Do They Give You Eggs for E2.0?

Be grateful for your insightful friends. Their wisdom can speed your path to learning. Accordingly, I’d like to thank Mark Gould and Jack Vinson, both of whom were kind enough to comment on my earlier post, The Four Chickens Problem.  In that post I discussed the challenges to adoption that organizations distributing bed nets face in their effort to eradicate malaria.  Using the example of the superb work of Nets for Life, I described one path we could take to effect behavioral change and expedite adoption:

  • Educate people as to the actual cause of the problem.
  • Educate people as to the theoretical benefits of the proposed solution.
  • Prove the solution in such an obvious way so that you make the theoretical real.
  • Include monitoring and evaluation to keep proving your case as you implement the solution in their community.

In his comment to that post, Jack Vinson dove a little deeper and pointed out that rather than just teaching people, it is far more effective to help them discover for themselves the benefits of the proposed solution.  When the solution comes from them, you don’t have to spend time winning their agreement.  Rather, you can spend your time and energy to support them in adopting the change they themselves have identified as beneficial.

Yesterday, Mark Gould wrote a wonderful review of Made to Stick, the work of Shawn Callahan (of Anecdote) and the power of storytelling.   In that context, he recounted The Four Chickens Problem and  Jack’s helpful advice, and then made the following observation:

These answers are fine, but they depend on ensuring that the message you are selling actually resonates with the audience. If there is a powerful story to tell, the education piece will follow.

He is right.  The team at Nets for Life have to powerful story to tell future recipients of bed nets and future underwriters of the bed net distribution program.  And, this story isn’t about statistics.  As told by Rob Radtke (President of Episcopal Relief & Development), it’s about lives and A Bowl of Eggs:

Last month when I was in northern Ghana, I visited about six different villages to assess our programs and to learn about some of the challenges facing the communities where we are working…. The particular villages that I was visiting on this trip are participating in the NetsforLife® program and so we were learning about the challenge that malaria poses to families with young children and pregnant women.  Virtually every family that we visited had lost a child to malaria and so the NetsforLife® program is making a huge impact here.

[…]

In the last village visit I made … the village headman came forward to say that he had a presentation to make to me on behalf of the entire village.  I was a bit taken aback. … As I sat down, the headman said that although they had a gift to give to me they were very embarrassed as it was such a small and poor gift.  He told me that they had wanted to give me an elephant as a gesture of thanks as that was the grandest gift they could imagine presenting to show how important the malaria nets were to their community.  However, they were too poor to give me an elephant.   (I was trying to imagine what I was going to do with an elephant!)

Instead all of the family heads of the village had met that morning to discuss what would be the most valuable thing that they could give me to show their gratitude for all that had happened in their village as a result of the net distribution.  They had decided to collect all of the eggs laid that day and present them to me in a bowl.

He explained that the eggs represented the entire village’s wealth for that day and while it wasn’t very much, it was everything they had.  [emphasis added]

Do we have anything comparable for our law firm knowledge management or Enterprise 2.0 implementations?

We have to be in the business of story gathering and storytelling.  In the world of knowledge management and Enterprise 2.0, it can be hard to find numbers that paint an accurate picture.  So, we have to find the stories that resonate and we need to develop the skill to tell those stories effectively.  Until that happens, it will be hard to persuade anyone to overcome their inertia to try something new.

[Photo Credit:  laurenipsum]

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8 thoughts on “Do They Give You Eggs for E2.0?

  • July 30, 2009 at 12:20 pm
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    Great story, Mary!

    Of course, one of the leading lights in KM, Steve Denning, used story (and an African one at that) as a way of communicating the important of KM at the World Bank.

    The story was a simple one. In June 1995, a health worker in a tiny village in Zambia logged onto the website of the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, and found the answer to a question on treating malaria. As Denning says, this was June 1995, not June 2015; this was not the capital of Zambia, this was a tiny village some 600KM away; and Zambia is not a rich country, it is one of the poorest in the world. “I’d tell the story and then ask, ‘Do you know what the most important part of this picture is for the World Bank? The World Bank isn’t in this picture. The World Bank doesn’t have its know-how organised to share with the millions of people that make decisions about poverty. But just imagine if it did; imagine what an organisation we could become.’” The story began to resonate, and on 1 October 1996, the World Bank held its annual meeting; the president, in front of 170 finance ministers, announced that the bank was going to become the ‘knowledge bank’.

    (http://www.ikmagazine.com/xq/asp/sid.0/articlei…)

  • July 31, 2009 at 4:54 am
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    Great post, Mary! I fully agree with you that we can use stories to sell 'enterprise 2.0 implementations'. Lots of talk is about ROI as if all the costs and wins can be translated into hard numbers. I find that using stories to sell and convince work much better because they trigger inner motivations (hope, change, fear, etc.). Money doesn't (always) do that.

  • July 31, 2009 at 8:25 am
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    Thank you, Mark, for sharing your kind words and memorable story. And
    thanks for your post, which led me down the path of storytelling.

    – Mary

  • July 31, 2009 at 8:28 am
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    Thanks, Samuel. You're right about the downside to numerical discussions of
    benefits. Since so much of what we do results in the intangible (*e.g*.,
    strengthening human relationships), why do we try to capture that in
    numbers?

    – Mary

  • July 31, 2009 at 8:54 am
    Permalink

    Great post, Mary! I fully agree with you that we can use stories to sell 'enterprise 2.0 implementations'. Lots of talk is about ROI as if all the costs and wins can be translated into hard numbers. I find that using stories to sell and convince work much better because they trigger inner motivations (hope, change, fear, etc.). Money doesn't (always) do that.

  • July 31, 2009 at 11:28 am
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    No time to explain. The clue: teased immersion.

    Are you serving up teases via email? Is the system optimized for email interaction?

  • July 31, 2009 at 12:25 pm
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    Thank you, Mark, for sharing your kind words and memorable story. And
    thanks for your post, which led me down the path of storytelling.

    – Mary

  • July 31, 2009 at 12:28 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks, Samuel. You're right about the downside to numerical discussions of
    benefits. Since so much of what we do results in the intangible (*e.g*.,
    strengthening human relationships), why do we try to capture that in
    numbers?

    – Mary

Comments are closed.