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Language Lessons

How to turn your employees from whiners to winners.

Loren Gruner's employees were communicating, all right. The problem was with what they were saying. They were questioning the system instead of being proactive and suggesting solutions to problems, explains the president of Integral Results Inc., a 20-person San Francisco computer systems consulting firm.

Behind the muttering was potential trouble. "Company morale was down," says Gruner. "The employees weren't [feeling] positive about where they were working."

Gruner's solution was to bring in a management consultant to instruct the employees in something called knowledge mobilization. The training helped them improve communication and follow-through, and increase trust, Gruner reports. Most important, the grumbling ended.

Gruner isn't the only one satisfied with the results of knowledge mobilization. Jennifer Kenny, the San Francisco consultant for Emergent Management Consulting Inc. who counseled Gruner's company, has helped produce similar results for Wells Fargo Bank and United Airlines. Kenny says the strategies behind the theory can help with several vital business missions, from improving customer service to strengthening corporate culture.

Knowledge mobilization is reportedly especially good for dealing with the problems of information overload. "We [help companies] make the shift from being driven by information and paperwork," says Kenny, "to being driven by commitments they make to other human beings."

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Language Lessons.

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