Story-Telling as Corporate Learning

I recently had a conversation with Tamara Elkeles, the Chief Learning Officer for Qualcomm.  Qualcomm is a highly successful technology company which focuses on many technologies embedded in the cellular telephone industry.  The company is in the Intellectual Property business, primarily licensing technology to cellular providers, telecommunications companies, and manufacturers.

Tamara has a very successful career as the company’s CLO, with responsibility for organizational learning, leadership development, succession planning, and internal communications.  She mentioned an important initiative at Qualcomm which I believe many organizations can learn from – the use of “story-telling” as a strategy for organizational learning.

At Qualcomm the organization regularly identifies short stories, stories of individual achievement, problem solving, service, or innovation.  These “stories” are written as short articles and distributed to all employees through the company’s internal website.  Stories cover many types of work experiences:  technical innovations, management tips, ways that engineers solved problems, productivity tips, etc. 

To make these stories easy to read and find, all new employees enter a “First 52 weeks” program when they join the company.  As part of this program they receive a story every week, and people can post comments or submit their own stories as well.  For an organization of very intelligent, very focused people, this program creates a powerful network of internal learning.  Tamara validates the success of the program with management by monitoring the use of these stories during meetings, presentations, and other every-day experiences.

If we think about the most interesting speeches and courses we have ever taken, it is the stories which stick in our mind.  I think this approach is an easy-to-use, powerful way of implementing an informal, on-demand learning environment in any organization.