THE SUPER WATERCOOLER

One important element of knowledge management research has focused on the roles of story and narratives in sharing knowledge. David Snowden, first at IBM and later via his own company, Cognitive Edge, has been one of the key drivers of that line of thinking.4 Also, Stephen Denning, former KM leader at the World Bank has written some books on organizational storytelling.5 David, a great storyteller himself (I encourage you to look up some of this YouTube videos), has shown in his work that complexity cannot be approached using traditional methods, and that a lot of knowledge travels via the stories that people in an organization tell to each other.

A social media platform offers a great way to scale stories. What people are writing in some of those posts are not just bits of information, but many bits packaged into a story—this is what happened, this is how I reacted, this is what happened then . . . and so on. Even if a post is not an extensive narrative description of events, there is still often a hidden story that people start imagining based on the extract of the information as presented. In one of his early 1999 workshops, David taught me one thing about a good story that has stuck with me: A good story does not tell you the end of it. Just like how a good joke gets spoiled by having to explain the punch line, many good stories leave the conclusion somewhat open so the audience can read between the lines. As a result, the audience of a story will complete ...

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