Friday, July 27, 2007

Social Computing and Technology

I have been reading a lot about Social Computing. And I am trying to experiment with it too. Though, trying is the closest I get to it. For some strange reason (or maybe its too much to ask for ...), the formidable Social Computing challenge is being made more formidable by technology.

I was trying to setup my account on Technorati, and that is quite a simple task. As they say ... The Devil lies in the Details. There is a mind-boggling array of tools all arrayed out there for you to us. Needless to say, these are not meant for an ignoramus like you. Yours truly ... A technological dinosaur!

I will definitely write more about it. As you know, Social Computing is something I am very interested in, and if you dont know (I dont think you would), I would like to see some simplification. So a nincompoop like me could "compute socially". Theres a lot of stuff there ... Ping, and a huge Developer Centre. Of course, there would be a school of thought that would believe that a lot of this stuff that is more cutting edge than anything else, and one cant expect cutting edge technology to be user friendly, but it has to become that, if it wants any scope of becoming mainstream. At least, thats what my Corporate Strategy Prof. told in Class! :-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Telling Stories

I came across a small, though nice write-up about the impact Storytelling can have in the organizational context. This is at the homepage of the SIO SIG (thats Storytelling In Organizations Special Interest Group ... ever wondered why all such abbreviations are always exactly 3 letters long, not a letter more, not a letter less? I have a theory about that, but more about that later).

This is available here. One statement that caught the eye ...

Stories supply facts with meaning, and value propositions with illustrations.

As Peter Senge talks about in The Fifth Discipline, everyone has a mental model which is an aggregation of a lifetime of experiences. What this implies is that anything new we learn is filtered through this model, and we end up trying to relate the new learning to the existing nodes in this mental model.

And this is where the value of stories comes. Stories are told, and they run in that part of the context which is shared between different members of the audience, and which is at the same time shared with the storyteller. This context is the mental models of the members of the audience. Which is what gives the story the power of bringing meaning along with the facts (actually, both of the reinforce each other in the story). Take the example of Jokes. How many times have we not understood a joke because the context of the joke is alien to us? The same logic is applicable to the story.

No can do

I had written about the places I wanted to eat at, while in Bangalore. I am sorry, folks, but you will have to wait (if at all you are reading, but if I still have your attention, I am sure you are reading) for that.

Blame IIM-C. And, my Operations Management exam this weekend. Sunday, to be precise. And, after the 41.67% in Corporate Strategy (I am sure I should have gotten more, except that the majority of the class was somewhere in the 20s and 30s!), I would like much rather hit the Book, and slog it out ... Which means no gallavanting around the place. Just being a good boy, staying put in the Guest House, and Studying! Cheers ...

Technology disintermediation

Abhijit (a friend and ex-colleague), was telling me a little incident ... Something I found funny ...

He was flying from London to Delhi, en route to Calcutta (or Kolkata, if you must, though, I still prefer Calcutta!). He reached the shores of India (aka Indira Gandhi International Airport, but not his luggage). Not for a few days, at any rate.

In the meantime, it seems that he was following up with British Airways about the luggage, and for some reason (dont even ask me to fathom what the reson could have been), the folks at Heathrow were not updating systems (dont believe in them, I suppose?), and as a result, nobody had a clue about the luggage until it actually reached Delhi, and even then, there was a delay in updating the system. And here lies the nub.

Having talked to, and shouted at, the the BA luggage-handling folks in Delhi, he asked hem to inform him moment they hear from his luggage. They said they would, and they did, too ... Only thing, before they called him, he had actually checked on their website that the luggage had come.

Moral of the Story:

Abhijit knew about British Airways luggage before British Airways itself.

Point to ponder: Technology can disintermediate (as it is already doing, and I am sure this post is not telling you anything new, but I just thought that I would pen (or is it keyboard) my thoughts!).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hospitality and Money

There are a few recent incidents which got me thinking. Hospitality ... a la South Asia. And, this prompted me to write on this subject.

Different societies and different cultures have different outlooks to guests. These could vary from the American way (do they really have to come??), to the South Asian way, of Atithi Devo Bhava (Guest be God) ...

What I feel, this cultural difference shows. Very clearly visible in the hospitality and hospitality related businesses (travel, tourism, aviation, customer service ...).

The overriding impression I get in the Occident (I think the word is still valid, Pax Americana and Thomas Friedman notwithstanding) that the hospitality sector is not into it for serving the customer. Rather, they are in it with both eyeballs on your Wallet.

While nobody is in it for charity, because of this cultural difference, the differences in behaviour become quite glaring, and the warmth you would find in a hotel, or an airline in India, or Sri Lanka (I am yet to travel to Pakistan, but from what I heard, they are far warmer), to my mind, remains unmatched.

And I would think this would have implications for the BPO sector. Barring the narrow mindset of "losing American/British jobs to the Indians", I think culturally, the Indian BPO industry is far better placed than their counterparts in other parts of the world to handle outsourced, customer-facing processes, especially for processes which are with handling irate customers.


My friend Sunil has raised a question which has vexed a lot of people, so I dont think it would be wise for me to say that I have an answer. But I think the question needs to be elaborated.

In Hindi, and most other languages in India, there is the story of the Kuen ka Mendhak, or Koopomonduk (depending on which part of the country you come from, and these two are only examples ...). Translated, the Frog of the Well. This is the frog who spent his entire life in the well, and believed that all there is to the world is the well. There was no way he could even begin to fathom the river, and the freedom it could bring to him. And, when asked to come out of the well and live in the river, he was petrified.

So, the question Sunil raises boils down to one of getting the frog to come out of the well. I think its basically a question of telling the frog that theres a beautiful world out there.

Push (from the Boss) may be the simple way out, but I dont think its very sustainable. In the long run, this would require more effort, because we are not generating the desire to collaborate. One possibility is to develop a "sales campaign" based on actual user experience, some kind of poster-boys for KM. This, if course, requires that a start be made somewhere. And I don't think that is as difficult as it seems.

No, this is not instant success. The process of adoption would be slow, but definitely something which will sustain.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Blog on Blogs

I had quite an illuminative discussion with Sunil (a co-Knowledge Manager, and a football fanatic. Chelsea, i think), about why people dont blog. Its 6:30 pm on a Friday evening, and we are discussing this. Any which way, I need to go home and study. Have an Exam this Sunday ... Corporate Strategy!

Two things that we agreed upon:

  1. Its too much effort.
  2. Its not comfortable.

I would think the comfort factor with blogging is the larger factor behind adoption, just as it is for any new technology. Once we can isolate this, can we work towards addressing this? How? One thought that comes to mind: Training. Will it help? How do we train people to blog? And does that last sentence even make sense?

Aggregators, and other such things

For some reason, I am aggregators dont go together. Somehow, I could not figure out google reader. Maybe its just me. But somehow, it never showed me the things I had subscribed for. Somehow, I would only get to see some strange feeds, which I didnt have the foggiest about where they came from.

Today, Sireesh (he is a co-Knowledge Manager), suggested newsgator and somehow, I have been able to figure out what this is about!

Next stop ... Atom!

Social Networks and Accountability

Quite a few of the folks out there would have seen the quirks of corporate firewalls. Whenever you are blocked from checking out a particular site (and I am not talking about objectionable content here ... one could argue that what is objectionable to one may not be objectionable to another, but I would argue that in an Office environment, we would definitely need to go by the lowest common multiplier), you are coming up against the debate on the trade-off between networking (which is not necessarily a bad thing), and accountability. And I am not talking about corporate accountability, but rather, about individual accountability to society.

The question is simple ... How do we ensure accountability to adhere to socially acceptable standards in the domain of social networking. Luis Suarez had written about this on one of his posts on ITToolbox which you could read here.

One way of looking at the problem is that social networks tend to be self-correcting, in that members would typically ensure that undesirable behaviour is discouraged to the point that it would slowly and surely be stamped out. The concern, however, is that by then quite a bit of damage has been done.

Organizations could address this in either a reactive or a proactive mode. There may, in fact, be merit to the thought that the rules of engagement for social networking (in the workplace, and here, by workplace I dont just mean the Office, but the working community), should be no different from professional networking. This is because end of the day, when talking about the applicability of Social Computing in the Knowledge Management space, we are talking about that point where social networking and professional networking converge.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bangalore next week

Something I have been trying to figure out for a long time ... There are people who can eat, and then eat, and then eat some more, and are still thin as a reed, while me ... I can grow fat listening to someone in the next room talking about Food!

I am off to Bangalore next week, and I am looking forward to Dinner at Hotel Empire ... The Mutton Kurma, and the Parotta they make up is delicious ... So is the Fish Curry and Rice at Koshy's ... Though, I think their Fish 'n'Chips is avoidable. Which is crazy, because the place is called Koshy's Fish 'n' Chips ... So their signature Dish seems to have gone ...

Computing and Democratization

On a recent blog, Luis refers to a blog post by Dan Farber where is he discussing the debate featuring Andrew McAfee and Tom Davenport on the merits of Enterprise 2.0, and the impact it is likely to have on organizations.

While I do agree with Tom that a lot of these technologies have been around for some time, I dont quite agree with his observation that these havent helped democratize organizations.

While one would have to agree that power differentials in organizations have always remained, and will continue to dominate the corporate landscape, there are two observations we could look at:

  1. Even in a democracy, while power lies in the hands of people, end of the day, there is a power differential between people and politicians.
  2. Power differentials today are not exactly what they were say 20 years back. Agreed, in today's world, 20 years is a different century, but then, changes are happening. And that its way too early to conclude, any which way.

Utilization versus Customer ...

Over the last two days, I have come across scenarios at some of the most revered eateris in Kolkata (Calcutta if you may), which are unsavoury, at least to me!

At Peter Cat ... They believe that if the size of the entourage doesnt fit with the size of their table, you are not allowed in. So, if theres 2 of you, and they have a table of 4 which is vacant, perish the thought of having the chance to dine there. They would much rather leave the table vacant (on the assumption that they will get 4 covers soon!) ... One could argue that if they took in the 2 diners, 4 people would be inconvenienced (did i get that right?). But I dont think they have such altruistic thoughts behind this.

Or, take Flury's for that matter ... For some reason, the establishment believes that people dont drink (or, maybe, that they shouldnt drink) Tea or Coffee along with their Lunch. Presumably, which is why, they refuse to serve Coffee if you go there at Lunchtime. I had gone there with a colleague, and ... I was going to have a Pastry, and she decided to have Coffee (presumably because of a Diet!). And, the bearer told us that he cannot serve Coffee! Of course, he still wanted me to have the Pastry!

This doesnt take anthing away from the Food. The Chello Kababs are every bit as they ought to be, and Flury's still makes up the best Muffins.

Strangely, this is something I havent come across anywhere except Kolkata, though, by no stretch of the imagination could I hold this against the City i love ...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Food in Calcutta

Over the last couple of days, I have seen a peculiar situation in Calcutta. Just about every eatery in town is packed throughout the day, practically. We decded to have Dinner at Jimmy's Kitchen (if you have known Calcutta for a longish period of time, you cannot give Jimmy's a go-by!) ... A venerable old institution of Chinese cooking in Calcutta, the land of Tangda. To the extent that my Mother in Law was telling me once, that the first time she ate at Jimmy's Kitchen was when she was in School. Now, thats one old place!

What was indeed surprising was that at 8:20 pm on a weeknight, the place was packed. No place to sit, and the guard says it would at least half an hour to get a table. As luck would have it, one of my friends who was supposed to meet us there had already reached there, and was already sitting inside. The alternative would have been wooing the Princes of Calcutta (the taxiwallahs ... that time of the day, none of them seem to want to go anywhere!).

Though, the Wontons and the Spring Rolls were every bit worth it ... Just the way they should be ... Delectable! In other words ... Vintage Jimmy's!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Asian Tigers

I am these days reading a Book titled Revolutionary Wealth, by Heidi and Alvin Toffler. Since I havent even gone through 1/3rd of the Book, it wouldnt be right to comment of the Book right now. But, an interesting statistic caught my eye ...

In 2003, the combined GDP of China, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, and India was greater than that of the EU (not my research, I am quoting!). But a whole host of these organizations have adopted an American approach to Management, which, I think, is alien to the cultures of these economies, and which needs to be "localized" to bring them into the cultural context of the country.

Japanese companies have done this to some extent. And, they have seen the results. One could argue that end of the day, business is business, and hence, whats good for the goose is good for the gander. But having said that, business is getting to be more and more about people, and people live in their respective cultures. And, it is to address this aspect of management that more and more management thought would need to emerge out of these countries, which identifies with the cultural milieu of the country.

Kolkata Khaowa ...

A few days in Kolkata (or Calcutta if you may), are always welcome. There is something about the city. The fact that theres no such thing as professionalism here notwithstanding, the city has a heart. And, belly ... Sure knows a thing or two about Food!

Yesterday it was Ilish Maach (dont ask me what preparation, but it was Shorshe Baataa, and Paalonk Shaag ...), and it was among the best Ilish i have ever had. That at a time when Bangladesh has banned the export of Padma r Ilish! How could they!!!!! From a place called Kastoori. I am told this restaurant is on Sudder Street, opposite where Jamuna Cinema used to be.

And if the Ilish is anything to go by, a visit to this restaurant is required.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Proliferation, and other things

Just had to write about this ... Something I have come across so many times, I dont even know where to begin handling this. This is proliferation on the web. And this is a phenomenon thats huge.

Quick question ... How many e-mail accounts do you have? Let me guess ... Definitely more than 1? I have more than 5. Another question ... Do you have difficulty remembering the passwords of all of these? I dont, because I use the same password for all of them. Killer question ... How easy is it to remember which email do you have in which account?

If it is getting unmanageable with email, which is something we ourselves control, the question that naturally follows ... How do we mnage content on the web. Worse still, how do we find content that we know is out there. I am sure someone out there has worked on this, but its just that I cant find where they kept it. An example ... There's so many blogging sites ... And, no way to connect them! At least, the ways that are there are indirect, at best, and work around the proliferation that I am talking about.

Is there a way out there, which enables some kind of Single Sign-On ... Not just in terms of checking credentials, but also serves as a single place for finding content across websites, across social networking tools, across ... And, at the same time, addresses privacy issues! Or is this too futuristic?

Art imitating Life?

Way back in the 80's (seems way back, considering I was still going to School, then), Peter Drucker had written about the transformation of the American economy from being a "managerial" to an "entrepreneurial" economy.

True enough, if we see the way businesses are headed, with more and more computing power coming to individuals, organizations have also been changing. Decision making has been becoming more and more decentralized, and things earlier considered the preserve of the "enlightened manager" are now being done by employees at lower levels.

The way I see it, Social Computing is set to change this even further, with even greater levels of technical power being concentrated in the hands of individuals. What this implies is that as more and more people collaborate, and learn from each other, and there is a greater understanding of enabling people to tap into the knowledge or expertise of their colleagues or contemporaries, employees would play more and more "entrereneurial" roles even if they are within the confines of the organization.

There are two things to note here:

  • More and more work is being done by individuals. When I say individuals, I am talking about entrepreneurs who are operating outside the confines of an organization, for example, Freelancers. True, this is a trend that is more pronounced in the high-tech sector, but is a matter of time before this moves to other areas of the economy. And this move shall be powered more and more by technology. What is not yet clear is whether this is a move to an assembly line, where each work-station, and the worker manning it is a separate organization, working as a customer to one, and supplier to another work-station. I deliberately took the"industrial" economy example to show that the movement of the "freelancer" movement need not be restricted to the high-tech industry alone. It is tempting to say that this is the way all business is going to go, but I would say its early days yet, and we are yet to see the initial tectonic shifts which the technology revolution can bring.
  • Another important aspect is that while there is an explosion in the kinds of tools that are available out there, which enable people to collaborate with each other within, as well as acrss organizations, I find more and more organizations putting restrictions on collaborations. A prominent financial institution where a friend works does not allow employees to hit blogging sites. I wonder why?

One could argue that a lot of organizations feel uncomfortable with the entrepreneurial spirit technology is bringing about. But, they would do well to tap into it. Join it if you cant fight it. More on that later, though ...

For the moment, I am trying to figure out whether it is the onward march of technology which is bringing about a change in the entrepreneurial spirit, or does it work the other way round? Akin to the debate on art imitating life, or the other way round!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

WSJ on IBM -- Social Computing

In one his recent blogs, Luis Suarez (if you havent been following his blogs on ITToolBox, I suggest you should), mentioned a piece WSJ did on IBM. You could find this at

WSJ has done a very nice piece on some of the awesome work that IBM is doing in the Social Computing area, from ST (Lotus Sametime 7.5 or higher ...), from where you could navigate to the person's Blue Pages entry, see the things the person works on (the coolest part is that every employee is free to fill in details about themselves, and there can be plenty of details that can be filled in ...), to some exciting work using SecondLife.

The tools are huge, and they surely have the potential of changing the way we work, but I think the largest challenge will be adoption. There will certainly be people who love the latest gizmos, who will love to play with these, but then, there will also be people who are tech-dinosaurs. The key lies in either bringing these guys on board, or finding means to have them collaborate, and "social compute" in the real world, and bringing these interactions into the collaboration domain.

In a nutshell, two aspects which organizations need to focus on (and this has been waed eloquent about ad nauseum, but I thought it would be necessary to mention these in the midst of the Social Computing euphoria):

1. The collaboration culture, and overcoming the information silo mindset.

2. Bridging the digital divide between the "Geeks", and the "Technologically Challenged" (and, oh yes, even the Information Technology industry has its fair share of them!)

Photograph from Kolkata

I just got a bunch of pictures from a colleague of the havoc the deluge played in Kolkata ... People trudging through hip deep water ... Camac Street seems to have been the photographer's favourite.

In all of these, there was a picture of a rickshaw-wallah ... Just an ordinary photograph, but a smile very human ... A smile which welcomes the rains, even with the waterlogging, and all the man made problems that it brings ... A warm welcome ... One that shall never be taken away!

New division of labour

My Uncle pointed me to an Article from the NY Times, which you can also find at

One of the central points that the article makes is that companies like IBM have to move up the value chain to survive. Having said that, there is also a school of thought that believes that your degree decides the kind of work you are good at. For example, most people believe that one has to be a MBA to be a Management Consultant. You could be a great techie, but what do you know about business without a MBA?

While this school of thought has its own merit, I think it is, in a large part, misplaced. In today's world, knowledge is almost free. Anyone who has access to a dial-up connection (lets take the worst scenario here ...), can access a vast amount of information out there, and interact with people with such diverse viewpoints and expertise areas, that they can pick up lots more than can be picked up in a classroom setting.

Which is why, I believe that companies would do well to tap into experience rather than qualification.

Monsoons ...

This is the first post I am making on this blog. And, needless to say, its about the Monsoons ...

I was supposed to be in Mumbai right now, and had it not been for the rains ... Actually, not the rains, but more the way our infrastructure can handle them ... And, why Mumbai alone ... Kolkata was floating, too!

Though, the fact of the matter is, too, that the Monsoons unleash their own Magic ... the Magic of Saawan ... Of a bountiful crop, which feeds the vitality of a civilization. Of bringing life out of the laboured slumber of the Summers ... No wonder, then, that the Monsoons are celebrated across the length and breadth of the country ... Even if that means that washed clothes remain soggy for days!

Here's to the Monsoons ...

Fragmented Content

I think one of the major challenges facing businesses is the enormity of information that is available out there. Which is why Search is such big business in the first place. After all, why else would someone need a Google Desktop to search their own desktop when they ought to know where they saved what, except that its getting so difficult to keep track of content.

What is making this issue trickier is that within an organization, there is no single "source of truth". I am yet to come across an organization where there is one repository where all artefacts are stored, so a user could search through all of them in a single search. Whether it be distributed LN DBs, or Team Rooms, or whether it be on the web, even.

The major reason put forth for this is Confidentiality. While thats a very noble thought, more often than not, it turns out to be a red herring. I have come across "Customer Confidential" documents which contained less information than what is available on public websites. Now, this may have been Customer Confidential at some point, but then, someone forgot to tell the author that the customer released it to the world.

This becomes an even larger issue when customers cannot find information because its fragmented. There has been a lot said and written about "Unified Channels", unifying the customer experience across various channels. Still, you will find instances that you can book a hotel room over the web, but not over the phone (or, you would be told rates which are different when booked over the web, and different when booked over the phone). Now, while its understandable that the overheads are different when booking over the two channels, that logic loses track of the customer somewhere.

Another example, which I find even harder to decipher is that of a newspaper, which makes sure that certain stories which are there on its print version are missing on its website! I wonder why they would do this, or hat business requirement does this meet.

This gets even trickier in today's age of social networking. Lets face it, word spreads like wildfire. And organiztions should wake up to that. One lost customer may not be only one lost customer any longer. One lost customer may be a hundred different guys on Orkut, for example. And I doubt if "engineered intervention" helps. People read through it pretty quick.

Reminds me of the Hindi song ... Ye jo Public hai, ye sab jaanti hai! (This Publice thats there, it knows everything!). And, this has never been as true as it is today, and i would think its going to get even truer tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Measuring Knowledge

This is a sticky thing to do. Something which we have not been very successful at doing. Although there are frameworks which can help us do this, the Balanced Scorecard being one of those, I am a skeptic when it comes to a generalized definition.

The basic idea that I am trying to put forth here is that something intangible is very difficult to measure in a generalized sense, but moment you put it into a particular context, the measurement conundrum lends itself to a far simpler solution, because here, the solution can be determined in the context of the problem that is being solved.

Let me take an example from High-School Physics. Take the term "Efficiency". How do you define efficiency? Is there a universal definition of the term? Not that I am aware of. But, try to apply the term to Carnot's Engine, and you can easily define the term. Or, apply the term to the working of a machine on a production line, and you can easily define the term.

I think we could extend the same logic to the concept of measuring Knowledge as well. That the definition of measures should be in the context of the business where we are actually trying to measure. So, for example, in a Call Centre, with a Sales process, the measurement of knowledge would be different from that in a helpdesk. Which is why, I am not sure whether a universal definition of the measure is such a great idea, after all.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The CKO Conundrum

Not like me to have multiple posts on the same day (I am far too lazy to do that!), but I came across a definition of the role of the CKO, and that got me thinking.

Looking at the term from two perspectives ... Can Knowledge be "Officered"? If you agree with me that Knowledge is something which people carry in their heads, or rather, Knowledge is information applied (to work, or otherwise ...), experience that is internalized, the CKO should really be the CKF (Facilitator, if you may ...)!

But given that we are still debating on what is Knowledge (nobody told me yet that this issue has been resolved to everybody's satisfaction, so I will assume that the debate rages on), let us move away from this thought process, and look at another.

The term CKO, to my mind, is pretty much "pre-Social Computing" era term. What I am trying to say is that the term brings to mind a hirarchical structure which defines how knowledge shall flow in the organization, while in today's Social Computing era, I would much rather look at the CKO more as a canal which guides the water flow, but cannot, in any way, dictate it.

And I am sure you would agree with the Water analogy?

The power of connecting.

For those of us not in the know ... I am a big FRIENDS fans. Just yesterday, I was watching a few of the season 10 episodes on CD, when a scene from the one where Rachel is going to Paris reminded me of the power of social connections.

The story runs thus ... Ross wants to tell Phoebe that he loves her, and he doesnt want her to go to Paris. He needs to meet her, but Ross and Phoebe land up at JFK, while Rachel is at Newark. No way they can make it in 20 minutes. Phoebe calls Rachel on her mobile, and tells her that theres something wrong with the left "filange" of the plane.

And, this is the point I am trying to look at. The guy on the seat next to Rachel overhears her saying theres nothing wrong with the left filange, and he panics. And before you can spell Bonjour Monsieur, the plane is empty, because all the folks on the flight panic that the plane is not firing on all cylinders!

Why am I telling this story? The fact of the matter is, that in a manner similar to this, online communities can make or break a campaign, or a communication. Only thing, online communities can do this on a scale far wider than a flightload of nervous passengers. A little comment on a single blog, read by 5 people, can get amplified to proportions, and at speed, which werent even imaginable even a couple of years back.

And this just shows the power of social computing. Whether it be the, or whether it be the Open Source movement, social computing is bringing power to the hands of everyday folks in an unprecedented manner. Though, what I would like to say here is, that it is now up to us, how we use it. Having said that, though, I would also go on to say, that by and large, we are responsible people, so I wouldnt worry too much about abuse of this power.

Would like to hear from the folks out there ... Bouquets or brickbats?

Monday, July 2, 2007


We all would have grown up on a diet of stories. Whether Epics recounted by Grandparents, or Noddy from a book, stories are a part of any child's upbringing. Whether they be epics, fables, fairy tales ... The one mistake we assume is, that as we grow up, we outgrow stories.

That, it seems, is far from the truth. We still love stories ... aka gossip? We still love to hear about who is doing what in the Office. Who is moving into which role, who is quitting, whats the new person who joined like (there must be stories out there about me as well), and a whole lot of other stories, including soap operas.

Once we have established that we still love stories, the next thought I would like to discuss is how we can use stories for Knowledge Sharing.

Lets first see what a story does ... It educates, entertains, and inspires. This means that the story can educate and inspire in an entertaining way. And if you remember your favourite teacher in School or College, I am sure the teaching would match this description?

Which means that we should be able to educate through stories. Take this one step further, and we should be able to share knowledge through stories. But, to be able to do that, lets first look at what we think are the components of stories ... This would help us understand how storytelling can be moulded towards knowledge sharing.

Participants -- the folks who appear in the story (the Project Manager, Team Lead, and the Boss ...)

Situation -- describes the problem the participants are trying to solve (the grumpy customer)

Intentions -- the intentions of the participants (pacify the customer, and resolve the problem while de-escalating the situation)

Actions -- what they are doing (talking to customer, expediting resolution)

Tools -- the tools these folks use (Portals)

Effects -- of their actions (greater understanding of customer problem)

Context -- the details around the situation (the criticality of the problem to customer business, etc.)

Surprises -- those unexpected things ...

Sunday, July 1, 2007


I am reading about the impact of stories on our life. We have all grown up on stories, whether they be Epics (my Grandfather telling me the story of the Ramayana as a 5 year old), or fairy tales or Aesop's Fables, or stories of Noddy that we read as children.

I am sure we all learnt a lot from them. To whatever extent, they have played a role in shaping our views on the world. From there, a school of thought concludes that stories could play a very important role in organizational learning, too. The logic for this is quite compelling.

Any other viewpoints that anyone would like to present? I am trying to understand the impact of storytelling, both in positive and negative terms, on organizational learning and organizational sharing.

Will write more about my thoughts on storytelling tomorrow!