Learn to code tell stories

If you’re a young person with ambition, an eye on a comfortable retirement and an IQ closer to 150 than 100, you might be thinking about pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or maths.

This is good. The world needs more smart minds focused on making energy cleaner, families healthier, and marketing software more effective.

But it’s becoming increasingly important for young people to learn how to become great storytellers too.

Here’s a story to explain why.

Once upon a time in the 1970s, a group of Californians, most of them too uncoordinated to surf or dance, spent their formative adult years building on the computing knowledge of a long line of geniuses including Blaise Pascal (1623-1666), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), Charles Babbage (1791-1871), and Alan Turing (1912-1954).

These Californians succeeded in producing the world’s first commercially successful personal computers. And soon young people across the world were locking themselves in their bedrooms with only their Ataris and coding magazines to pass the time.

During the following few years, these bedroom-bound coders made the odd mildly useful program, as well as boatfuls of clunky computer games (which today’s parents should keep locked away to protect children from sustained bouts of piss-inducing laughter).

Meanwhile, a few unknown guys in the US (with very bad PR skills) had been dreaming up the internet. The World’s Kindest ManTM, Tim Berners-Lee, got in on the act by inventing, then giving away, a system enabling all of us to use it. Then suddenly, coders the world over were able to hoover up knowledge from all corners of the universe.

And technology, for want of a better phrase, went batshit.

Now objects, genes, even the laws of physics can be recreated in binary code. And the technological solutions emerging from the dark, cavernous minds of today’s digital savants are becoming pretty complex.

After all, the low-hanging fruit of invention (think wheels, washing machines and Sellotape) have already been picked off. Today’s technological innovations tend to be more niche and incremental – often leveraging the vast amounts of data modern computers can process. The benefits they bring to the human race can often be hard to articulate. Or in other cases (think artificial intelligence) their potential effects on society so profound that deep thought needs to be given to their implications.

And this brings us to the point of the tale.

As our world becomes more complex, skilful and emotive storytelling becomes more important. People need linear threads they can hang their feelings on to make sense of their evolving environments.

More importantly, tech companies are willing to pay good money to people who can articulate their stories well – who can capture and communicate the world-changing impact of their products and services.

Because, without a story that first pricks people’s ears, then moves them enough to make them shout into other ears, inventions and their inventors can’t leave their marks on the world. A case in point? Sliced bread. For years it didn’t catch on. Then marketing storytellers got in on the act . . .

Here’s another thought. As artificial intelligence gradually replaces human workers, which professions are going to be the last ones standing? Our money’s on storytellers. The day we rely on bots to make sense of why bots are ruling the world is the day we can be forgiven for punching into our office laptops to throttle Siri’s neck.

Finally, a disclaimer: storytelling in the 1000-mph tech/business world is no easy task. Writers often need to be part psychologist, part anthropologist, part sociologist and part futurist – as well as full storyist.

So we applaud young people who want to become engineers, coders, mathematicians and scientists. After all, at Velocity we need the coat-tails of innovators to ride our way to fortunes on.

But we also worry about the serious shortage of smart people practicing the art of business-to-business storytelling. So if you fancy learning how we tell stories about the companies changing our world – or if you’re already knee-deep in B2B copywriting but fancy doing it at Velocity . . . drop us a line with your own story.

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