Clay Shirky – learn from stories and not lists of best practices

Clay Shirky – learn from stories and not lists of best practices

David Wilcox over at Socialreporter has managed to grab a few minutes of air time from Clay Shirky – author of Here Comes Everybody – at the Online Information 2008 event.  David asked Clay what would be the best way to investigate how Web 2.0 technologies bring real change? Clay suggested that the best way to find what works might be to look at what hasn’t … and go for stories rather than lists of “best practices”.

There’s an interesting paradigm here that needs to be applied to traditional knowledge management techniques. A storytelling approach is a far more engaging way of learning than trawling through the standard knowledge repositories of best practice, good practice and case studies. Whenever I encounter a website with a ‘knowledge library’, I know what to expect – ranks of similar looking text-filled templates with enumerated lists of do’s and don’ts. How much better to have a rich multimedia narrative, and is it not true that we tend to remember the things that didn’t work better then the things that did? Hearing about the mistakes that others have made is a powerful learning process.  Reading volumes of success stories is tedium personified.

It’s about time the millions of knowledge repositories hauled themselves into the 21st century and started to think about how to keep knowledge fresh and dynamic and not just a catalogue of increasingly irrelevant case studies. The traditional ‘knowledge repository’, managed, maintained and protected by Librarians, is a place where knowledge goes to die and is becoming increasingly irrelevant in a fast changing world. We have the (Web 2.0) tools to keep knowledge fresh, relevant and engaging. Let’s use them to redesign and rethink what a ‘knowledge repository’ or ‘knowledge library’ should look like.

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