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: Organizational Perspective: Larry Prusak
What is the role of storytelling in organizations today? What role does storytelling play in the creation and sharing of knowledge? Larry Prusak, executive director of IBM's Institute of Knowledge Management, author of Working Knowledge and In Good Company answers these questions in his talk at the Smithsonian on April 21, 2001
Introduction and overview

    Iím glad I didnít have to follow that video last night about Ben Zander. W.C.Fields used to say that he would hate to follow the Marx Brothers. No one could do that. In vaudeville, people used to hate following animal acts or children acts. You couldnít follow them. 

    So itís a new day. Forget you saw that video! (Laughter) I canít be as energetic or as vibrant as Ben Zander. Iím from Boston, where he works. Iíve heard stories about him for years. That was a very accurate film. People I know have worked with him and supped with him and so it wasnít just made-up. It wasnít just a story that didnít have a lot of substance to it. 

    As is my wont, I am going to give a semi-serious semi-academic talk on story. I wonít put footnotes in. But I thought it might be useful to give a structure to the whole subject of stories in organizations, some sort of categorization. 

    I donít use any paraphernalia. Three or four years ago, I developed a terrific allergy to all presentation materials: overheads, powerpoints, slides, anything. And I just couldnít bear to do it after twenty years as a consultant, I just couldnít bear it. So I just stopped. By great good luck I had enough money to retire at that point. (Laughter) And I thought, ďIf I get fired, what the hell!Ē So I stopped doing that. I just talk to people, usually smaller groups than this. But I thought Iíd talk for a while about stories in organizations. Thatís what Iím going to focus on. When people talk about story, what is it that they are talking about? What are we actually referring to here? And I think we can categorize this in a number of ways.
                  II. Categories of stories in organizations
                          A. Stories about other people
                          B. Stories about the work itself
                          C. Stories about the organization
                          D. Stories as social bonding
                          E. Stories as signals
                          F. Stories about the past
                          G. Stories about the future
                          H. Stories about life itself
                          I. Stories about oneself and identity
                         J. Electronic storytelling
And weíll also talk about: 
                III.. Gender, ethnic and generational differences in storytelling
                IV. Attributes of a story: Endurance, salience, sensemaking and comfort

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 Larry Prusak 
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