Writing Samples

Prepared for Usabilla by Theresa Schramm, May 2016

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Below, please find three recent writing samples (blog post, academic writing, creative writing), as well as one example of a ghostwriting project.

Sample 1: Blog Post written for Loopline Systems, Berlin, Germany

The Worst Mistake You May Be Doing In Your Employee Feedback Motivation Techniques


In order to make feedback effective, it must be based on the desire to change and take action. In other words, the best kind of feedback is actionable. What exactly does that mean?


Take Susan. At her new job, she has just given her first presentation to potential clients. Days of work have flowed into the preparation and so now she is anxiously awaiting her boss´ feedback. Passing by in the hallway, he turns to her and says, “Nice effort on the presentation, Susan. You just weren´t really able to convince me though. Next time, be sure to also clean up your slides a bit.”


Susan´s boss means well and wants to motivate her. Unfortunately, he leaves her with little more than guess-work on how to improve her next presentation. There is no clear guidance on how to change the things he mentions. In other words, it is everything but actionable.


Try to avoid framing feedback like Susan´s boss. It´s not that hard: in fact, there are two key elements that will help make your feedback actionable.


It will be well worth your time- John Hattie´s decades of research found that feedback was among the most powerful influences on achievement. If you´re going to do it, you might as well do it right.


Be Specific


First, give feedback that is specific, concrete and useful; this is the key to making it actionable: refer to what worked well and also what could have been better by providing precise information. In this simple example, Susan´s boss could have mentioned that more facts or figures would have convinced him. Or, that Susan had used too many bullet points. In other situations, giving actionable advice may be more complex and difficult - however, even more important. The idea is to leave the receiver with a clear idea of how to improve next time, otherwise an important opportunity for learning is lost.


Progress Toward a Goal


The second crucial aspect of what makes feedback actionable is tying it to a specific end goal. What might this look like? Let´s turn to sports for an analogy. If you imagine an athlete competing in a race on the track- at the end of each lap, the coach usually yells out the times for each lap and gives feedback (“You´re slouching, straighten your shoulders!” “You´re three meters ahead of your competition!”) in addition to advice (“If you keep going at this pace, you´re going to reach your goal!”) The athlete is given feedback and advice regarding how he or she is performing compared with a desired final outcome. By incorporating this into your own feedback process, you will also increase the receiver´s motivation for changing his or her behavior, as the consequences are apparent.


Following the above-mentioned steps when providing feedback will help ensure that the receiver will end up with value and is given the chance to perform better next time around. Making feedback actionable should definitely be one of your employee motivation techniques and basic leadership skills.

Sample 2: Excerpt of Master Thesis, “The Power of Storytelling,” Madrid, Spain

1.3 THE CASE FOR STORYTELLING


In the bestseller, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman explains that we have evolved to comprehend the world around us conceptually by framing events into stories. A story, in effect, becomes our coping mechanism; it is our central learning and reference system that connects us to the complex world outside. Life is random and ambiguous by nature, and so stories help us process things more quickly and effectively by keeping things more tidy within controllable parameters. The author argues that we tell ourselves “little stories” automatically, often without even realizing that we are doing so (Lightowler, 2013).


Managers of brands are realizing the benefits of tapping into the knowledge of how our minds work when functioning in our daily lives. Brands can effectively bridge stories with memories of their audience and tap into their emotions, a truly valuable skill, as a buyer ́s decision is directly related, sometimes even ultimately determined by his or her emotions.


Kahneman´s book can be interpreted to mean that humans naturally resist new ideas and concepts without a supporting story. The author supports the notion that our desire for cognitive fluency overrides everything else. As we scramble to look for meaning in our lives, we rely on this state of fluency in order to process information quickly. For example, if we struggle to find meaning in a situation, it means that our reasoning mind is dominating: we are approaching it in a radically slower fashion in order to methodologically figure out the meaning. Our brains are lazy and so we will usually make use of stories instead, as a way to guide us. It makes sense: stories are quick to form and easy to grasp as well as to remember. It is not an “either­ or” situation between our minds and our intuition, however. We can still rely on our rational mind to make the best decisions. However, it becomes involved in the end. Our intuitive system gives the “green light” in order for the rational system to make the changes suggested by the information given.


Kahneman has helped form new insights in this field of research and advises brand professionals to consciously enable cognitive fluency in the communication of brands. This includes all kinds of brands, not just brands that are associated with telling stories anyway. In the case of a new software program, for instance, advertisements should not simply present ​h​ard facts, but rather connect relevant data and information for the consumer with compelling stories to aid understanding through cognitive fluency (Lightowler, 2013). This will result in better a understanding from the target audience, and makes for a better selling strategy and ultimately, higher profits. The question, then, is not if s​tories should be used by organizations and companies to appeal to their audience. Rather, it´s how.​

Sample 3: Creative Writing, Berlin, Germany


If I was a fly, and could be anywhere in the world today, I would be gazing out of an airplane window. I would look across the sea of fluffy clouds into the horizon, and a feeling of complete and utter insignificance would well up inside of me. I would sigh, and tell myself I will return to earth as a human the next time.


Slightly relieved, my gaze would shift down to mother earth’s beautiful scenery. Chunks of brown and green color my vision and it looks like a kindergarden kid has gone wild with his watercolors. I intently try to make out each individual elephant as the airplane glides over Kenya, but the woman whose view I am sharing swats at me with her newspaper. Terrified, I buzz speedily to the next window, where the cool breeze of the air conditioning tickles my wings.


I peer down again, this time into a fog of clouds that slowly disentangle to reveal an astounding landscape of green mountains and thick forests. Weeks and weeks I spend glued to the airplane window, surviving off of flight passenger’s cookie crumbs, and I remain unceasingly awe- struck by the diversity and plethora of countries and people this world has to offer. I consider myself lucky to see so much of the world via an airplane window.


My life is short, and my thirst for exploring new countries is never- ending, but one thing is for sure: next time, I am coming back as a human!

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Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,


Theresa Schramm