Why sharing the effort of our experiences can increase performance and empathy

by | Aug 20, 2019 | Resources

How can sharing the effort of our experiences increase performance? Our CEO and Co-Founder Cheryl Clemons shares her insights.


Bragging and the empathy gap

Brag posts on social media are one of the double-edged swords of modern life. We all know someone who only shows us their best life, shares a constant stream of achievements or serially posts pictures of their award-winning children. The sharer or ‘self-promoter’ may receive a short-term motivation boost through the articulation of their success and the immediate reward of likes. So how can sharing our stories and experiences heighten empathy and potentially increase performance?

Everyone else is likely to experience a mix – to varying degrees – of admiration, joy, envy, low self-esteem or annoyance. When asked, sharers generally overestimate how much their audience will be happy for them by a whopping 200%. Irene Scopelliti, a senior marketing lecturer at Cass Business School, puts this emotional miscalibration down to the empathy gap.[1]

Now I do think it’s really important to share success stories for a number of reasons, not least because of the need to amplify voices that are less heard, and for everyone to see ‘people like us’ achieving goals that resonate. This can often only be achieved if we go beyond our close friends and family to a wider network. So, it’s perfectly reasonable to share achievements as part of the mix of what makes us who we are. But, if we only see the output, success or impact and we don’t truly understand what it’s taken to get there, how truly inspiring is it? This is equally important in the workplace.


Effort shock

In a brilliant article called How ‘The Karate Kid’ ruined the modern world,[2] Cracked editor David Wong blames humanity’s demise on a classic film sequence.

Does this sound familiar? The main character is bad at something but after a series of impactful interventions and a short training montage they become an expert. As David says, “We have a vague idea in our head of the “price” of certain accomplishments, how difficult it should be to get a degree, or succeed at a job, or stay in shape, or raise a kid, or build a house. And that vague idea is almost always catastrophically wrong.”

The result of this is ‘effort shock’, a feeling we’ve probably all felt at some point in our lives. The trend continues on YouTube with brilliant but still vastly edited videos like Mike Boyd’s ‘How to learn anything quickly’. He does show some of the pain, and unpicks the learning process, but his goal is generally a race to do one thing from a standing start as quickly as possible rather than a quest for expertise.

In the real world, many people believe that it takes practice, and a lot of it, to become an expert. Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers famously describes a certain set of factors which contribute to success. The overriding one is 10,000 hours, the amount of time most masters have spent on perfecting their craft. Understandably, everyone wants to bottle the magic sauce and short cut this level of input. But, having the chance to understand the ingredients requires some candour. Do we need to pitch The Karate Kid v Malcolm Gladwell in a media titan clash? No, I don’t think so. Could we simply all be more honest about what it takes to achieve something? Yes.

If we share the mishaps, the emotion we feel, the decisions we make and why we are trying to do it in the first place we can go some way to reduce the empathy gap, increase performance and connect with our audience.


Where does UGC fit into all of this?

There’s a growing appreciation of the importance of stories in effective learning. Nick Shackleton Jones is one recent author leading the charge. Sharing our own stories is an important part of this but people don’t necessarily find it easy to reflect and share meaningful experiences to support learning.

Research by Degreed[3], published in April 2019, highlights that user-generated content in the workplace is mostly user-discovered and shared rather than self-generated. From a sample of 800 workers, managers and leaders they report that 4 in 10 people share and comment on existing posts and respond to forum questions. In contrast, only 7.5% have recorded their own selfie videos.

Three immediate thoughts strike me here. First up, perhaps this shouldn’t surprise us as we are much more likely to share and reflect on other people’s stories in our personal lives too. We don’t all naturally tell our own. Secondly, 7.5% is actually quite high if you focus on the potential multiplier impact of this video content. In an organisation of 20,000 people that’s still 1,500 creating original and potentially hugely relevant content. And thirdly, we are missing a significant trick if we don’t widen the pool of people who feel confident, equipped and empowered to reflect and share their own lessons learned.


Don’t be afraid to share the struggle

There is a strong business case for this. Fundamentally, conscious reflection and the articulation of know-how and experience can improve performance. Harvard researchers[4] have shown that “individuals who are given time to articulate and codify their experience with a task improve their performance significantly more than those who are given the same amount of time to accumulate additional experience with the task.”

Our individual stories and experiences are the micro-foundations of organizational performance. So, this is a call-to-arms. Let’s reduce the empathy gap and increase performance by sharing the effort, the struggle and our lessons learned alongside our successes and achievements. We can individually make a collective difference.


[1] Why do people brag? Irene Scopelliti: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNTyl_nUOVo
[2] How the Karate Kid ruined the modern world, David Wong: https://www.cracked.com/article_18544_how-the-karate-kid-ruined-modern-world.html
[3] https://blog.degreed.com/how-the-workforce-learns-in-2019-user-generated-content/
[4] Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning. Giada Di Stefano Bocconi University – Department of Management and Technology, Francesca Gino
Harvard Business School, Gary P. Pisano Harvard Business School, Bradley R. Staats
University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

Cheryl Clemons
CEO StoryTagger
Twitter | LinkedIn 

How to support a continuous learning culture
New call-to-action

Get resources by email

Discover how user-generated video can work for your organisation with our latest guides, good practice examples and product updates.

How to rethink learning and development programmes with video storytelling

From the start of lockdown, learning and development professionals were fast out of the blocks to reimagine how they could support a more virtual workforce. Faced with an overnight increase in demand for online from both senior stakeholders and users many teams found...

Is your current video strategy delivering business impact?

Like many teams you may be relying on professional production companies to capture your colleague or customer stories and aid your video strategy. We have identified five reasons why it’s time to consider new, innovative ways of filming authentic, value-led content...

Employee advocacy and what it means for employees and businesses

  What is employee advocacy? Put simply, employee advocacy is the promotion of a business by those who work in it. The end goal of employee advocacy is to make it easy for your employees to take part in your business’s marketing efforts. They can achieve this...

Case Study – Verizon

Leveraging expertise and passion of highest sales performers StoryTagger enabled Verizon to leverage the expertise and passion of its highest sales performers, creating concise insight-rich videos to share with field teams.   Verizon is one of the largest...

How can university marketing teams help students navigate through the current crisis?

‘I think it’s probably been the biggest experiment in the history of mankind, where we've taken a billion students and asked them to do what they're learning online.’ How have recent events impacted university students starting their course this year? Marketing and...

Curate inspiring career stories with video

Why are career videos important?   Are your people aware of all the relevant learning and career choices available to them? Many organisations recognise the need to raise awareness about the breadth of opportunity on offer, and career videos are a great way to do...

Why square is the best format for selfie videos

Lots of people ask why we chose a square video format for StoryTagger. Selecting the video format was a big deal for us, and lots of factors influenced our decision. Here’s the backstory on why we decided it was cool to be square.        How did square...

Stories We Can All Learn From

Kudos to the learning community who turned up and opened up for Stories We Can All Learn From. The brilliant panel included Gayle Tong, Ger Driesen and Myles Runham with Stella Collins as Chair, fifteen brave learning professionals who contributed via StoryTagger and...

How to help remote teams feel connected and share knowledge

With the rise of the gig economy and homeworking it’s important to help people working in remote teams to feel connected. If they aren’t aligned to your shared mission and purpose productivity, morale is in danger of dipping. It’s not easy to keep a dispersed team...

Remote teams communication templates

How can you help remote teams feel connected and effective? Use the template below to help you support remote teams communication by sharing experiences and tips on video.Like many other learning and communication teams you may have experienced a shift in how they are...


Get started with enterprise
user-generated video

This guide helps you introduce user-generated video into your organisation with tips on how to run a quick experiment to generate buy-in from your stakeholders.