Katalina Groh, Larry Prusak:
Some of the world's leading thinkers
Larry Prusak on organization I Discussion I | Contact us | Bibliography on storytelling |
|Storytelling: Organizational Perspective: Larry Prusak|
Now letís get into issues that you
donít hear about too much. Time and space. This is the Einstein issue.
If I wanted to spend two hours with Lou Gerstner, the President and CEO
of IBM, itís possible that with a huge amount of effort and time, using
all the social capital at my command, I might be able to get it. I might.
This is nothing against Gerstner. Ask yourself about spending time with
a key senator, or a president. Itís because time is the most valuable thing
that he has. And there are far more valuable things to spend it on. I might
win. I might lose. It would be a tough call. But if I wanted to get ten
million dollars, for some project that I thought would help IBM, Iíd have
a much better shot at getting the money. Much better shot.
| Itís because itís the way
knowledge is manifested. Itís because the form knowledge takes is in time.
And time is what we donít have. And yet what weíre constantly telling people,
learn more. Be smarter. Reflect. Share. But theyíre not given the time
and space to do it.
Knowledge in a financial firm
One of the stupidest things Iíve seen in
the last year, in business certainly, and I see a lot of stupid things
I must say, we wonít even talk about politics, but in business, thereís
a project going on, for the last five years, at one of the worldís largest
financial firms. And it was to improve the productivity of its financial
planners, which is everyone who sells anything. Hereís a project where
the budget so far has been over one billion dollars. So this is the
Consultants Relief Act of 1996. Technology. Consulting. You name it. Everyoneís
there. What was interesting about this was that the result, and Iím summarizing,
but it was to give people faster laptops, with more crap on it. thatís
the end result to make them more productive. What was interesting
was to me when I asked the man who owned this budget, a senior vice president,
ďHave you ever spent time, real time, on the street, with these poor buggers
who schlep around New York City, selling stuff?Ē
ďDid you ever think,Ē I said,
ď I mean, itís just a thought, possibly a crazy thought, but did you ever
think to take the high-performing sales people, and let them tell the lower-performing
sales people what it is they do that makes them higher performers?Ē It
didnít seem a remarkably odd thing to suggest.
Knowledge in a drug company
I can give you a more sophisticated
example. One of the great drug companies in the United States that had
a tremendous year with a product that probably some of us contemplate using.
You know, drugs are developed by drug development teams. And these teams
are key. And I asked someone who does knowledge work in this firm, and
I mean, this is a very fine firm. I said, ďDid you ever think of taking
that team and having some sort of facilitated investigation of why they
had such a great success, I mean, why they hit a home run? Why were they
so successful?Ē Now maybe itís luck? Maybe itís chance? But maybe there
are other variables. Maybe they went drinking together? Maybe they were
all from the North-East? Maybe they had different college degrees? Thereís
a lot of things you could look at.
Knowledge in a Japanese drug company
At that Berkeley presentation
that I was just talking about, there was a man there who gave a great case,
the head of the Roche company in Japan, Hoffman-LaRoche, and he did just
that. He wanted to share the differentiation, how to narrow the gap between
the best sales people and the worst. So he brought them together and he
thought it through. He took time and they took time: how do you do this?
Some of this stuff is unreplicable. I mean, some people have certain skills
that you canít learn.
|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)
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