The Effective Use of Stories as Vehicles of Organizational Learning and Cultural Change: The Case Study of a Utility Company

By Kimiz Dalkir.

Published by The Organization Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A major utility company was studied, in order to assess how well organizational learning took place after any crisis situation. After a given emergency event, there is usually widespread interest in ensuring that the lessons learned from this event were not forgotten – that the organization learned from what worked and what didn’t and was thus able to re-apply this valuable knowledge in future crises. Despite devoting a great deal of effort to documenting formal processes that were put into place, very little of the intangible valuable knowledge was ‘captured.’ This reticence is quite typical, especially in the case of ‘what did not work’ or lessons learned. This paper presents the findings of the use of stotytelling methods to identify the best means of capturing and making available this valuable intangible knowledge to future workers. The use of stories was explored, as this has been shown to be an effective means of capturing the complex context of intangible knowledge in addition to catalyzing cultural change. Two types of stories were elicited and developed by interviewing employees: fictitious stories and factual lessons learned. The more factual type of story was found to engage participants more. These forms of intangible knowledge were then further elaborated to provide more than one point of view on each event and organized in a narrative database. The results of both types of stories as containers for intangible organizational knowledge were then assessed with respect to usefulness for organizational learning and for cultural change.

Keywords: Storytelling, Narrative Database, Organizational Learning, Organizational Change, Case Study

The International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 7, Issue 11, pp.43-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 528.861KB).

Dr. Kimiz Dalkir

Assistant Professor, Knowledge Management, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Dr. Dalkir is currently an Assistant Professor in the McGill Graduate School of Information and Library Studies, Dr. Dalkir developed a specialization stream in Knowledge Management courses. She teaches Master’s level courses in Knowledge Management Foundations, Knowledge Taxonomies, Intellectual Capital Management and Communities of Practice. She has published “Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice” (June 2005, Butterworth-Heineman). Dr. Dalkir pursues research on the effectiveness of knowledge processing in both profit and non-profit organizations, learning in peer networks and measurement frameworks for assessing knowledge management success. Prior to joining McGill University, Dr. Dalkir was Director of Global KM Services at DMR Consulting where she was actively involved in the transfer of knowledge management (KM) and electronic performance support systems (EPSS) to clients in Europe, Japan and North America.


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