I’m finishing off my entry for the Sage Encyclopaedia of Action Research on organisational storytelling. It has been interesting to summarise a broad field into a low word count without references (although there is a reading list). One aspect which will amuse me next year is that I can cite it for the entry on the same subject in Wikipedia as it is a reliable source. I also need to buy Bob Dick a beer or two for his patience with my tardy behaviour in getting this written.
I didn’t use the picture that heads this post in the entry, but it was one of the ways I made sense of the field when I was doing the research and I am now using it in the new Cognitive Edge four day programme – next up Melbourne next week. I did use the basic concept of most practice falling between the three corners or the triad. The three main extremes are:
Of course nothing is fully covered by any of those hence the triad. A lot of people these days combine communication with knowledge capture. A lot of the methods I originally developed with Sharon and Cynthia in the IKM have been taken up both by people on the periphery of the IBM story team as well as others. In research several argue for research as engagement, shifting to a balance between communication and understanding. In the IT sector the use of use-cases as well as the general use of story in SCRUM/AGILE combine understanding with knowledge.
Now the problem with story-telling per se is that it has a double meaning in English, the dominant one is in effect to deceive or to tell porky pies. That remains a concern for me with those who focus on leadership story telling – not all by any means but some.
More recently we have digital story telling, the work of Roger Shank and others as well as our own work on SenseMaker® which attempts to balance all three elements. The interesting things about this group is the different between story-telling and micro-narratives. In the case of the former a story is created and constructed with purpose. It is therefore a reflection or post-hoc rationalisation or explanation of an event in the light of the needs of the present. In contrast with that a query on a micro-narrative database recalls a range of micro-narratives (as they were originally recorded) and allows the recipient to blend those anecdotes together with their own situation to come up with a contextually appropriate form of action. It ameliorates the danger of being seen to being told a story.
We also have the broader use of narrative to describe a coherent sense-making activity but that is for another day.
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