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Storytelling for communications:

Bridging the knowing-doing gap

How can a tiny narrative communicate a complex idea?

The thing is impossible if we adopt the conventional or media view of communications which views communications as the sending of a message from a communicator to a recipient.

In fact, it occurs by exploiting the interactive nature of communication. Whereas abstract communication minimizes speaker-listener interaction in deference to the "message" being sent, narrative communication maximizes the interaction between speaker and listern by encouraging the listener to imagine the story and to live it vicariously as a participant.

Because the listener imaginatively recreates the story in his or her own mind, the story is not something foreign, not something perceived as coming from outside, but rather something that is perceived as part of the listener's own identity. There is no knowing-doing gap, because the idea is the listener's own.


Stephen Denning, The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative (Jossey-Bass, October 2007)

See Stephen Denning, The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations. Boston, London, Butterworth Heinemann, October 2000, chapters 4-7, 11-12.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, and Robert I. Sutton, The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action, by Boston, Harvard Business School Press, 2000.

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