Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Why company story-listening is democratic

I'm beginning to spend a lot of time listening to stories within companies, and between companies and their customers. Listening to and understanding these stories can help companies adapt to changing markets and competitors, and help their employees work together better.

It's democratic, too. What does that mean? you may be wondering. Traci Fenton, head of WorldBlu and the leader of the corporate-democracy movement, asked me the same question a few months ago. I was trying to explain to her the connection between my work helping companies gather and act on stories and her work promoting the creation of democratic processes and institutions within companies.

To me, it makes all the sense in the world.

To be a participant in a democratic venture, you need to be informed. Lots of information, from different viewpoints, even if it can be contradictory or confusing, is essential to you doing your job, which is to participate in your own governance and direction.

You must also have a voice. Sometimes that voice is a statement at the voting booth. Other times, it is the ability to stand up at the borough council meeting and tell the council they need to approve the school-building project once and for all.

Gathering stories from employees and customers gives them a voice. Sharing them throughout the company provides critical information for employees to act on. Training folks to make sense out of them can root out complacency and provide a platform for action.

If you're a corporate leader who wants your company to be democratic, you better institutionalize the gathering and sharing of stories. From the inside and the outside.

[If you're interested in corporate democracy, you should consider attending WorldBlu Live this month in New York.]

Related Posts:
A Sense of Urgency
Corporate Change Series
Competitive Advantage: Customer-facing Employees

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