Narrative

Narrative

Dave Snowden (The Cynefin Centre, UK)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-573-3.ch089
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Abstract

Narrative or the use of stories is an ancient discipline. Our ancestors evolved the ability to see the world through a set of abstractions, and thereby enabled the development of sophisticated language and the ability to use stories as a primary mechanism for knowledge transfer. The oral-history tradition was the only method of knowledge transfer for many eons and persists into the current day despite the prevalence of the written word. First Nation elders in Canada passing on their wisdom to young people facing the conflicts of old and new, a Seanachie (the Irish word that means far more than storyteller) ensconced with an enraptured audience around a peat fire, the Liars bench of the Midwest in the USA where old timers sit to swap tall tales, and the ubiquitous watercooler conversations of the modern organisation: all evidence the persistence of story. The archetypal story form of the myths of the Greek gods and the trickster stories of Native Americans find modern expression and use in Dilbert cartoons, and the old fairy stories of Europe find new expression in Hollywood. Good teachers always tell stories to provide context and life to otherwise dull material. Anyone joining an organisation will take months or years to hear and reexpress the key stories of past success and failure that form a key part of the organisation’s deep culture. Executives who abandon the tyranny of PowerPoint and instead tell a story rooted in their own experience nearly always discover the power of story to move people; to quote Steve Denning (2000), one of the early pioneers with his work in the World Bank—“Nothing else would do.”

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