ABT Framework Student Resource Page
Round 19 – STRI & OPEN
Synopsis on Working Circles – If you’re new to Working Circles, start by reading this.
Working Circle Half Hour Schedule – Use this to guide you through how to host your half hour Working Circle.
To complete the class, you must sign up to host 1 Working Circle and sign up to participate in 2 Working Circles.
Sign up to host a Working Circle
- Pick an available half hour time slot on this page
- Fill in your first name, last name, and a short title for your Working Circle based on your ABT.
- Email your participants your ABT before the Working Circle so they have time to review it – we’ll send you the list of your participants’ email addresses 3-5 days ahead of time.
- You can send your participants a revised ABT of what you originally submitted to class or use a brand new ABT all together.
- During the Working Circle, use the ABT Blue Card and follow the half hour schedule.
- You’re the moderator of the discussion, so do your best to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak and provide input.
- We’ll send you and your participants a Webex link for your Working Circle 3-5 days before you’re scheduled to host, so no need to worry about that.
- Sign up to participate in a minimum of 2 Working Circles. Sign up here.
- Review the ABT that the host sent you ahead of time and come up with your version of the 5 Word Problem (this will be discussed in class) for the host’s ABT before the Working Circle starts.
- (Optional) Participants can rewrite the host’s ABT and present the rewritten ABT to the host during the Working Circle. This approach is for participants who want a little extra practice and to give the host more options and ideas for rewriting their ABT. So far we’ve had reports back that hosts are incredibly grateful when participants do this.
- Be prepared to use the ABT Blue Card and all the tools you’ve learned in class to help the host clarify their narrative.
8:00 AM PST (Los Angeles Time) / 11:00 AM EST (Panama Time)
Nov. 9, 16, 18, 23, 30
Dec. 2, 7, 9, 14, 16
Sign up to host a Working Circle (see above)
Download the ABT Blue Card – Have it open or printed out and ready for each class.
Watch the AAAS video:
If you had an ABT Build session and want to get your notes from the chat, then you can download previous chat logs here.
Risk Communication on Climate: Mental Models and Mass Balance – The IPCC Report on climate change is supposed to be simple enough for policy makers to interpret it, but it’s so complicated that even MIT grads with STEM backgrounds can’t decipher it.
Medical Obfuscation: Structure and Function – Michael Crichton’s paper on how medical communication does NOT have to be as complicated as it is.
UN climate reports are increasingly unreadable – This is what we’re fighting against.
Optional Exercise #1: The 5 Word Problem
“What’s the problem?” is the most common question Randy asks during the ABT Builds. For this exercise, try to finish this sentence “The problem is _____” and use only 5 additional words.
Examples: The problem is bad resource management.
The problem is the old method doesn’t work.
The problem is we have bad data.
Stripping down your problem to just 5 words can really help you clarify what your narrative is really all about.
The A.I. episode of the ABT Time Podcast that Randy mentioned in class:
The One Thing:
Nicholas Kristof’s Advice for Saving the World – The importance of the singular narrative. Once you increase the size of a narrative from one person in need to two people in need, compassion drops in the audience.
Compassion Fade: Affect and Charity Are Greatest for a Single Child in Need – The Research Article that “Advice for Saving the World” references.
Is the scientific paper a fraud? – The real world is “and, and, and,” but the scientific paper is crafted into the IMRAD template to create a narrative.
Week 1 Working Circles are available. Sign up to participate here.
Optional Exercise #2: Using the Dobzhansky Template to find your “One Thing.”
Restructure your ABT in the form of a Dobzhansky Template to help you find your singular narrative.
Dobzhansky Template: Nothing in _______ makes sense, except in the light of ________.
Examples: Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution.
Nothing in geology makes sense, except in the light of plate tectonics.
Nothing in the management of mule deer makes sense except in the light of correctly estimating abundance.
Nothing in the challenge of teaching human anatomy makes sense except in the light of time management.
Matthew Winkler Video: What makes a hero? – We only watched the first two minutes in class. Watch this to the end to see how the hero’s journey applies to your life:
The ABT Time episode featuring Shirley Malcom:
Oprah’s Golden Globes Speech – A great example of using Nested ABTs. Color coded in the ABT format.
Bankspeak: The Language of World Bank Reports, 1946–2012 – The Literary Lab report on how the World Bank reports are completely unreadable, due in no small part to the overuse of the word “and” to glue together contradicting statements.
Three Forms of the ABT – It’s recommended you read this excerpt from “Houston, We Have a Narrative” and get an understanding of the cABT (Conversational ABT).
Optional Exercise #3: cABT – Starting from simplicity
Randy might ask you the cABT version of your ABT, so for this exercise you’ll prepare your cABT ahead of time.
The cABT should have all specifics stripped off of it. Use nothing but generic words, like “thing” and “stuff.” For example, if your ABT dealt with a new way to clean junk from the ocean that’s an improvement and the old system is outdated, the cABT would be “We had a thing we were using for a while, but it’s not working that great, so now we want to use a better thing.”
See? We can’t tell that you’re working on cleaning the environment. You could just as well be telling me that you’re implementing a new accounting system at your bank for all we know. That makes it a good cABT.
This exercise is important in making sure you have an easily understood base narrative, that you really know what the narrative core of your ABT is all about. And then from the base cABT, you can start adding specifics again when constructing your kABT.
‘Data-Driven’ Campaigns Are Killing the Democratic Party – The article in which Dave Gold coined the term “Christmas Tree” when looking for an overarching problem. It’s okay to have several problems in your narrative, but you need to find the overarching Christmas Tree problem for your narrative that all the other problems can hang off of like ornaments.
Elegant vs Clumsy: Why Climate Communication Fails – Randy’s blog post on the infamous “dinosaur speaking at the U.N” climate change video and how it failed to deliver.
Optional Exercise #4 – “This is a story of…” – Process verbs
This is another exercise that would be handy to have done before your in class ABT Build with Randy because Randy asks this question for roughly 99% of ABT Builds.
For this exercise, tell us what your ABT is about by finishing this sentence and using only 3 additional words “This is a story of____.”
It seems simple, but this exercise is tricky because participants tend to focus on the noun, and audiences relate way less to nouns – which tend to be different from one job to another. But verbs about processes tend to be more relatable from one job to another. Common process verbs for ABTs could include adapt, manage, protect, restore, strategize, educate.
- Protecting a species
- Strategizing building restoration
- Managing conservation efforts
- Restoring wildlife
- Adapting to change
- Educating our stakeholders
Look at this example ABT:
Congressional funding is a key requirement for the continuation of important aviation research, and we know that our research allows us to be better able to manage our wildlife habitats and protect endangered species. But program managers don’t feel confident about securing future funding because some research areas are not receiving enough attention. Therefore, we need to effectively promote the proven success in these research areas to secure future funding.
When asked to complete the sentence “This is a story of____,” some possibilities are “This is a story of congressional funding” or “This is a story of aviation research.” But these two sentences lack action. For a story to be a story, it needs action.
Instead of nouns, focus on some possible verbs about processes. “Promote” is one possibility, so you could say “This is a story of promoting our successes.” “Promoting” is something many people across many different disciplines have had to deal with.
If you wanted the verb for the broader story, then the verb might be “secure,” since ultimately the purpose of promoting is to secure the future funds. “This is a story of securing future funding.”
Try to fill in “This is a story of____” for your ABT using only 3 additional words (focusing on the process verb) or less.
Fools and Working Circles
Not My First Rodeo – Patty Limerick’s blog
The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West – Patty’s book.
Dancing With Professors: The Trouble With Academic Prose – A New York Times article written by Patty Limerick in 1993 about the problems academics have with communication. Still relevant today!
Optional Exercise #5: Past, Present, & Future
There’s a few different variations of the kABT. We’ll be looking at one of them here, the Past-Present-Future ABT.
The Past-Present-Future format isn’t applicable to all topics, but we can experiment and see if it is with yours. For your project, craft the AND in a way to tell the audience what was going on before in your project or your old method for addressing a problem. For the BUT, tell the audience the current problem with the old method of doing things. For the THEREFORE, let us know the solution that you’ll be attempting to implement in the future.
The cABT for a Past-Present-Future ABT might look like: “We were doing this one method for the longest time AND it worked well enough, BUT a new issue came up, THEREFORE now we have to fix it by doing a new thing.”
You could also attempt an IF/THEN in a Past-Present-Future ABT, for example: “We were doing this one method for the longest time AND it worked well enough, BUT a new issue came up and IF we don’t fix it THEN it’s going to get really bad, THEREFORE now we have to fix it by doing a new thing.”
Try filling in the details with your own project and make your own kABT using the Past-Present-Future ABT format.
Or fill in the details with facts about your life to make a Past-Present-Future ABT for introducing yourself at parties or networking events: “I was doing this one thing, BUT then a big issue came up, THEREFORE now I’m focusing on this other thing.”
And you can break out the Past-Present-Future ABT if you’re ever put on the spot by your employer with a question on where you’re at with a project at work. cABT: “Well boss, we got all this stuff done and it’s working great, but now we’ve got a new problem, so we’ll be doing a bunch of steps to fix it.” Fill in the details to that cABT on the fly and your boss should be up to speed on what you’re up to.
Audience focused communication requires listening:
Brian Palermo’s Resources – Brian offers a number of resource videos on his website, some with interactive exercises built in. Topics include listening, utilizing emotional intelligence, and audience focused communication. He also offers online improv training to help improve listening and communication skills.
Rather Than Arming Our Differences, We Need To Embrace Them—and Simply Be NICE – An article on how shared values and first principles can help us bridge divides between different groups. And for the purposes of our course, where do you bridge that divide? The blue section.
Optional Exercise #6: Expected Vs Observed – Leading us to the ideal world
Time to look at a different version of the kABT, the Expected Vs Observed ABT.
The Expected Vs Observed ABT isn’t applicable to all topics, but we can experiment and see if it is with yours. For your project, paint a perfect world in the AND in which everything goes right, what you would Expect from your “ideal world.” Unlike the Past-Present-Future ABT, this time you’re starting the AND out in the ideal, perfect future, not the past. A positive IF/THEN in the AND is often helpful here in really driving home what the stakes are if all goes according to plan.
Then for the BUT, tell us the problem that you’re Observing which is interfering with this perfect world you envisioned in the AND.
Finally, for the THEREFORE, tell us how you’ll lead us out of the problem of the BUT and back to the ideal world of the AND.
(This is often a great ABT for people who work on climate change projects. Climate change has been such an ongoing problem that it’s a part of our past now, so instead of looking at the climate change ridden past, you’re looking at the ideal future where you’re actively solving the problems of climate change in the AND).
A typical Expected Vs Observed cABT: “We’ve got this great project AND IF everything goes to plan THEN we’ll get all kinds of great benefits BUT right now it’s not working because of a problem THEREFORE we need to fix it by doing some stuff.”
Try filling in the details with your own project and make your own kABT using the Expected Vs Observed ABT format.
Posted after Session 7.
For those who have completed their in class ABT Build with Randy and already hosted the Working Circle I am now offering special Coaching Circles which will be a combination ABT Build and Working Circle. These Coaching Circles are for those of you who want a little bit more work and polish done on their ABT, or want to work on a brand new ABT.
I’ll be taking up to 2 participants per Coaching Circle whose ABTs we will be working on. We’ll spend a little time making sure we’re clear on what each participants’ ABT is about and what the problem is, and after that we’ll see if your ABT conforms to one of the common types of ABTs that we can use as a cABT template (such as Expected vs Observed, Past-Present-Future, We Know This, Audience as Hero) or some combination of templates. If we have time, we’ll also work on places where we can drill down to specifics in your ABT.
After I give everyone their assignments, we’ll break for 10 minutes, during which time each participant will rewrite their ABTs, then we’ll meet back up to go over final fine tuning.
Anyone who wishes to log on as an Observer can contribute in chat, giving feedback and suggestions as we run through the Coaching Circle similar to how we do it during the ABT Builds.
Requirements to join as a Participant:
- Must have hosted your Working Circle
- Complete your in class ABT Build with Randy
- Sign up for a participant spot on the Working Circle sign up page for one the Coaching Circles.
- Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) the questionnaire below at least 24 hours before the Coaching Circle starts.
No requirements to join as an Observer – just use the Webex link that I put on the sign up page to join in. (Note: Each Coaching Circle’s link will be different).
The sessions will likely run around 45 minutes.
It’s okay to sign up for a Coaching Circle if you haven’t hosted your Working Circle yet but will have hosted it by the time the Coaching Circle starts.
Please email this to me (email@example.com) at least 24 hours before your Coaching Circle.
1. Please provide your ABT sentence that you want to work on. You’re free to use a brand new ABT sentence or one that you’ve been revising over the course of the class that you think could still use some work.
2. For your ABT, finish the sentence “This story is about…” and use only three additional words focusing on the verb that deals with the process that you’re working on. See Optional Exercise #4 for details.
3. Finish this sentence using 5 additional words or less: The problem is _______. See Optional Exercise #1 for details
4. What’s the Dobzhansky template for your ABT? See Optional Exercise #2 for details.
Science Needs Story – Randy Olson’s Blog.
@ABTAgenda – Follow Randy on Twitter.
ABT Time Podcast – All things ABT, start to finish. In this weekly hour long post Randy will discuss observations, applications and implications of this powerful tool that is at the core of his narrative training program and effective communication of all forms.
ABT Framework Course & Story Circles Grads – A private Facebook group just for graduates of the course where you can post about any ABT related topic you find around the ‘net. Once you request access, we’ll let you in.
Story Circles & ABT Training – An open-to-all Facebook Fan page.
The ABT Agenda Newsletter – We send out a newsletter a few times a year with new ABT related events, news, and course updates. If you sign up, we promise not to spam you with tons of junk!
“They Say / I Say” – A book on arguing in an ABT-like style.
Uri Hasson’s Paper on Neurocinematics – For a look at how narrative and non-narrative affects the brain. This paper was referenced in the AAAS video.