From communicate to ‘narrate’

The world of work has shifted, almost overnight it seems, from ‘change’ to ‘flux’. Trying to operate in a transitional space, where old models no longer suffice and the new models are still coalescing, can be a frustrating yet exhilarating exercise. “Business model innovation is constant in this economy,” GE’s Chief Marketing Officer, Beth Comstock, told Fast Company. “You start with a vision of a platform. For a while, you think there’s a line of sight, and then it’s gone. There’s suddenly a new angle.” One element, though, remains constant: effective communication. Between leaders and followers, between peers, between virtual collaborators on opposite sides of the globe. Yet the networked, highly fragmented nature of this emerging world poses interesting challenges for even the best communicators, suggests Harold Jarche, an expert in workplace learning. Jarche is a strong advocate of ‘narration’, making tacit knowledge (what you feel) more explicit (what you are doing with that knowledge). He sees it as the first step to becoming a social enterprise. “Narrating your work is a powerful behaviour changer, as anyone who blogs regularly can attest,” he says. “In an organisation, narration can take many forms. It could be a regular blog; sharing day-to-day happenings in activity streams; taking pictures and videos; or just having regular discussions. Developing good narration skills, like adding value to information, takes time and practice, so don’t expect overnight miracles.” Jarche cites the results of a narrating-your-work experiment which highlighted barriers as well as perceived benefits. Recounts researcher Hans de Zwart: “It is important to set behavioural expectations about the amount of narrating that somebody does. I imagine a future in which it is considered out of the norm if you don’t share what you are up to. The formal documentation and stream of private emails that is the current output of most knowledge workers in virtual teams is not going to cut it going forward.”

 

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