In this chapter David Snowden addresses the use of storytelling as both a means of dealing with complexity and a means for managers to create a productive environment. His field of expertise is that of knowledge management, but his pragmatic advice is directed to the broader field of human interactions in general.
Knowledge management is a difficult and challenging topic that has been subject to oversimplistic approaches from a variety of authors and technology vendors. It is fashionable to reference its twenty-five-hundred-year-old philosophical origins in epistemology, which date back to the first use of the phrase “justified true belief” in Plato’s Theactetus. It is equally fashionable to claim that the nature of knowledge is such that it cannot or should not be managed. Both statements are misguided and diversionary, for related reasons. Philosophy is concerned with the nature of what it means to know something, a question far removed from the pragmatic needs of organizations to stem the outward flow of intellectual capital and more effectively deploy what has been called the only sustainable source of competitive advantage (Stewart, 1997). Equally, to say that knowledge management is a mere oxymoron is at best an abrogation of responsibility, only available to those who have ceased to