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Smarter change

Talking about machines

If you think story is only for fun and entertainment, you may like to read Talking about machines. It is an academic exploration of how photocopier technicians teach each other through story.

It was originally a PhD dissertation in Anthropology. Here’s a quote about it taken from this article.

While management wanted the repair technicians to closely follow manuals and troubleshooting documentation—even if it meant machines were not fixed—the technicians often circumvented the manuals and established protocols to achieve repair. A critical aspect of the technicians’ behaviors was what Orr describes as operating from the self-identity of heroic troubleshooter, a view of their work as undergoing something of a noble quest to find a solution and fix a machine in the face of constraints and bad information. This is especially significant as so much later work in situated learning and communities of practice would address issues of identity as related to enacting practice.

Stories teach more effectively than manuals.

“work is narrative: Storytelling and relating anecdotes are a legitimate form of knowledge sharing and contributor to problem solving, and part of the work, not an addition to it; and as with the example of storytelling, much of work is tacit and situational, requiring improvisation

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