E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Steve Denning Interview – Storytelling and Social Networks

A couple of days ago I created a weblog post on a recent interview that Seth Kahan did to John Kotter on The Power of Storytelling and then yesterday I created another weblog post detailing Why Storytelling Is Important. And I thought that today I could share with you another interesting interview by Seth but this time around the interviewee is no more, no less than Steve Denning, one of the first pioneers on storytelling and storyteller extraordinaire. The interview can be found over here: Storytelling and Social Networks and there are plenty of gems over there to touch base on. So here is my take on the interview itself:

“[…] so that command-and-control and mechanistic management is universally seen as an anomaly, an aberration, an exception to be used only in very unusual circumstances, if at all

I couldn’t have agreed more with this statement to be honest. I think that with the emergence of social software, the so called Web 2.0, we are in a unique situation where that command-and-control attitude from management becomes unsustainable, more than anything else because people are starting to get the message that in the current business environment if one would want to succeed they would have to let things go; encourage people to participate more, to share knowledge and collaborate more with others and in this case not just with other knowledge workers but also with their clients. That democratising of this knowledge sharing culture is what would make that model sustainable. That command-and-control culture may work for a few months but certainly not much longer. People now are demanding that freedom to share what they know with others whenever there is a need for it, and even without that need, and managers would probably need to understand now that it would be much better if they would concentrate on promoting that cultural change than to try to control everything else.

I do realise that there are a few businesses out there who still don’t seem to get it, but then again I am kind of thinking that it will not be too long before they would run into trouble. Things are happening fast, perhaps too fast, and the fact that knowledge workers would want to adapt quickly is something that should not be stopped, nor controlled. And whoever would do that would eventually run into trouble, in one way or another, like Steve mentions in “The problem is that command-and-control kills passion” and we all know that social software and the subsequent knowledge sharing and collaboration is driven mainly by passion.

Story is almost the only way you can get people to really believe in a different kind of future and start wanting something different

Indeed, and that is perhaps the main reason why social networks are so popular at the moment, because whether we like it or not, people love telling stories in order to share knowledge and learn from one another. Be it with their involvement in wikis, or through their own weblogs, social bookmarks, photos, you name it. All sorts of different tools available out there for a single purpose: telling a story, deliver a message, getting involved with others through those social networks. I, too, feel that we may be at the tipping point where organisations would start considering that a key successful factor to continue promoting a knowledge sharing culture is not done with a focus on the tools, the technologies nor the processes but actually with a focus on the people (Yes, I realised I have mentioned this a few times already) and one integral process to continue with that focus is through something so people-minded as stories and storytelling. If you come to think about it, storytelling has been there for thousands of years and it has always been able to make it through the times, no matter how hard they were. Thus perhaps we are now witnessing the final awakening where people start valuing where true knowledge sharing and collaboration should be coming from: Storytelling and Social Networks.

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