If you write content for a ‘boring’ industry and you aren’t harnessing the power of comparison to strengthen your storytelling, you’re missing out.
Dating back to my days in college researching John Milton’s Paradise Lost, I’ve always been impressed with the power of comparison. When you’re knee deep in a project and suffering that all-too-common tunnel vision, nothing widens your perspective and gets you thinking quite like an unexpected link to another story or concept.
Imagine for a moment that you’re an IT professional charged with managing your company’s IT infrastructure and hiring IT talent. Every day, all you read is black and white content about software updates, talent acquisition, and informational security. Same tone, same buzzwords, same everything. (Forgive me if I’m oversimplifying here.) When all you do is read linear information that stays within a comfortable box, it’s easy to get tunnel vision about your industry—or worse, to get burnt out.
In this position, there are a number of things you could do. The easiest, but probably worst option would be to quit reading entirely. This would save you the pain of reading the same boring IT business crap day in and day out, but would also have the unfortunate side effect of cutting you right out of the loop. It’s hard to stay informed if you don’t do any reading about your industry.
Another option would of course be to do nothing—to keep reading the same boring stuff day in and day out. But, imagine that one day you were presented with a piece of content that promised to teach you something new about your work through the lens of a concept from outside your industry. Wouldn’t you be more inclined to read that piece of content than the same stuff you feel forced to wade through to stay educated?
When you use the power of comparison, you break the everyday slog, widen perspectives, and above all, keep people’s interest. You may not think there’s much that Toyota’s method of just-in-time manufacturing can teach you about managing a mobile workforce, but I bet there’s something there. Just like I know there’s something driving off-road can teach you about managing social media, despite the fact that at first glance those two topics have nothing to do with one another.
Unexpected parallels are just that—unexpected. But there’s a reason they’re so useful: they force you to think about concepts you’re already familiar with in another light. They’re especially useful in industries plagued by boring content. Surprising connections can provide a much-needed break from boredom while also educating and informing.
These sorts of comparisons are harder to come by and take more time to develop, but can help you make waves in a space that’s otherwise inundated with boring and repetitive content. Observing other people in different contexts is a powerful way to learn, and that carries over just as much to educational content in even the unsexiest industries.
Image credit: CC by John Proctor