Narration of Work

I see three major principles for working smarter in networked organizations:

  1. Transparency
  2. Narration of Work
  3. Distribution of Power

I spoke about the distribution of power in my last post on the democratization of the workplace. The narration of one’s work is an essential practice that enables this. Hans de Zwart discusses a narrating-your-work experiment that had a 17 member team use Yammer to share daily experiences with colleagues. He talks about the barriers to narration as well as the perceived benefits of this two-month experiment.

His conclusions and recommendations:

  • Don’t formalize narrating your work and don’t make it mandatory. Many people commented that this is one aspect that they didn’t like about the experiment.
  • Focus on helping each other to turn narrating your work into a habit. I think 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. We need to think about how we can move towards that culture.
  • We should have both a private group for the intimate team (in which we can be ourselves as much as possible) as well as have a set of open topic based groups that we can share our work in. So if I want to post about an interesting meeting I had with some learning technology provider with a new product I should post that in a group about “Learning Innovation”. If have worked on a further rationalization of our learning portfolio I should post this in a group about the “Learning Application Portfolio” and so on.

The recommendation of both private and public narration components aligns with the need to support both strong and weak social ties. Covering the public/private spectrum can promote social learning, increase collaboration, and nurture an environment for cross-disciplinary innovation – and bridge the gap to working smarter.

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