Storytelling and Sharing Knowledge

Knowledge Sharing

The Western view that knowledge is primarily explicit and hence manageable by technology is less favored than that held by Japanese organizations which pay more attention to: tacit knowledge, creating new knowledge, and having everyone in the organization be involved. . In Japan knowledge is not viewed simply as data or information that can be stored in the computer; it also involves emotions, values, and hunches (Takeuchi, 1998). Building an effective social ecology, the social environment within which people operate, is seen as a crucial requirement for effective knowledge sharing. An effective knowledge machine must excel at two central tasks: creating and acquiring new knowledge, and sharing and mobilizing that knowledge throughout the corporate network (Gupta & Govindarajan, 2000).

Knowledge sharing does not have to involve massive amounts of technology. At the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., in Atlanta KM uses very little technology. At the Ritz, it's all about people sharing their experiences. The most successful KM program uses no technology at all. It's a "green book" of best practices collected from the top performers in every department in the company, from corporate management to housekeeping. The hard-copy volume is updated annually by a vice president of quality, and the expert content is chosen based on quality scoring procedures. The system appears to work: Ritz-Carlton is a two-time winner of the Malcolm Balridge National Quality Award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (Berkman, 2001; Moores, 2001).

Storytelling as an Instrument of Transformation

A springboard story enables a leap in understanding by the audience so that they are able to grasp how an organization or community or complex system may change. It can enable listeners to visualize from a story in one context what is involved in a large-scale transformation in an analogous context. The springboard story engages the audience by creating a scenario they can see themselves in. The audience once engaged is able to discover their own solutions for the challenges they face. Storytelling gets inside the minds of the individuals who collectively make up the organization and affects how they think, worry, wonder, agonize and dream about themselves and in the process create and recreate their organization. Storytelling enables the individuals in an organization to see both themselves and the organization in a different light. The result is that the audience is able to take decisions and change their behavior in accordance with these new perceptions, insights and identities (Denning, 2000).

Berkman, E. (2001, April). When bad things happen to good ideas: Knowledge management is a solid concept that fell in with the wrong company. Software companies, to be precise. Darwin.

Denning, S. (2000). The Springboard: How storytelling ignites action in knowledge-era organizations: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Gupta, K., & Govindarajan, V. (2000). Knowledge management's social dimension: Lessons from Nucor steel. Sloan Management Review, 42(1), 71-80.

Moores, A. (2001). Discussion of knowledge sharing at the Ritz Carlton. In A. Moores (Ed.). Atlanta: E. Leach.

Takeuchi, H. (1998, June). Beyond knowledge management: Lessons from Japan [Web Site]. Retrieved July 17, 2001, from the World Wide Web: