Storytelling 
Passport to the 21st Century
John Seely Brown, Steve Denning, 
Katalina Groh, Larry Prusak: 
Some of the world's leading thinkers
explore the role of storytelling in the world

 I Introduction to storytelling I John Seely Brown on science I Steve Denning on change I Katalina Groh on video
Larry Prusak on organization I Discussion I | Contact us | Bibliography on storytelling

Storytelling: Scientist's Perspective: John Seely Brown
Can knowledge be sticky, leaky and intangible? 

    As I wind down. I want to talk about a paradox. And actually, this example came to me as a paradox. It is something very curious: you read all the literature on knowledge management. There are several articles that talk about how damn sticky knowledge is. If only HP knew what HP knew. Basically, knowledge is created in one part 

of the organization, and it has an almost impossible time moving from research to engineering, from engineering to manufacturing, and so on and so forth.
    And then on the other hand, knowledge is also leaky. Take a place like Palo Alto Research Center, knowledge had a very hard time moving to Rochester, but seamlessly slipped out to a little start-up called Apple, and to a second start-up called Microsoft, and the rest is history there. So some people talk about how leaky things are. The same things that are sticky also appear to be leaky.
   And then if you talking in terms of goodwill, how do you actually account for things?
   Basically we have this notion that knowledge is intangible, and this intangible asset, which, by the way, is of decidedly non-trivial dimensions. 
   So here is something that basically is sticky, and is leaky, and is intangible, all at the same time. How can this be?
   I donít want to give you a whole treatise on this, Iíve written a whole bunch of papers on it. But I think it comes back to something incredibly simple having to do with trust. It has an awful lot to do with why communities of practice are so good on one hand and yet, problematic on another. That is, that when you share a practice, when you have evolved a practice together in a community of practice, you have learnt to read each other, and basically because of that shared practice, there is a kind of trust that is built up, such that basically knowledge circulates amazingly well within a community of practice. 
Books and videos on storytelling 
*** In Good Company : How Social Capital Makes Organizations Work
by Don Cohen, Laurence Prusak (February 2001) Harvard Business School Press
*** The Social Life of Information, by John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid
(February 2000) Harvard Business School Press
*** The Springboard : How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations
by Stephen Denning (October 2000) Butterworth-Heinemann 
*** The Art of Possibility, a video with Ben and Ros Zander : Groh Publications (February 2001)
Copyright © 2001 John Seely Brown 
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