OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

What have you learned? [refinement v1, with prototype ideas]

A portfolio of learning stories

Photo of Khuyen Bui Gia

Written by

  • Designers have portfolio. Programmers have software projects. Journalists have writing samples. But that's about it.
  • From interviews with people with personal portfolios, the act of putting together the pieces is often more important and rewarding than the portfolio itself. An insight emerges: perhaps the portfolio is a means to something else: reflecting and taking stock of one's life and work.
  • One skill that learners of all ages need to master is reflection on past experiences. It is how the most important lessons from our life and work come from, yet they are not easily captured in resume and portfolio. Moreover, reflection is often a confusing process. How do we first start then?
  • The answer is story. Through generating personal stories, we can start to uncover common themes and articulate our life and work philosophies. Only then can we align them and develop a cohesive vision that will guide our futures.
  • From these stories, we can also identify our skills, values and how we respond to different situations. This work of reflection has two main benefits:
  • First, it helps create trust with ourselves (think about how prevalent the Impostor's syndrome is for millennials). Second, the narrative that comes from such reflection can be used to communicate with future employers that we are up to the challenges of the job and more importantly that we share common values.
  • Storytelling is everywhere, not only for the Drama and English students but also for job interviewing. Stories make life go around. Learners of all ages have been telling stories informally, but the skill is rarely properly emphasized and taught in formal schooling. 
  • Students have to write personal essays when they apply to college but not during and upon graduation. What if each college freshman starts making a portfolio of stories with lessons learned and skills developed in addition to the traditional resume?
  • Moreover, what if we have groups of learners sharing & helping each other refine our own stories? How about a story slam of "What I've learned from work?" with candid lessons?

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

Learners of all ages, particularly high school and college students. The needs of tomorrow require people who can create a coherent story for themselves, about what they have learned and how they all fit together and shape their future.

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm
  • An OpenIDEO outpost or chapter
  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We need experienced storytellers who know how to teach this complex skill.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Sample workshops:
    A group gathering where we listen & help each other refine stories from our experiences. Translating Resume to Learning Portfolio.
I will try it with a group of friends and then with openIDEO Boston chapter and some other events.

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm a senior in Tufts University. I have had 5 years of experiences volunteering in a nonprofit to develop a community of service leaders ( as well as managed different teams and projects. I love designing and facilitating workshops, retreats and experiences. Personally I thrive in straddling among different kinds of nerds.

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone? 2-3 sentences.

Life Learning through Storytelling is a simple guide for generating personal stories, identifying common themes and crafting a narrative that will in terms shape our futures.

What is the specific problem your idea is trying to solve? 1 sentence.

Help students make sense of their experiences so that they can better shape their futures.

How is your idea different or unique from what is currently on the market?

Simplicity: Usually this work of making sense of one's life is done with the help of a life coach, counselor or mentor. Having a clear guide greatly simplifies it.
Human Connection: The guide is best used with a partner, friend or stranger. It facilitates meaningful human connections through sharing personal stories.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

Self-report: satisfaction level.
How quickly can one learn to tell a meaningful personal story.
Change in school/ life decisions

How might your idea be transferable to a large number of people?

The guide can be easily shared to many people. It will also contain ideas on forming partnerships, coaching circles and even chapters.

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

I hope to continue implementing it in my universities and immediate circles of friends. I'm also excited to exchange ideas with other people who are working on similar challenge.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Terry

I fully agree that everyone needs to be able to tell their own story. Not only does it help the listener relate to how the storyteller has common ground to understand the challenges and solutions of a group issue or work but also, I have found, the more someone can think about and refine their story for a given audience the more they know the depth and value of the asset they bring to a given community - be it work or social challenge.  This is also a strong element in my sharing of the idea of Pick a Problem not a Major. Would you be interested in collaborating?

I have also found that in helping students prep for interviews of all varieties - job, scholarship, admission, media interview, internship, etc. - the question most dreaded and the one they feel most unprepared for is 'Tell me about yourself'.  This is especially hard for students reared in cultures where 'talking about yourself' is considered bragging and frowned upon (i.e. the American south).  Learning to tell their story gives students the skill to differentiate between discussing their strengths and abilities to work with challenges and just 'blowing their own horn'. Many really struggle with this.  I believe approaches that give them a focus such as Pick a Problem and the methodology of yours would truly help in reflecting the value of the student.
Terry Hosler

Photo of Khuyen

| the more someone can think about and refine their story for a given audience the more they know the depth and value of the asset they bring to a given community |

Yes! And the key word here is "given" --- stories can be very specific and therefore be a powerful instruments for change. I've read the entry "Pick a problem" and really liked it. The way I think about it is "Pick a question" and track how that question evolves over time. To me, a question seems more dynamic and active than a problem. Anyway, let's collaborate!

| the question most dreaded and the one they feel most unprepared for is 'Tell me about yourself'. |

Coming from Vietnam I completely agree! (I've got better though, thanks to US college admission process. It also helps that the story doesn't have to be verbal, because many are more comfortable writing things down).

I think the "Tell me about yourself" question is too generic from the interviewer's side too. I believe many employers now ask "Tell me about a time when you ..." It is important for the students to remember that the interviewer often means the latter, not the former. If I were an interviewer I'd ask "Tell me about a time where you put your whole heart & mind into something. What was it? How was it? How did you emerge after the experience?"

View all comments