Why storytelling is so powerful in this digital era

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ashley Fell is a social researcher, keynote speaker and head of Communications at McCrindle. In her recent TED talk on The Visual Mind; Why storytelling is so powerful in this digital era, Ashley elaborates on the power of stories on our mind, and how to use them to communicate data-rich stories.

Communication has never been as important as it is today, because so much of our world is changing. We live in a world where our learning has changed. Where our interaction and how we ‘share’ has changed. Where even the concept of a story, has changed.

We are living in an age of digital disruption, in what we call 'the great screenage'. Where we now spend more time on our devices, than we ever have before. 

We live in technologically integrated times, where our attention spans are short. In times of message saturation and information overload, if you have important data to communicate, it is harder than ever to cut through the noise. 

The key to unlocking effective cut-through, is in an understanding of how the brain works.

For we know the brain is wired to processes visual imagery. When we look at how the brain retains information, words are processed by our short term memory, whereas visuals go directly into our long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.

And so the key is to present information in a way that appeals to the visual mind.

When we communicate data, our job is to move from the complex to the simple. Because the brain is more naturally wired to engage with the human, with the relatable, with a story than with just data, information and complexity alone. 

And when we think about engaging stories, whether they be novels, infographics or songs, they always have the four I’s.

Great stories create interest and capture our attention. Great stories instruct and communicate meaning. Great stories involve us. And importantly, a great story inspires. It connects not just with the eyes of the head but with the eyes of the heart.

We know the mind looks for direction and coherency. It doesn’t respond to ambiguity. And so as researchers, we navigate spreadsheets and find the intrigue and interest in the data. We fill in the blanks and communicate through the use of infographics and visualised presentations. We believe research is at its best, when it tells a story. 

When we think about visuals that create interest and engage our minds, there are three key elements.

The first is colour. Our eyes and our minds are drawn to colour. The second is picture. The content of the visual. And the third is movement. Motion and movement attract and retain our attention. That is why YouTube is so popular. For why would we read it, when we can watch it?

And so when you next have a story to tell, remember that the mind responds to visuals. That we are wired to engage and retain information visually. And that creating interest ad intrigue, especially when you are communicating data, has never been more important than in the great screenage we are living in today. 


Ashley Fell is a social researcher, TEDx speaker and Head of Communications at the internationally recognised McCrindle. As a trends analyst and media commentator she understands how to effectively communicate across diverse audiences.

From her experience in managing media relations, social media platforms and content creation, Ashley advises on how to achieve cut through in message-saturated times. She is an expert in how to communicate across generational barriers.

Download Ashley's Professional Speakers Pack here and see the McCrindle Speakers professional presenter showreel here

Contact us today to book Ashley for your next event. 

Vocational Education and Training: Myths, realities and the future of skills in Australia

Monday, May 22, 2017

Over the past few months it has been our delight to have worked with Skilling Australia Foundation to research, write and design a ground-breaking report on vocational education in Australia.

This report, released today, gives an overview of the trends currently impacting the Australian workforce and outlines responses that will help futureproof the local economy amidst these global megatrends.

The transition of the workforce from the currently dominant Baby Boomers and Generation X to Generations Y and Z will require different and more diverse solutions to previous intergenerational transfers. As this report points out, the need to be innovative, collaborative and responsive require more emphasis on vocational education and training (VET) in addition to our well regarded higher education sector. In a multi- career era, it is upskilling and retraining that will create a nimble and relevant workforce. In this technologically transformative society, today’s new workers will have to be lifelong learners, with hands-on skills not just academic qualifications, and a focus on productivity not just theory. In these economically fluctuating times, tertiary education will increasingly be required to deliver a return on investment, direct employment outcomes and strong career earning. In all of these areas it is the VET sector that offers compelling solutions to these emerging needs.

This report clearly shows the key role of the VET sector in these transformed times. It also highlights the need to prioritise, promote and position the sector to respond competently to the current needs and opportunities of the Australian economy.

The VET sector is more than just a partner in equipping the emerging workforce, it is the first foundational rung in Australia’s future economic prosperity.

For more information or to access the report, visit Skilling Australia Foundation here.


Supply and demand; Australia as an ageing nation

Tuesday, March 21, 2017



Australia is experiencing a baby boom, with births exceeding 300,000 a year. 30 years ago, the over 65s made up just 11% of our population (one in nine persons). Today the over 65s make up 15% of our population (one in seven). Forecasts project that this cohort will make up 18% in 2027 (one in six). By 2047 one in five Australians (20%) will be aged over 65.


Our median age is also increasing. Three decades ago the median age of an Australian was 31.3. Today it is 37.4 and in 2047 it is projected to be just under 40.


The over 85s, where there is an even greater need for aged care services, are growing at a faster rate than the over 65s. In 1987 there were 133,448 Australians aged over 85. Today there are four times as many, and in 2047 there will 14 times as many.


Not only are there more older people in our nation, but Australians are living longer than ever before. Life expectancy at birth in 1987 was 76.3, whereas today it is 81 for a male and 85 for a female. In 2047, it is projected to 89.9.


The primary enabler of this increased longevity gain has been the health system rather than individual behaviour. Life expectancy increases will continue because of improved medical technologies, public health infrastructure and better public health measures. New and improved medical interventions will also contribute, as will the improved survivability rates of major illnesses and cancers.

A decade ago, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were the 6th largest causes of death in Australia. Today they are the 3rd leading causes of death with the number of deaths having more than doubled to 9,864. Over the same period of time, deaths due to the first and second causes of death (heart disease and brain disease) have been decreasing. If today’s current trend continues, by 2021 dementia and Alzheimer’s disease will be the leading cause of death in Australia.


In 1952, the year that Queen Elizabeth II became sovereign, 40 letters of congratulations would need to have been written to Australians turning 100. This year, 2,925 Australians will turn 100 and in 10 years 5,401 will turn 100. In 30 years the number of congratulatory letters written to Australians turning 100 will increase to 25,938 in the year 2047.



Not only is there an increasing demand on the services provided by the aged care sector with the growing number of over 85s, there is also a workforce supply challenge.


The ageing population will place greater demands for productivity on the labour force. In 1975 for every person of retirement age there were 7.1 people in the working age population. By 2015 there were just 4.5 people of working age for every individual of retirement age, and this is projected to decline to just 2.7 people of working age for every individual at retirement age by 2055.


Because of the high median age of an employee in the aged care sector, half of the aged care workforce will be of retirement age in 15 years. There are 350,000 workers in the aged care sector (estimated in 2012), so this equates to an average of 11,667 retirements per year for the next 15 years. This averages to 972 farewell lunches per month!

If we are to keep the current ratio of aged care workers to people aged over 85 in our nation, we need to add 129,945 workers in the next 10 years. This equates to recruiting 1,083 new workers per month, in addition to replacing the 972 retiring staff per month.

That’s a total recruitment goal of 2,055 each month – adding nearly 25,000 individuals to Australia’s aged care workforce each year.


To find out more about McCrindle's expertise in the aged care industry, or how we can communicate these insights to your team, please get in touch.

Mark McCrindle on Google For Education

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Social researcher and author Mark McCrindle recently shared his research on understanding and engaging with Generation Z on Google for Education, speaking about the insight of the trends in our schools and how the education system could be changed for the better. Below is a transcript of his session, which can be watched by clicking on the below photo.

Where does Generation Z fit into our learning communities?

Well, we’ve got the senior leaders, the grandparents in our society, the grandparents of Generation Z. They are the Baby Boomers, and they have had many impacts on education over many decades. You’ve got the emerging leaders in our educational facilities, Generation X, and then the parents of the older students. You’ve got Generation Y as the new parents and also the key and emerging generation of teachers. And of course you’ve got Generation Z themselves, born since the mid-1990s, the students of today. We need to understand them to be able to connect with them, to be able to educate them, and they have been influenced in different times. Clearly, understanding their world of technology is key to engaging with them.


Generation Z in five words; Global, digital, mobile, visual and social.

Generation Z are the world’s first truly global generation, not just through social networking and the friends that they have, but the fashions, the brands, the foods and the technologies are global. They are digital in terms of the tools that they use. We call them “Generation Glass” because its glass, not paper, that is the first medium of interaction and learning for them. They are mobile in terms of where they will live and work and their lifestyles. They’re visual in terms of how they consume content, not just the written forms of old. It’s a world of YouTube and visuals, it’s a world of Instagram and connectivity through the visual means, rather than just the written means. And of course they’re social, in terms of who influences them. It’s not just the experts, it’s not just the authority figures, but it’s the peer groups that influence them more than ever before.

More educated than any generation gone before

The education that is being provided for this generation is going to have to sustain them through more educational years than ever before. They truly will be lifelong learners. Indeed, for us Gen X’s about one in four Australians have a university degree. For Generation Y it’s already one in three. For Generation Z almost half of them will end up with a university degree in their lifetime. This foundational primary and secondary education will sustain them through more education and indeed a longer participation in the workforce than we’ve ever before seen. So what do we need to equip them with to future-proof their lives and careers in these changing times? Well, three words and keys to keep in mind.


Firstly, they need to be innovative. They will need to adapt and adjust in their own roles to remain relevant in these times of change. The average national Australian tenure of an employee in a job is currently three years. Now if that plays out in the lifetime of one of our school leavers today, and based of the trend of them working through their sixties, which will be the norm for Generation Z, it means that they will have seventeen separate jobs in their lifetime. They’ll upskill and retrain every few jobs, they’ll end up with five careers.

They’ll be working in jobs in the future that currently don’t exist, just as now as they start their roles, they’re working in jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago. Some of the jobs that have emerged just in the last couple of years include virtual reality engineers and cognitive computer analysts that can help bridge the gap between technology and humans. Data visualisation experts and drone piolets or UAV operators. It is a fast changing world and we have to equip them therefore, not just with the knowledge, but with the innovative skills to be resilient, to change, to adapt, and to so future-proof their direction.


It’s also about equipping them to be collaborative, because their roles won’t be locked into a hierarchical chart, an organisational chart of old where it was about authoritarian leadership and a chain of command, but rather they’ll need to be flexible and empowered, they’ll need to be entrepreneurial in outlook. Self-directed in their approach. It’s the world of the flat structure, the collaborative leadership model. And so equipping them to be collaborative in style is going to be key. In other words, sure we need to equip them with those cognitive skills, but we need to equip them with the relational skills as well. Yes, we’ve got to teach the eyes of the head, but we’ve got to equip them with the eyes of the heart. I guess I mean from that that it’s not just about the cerebral connection, but the relational and emotional engagement, that’s what a collaborative world needs.


So if we’ve got a generation that are innovative and collaborative, then my third tip is that we need to teach them to be responsive. They will have to learn to adapt and respond to the speed of the changes that they see. We’re all in a nonstop quest for relevance, for adaption, for responding to the changes, and that’s the case for Generation Z. We’ve got to equip them to respond to the changes and lead by an example in that way. The point of course is that we have to model being responsive and adaptive if we want our students to respond in the same way.

So it’s about creating a culture of learning that’s a collaborative, innovative and responsive environment, where we walk the talk, where we model the response to change, where we experiment and innovate to engage with an ever-changing generation. We are really dealing with educational structures like classes and curriculums and examinations that are of the nineteenth century, and we’re often educating in facilities that were built in the twentieth century, yet we’re connecting with a twenty-first century generation. That therefore requires us to be innovative and collaborative and responsive and to equip our students with those skills as well. Keep your eyes on the trends, engage with the next generation and you will equip them to be the leaders of the future.

About Mark McCrindle

Mark McCrindle is a social researcher with an international following. He is recognised as a leader in tracking emerging issues and researching social trends. As an award winning social researcher and an engaging public speaker, Mark has appeared across many television networks and other media. He is a best-selling author, an influential thought leader, TEDx speaker and Principal of McCrindle Research. His advisory, communications and research company, McCrindle, count among its clients more than 100 of Australia’s largest companies and leading international brands.

Visit Mark's website here.

Generation Z defined; The 5 characteristics of today's students

Friday, September 09, 2016

For today’s students, growing up with the emerging technologies at their fingertips has blurred the lines of work and social, of study and entertainment, of private and public. They now live in an open book environment – just a few clicks away from any information. They connect in a border less world across countries and cultures, and they communicate in a post-literate community where texts and tweets are brief, and where visuals and videos get the most cut-through.

At McCrindle, we are regularly engaged by a variety of organisations to assist with understanding who Generation Z is, what context they are being shaped in the traits that define them. Before we can engage this generation, we first need to understand them.

So how can we understand the emerging generations and their learning habits? Well, based on our research, here are five characteristics of today’s students:


Traditionally, learning took place in the classroom and the practice and application through homework. However, in the 21st Century, content can now be accessed through technology anywhere, and often in very visual and engaging forms. Thus we have the flipping of education where the learning takes place outside the classroom, but the essential engagement and practice is still conducted at school, by the all-important facilitator, rather than the teacher.


Not only through technology do today’s students interact, but they are mobile in terms of the jobs they will have and the homes they will live in. It is therefore important to think about how you can equip this generation with not just content but resilience in a changing world.


Today's generation of students are truly global, and are the most likely generation to work in multiple countries. They’re the most globally connected and influenced generation in history and are not limited to the local, but are global as never before.


We've called the emerging generation, Gen Alpha, but we also call them Generation Glass, because it is not just pen and paper, but iPads and screens on which they will learn, which are designed to not just display the written but the visual. While today’s students need literacy they also need digital skills to thrive in this changing world.


In an era of information overload, messages have increasingly become image-based and signs, logos and brands communicate across the language barriers with colour and picture rather than with words and phrases. Communicating symbols and pictures with stories isn’t an entirely new concept. Most ancient forms of communication such as indigenous rock art, reinforces the notion that it is pictures not words that tell the story. Visuals are also the way in which the brain processes information best. It can retain visual symbols and images rather than just written content. Our analysis of learning styles has shown the dominance in the visual and hands on learning styles, above auditory delivery form, which has traditionally dominated the classroom.

To find out more about Generation Z, visit our site generationz.com.au and if we can assist with any presentations on the topic of the emerging generations, please feel free to get in touch.

About Ashley McKenzie - Team Leader of Communications at McCrindle

Ashley McKenzie is a social researcher, trends analyst and Team Leader of Communications at the internationally recognised McCrindle. As a trends analyst she understands the need for organisations to communicate with the emerging generations to effectively engage and motivate them. 

From her experience in managing media relations, social media platforms, content creation and event management, Ashley is well positioned to advise how to achieve cut through in these message-saturated times. 

Her expertise is in training and equipping leaders and teams on how to communicate across generational barriers.


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