In the 1980s, faced with massive budget cuts, Xerox was desperate for ways to boost productivity of its office-site repairmen. John Seely Brown, Chief Scientist of Xerox, supported a study on how these repairmen actually did their work. Xerox found that these technology specialists went out of their way to gather with each other – whether over a coffee, at a warehouse break room, after work for a drink or just on the phone. When they were together they would swap stories from the field. In a time of budget cuts, some might see this behavior as a waste of time. But Seely Brown viewed it as the exact opposite. The stories they were telling were an important part of their professional learning. They shared stories of complicated jobs, puzzles they couldn’t figure out and tricks of fixing particular models. To boost productivity, Xerox didn’t try to cut this important story time. Rather, Xerox gave each repairmen mobile telephones so they could more frequently ask one another for help and listen to stories from the field (Brown and Gray 1995).

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