Smaller Stories



The Microsoft commercial fails to recognize some features that people love about Google: the customization of the account, the instant on / instant off elements, the lack of viruses (given the Linux background) and the fact that many of the apps actually work offline as well (think Google Drive). Besides, Windows 8 requires people to login with an account that they use to mine data.

None of that really matters, though. The advertisement fails, because it makes them look desperate. It makes them look whiny. It makes them look like the guy who is trying to impress a woman at the bar by insulting his wing men.

Contrast this with Google's advertising. They're not talking about Microsoft. They're not talking about Apple, for that matter. Or Amazon. They're hardly talking about Google and the features their products offer. Instead, they're telling stories. Human stories. Stories with an emotional core. Google isn't saying, "Check out our Chromebooks, they're faster than a PC."

No, they're saying, "Remember when you went to college and you missed your dad and your mom had died and you just wanted to connect? We helped make that happen for you." They're saying, "Hey, remember that dad who wanted to tell his daughter's story? We were there."

I'm struck by the genius of Google in the fact that they are telling the little stories. Their marketing team realizes that it's the little stories that add up. You might remember the family vacation forever, but ultimately, you'll cry on your dad's funeral because of those endless hours playing catch in the backyard.

Here's the hard truth: 
I've spent too much time tearing down bad ideas and not enough time telling the small stories that matter.

So, it has me  thinking about ed reform. Too often, I've been negative. I've taken the Microsoft route and blasted Michelle Rhee or Arne Duncan or Sal Khan instead of going the Google route and telling a better story.  I think it's because I thought the stories that mattered were the big ones; the inspirational types that garner a lot of fanfare. But I'm starting to realize that teaching is more like parenting. It's more like the hours spent playing catch.

Ultimately, that's what wins people over. Stories. Real stories. Small stories. The kinds of little things that turn out to be huge over a lifetime. It's kids blogging and learning to code and solving problems that are real to them and laughing and gritting their teeth and pushing through the harder moments of learning to read. It's humble science, where they learn to observe and critical social studies where they realize that truth is often nuanced. It's the bad, awkward high school poetry that somehow turns a kid into an author. It's the millions of tiny things happening already all over the country in public schools.

Feel free to download Wendell the World's Worst Wizard. It's less than five dollars. Or you could buy the physical book (on sale right now from twelve dollars down to $10.46) and get the Kindle download for a dollar.