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 to ignite change: Steve Denning
The necessity for a happy ending

   And most important, Hollywood is right. It's got to have a happy ending. I have had no success in telling a story: “Let me tell you about an organization that didn’t implement knowledge management and it went bankrupt.” No success at all with this kind of story. 
And there is actually some neuro-scientific evidence explaining why this is so.  Over the last four hundred years or so, most of the attention on the brain has been focused on the cortex, that is to say, the human brain. But in the last 20 years or so, a lot of the  attention has been on other parts of the brain that hadn’t been accessible in the past. In particular, we have been looking at the mammal brain and the limbic system, which sits just under the human brain, and the reptile brain, that we all have and which sits just  under the mammal brain. These mammal and reptile 

brains are not very smart, but they are very quick and they make a lot of noise. 
   And so if I tell you a story with an unhappy ending, that company that bankrupt because it didn’t implement knowledge management, what seems to be happening is that these ancient parts of the brain, the limbic system kicks in and the message is: “Fight! Flight! Get out of here! Trouble! Something bad is happening!” and so on. Now the human brain, the cortex, can intervene and override this and say something like, “Now calm down, calm down, let’s analyze this, we may be able to learn something from this experience,” but by the time the commotion is over, the opportunity to invent a new future is past. Learning may take place, but no rapid action ensues. There is no springboard effect.
    But by contrast, if I tell you a story with a happy ending, what seems to be happening is that the limbic system kicks in with something called an endogenous opiate reward for the human brain, the cortex. Basically, it puts the human brain on drugs. It pumps a substance called dopamime into the cortex and this in turn leads to a warm and floaty feeling, the kind of feeling you have after you have just seen a wonderful wonderful movie. And this is the perfect frame of mind to be thinking about a new future, a new identity for yourself or your organization.
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 © 2000 to be put for each author  ... 
The views expressed on this website are those of Stephen Denning, and not necessarily those of any person or organization
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