Monday, July 03, 2006

Advising communities of practice: using stories and metaphors

There is a lot of talk about story-telling in knowledge management circles "Pretty much everyone interested in knowledge management knows that storytelling can be an effective knowledge-sharing technique, largely because it conveys context, causal relationships, and emotional content more effectively than most other modes of communication."

In the plane I managed to read a whole book (and on top of that I learned that Scottish people take their quilts even while travelling to Ghana :)). Long live travelling by plane! The book is called: op verhaal komen by Wibe Veenbaas and I received the book during a two-days course I took last year on storytelling and the use of metaphors.

His take on the usefulness of stories is slightly different from the ordinary focus on letting people tell stories instead of only linear presentations: he stresses the use of stories and metaphors by trainers/advisors. He indicates that a metaphor works at various levels which circumvents the 'blocking' mindsets or frames a person or a group of persons may have in reaction to direct advice. Hence, its power to create room to find new solutions.

What made an impression on me during the training was his huge belief in everyone's capacity to tell, but also create new stories (so not only telling what you experienced, but creating new stories) and the fact that he could easily detect certain underlying patterns in stories- in that sense he was a real expert. Somewhere during the training he said it doesn't matter which story you tell, because in the end everyone tells roughly the same story again and again; his or her personal story (in different forms).

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