Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The Zambia Malaria Outbreak Story



In the mid 1990s, Stephen Denning was angling for a top position in the World Bank after a long and distinguished career in the banking industry. Instead of the job he wanted, he was given what he considered a 'poisoned chalice' -  a role to implement knowledge management at the World Bank because the organisation operated all over the world but seemed to be repeatedly making the same mistakes.

It was the early days of PowerPoint and Stephen made what he thought was a compelling presentation full of rational argument and moving slides about why knowledge management was important. He took his presentation on a global tour but was unable to persuade any country to take on in his knowledge management initiative.

One day, back at the World Bank HQ in New York, Stephen was having lunch in the staff cafeteria when he overheard a story being told by some field workers:

A health worker who was part of a project to build a school in a tiny town in Zambia went to the Web site of the Centre For Disease Control and got an answer to a question about the treatment of malaria. This was in Zambia, one of the poorest countries in the world, and it was in a tiny place six hundred kilometres from the capitol city. 

Stephen included this story in his presentation and there was an instant change in his audience response. The Zambia story connected with his audience and his quest to implement knowledge management finally started to gain traction.

Stephen Denning calls the Zambia story a "springboard" story because it was told and retold countless times and was the catalyst for organisational change

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Company: World Bank
Source: Stephen Denning "The Springboard" How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organisations, 2001
Reference:
Story Type: Business Purpose; Insight
Labels: Knowledge Management; Change Managment
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For Story Students
The Setting: Mid 1990s Stephen Denning was angling for a top position in the world bank
The Complications: Stephen was given the task of implementing knowledge management and found it very hard going
The Turning Point: Stephen overheard a story about a malaria outbreak in Zambia and decided to use that story in his presentations
The Resolution: The story worked brilliantly, Stephen threw away his powerpoint slides and focussed on using the persuasive power of the Zambia story. Stephen went on to write a best selling book on his success using the story
The Point of the Story: The story worked brilliantly, Stephen threw away his powerpoint slides and focussed on using the persuasive power of the Zambia story. Stephen went on to write a best selling book on his success using the story
How to use this story: This is a classic change management story. Use it whenever you need to talk about implementing change
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