Storytelling in Organizations

Stories and conversations are two of the primary vehicles of informal learning. They teach, they inform, they are fun, and they come naturally.

I just finished Storytelling in Organizations : Why Storytelling Is Transforming 21st Century Organizations and Management by John Seely Brown, Stephen Denning, Katalina Groh, and Laurence Prusak. A quick read at 175 pages, this is a powerful little book. It’s accompanied by a free website, Storytelling, Passport to the 21st Century.

A few quotations from the conversational text:

What we’re really talking about here is a different mental model of how an orgnization works. I’m talking about a non-mechanistic, non-rationalist model, a model that is organic and stel-adjusting, where people talk to each other and things are not as cris[p,or as clear, or as rational, or as scientifc as they appear in the mechanistic models. Organizations don’t function like a machine. Organizations have a lot of people in them. And what do the people do? They talk to each other about the work, mostly in the form of stories.

Loosen the screws. Loosen the couplings. Let people talk to each other. Dogs sniff each other. Human beings tell stories.

Marshall McLuhan once said, “Anyone who thinks there’s a big difference between entertainment and education knows nothing about either subject.”

Facilitation in architecture: open office spaces with marble tops and little chairs, serving espersso and biscotti. Very, very encouraging to come and sit down, have a cup of coffee, and talk to someone.

There’s an effort underway to move from business processes that are basically coercive to processes that are in essence enabling. This concerns the design of processes that could actually help you get your job done. So there’s this sense of finding the right balance between letting people improvise versus trying to create processes that clamp down on them.

Narrative has a lot more impact than “just the facts.”