Narratives in Knowledge Management: Challenging Validity

Abstract

Purpose – This paper aims at extending research on sharing in organizations. Current literature often assumes that narratives can provide orientation and guidance in complex task environments by conveying embedded actionable problem-solving or practices. In this paper an empirical example of narrative-based sharing is used as a starting point to explore sharing via narratives in more detail. It turns out to be a much more ambiguous and problematic exercise than previous studies assume. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is a conceptual paper but uses a case vignette from Shell to exemplify the problem of narrative-based knowledge sharing discussed in the paper.Findings – A possible model shall be outlined how inconsistent and questionable narratives could be handled in order to provide orientation. It concludes with stressing the importance of reflecting on narratives and suggest a generative interplay between narrative and argumentative modes of communication in knowledge sharing.Originality/value – The paper is actually the first which deals systematically with the shortcomings of a narrative mode of knowledge sharing. It explores the potential problems and outlines some suggestions how these problems could be addressed theoretically and practically.
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