Three weeks ago I arrived in London for a couple of weeks work and a couple weeks holiday. One of my must-see destinations was the water pump in Broadwick Street, Soho, which was the main contamination source for the 1854 cholera outbreak (my family think I’m crazy). This pump is also the star attraction on John Snow’s famous map showing the geographic distribution of deaths from the cholera outbreak and is one of the earliest example of epidemiology (in case you were wondering, I studied geography at uni). So imagine my surprise when I arrived at the pump to find it was also a community of practice meeting spot for Soho cycle couriers.
I wandered about the pump for a while taking photos (to the cyclists’ amusement) and listened to their conversation, which of course consisted of telling stories of what happened in the morning and over the week. Nothing written down, no social software, just oral storytelling.
Finding or creating these places for community in organisations is an important step is supporting communities of practice. Ideally they should be somewhere you can eat, chat informally and know that when you arrive, there will be other people just like you to share your stories with.
You might be thinking, but what if my organisation is distributed and we can’t get everyone in one place? Well, do what the London taxi drivers do, form clusters across the network to tell your stories. Here’s a photo of one group of taxi drivers who meet on Russell Square (there is a little group of them behind the silver taxi).
To link across the small groupings the taxi drivers use technology: blogs, newspapers, websites, radio.
Meeting in small clusters for oral storytelling and linking across these clusters for wider knowledge sharing might be a useful pattern to adopt in organisations.
About Shawn Callahan
Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:
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