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 Zambia story

   And then I stumbled on something else. I would be talking about the future of the World Bank, how the future was going to be different. But how? What would the future look like. “Well,” I said, “the future is going to look like today. Let me tell you about something that happened just a few months ago.” 
   We are still in early 1996, and I would say something like the following.

“In June 1995, a health worker in Kamana, Zambia logged on to the website for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, and got the answer to a question on how to treat malaria. 
Now this was June 1995, not June 2015. 

And this was not the capital of Zambia, but a tiny small village six hundred kilometers away. 

And this was not a rich country: this was Zambia, one of the poorest countries in the world. 

But the most important part of this picture for us in the World Bank was: the World Bank wasn’t in the picture. We didn’t have our know-how organized in such a way that we could share our knowledge with the millions of people in the world who make decisions about poverty. But just imagine if we did. Just imagine if we got organized to share our knowledge in that way, just think what an organization we could become!”

   And that did start to resonate. That started to connect with managers. And in fact, it was only later that those managers were able to get to the president of the organization. And in October 1996, at the Annual Meeting of the World Bank, in front of 170 finance ministers, he announced that we were going to do this thing. We are going to be a knowledge sharing organization, from top to bottom. We are going to become “the knowledge bank”.  Let’s make it happen.
   Well, that was not the end of the war. That was just the beginning, because the people who had sent me to Siberia suddenly realized, “The man from Siberia is back! And worse than that, he has this lunatic vision of turning us into a knowledge organization. And he’s somehow co-opted the president and a big slice of the senior management. This is bad news!” In effect, they were thinking that this was their worst-case scenario. And that’s when they started using real bullets, instead of rubber bullets in the process. 
   So in fact, over the next couple of years, we had major struggles,  confrontations, and battles at the upper level of the organization as to what this thing called “knowledge management” was, and how we were going to go about implementing it.
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 Stephen Denning 
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