Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Steve Denning's latest book, The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative is out.

He's quite a master on the marketing side of things and I've always been intrigued by his ideas about storytelling as a knowledge management strategy. I had read The Springboard when it was published in 2000. The Springboard focuses on how Denning introduced knowledge management at the World Bank through storytelling. I had met Denning in 1999 for a report I was writing on Knowledge Management at the World Bank and at USAID.

I just received my copy of The Secret Language of Leadership and I haven't read it yet. However, the book comes with an avalanche of "bonus" products from Denning's website, so I am digesting some of the bonuses and other materials that appeared in my inbox after I subscribed to pretty much everything that was offered.

One of these bonuses is a short paper titled "Creating an Organization That is Comfortable with Change." In it, I came across a short discussion of the "idea practitioner", which apparently comes from Prusak and Davenport. The "idea practitioner" is "someone below the very top of the hierarchy who believe[s] passionately in the innovation and [is] eventually able to win support from the hierarchy." Denning goes on to note that "if CEOS can find the people in the organization who are already doing things differently, they can endorse their efforts and encourage others to join them. It will reduce the time they will need to spend on inspiring enthusiasm for change."

This concept of the "idea practitioner" reminded me of a short paper I wrote a long time ago about the power of ideas and how ideas spread within organizations and across organizations through individuals, cells of like-minded people across organizations, and networks.

Miraculously, a hard copy of the paper survived in my basement. Sometimes it is fun to read things you have written many years ago and in the process, remembering a lot more than what is written down.

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