One goal of a knowledge management program is to facilitate learning in an organization. Early in my career I had the opportunity to teach at the United States Air Force Academy, where I quickly discovered that teaching wasn’t as easy as it looked; so I spent may hours studying teaching, and thinking about learning. I found many techniques that improved my skills as an instructor, one very effective technique was quite simple actually, it was storytelling.
Like most instructors I used storytelling to help the students see how the theoretical material they had to study applied to the real world. While anecdotes worked, the first-hand “there I was” stories always seemed to get the most comments from my former students, even years later.
It’s relatively easy to build storytelling into a lesson, but KMs should be on the lookout for storytelling opportunities outside the classroom, or meeting room, too.
The Officer’s Club
One example of “facilitating storytelling” is the military Officer’s Club which has endured because so much learning takes place there. After the formal training, mission debriefs, and report filing is over everyone gathers at the club where they share their experiences and “war stories” over a beer. This informal atmosphere allows junior and senior officers to interact in ways the structured office environment doesn’t encourage. With very few exceptions retired officers will tell you “the club is where the real learning took place.” Nobody made this happen, it just happened, and perceptive leaders have defended this valuable learning environment for years.
Any time people gather they will tell stories if you just let it happen. Our job as Knowledge Managers is to look out for those opportunities, preserve them, and when possible, recreate them.