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: Organizational Perspective: Larry Prusak
How do you win the Nobel prize?

  I was out at Berkeley last week. There was a conference there that they hold every year. Itís very interesting. Professor Nonaka and some other people get together. And thereís a woman there whoís part of that team called Charlene Demuth, who has a book on comparing Nobel Prize winners, and people who almost won the Nobel Prize. So if you try to look at those groups, and ask, ďWell, whatís the critical factor between those who win it, and those who almost win it?Ē, well, you have to eliminate intelligence, because theyíre all super smart. 
   And you have to eliminate education and background, because theyíre the same sort of people. 
   So the biggest factor is just plain luck. Who worked on what experiment? He over there studies plutonium, and you over here study phlogisten. He wins and you lose. So clearly some things are just luck. 

   But the second key issue was that the density and richness of the networks of the people who win it. And that makes a lot of sense to me. 
Iíve never seen anyone succeed in anything in life endeavors, which take innovation and a different way of looking at things, that isnít strongly community-based, group-based. I am not saying that weíre not individualistic in other ways. I am an individualist in politics and other ways. And I certainly believe in the sanctity of the individual. But in terms of knowledge, knowledge is in groups. Itís not in individuals. Thatís why all those electronic yellow pages, and those skills inventories are a waste of money and time. None of them has ever worked. They work technically. But they donít work in any real way, because itís the wrong unit of analysis. 
I joined two big firms, Ernst & Young, and IBM. Each one recruited me and gave me a lot of money to join, and each one, when I joined, gave me a skills inventory, to fill out. I didnít have one skill, not one, in either of those two inventories. Not one. I donít know what skills I had, but they certainly werenít listed there. And I said, ďGee, are you sure you want to hire me?Ē I had to fill them out and send them back and say, ďI canít program in C++, God help me.Ē
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 
The views expressed on this website are those of Stephen Denning, and not necessarily those of any person or organization
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