The need for story
When an organisation has experienced learning or change, its people need a feedback process that guides and supports them. Yet the pressure of assessing the results can easily undermine the learning: as we become aware of being measured, our intrinsic drive to learn is replaced by an extrinsic desire to look successful. So any feedback mediated through an outside observer will be distorted. Learning Histories and Innovation Stories respond to these concerns and needs.
Innovation Stories are documents, in text, graphic and/or audiovisual form, which are disseminated in a deliberately structured manner to help organisations become more aware of their own efforts and learning. Unlike Case Studies, which analyse events objectively, Innovation Stories retain the human and some of its messiness. They chart a significant event through the experiences of those who have been involved. By generating feedback loops throughout a target audience, there is potential learning for the people involved as well as for a wider community able to relate to those experiences.
Based on an action research approach called Learning History, Innovation Stories present the experiences and understandings of initiators, implementors and participants trying to effect – or, indeed, to prevent – change or collaborative learning. When participants witness fair treatment of their own opinions, they are better able to understand the many other perspectives that make up the learning effort. Innovation Stories:
- tell stories in participants' own words in ways that help the rest of the organisation move forward, without having to re-invent what a small group has already discovered;
- report both actions and results, showing how others have used learning to achieve their aims;
- describe intentions, learning methods, tools and techniques, and design of an intervention;
- recount how people learned to collectively enquire in new ways, to generate insights, and to then take actions which weren't thought possible before;
- identify underlying assumptions and reasoning that led to people's actions. In this way, the unwritten but powerful tacit knowledge and undiscussable myths are surfaced, codified, and turned into knowledge. People can test their understandings against others’ perspectives;
- reflect back an organisation talking to itself, in a safe and carefully-structured way, about the things it needs to hear but hasn't yet listened to;
- identify underlying assumptions and reasoning that led to people's actions. In this way, the unwritten but powerful tacit knowledge and undiscussable myths are surfaced, codified, and turned into knowledge. People can test their understandings against others’ perspectives.