The Great British Bake Off: Just desserts and the power of story

Those of us in the UK are unlikely to have escaped the shocking and horrific incident on our televisions screens this week. I refer of course to #bingate, the event that plagued the Great British Bake Off on Wednesday night. High stakes, high drama! Well, not really… it’s a show about baking, but apparently us Brits get very upset when two of our dearest assets are brought into question – fairness and meringue!
The ‘drama’ centered around a very hot afternoon, a Baked Alaska, and whether or not one of the contestants sabotaged another by removing their ice cream from a crowded freezer, resulting in the melting mess being unceremoniously thrown in the bin. The #bincident created a flurry of outrage on social media, over 500 complaints to the BBC, and not insignificant column inches in the national press. The blame game had begun. Was it Dirty Diana or Impatient Iain or Evil Editors?
In reality it was us, the ‘Great British Viewing Public’, who was really to blame.
Stuff happens in that there head of ours when we’re presented with a series of images. We can’t help but try and structure them into a story. We’re built for it, it’s how we make sense of the world. A facial expression when juxtaposed with another image or action becomes a heightened character emotion in the mind of the viewer. We seek out the drama and instant conflict, which creates a chain reaction of mental associations and possible outcomes. Before you know it, a simple thirty second interaction becomes a three act drama of epic proportions.
Now of course the power of reality television is that it knows where to point our attention to maximize our storytelling capability. It’s a good lesson for those of us who work in learning and communications. We need to be master editors to create the right ‘drama’ in the minds of our audience and tell them where to look. If we want our message or learning to stick we have to create the right environment for people to find and create the right story – the story we want to tell.

As the icing settles on #bingate, hopefully those involved can get on with the very important job of entertaining and baking (the latter being the most important of all – much cake please!) Also let’s hope that those of us watching can move past this story and focus on the terribly important competition as it progresses (and creates more cake! I like cake, did you get that?) I’m sure we will be able to move on, because the one thing you can pretty much guarantee about stories is that there’ll be a new one along any minute…

Simon 🙂

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