program at Microsoft

  • Storytelling at Microsoft about digital transformation and design thinking 

  • Working as a story design consultant both inside and outside of Microsoft 

  • Mentoring young people on how to control their narratives and develop their stories 

  • The theme of empowerment 

  • The creative programs Microsoft offers 

  • The “Robin to Batman Effect” 

  • Living the brand and being an active character in the story 

  • The intense process of writing and publishing her  book 

  • Turning storytellers into “storylords” 

  • The importance applying the concept of truly  listening 

  • Designing the right stories to fit your audience 

  • The five steps of design thinking: empathize (cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, compassionate empathy) define, ideate, prototype, test 

  • Not being afraid of failing first to see what your audience wants and needs

  • Giving your story a mission 

  • Using the brainstorming tool SCAMPER 

  • The importance of connecting emotionally with your audience 

  • The future of storytelling 

  • Work experiences with AI 

  • Storytelling changing the narrative from the outside out 

  • Bringing women together in the workplace 



As always, I hope you enjoy the episode!



Peace and Love,

Rain


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© 2019 B. Rain Bennett