Storytelling, Project Knowledge & Knowledge Management


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A review of stories, project knowledge and sharing project knowledge using stories. Includes an introduction to to my storytelling model for KM in projects.

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  • Hi everyone.

    My name is Eric Brown and I’m here talk about Storytelling for Knowledge Management.

    I’ve been researching the topic of Storytelling as a means to convey knowledge in projects using digital tools. While my main focus has been on project teams, this could be applied in areas outside of project management.

    Before we dive into the topic too far, let’s review what stories are and what they are good for.
  • In 2002, Sole & Wilson wrote a paper titled ‘Storytelling in Organizations’ and described the use of stories in organizations.

    They determined that stories were best utilized for: read bullets

    In order for stories to work, they must (change slide)
  • read bullets. talk about vivid imagery.

    Think about fables that you heard/read as a kid. (flip page)

    episodic memory - something so vivid (and scarring?) that you remember it immediately.
  • talk about one minute manager - best selling book.

    written in fable format...starts out with the introduction to a character, the quest and sets the reader on a journey.
  • stories work by making knowledge memorable via the ‘availability heuristic’...which is a fancy way of saying ‘vivid imagery’
    Let’s look an example of vivid imagery:
    Everyone’s heard stories of bear attacks. There are movies and books about bear attacks. There are even products for hikers and campers to keep bears away but there aren’t many ‘moose-b-gone’ products.
    Which one is more likely? A bear attack or a moose attack? (click slide)
    We remember the stories of vicious bear attacks because they are more vivid, therefore we tend to think they are more regular activities than moose attacks.
  • mean looking
    yogi bear was an anomaly - many people die each year because they thought of yogi bear when they see this animal?
  • talk about cuteness, bullwinkle
  • imagine my surprise!

    I was within 20 yards of a moose...and I knew they were more dangerous than a bear...i set the world record of the 20 yard dash up a hill by a fat man!

    So...let’s move on to projects and knowledge in projects.
  • last slide on storytelling
  • 1st bullet - makes act of capturing knowledge have a lower priority during a project

    2nd - project managers and leaders do not focus on these efforts
  • read & talk about slide.

    talk about types of knowledge in projects.
  • Process Knowledge: knowledge that project team members have regarding the project
    Domain Knowledge: knowledge that a project team or member has about the industry, technology, processes, current situation, business and products
    Institutional Knowledge: knowledge that a project team or member has about the organization.
    Cultural Knowledge: knowledge about the organizational culture as well as cultural backgrounds of the project team members.
  • I’ve been working on a storytelling model that incorporates digital means of collecting and sharing narratives.

    When a new team member joins the project, they are asked to answer a series of interview questions using journaling / blogging software. These questions are added to their history.

    Each member keeps a weekly journal. These are reviewed at weekly meetings. the journals entries are combined into weekly learning histories.

    Weekly histories are combined into the Project Learning history which tells the story of the project. Learning Histories are based on Roth & Kleiner’s work.

    Each team member writes about lessons learned during the week and comments on learning history (internalization).
  • Storytelling, Project Knowledge & Knowledge Management

    1. 1. Storytelling for Knowledge Management in Projects November 5 2009 Eric D. Brown
    2. 2. STORIES - WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR*? Sharing Knowledge Sharing Values Developing Trust & Commitment Generating Emotional Connection Learning * D. Sole and D. G. Wilson, "Storytelling in Organizations: The power and traps of using stories to share knowledge in organizations," Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2002.
    3. 3. WHAT IS A GOOD STORY? A good story contains: A Setting A Character or Characters A Plot A Backstory Some level of Detail
    4. 4. STORYTELLING Stories must have context and focus. Stories must be memorable to be effective. Stories make knowledge more memorable via vivid imagery elaboration episodic memory
    5. 5. FAIRY TALES Example: Little Red Riding Hood world is dangerous not everything is as it appears
    6. 6. MODERN FAIRY TALES One Minute Manager by Blanchard and Johnson (1994). Book starts with the following sentences: Once there was a bright young man who was looking for an effective manager. He wanted to work for one. He wanted to become one.
    7. 7. LEARNING VIA STORIES Stories make knowledge more memorable via the ‘availability heuristic’ Something that is vivid and memorable will be learned easier Reverse availability heuristic: Make things vague, abstract or uncomfortable if you don’t want them remembered or used.
    8. 8. LET’S PLAY A GAME
    9. 9. AVAILABILITY HEURISTIC Bears are dangerous. They attack and kill people. Moose are cute. They are slow and stay in the woods Vivid imagery will usually win out
    11. 11. MOOSE vs ME!
    12. 12. STORYTELLING Storytelling is suggested as a means to build a shared knowledge-base for organizations Storytelling can be used to Build a shared understanding Make sense of past actions Provide for future vision
    14. 14. KM IN PROJECTS Disterer (2002) traditional PM is overly concerned with efficiency and effectiveness of project team members knowledge needs of future projects isn’t within the context of the current project requirements;
    15. 15. KM IN PROJECTS Owen, Burstein & Mitchell (2004) - “knowledge gained in a project needs to be transferred to an organization’s memory for reuse in other projects” Kasvi, Vartiainen, & Hailikari (2003) - knowledge management practices were “weak and unsystematic” in project teams
    16. 16. KM IN PROJECTS Leseure & Brookes (2004) - Knowledge is generated within one project and then lost. Failure to transfer this knowledge… leads to wasted activity and impaired project performance”
    17. 17. KNOWLEDGE TYPES IN PROJECTS Reich (2007) - Four types of knowledge in projects: Process Knowledge Domain Knowledge Institutional Knowledge Cultural Knowledge
    18. 18. PROJECT KNOWLEDGE Behavioral Technical Knowledge Knowledge Cultural Domain Knowledge Knowledge Institutional Process Knowledge Knowledge
    20. 20. STORIES & KM So...we know that we want to create stories with vivid imagery, a plot, characters and a reason for people to read. We also know what types of knowledge we want to share / capture in projects. Now what?
    21. 21. MAIN QUESTIONS How can we share knowledge across teams while minimizing impact on team member’s time? Can we use stories to share knowledge across project teams (and organizations)? What types of project knowledge best fits the storytelling method?
    22. 22. STORYTELLING MODEL Step 5 - Documenting the Story Step 1 - Capture the Story New Team Member Step 2 - Craft Questions the Story Step 3 - Telling Project Weekly the Story Learning Journals Journal Project Learning Previous History Weekly Learning Meetings Histories Step 4 - Internalizing the Story
    23. 23. CAPTURE MECHANISMS First step - how can we capture knowledge? Lots of tools but what’s the best way? Why not use the tools people are already used to using? Email, IM, Blogs, Wikis, Twitter & other Social Media Weekly Journals
    24. 24. CRAFT THE STORY Step 2 - Story crafting using snippets of information from users, how can we build a story? Plot. Backstory. Characters. requires a very experiences story-crafter / story- teller
    25. 25. TELLING THE STORY Step 3 - Storytelling How do we tell the story? provide stories as electronic versions for people to read and search for?
    26. 26. INTERNALIZING THE STORY Step 4 - Internalization How can we ensure the user has taken the right knowledge from the story and internalized it? Require journal entry about ‘what i’ve learned since last time’?
    27. 27. DOCUMENTING THE STORY Step 5 - Documentation Entire process is electronic. Stories, user snippets and project info is searchable and hold metadata (tags, keywords, etc) all information & knowledge is available to any other project
    28. 28. NEXT STEPS Validation - Quick case study run with good outcomes How to validate moving forward? How to capture information? How to build stories effectively?
    29. 29. FURTHER RESEARCH Additional avenues for further research: Research into best methods for capturing stories. What types of questions are best for gathering project knowledge? How do we get people interested in sharing stories? How does KM fit into the formal world of PM?
    30. 30. THANK YOU