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9.6 Storytelling and Sharing Secret

In the previous sections, I have mainly discussed the strategies to protect secrets in religion and company. Here, I will touch upon how to share secrets through storytelling.

Studies on religious storytelling can be helpful for understanding the storytelling in companies. Some Japanese new religions have periodical meetings that believers talk about their religious experiences with one another. Telling religious experiences to others not only functions as a group therapy but also reinforces the beliefs and identities of members. The preceding studies (Shimazono 1988) show that in the process of telling religious experiences, believers collectively construct a sort of common story peculiar to their religion. When believers talk about their own experiences, they tend to model their stories after the experiences of religious founders. In the way they tell stories, we can also find out certain patterns. This means that the contents and storylines of religious storytelling are patterned through the collective work of telling stories to one another. What is more, there is another function of religious storytelling. Listening carefully to the stories of other members, believers learn the jargons and their usages in their religious organizations. They, in turn, explain their own experiences using learned jargons, and through the practices, they master jargons and thoughts behind them.

The findings in the religious studies as mentioned above are applicable to the management of companies. Even if the management philosophy is officially announced in an explicit way, by telling it in the form of a story, it may be transmitted effectively. Through the stories of the founder, business leaders, and employees, the members of a company can easily learn the underlying philosophy behind stories and jargons with their usages.

In the field of business management, narrative and storytelling have been an important part of an organization's strategy, development, and learning processes (Brown et al. 2011). In this context, management studies have arrived at the same findings as those in religious studies. Storytelling and conversations are crucial mechanisms for sharing tacit knowledge, which is a sort of secret in a broader sense.

In a study of copy machine technicians, Orr (1996) reported that knowledge was co-constructed by technicians through the construction and sharing of stories and through joint problem solving. Orr also described that technicians often got knowledge through fixed machines not through manuals and troubleshooting documentation but through informal discussion and stories which took place in natural social interaction, for example, during coffee breaks and while driving to customer sites. In these informal discussions and stories, “war stories,” in which copy machine technicians struggle with machine problems and fix them successfully, are critical in translating experiences and developing a common understanding among technicians about various problems both with machines and customers. As Orr pointed out, “war stories” contribute to the construction of technicians' collective and individual identity, “as masters of the black arts of dealing with machines and of the only somewhat less difficult arts of dealing with customers” (Orr 1996: 2). In addition, the conversation among technicians including “war stories” supports the transfer of knowledge from the more experienced to the new technicians.

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