Cor­po­rate Story Telling

Knowl­edge Shar­ing Through

Insurance - - KNOWLEDGE MGMT - by Dr Rumesh Ku­mar

Malaysia’s tran­si­tion from a

pro­duc­tion-based to a knowl­edge-based econ­omy has been driven by a de­sire to cre­ate wealth through the gen­er­a­tion and ex­ploita­tion of knowl­edge. This is seen as a cru­cial re­quire­ment as

Malaysia steers its way to­wards be­ing a fully devel­oped na­tion by 2020. To re­alise this ob­jec­tive, a ke­con­omy master plan that out­lines

the ma­jor k-econ­omy pol­icy ini­tia­tives has been devel­oped.

One of the key ini­tia­tives out­lined is the devel­op­ment of knowl­edge work­ers who are able to de­velop and lever­age on knowl­edge to pro­duce re­sults that help or­gan­i­sa­tions achieve their ob­jec­tives.

As part of this ini­tia­tive, many pub­lic and pri­vate en­ter­prises in Malaysia have em­barked on a se­ries of ini­tia­tives that are re­lated to Knowl­edge Man­age­ment within their re­spec­tive or­gan­i­sa­tions. Knowl­edge Man­age­ment, very broadly de­fined, means de­vel­op­ing and main­tain­ing a sys­tem that en­ables or­gan­i­sa­tions to cre­ate, re­tain and share knowl­edge to en­able them to be more com­pet­i­tive.

This ar­ti­cle is writ­ten with the aim of show­ing how a cul­ture of knowl­edge shar­ing may be in­cul­cated through

story telling. It clar­i­fies the dif­fer­ence be­tween knowl­edge trans­fer and knowl­edge shar­ing and goes on to give ex­am­ples of what types of sto­ries may be told. The ar­ti­cle con­cludes with a brief de­scrip­tion of what it takes to be a good sto­ry­teller.

Adop­tion of Knowl­edge Man­age­ment Prac­tices in Malaysia

De­spite enor­mous ef­forts un­der­taken by the government and pri­vate en­ter­prises to in­tro­duce knowl­edge man­age­ment in Malaysia, a gen­eral sense of re­luc­tance to ac­cept knowl­edge man­age­ment as a tool to im­prove bot­tom line per­for­mance ap­pears to pre­vail.

The re­luc­tance stems from an un­cer­tainty on whether ap­ply­ing knowl­edge man­age­ment prin­ci­ples leads to pos­i­tive out­comes. Hence, the im­ple­men­ta­tion and sus­te­nance of knowl­edge man­age­ment ini­tia­tives is con­tin­gent on how they con­trib­ute to­wards mak­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion more per­for­mance based.

Apart from this, knowl­edge man­age­ment ini­tia­tives such as knowl­edge cre­ation, knowl­edge dis­sem­i­na­tion and knowl­edge ap­pli­ca­tion re­quire a cul­ture that en­cour­ages knowl­edge shar­ing. Un­til and un­less such a cul­ture ex­ists, the like­li­hood of be­ing able to de­velop and sus­tain knowl­edge man­age­ment ef­forts will re­main elu­sive.

Knowl­edge Trans­fer and Knowl­edge Shar­ing

Knowl­edge is rou­tinely trans­ferred in or­gan­i­sa­tions. The pro­vi­sion of in­for­ma­tion on op­er­a­tional pro­cesses and pro­ce­dures, stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures, data, graphs and de­tailed re­ports both to man­age­ment and em­ploy­ees are ex­am­ples of knowl­edge trans­fer.

Knowl­edge trans­fer oc­curs when there is a knowl­edge source and a knowl­edge re­cip­i­ent. When the knowl­edge is trans­ferred, ei­ther di­rectly in per­son or through doc­u­ments, the re­cip­i­ent has only re­ceived the knowl­edge. In this con­text the knowl­edge is trans­ferred.

For knowl­edge shar­ing to oc­cur, the knowl­edge re­ceived has to be in­ter­nalised by the re­cip­i­ent to a point where he or she is able to recon­cep­tu­alise the knowl­edge in his or her own man­ner and in the

Knowl­edge shar­ing is one of the most pow­er­ful means of de­vel­op­ing em­ployee ca­pa­bil­i­ties and at the same time, it is one of the most dif­fi­cult to en­cour­age in prac­tice.

process, re­turns that recon­cep­tu­alised knowl­edge back to the sender. When this takes place, knowl­edge shar­ing takes place.

There is an im­por­tant dif­fer­ence be­tween knowl­edge trans­fer and knowl­edge shar­ing. Knowl­edge trans­fer is a one-way move­ment of knowl­edge that may or may not lead to an in­crease in knowl­edge. Knowl­edge shar­ing re­quires a twoway move­ment that leads to in­crease in knowl­edge in both par­ties.

Knowl­edge shar­ing is one of the most pow­er­ful means of de­vel­op­ing em­ployee ca­pa­bil­i­ties and at the same time, it is one of the most dif­fi­cult to en­cour­age in prac­tice. The rea­son is be­cause of the preva­lence of a “knowl­edge is power” men­tal­ity, func­tional si­los, in­di­vid­u­al­ism, poor means of knowl­edge cap­ture, in­ad­e­quate tech­nol­ogy, in­ter­nal com­pe­ti­tion and top-down de­ci­sion mak­ing. To suc­cess­fully in­tro­duce and en­cour­age knowl­edge shar­ing, a cul­ture of knowl­edge shar­ing has to be in­tro­duced so that it be­comes a norm for knowl­edge to be shared within the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

De­vel­op­ing a Cul­ture for Knowl­edge Shar­ing

To make knowl­edge shar­ing a norm such that the cul­ture of knowl­edge shar­ing takes root, it is nec­es­sary to seek for ways and means to make knowl­edge shar­ing fun, ex­cit­ing and in­spir­ing. This would en­cour­age man­agers and em­ploy­ees alike to share knowl­edge in an in­for­mal, in­ter­est­ing and in­ter­ac­tive man­ner, lead­ing to bet­ter in­ter­ac­tion be­tween man­age­ment and em­ploy­ees.

For this to ma­te­ri­alise, top man­age­ment should recog­nise that the or­gan­i­sa­tion con­sists of peo­ple who have ex­per­tise and knowl­edge that is dis­persed through­out the or­gan­i­sa­tion. For this

dis­persed knowl­edge to be har­nessed so that the knowl­edge as­sets that pre­vail may be ap­plied to meet or­gan­i­sa­tional ob­jec­tives, a cul­ture of knowl­edge shar­ing has to be nur­tured.

De­vel­op­ing such a cul­ture re­quires an av­enue that makes knowl­edge shar­ing fun, ex­cit­ing and in­spir­ing. One of the best ways to do this is through an in­ex­pen­sive and easy to im­ple­ment av­enue called cor­po­rate story telling.

Ev­ery­one likes a story and ev­ery­one lis­tens to sto­ries. Sto­ries in­spire, they en­er­gise, they con­vey mes­sages in a man­ner that af­fects peo­ples’ hearts and minds. When peo­ple hear sto­ries that they re­late to, they re­alise that the sto­ry­teller has emo­tions and they be­come im­me­di­ately en­gaged to them at a deeper, per­sonal level. This is be­cause as hu­man be­ings we make sense of our ex­pe­ri­ences through sto­ries and we re­late bet­ter with peo­ple who have sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences as we do.

Cat­e­gories of Cor­po­rate Story Telling

Many types of sto­ries may be told in any or­gan­i­sa­tional set­ting. In this ar­ti­cle, I shall fo­cus on three cat­e­gories of cor­po­rate story telling. They re­late to lead­er­ship, em­ployee involvement and cus­tomer fo­cus.

Lead­er­ship sto­ries

Lead­er­ship sto­ries can both in­spire as well as align em­ploy­ees to­wards meet­ing or­gan­i­sa­tional goals.

Lead­ers can use the power of a good story to in­flu­ence, in­spire and cap­ti­vate em­ploy­ees. Sto­ries can in­spire ev­ery­thing from un­der­stand­ing to ac­tion. Lead­ers can use sto­ries to re­count how the or­gan­i­sa­tion strug­gled in the early days, the sac­ri­fices made and what val­ues helped the or­gan­i­sa­tion sur­mount the waves of de­struc­tion that it had to en­dure.

Lead­er­ship sto­ries that demon­strate what ac­tu­ally hap­pened rekin­dle the fire of ex­cite­ment and chal­lenge that has over the years been en­veloped by scep­ti­cism fu­elled by ig­no­rance of past achieve­ments. They in­spire and align peo­ple to­wards meet­ing busi­ness strate­gies and achiev­ing busi­ness ob­jec­tives. They im­pact not only the mind but also the heart.

Ef­fec­tive story telling is a shar­ing of wis­dom and ex­pe­ri­ence by se­nior man­age­ment. It presents a per­sonal feel of what it is like to achieve what has not been achieved be­fore, what it is like to ex­pe­ri­ence the joy of tran­scend­ing the bar­ri­ers that bar­ri­cade or­gan­i­sa­tional growth. It brings to life the essence of any strat­egy, by lift­ing the hu­man spirit to a point where it is en­gulfed by a burn­ing de­sire to achieve what needs to be achieved for sur­vival.

Sto­ries that high­light th­ese is­sues cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion of em­ploy­ees and make them see things in a way that is more mean­ing­ful than cold, hard facts. Such sto­ries in­spire in ways that move peo­ple to a point where they want to be part of a tra­di­tion of ex­cel­lence.

Involvement Sto­ries

Involvement sto­ries over­whelm and ex­cite em­ploy­ees to a point they feel like be­ing part of an ad­ven­ture that un­folds in their midst.

Sto­ries on per­sonal achieve­ments both of man­agers and front line em­ploy­ees have a very strong im­pact on the level of involvement shown at work. This has been demon­strated in many in­stances where man­agers and em­ploy­ees are asked to share their sto­ries on how they were able to sur­mount dif­fi­cul­ties and de­velop a deep sense of be­long­ing to the or­gan­i­sa­tion. This done rou­tinely will help en­hance the level of involvement and com­mit­ment em­ploy­ees have to­wards the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Through ef­fec­tive story telling on the mer­its of em­pow­er­ment, team based prob­lem solv­ing and in­di­vid­ual success sto­ries devel­oped through per­sonal devel­op­ment ef­forts, em­ploy­ees can ap­pre­ci­ate how be­ing in­volved at work helps them el­e­vate their abil­ity to con­trib­ute.

The pos­i­tive as­pects of be­ing ac­tively in­volved at work through story telling can ex­tin­guish the neg­a­tive in­flu­ence of grapevine oc­cur­ring spo­rad­i­cally and in­for­mally within the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Done rou­tinely, it can stem the tide of re­sent­ment to­wards man­age­ment and the or­gan­i­sa­tion as a whole.

Cus­tomer Fo­cus Sto­ries

At­tempts made to in­cul­cate a sense of cus­tomer fo­cus within front line op­er­a­tors of­ten in­volve dis­play­ing posters of cus­tomer ser­vice and some train­ing on how to be more cus­tomer fo­cused. Th­ese ini­tia­tives may have an ini­tial im­pact in the be­gin­ning but tend to ta­per off when th­ese em­ploy­ees face the re­al­i­ties on the ground. The change in be­hav­iour is tem­po­rary.

In or­der for a “cus­tomer cen­tric” mind­set to be set up, story telling on cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences, how the com­pany man­aged to de­liver more than what it promised and what really hap­pened when cus­tomers ex­pec­ta­tions were un­met makes a dif­fer­ence. The em­ploy­ees in a sense are able to ex­pe­ri­ence what was ex­pe­ri­enced both by the ser­vice provider as well as the cus­tomer, feel the sense of em­pa­thy and frus­tra­tion and rel­ish the joy of ac­com­plish­ment and de­light faced in a pos­i­tive cus­tomer in­ter­ac­tion. This hu­man­ises the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and over time changes the core be­liefs of the front line em­ploy­ees on how the com­pany as a whole treats both in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal cus­tomers. When th­ese sto­ries of ac­com­plish­ment be­come com­mon knowl­edge, the value of cus­tomer fo­cus is re­peat­edly driven into the minds of the em­ploy­ees and over time a cus­tomer cen­tric cul­ture evolves.

Re­quire­ments for Telling Good Sto­ries

In or­der to de­velop the skills needed for be­ing a good cor­po­rate sto­ry­teller, a num­ber of pre­req­ui­sites have to be met when nar­rat­ing the sto­ries. The sto­ries have to be au­then­tic, they have to be in tune with the needs of the au­di­ence, they have to be ex­pe­ri­en­tial and most im­por­tantly, they have to be pur­pose­ful.

Be­ing au­then­tic

The best storytellers talk from their hearts. They tell the story as they have ex­pe­ri­enced it with all the highs and lows that go with the story. They have to be sin­cere and speak in a man­ner that ex­cites the mind and cap­tures the heart. They need to make the story comes alive in the minds of the au­di­ence to a point the au­di­ence can see what the story teller saw and can feel what the story teller felt.

When th­ese sto­ries of ac­com­plish­ment be­come com­mon knowl­edge, the value of cus­tomer fo­cus re­peat­edly driven into the minds of the em­ploy­ees and over time a cus­tomer cen­tric cul­ture evolves.

Au­di­ence needs fo­cus

The mem­bers of an au­di­ence in any story telling ex­er­cise have their own ex­pec­ta­tions, lev­els of un­der­stand­ing and abil­ity to grasp the mes­sage in­her­ent in a story. If the story has a mes­sage that the au­di­ence can re­late to and find use­ful, they will re­cip­ro­cate and in­ter­nalise the mes­sage eas­ily. The au­di­ence can ap­pre­ci­ate a story they can re­late to and which makes them re­assess their be­liefs and value sys­tems. The sto­ries have to be mean­ing­ful and in­sight­ful. Oth­er­wise they would not rel­ish the ben­e­fits of the sto­ry­telling ses­sion.


A good story con­veys the ex­pe­ri­ence of one per­son in a man­ner that en­ables the lis­tener to ex­pe­ri­ence what ac­tu­ally hap­pened. It im­me­di­ately en­gages the mind of the lis­tener in vi­su­al­is­ing what hap­pened and en­gages the heart in feel­ing what was felt. It tran­scends hi­er­ar­chy and des­ig­na­tion vari­a­tions and em­pha­sises the one­ness of hu­man emo­tion and over time builds bonds that last a life­time.

There­fore sto­ries should con­vey very vividly the ex­pe­ri­ences one ac­tu­ally had or that one has read about. In the process of con­vey­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence, the mes­sage in­her­ent in the story lingers on long af­ter the story has been told be­cause the ex­pe­ri­ence shared be­comes part of the psy­che of the lis­tener.


Story telling must be pur­pose­ful. They must in­spire, ex­cite or in­volve the em­ploy­ees to a point where they want to do bet­ter than what they have done be­fore. The pur­pose of the story has to be clearly un­der­stood and the story se­lected should be one that meets this pur­pose per­fectly. This may be a chal­lenge as most of­ten it is dif­fi­cult to come up with a story for all sit­u­a­tions. How­ever it would be pos­si­ble to com­pile sto­ries told and ex­pli­cate th­ese sto­ries ei­ther as a form of ver­bally recorded nar­ra­tives or in writ­ing so that over time a repos­i­tory of sto­ries may be devel­oped.

In sum­mary, en­cour­ag­ing story telling is a sim­ple and very ef­fec­tive way of shar­ing knowl­edge in or­gan­i­sa­tions. Done as a mat­ter of rou­tine, this prac­tice can lead to the devel­op­ment of a cul­ture of knowl­edge shar­ing that will fos­ter the right en­vi­ron­ment for knowl­edge man­age­ment to take root. i For more de­tails on de­vel­op­ing a knowl­edge shar­ing cul­ture in your or­gan­i­sa­tion, please con­tact the au­thor at

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