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Homo narrans

December 11, 2007

Czarniawska (1997) attributes the phrase homo narrans to Fisher (1984). Niles (1999) offers a more elaborate working of the idea that humans are fundamentally shaped by and shape the narrative structures of their existence. We know that the ability to pass knowledge between humans through story was, and still is a distinguishing feature of human evolution. No longer dependent on genetic change and imitation of parents, abstract knowledge and practical wisdom could be distributed, mutated and blended to speed learning and adaption. Narrative remains the principle mechanism of learning and knowledge transfer within an organisation. Accordingly it is not surprising that this paper advocates that peoples narratives should be captured and interpreted as a form of research and learning in knowledge management and elsewhere. If we are homo sapiens, in part because we are homo narrans then the study of our multi-faceted and fractal narratives should lead to insight and sense-making capability. Of course we are more than that; stretching my mind back to schoolboy latin, we could also talk about homo fabrilis, homo facetus or maybe homo ridiculus to reflect our toolmaking as well as our multi-aspected uses of humour.

Extract from a paper I am just completing

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