2023 KMWorld Media Kit Available Here 

Transforming KM strategies with Story Thinking at KMWorld 2022

Storytelling uses story as a communication strategy and Story Thinking uses story as an operational strategy. Story Thinking goes beyond the foundations of story psychology and focuses on applications for KMers.

At KMWorld 2022, John Lewis, chief knowledge officer, SearchBlox Software Inc. and Explanation Age LLC, discussed story structure as a fundamental sense-making framework, during his workshop, “Beyond Storytelling: Using Story Thinking For KM Strategies.” Specific approaches and exercises were included to support strategies around KM systems, cultures, leadership, knowledge sharing, project documentation, evaluation, and continuous improvement.

KMWorld 2022 is a part of a unique program of five co-located conferences, which also includes Enterprise Search & Discovery, Office 365 Symposium, Taxonomy Boot Camp, and Text Analytics Forum.

“In a nutshell, we know we’re wired for story,” Lewis said. “We want to think about how we create knowledge, capture it, and transfer it.”

Epistemology is a study of what we know and how we know. Knowledge and information management should be applied epistemology, Lewis said.

“Story is a map, everything happens on it,” Lewis said.

Knowing the underlying framework allows us to work more efficiently and effectively. It’s not about what you think, but what you think from.

The classic story pattern is called The Hero’s Journey, he explained. This was popularized by Joseph Campbell, which shaped George Lucas’s Star Wars saga.

“You didn’t just do something, it changed you,” Lewis said. “There’s a cycle that looks something like this.”

A generic story pattern is a story that begins and ends in a settled state, like gravity, that takes more energy to overcome. Marketing uses this concept operationally, he noted.

The underlying story structure for workability beliefs include:

  • Automation: does work / reactive
  • Disruption: won’t work / questioning
  • Investigation: won’t work / questioning
  • Ideation: could work / questioning
  • Expectation: could work / reflective
  • Affirmation: does work / reflective

Working in automation is the beginning and end of transformational change and you’re operating on autopilot. Key disruption characteristics prioritize situations that are out of the ordinary. It is the key to innovation, Lewis explained. Disruptions are not problems.

Investigation allows you to ask questions to understand and reveal. Ideation is brainstorming and diversity of initial ideas. Questions create and clarify designs and plans.  Expectations are the development of ideas, capabilities, and people. Affirmation confirms what we thought works.

“When we’re in a story, we’re operationalizing it,” Lewis said.

KM strategies should include KM systems throughout the Story Thinking cycle to maximize organizational peak performance. Utilizing a story structure while sharing knowledge can create a more robust experience, according to Lewis.

A productivity tip Lewis offered was organizing email with Story Thinking. Every conversation, decision, and activity happens somewhere in the Story Thinking cycle.

Learning involves periodic “revolutions” when the current model cannot be maintained, Lewis explained. There are two primary navigation paths for Story Thinking, this includes: The Full Cycle and the Half-Pipe. The Full-Cycle is for meaningful learning and thinking while the Half-Pipe is for rote learning or thinking fast.

“Creativity is an innate ability, and we have to get back to that,” Lewis said.

Good change management includes stakeholders during the entire change cycle. It engages everyone in the organization in the change process to address root problems. Sometimes the strategic improvement needed is so large that it requires multiple cycles of transformational change. Each generation funds the R&D for the next generation, Lewis explained.

According to Lewis, the ILEDEM Story Thinking change method when approaching projects includes:

  • Identifying opportunities
  • Look into gap analyses
  • Envision solution
  • Develop solution
  • Evaluate trueness
  • Maintain status quo

“A problem can become an opportunity,” Lewis said.

Strategic planning is being challenged by the need for companies to operate faster and with greater agility, he explained. Change is happening so fast that leaders need to capture ideas conversationally within teams.

Given the non-linear growth patterns between our desire to influence versus our desire to understand, the “sophomore leader” emerges early as the leader in many organizations due to their leadership confidence. However, this can be dangerous as the sophomore leader doesn’t have enough experience to influence those around them even though they may have a great deal of knowledge, Lewis explained.

“Learning is not one-dimensional,” Lewis said.

The key is to operate from a learning-based model—where learning is not an “add-on” to business, but they way of business—and this is what Story Thinking is about.

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