If this pandemic is teaching us anything, it’s that experts disagree, nobody has all the answers, and we are mostly making things up as we go. In a crisis it is important to act but even more importantly to learn as we take action. Add in the human factor that some people are always trying to take advantage of any situation and we start to float in a liquid surround of misinformation, propaganda, half-truths, and sometimes utter crap of the post-truth machines.
As of yesterday our government started to promote the wearing of non-medical masks in public. Last week our public health experts said that people did not know how to wear masks properly so they should not wear them. Overnight we have become professional mask wearers, as we are all expert hand-washers.
In the meantime a standard, and cheap, malarial drug is being promoted in some corners for COVID-19 treatment. Other medical experts say it is not appropriate and perhaps dangerous. Meanwhile some countries are stockpiling the drug and some companies are ready to make a profit. But this is a cheap drug and bigger profits would be made from a new drug.
If you want to know why most decisions are made — follow the money. Researchers want to discover breakthrough drugs. Pharmaceutical companies need profitable drugs. Usually governments want what is best for citizens, but this is not always the case.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” —Einstein [attributed]. We are at the end of The Enlightenment — and all the institutions and scientific disciplines it fostered — and entering The Entanglement.
“As we are becoming more entangled with our technologies, we are also becoming more entangled with each other. The power (physical, political, and social) has shifted from comprehensible hierarchies to less-intelligible networks. We can no longer understand how the world works by breaking it down into loosely-connected parts that reflect the hierarchy of physical space or deliberate design. Instead, we must watch the flows of information, ideas, energy, and matter that connect us, and the networks of communication, trust, and distribution that enable these flows.” —The Long Now Foundation 2019-12-26
Experts and expertise are not enough for our society to make sense of the complexities we have helped to create. For example, complex scientific fields are the realm of research institutions, like universities. It takes a long time to gain expertise, and competence is conferred through peer review. But peer reviewhas its problems and much of the research is published in the language of specialists that only the select few can decipher. There is also little incentive in the highly competitive (for research funding) fields of scientific research to publish widely or to synthesize research so that it is understandable by the average adult. Each silo of research is loyal to itself.
To connect disparate fields there is a growing need for neo-generalists, trusted filters, and the breaking down of silos. Entangled thinking requires diversity. It also requires individual thinking, especially in chaos. General Roméo Daillare suggested in a radio interview this morning that in times of chaos, it is often best to go with our gut instinct — especially if we have a good understanding of the current context, and perhaps a better understanding than the experts.
For instance, we started wearing non-medical masks in public last week. My reading about transmission of the virus by non-symptomatic people had me conclude that if everyone wore one, there was a good chance that it would slow the spread. Wearing a mask cost me little, was not a danger to me, and did not hurt anyone else. However, several medical experts warned that wearing these masks was not a good idea and repeated advice to not wear one. As of yesterday, that expert advice changed. It reminded me of the expert advice not to go down the stairs during the 2001-09-11 Twin Towers explosion and fire. Many of those who ignored this advice survived.
I am not saying that we should ignore all expert advice. However, we have to think for ourselves every day and help make our networked society smarter. An expert is merely one node in an entangled knowledge network.
This year we are running the survey again, to see what has changed in the last 3 years and 6 years, and also to extend the survey into countries and industries that were under-represented last time. Anyone who takes part will be rewarded with a link to a free copy of the 2017 results, as well as being sent a set of 2020 results when the survey closes.
Note that survey reports can also be ordered here.
Would you like to take part?
If you can answer on behalf of an organisation that does KM, or has done KM, or plans to introduce KM, then please follow this link and take the survey. Bear in mind that the comprehensive nature of the survey means it may take up to an hour to complete, but this also means the results are equally comprehensive and rich, so your time is well worth investing.
Feel free to take the survey now, and/or forward this blog post to any of your colleagues or contacts in other companies.
Every fortnight — now known as a decade — I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“In times of crisis, people reach for meaning. Meaning is strength. Our survival may depend on our seeking and finding it.” —Viktor Frankl, via @nuri_numinous
@JoyceCarolOates — “is anyone else experiencing a distortion of time? each day feels monumental & tomorrow seems totally unpredictable; one week ago feels like one month; the future feels foreshortened, like a blank wall just a few inches away. past crises, like raging wildfires, near-forgotten.”
@TrishGreenhalgh — “Please can we all now stop saying “it takes 17 years to get research evidence into practice and policy”. This week, I’ve seen observational studies and rapid reviews done in days, which have changed policy in minutes and practice in hours.”
‘How should leaders respond in chaos? Snowden writes that:’
“A leader’s immediate job is not to discover patterns but to stanch the bleeding. A leader must first act to establish order, then sense where stability is present and from where it is absent, and then respond by working to transform the situation from chaos to complexity, where the identification of emerging patterns can both help prevent future crises and discern new opportunities.” —Dave Snowden
Scott Burns, writer of Contagion script — “These viruses are tracer bullets through our society. They illuminate a lot of the problems that we have. One of the things I didn’t anticipate was that we would have an issue with how truthful and on top of things our administration would be. I remember being most concerned that the spread of misinformation could be as prolific and dangerous as the virus.” —NYT 2020-03-04
“The value of the computer is that it allows kids to learn by doing. People don’t learn by being talked at. They learn when they attempt to do something and fail. Learning happens when they try to figure out why.” —Roger Schank, NYT 2000
Best shirt of the week
@rhappe — “My @TheCR ‘Control is for Amateurs’ shirt seemed to be the right choice today. Leadership dies in a vacuum”
Work is learning, and learning is the work. This has been my tag line for the past decade. Until recently it felt in some ways that I was talking about the future of work, as many organizations still focused on formal course-based training, and education was firmly established on subject-based curriculum developed in isolation from the world.
The pandemic changed everything. Things that we thought would take years were done in a week or two. Is digital transformation even an issue today, or did it just happen? This question has been making the rounds on social media.
Who led the digital transformation of your company?
One of my favourite commentaries on schooling from home comes from my friend Tanya.
Most people have had to do a lot of learning in the past weeks. They have had to change normal practices, innovate, collaborate, and adjust. Schools transitioned to online and teachers in turn are learning that there is a lot of stuff done in classroom that is not necessary. Students, parents, and teachers are adapting. Much of the world just got a major cognitive jolt.
“Covid-19 is like a rehab intervention that breaks the addictive hold of normality. To interrupt a habit is to make it visible; it is to turn it from a compulsion to a choice. When the crisis subsides, we might have occasion to ask whether we want to return to normal, or whether there might be something we’ve seen during this break in the routines that we want to bring into the future. We might ask, after so many have lost their jobs, whether all of them are the jobs the world most needs, and whether our labor and creativity would be better applied elsewhere. We might ask, having done without it for a while, whether we really need so much air travel, DisneyWorld vacations, or trade shows. What parts of the economy will we want to restore, and what parts might we choose to let go of? And on a darker note, what among the things that are being taken away right now – civil liberties, freedom of assembly, sovereignty over our bodies, in-person gatherings, hugs, handshakes, and public life – might we need to exert intentional political and personal will to restore?” —Charles Eisenstein 2020-03
There is little that is happening during this pandemic that has shaken my own perspectives on work and learning. Back in 2011 I wrote — The 21st century workplace is all about understanding networks, modelling networked learning, supporting and strengthening networks. Alan Levine commented on my 2010 post on hierarchical conversations, saying, “You don’t understand networks and learning from hearing words or seeing diagrams; you understand it via first hand experience.” Everybody just got that first hand experience.
The pandemic will definitely change my business, with a lot fewer — or no — public speaking engagements in the near future. As much as I like to travel, I have become adept at online presentations and collaborations. I did one many years ago during a power outage and used a landline to speak while the moderator showed my slides and provided audience feedback. In 2009 we did a 24-hour around the world online conference to engage people in every time zone, where I presented once in French and later in English. In fact, I find online conferences are often superior to large public engagements if there is an active back channel and the technology is used appropriately. It seems that the future we were preparing for in 2005, is now here.
“Harold Jarche is a true pioneer. Nine years ago , long before online activities were commonplace, we conducted a series of Unworkshops on the topic of web-based learning. We relied on free software. Our students came from Australia, Lebanon, Canada, Austria, the Azores, and points in between. Lessons were both synchronous and offline. To give people exposure, we used a different platform each week. I can’t imagine anyone (aside from Harold) crazy (and innovative) enough to sign up for something like this.” —Jay Cross (1944-2015), founder Internet Time Alliance
At a purely individual level, people will decide how to spend their time and energy based on an equation of personal value, namely "what I get out of this must exceed what I put into it, otherwise I won't bother". The same is true for Knowledge Management activities - people will do them if they believe the value outweighs the effort or risk. Our job, as KMers, is to weight the scales on the "benefit" side. This is seldom a conscious decision, and they seldom write the equation on a whiteboard, but it's still there in people's minds.
If we think of the personal value equation as a balance ...
On one side of the balance is the personal investment, which will consist of factors such as Time, Effort, Exposure, Change, Peer Disapproval and Management Disapproval.
On the other side are the personal reward factors which may include More Money, Less Risk, Less Stress, Peer Approval, Sense of Community, Sense of "Doing the Right Thing", Management Approval, Formal Recognition, the Chance to be Heard, and the Chance to Make a Difference
The corporate culture, and the personal and organisational incentives, can help swing this balance.
Incentives that swing the balance
Lets think about some of the incentives for people to seek knowledge before starting a new piece of work. There are internal incentives, things that drive you from within, and there are external incentives, incentives which management can apply to reinforce the correct behaviour.
Some of the internal incentives for knowledge seeking include
Payback -- if people seek for knowledge, and find useful knowledge easily which they can apply to help them in their work, then this is a very powerful incentive to seek again next time. In fact this is the number one incentive.
Curiosity -- some people are much more inclined to look for alternative ideas and new approaches than others. Work with these people in the early stages of implementation.
Familiarity -- if people are familiar with the process for seeking knowledge, the technology to use, or the community to ask, then they are much more likely to do it, so this is where training and awareness raising helps.
Trust -- if people trust the knowledge source, and trust the process of asking for help (in other words, they trust that they will not be ridiculed or criticised for seeking knowledge or asking for help) they are more likely to seek for knowledge.
Habit -- eventually, once the culture is firmly embedded, knowledge seeking becomes a habit - something people do without thinking.
Some of the external incentives for knowledge seeking include
Management expectation - people are very good at sensing (and doing) what is expected of them, and management can explicitly set the expectation that people will look for knowledge before starting something new (see "the two questions" management can ask to set the expectation
Management encouragement -- management can reinforce the expectation by encouraging, recognising and rewarding the behaviours of knowledge seeking.
Example - people follow the example of others. If they see others successfully seeking knowledge, and being recognised for this, they are more likely to follow suit (see blog posts on social proof).
Lets think about some of the incentives for people to share knowledge after completing new piece of work. This is harder to incentivise than knowledge seeking, because it requires an investment of effort on behalf of others.
Some of the internal incentives for knowledge sharing include
Reciprocity -- people are more likely to share knowledge with others when they expect to get knowledge back again at some time in the future (or have already benefited from the knowledge of others).
Pride and recognition -- people are more likely to share knowledge when they are proud of what they have accomplished. They are also more likely to share knowledge if the knowledge “travels with their name on it”. Nobody likes to contribute knowledge which somebody else will claim credit for.
Friendship and Loyalty -- people are more likely to share knowledge when they have built relationships within the community of practice, and feel that the knowledge will be used by people they know, respect and like.
Altruism -- let's face it, some people are just naturally more helpful, and more willing to share what they know, than others. Work with these people in the early stages of implementation.
Habit -- eventually, once the culture is firmly embedded, knowledge sharing becomes a habit - something people do without thinking.
Some of the external incentives for knowledge sharing include
Management expectation -- management can set the expectation that people will capture and share knowledge after a significant piece of work (see the two questions again).
Example - people follow the example of others. If they see others taking time out to capture and share knowledge, especially from projects that may not have gone well and where there may traditionally have been a reluctance to "wash dirty linen", they are more likely to follow suit (see social proof again)
Management encouragement -- management can reinforce the expectation by encouraging, recognising and rewarding the behaviours of knowledge seeking.
Recognition - good behaviours in terms of capturing and sharing knowledge can be recognised through awards, through mentions from senior management, or via articles in internal publications.
Rewards - good behaviours in terms of capturing and sharing knowledge can be rewarded through financial or other material incentives
Mandate - management can make knowledge sharing mandatory. For example many organisations are now building the retrospect process into their mandated project management framework (see the NASA mandate again).
Not all of these incentives will be appropriate at all stages of your KM journey. Start with encouragement, use early successes as examples to drive social proof, once KM is defined, use management expectation, and to cement the culture, if you are serious enough about KM, use mandate. the more you apply these external incentives, the more people will begin to develop the internal incentives as well.
In 2004 Bill Draves and Julie Coates wrote Nineshift: Work, life and education in the 21st Century. That was the same year I started blogging here. Nineshift is based on the premise that during the first two decades of the 21st century, there will be a major shift in how we spend 9 hours of each day.
“There are 24 hours in a day. We have no real discretion with roughly 12 of those hours. We need to eat, sleep, and do a few other necessary chores in order to maintain our existence. That hasn’t changed much through the centuries, so far.
That leaves approximately 12 hours a day where we, as individuals, do have some discretion. That includes work time, play time, and family time.
Of those 12 hours, about 75%, or 9 hours, will be spent totally differently a few years from now than they were spent just a few years ago. Not everything will change, but 75% of life is in the process of changing right now.”
The authors put forth that society would significantly shift what we do with those nine hours and this would be complete by 2020.
People Work at Home — “Work is an activity, not a place.”
Intranets Replace Offices
Networks Replace the Pyramid
Trains Replace Cars
Communities Become More Dense
New Societal Infrastructures Evolve
Cheating Becomes Collaboration
Half of all Learning will be Online
Education becomes Web-based
In December 2019 NineShift announced its work was done — “The NineShift story, which predicted and then documented the transformation of society from the Industrial Age of 2000 into the Knowledge Society of 2020, has been complete.” It appears that some of their predictions were just a few months too early. There are suddenly millions of people working from home (Shift #1) and millions of students learning online (Shifts #8 & #9).
Many of the nine shifts were well underway in the past few years, which is quite a good prediction for a 16 year-old book. They were focused on changes in working life in the USA. But one shift that was not making much progress in the America was #6. Without Shift #6 — new societal infrastructures — the other 8 would be pretty well meaningless for most members of society.
New Societal Infrastructures Evolve: Shift Six
“New societal infrastructures are built, so that the inequalities of wealth in society are adjusted to the benefit of both business and the middle class. A variety of win-win programs are created, including new privacy laws and Individual Learning Accounts.”
But like the Influenza epidemic of 1918-1920, shift happened — COVID-19 hit us. Did we see this coming?
‘The influenza of 1918 was short-lived and “had a permanent influence not on the collectivities but on the atoms of human society – individuals.” Society as a whole recovered from the 1918 influenza quickly, but individuals who were affected by the influenza had their lives changed forever. Given our highly mobile and connected society, any future influenza pandemic is likely to be more severe in its reach, and perhaps in its virulence, than the 1918 influenza despite improvements in health care over the past 90 years. Perhaps lessons learned from the past can help mitigate the severity of any future pandemic.’ St. Louis Fed 2017-11
What will be COVID-19 effects on society? Nobody really knows yet.
“Overall, our analyses suggest that experiencing the Spanish flu and the associated condition of social disruption and generalised mistrust had permanent consequences on individual behaviour in terms of lower social trust. This loss in social trust constrained economic growth for many decades to follow. These findings have important implications for our understanding of the economic consequences of different approaches to managing the COVID-19 crisis.” —VOX-EO 2020-03-22
But we have some ideas.
“The economic consequences of the pandemic included labour shortages and wage increases, but also the increased use of social security systems. Economic historians do not agree on a headline figure for lost GDP because the effects of the flu are hard to disentangle from the confounding impact of the first world war. The long-term consequences proved horrific. A surprisingly high proportion of adult health and cognitive ability is determined before we are even born. Research has shown the flu-born cohort achieved lower educational attainment by adulthood, experienced increased rates of physical disability, enjoyed lower lifetime income and a lower socioeconomic status than those born immediately before and after the flu pandemic.” —The Conversation 2020-03-11
Now is the time to look at new societal structures to implement post-pandemic. If not, we may go back to the old systems that got us into this mess in the first place. The shifts to working from home and learning online can also significantly decrease carbon emissions. We are seeing clean cities for the first time in decades. Let’s keep them clean, and slow down climate change at the same time. Why waste this crisis? The time to think about change is now.
The time to act on these new societal infrastructures is very soon.
For example, after the Plague killed a large population of people in England, labour became scarce and people could demand higher wages. But the status quo struck back with the Statute of Labourers in 1351.
“A statute passed after a large part of the English population had died of the Black Death. It followed an ordinance of 1349 in attempting to prevent labour, now so much scarcer, from becoming expensive. Everyone under the age of 60, except traders, craftsmen, and those with private means, had to work for wages which were set at their various pre‐plague levels. It was made an offence for landless men to seek new masters or to be offered higher wages. The statute was vigorously enforced for several years and caused a great deal of resentment; it was specifically referred to in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.” —Oxford Reference
There are three main types of KM roles in an organition; the business roles with a KM focus, the KM roles with a business focus, and the central roles
The business roles are focused on the business outcome which KM supports, while the KM roles focus on the effective operation of the KM processes within the business. The central roles design, implement, monitor and continuously improve the KM framework itself.
Business roles with a KM focus
There is a role we could call the Business Knowledge manager or Business Knowledge Champion for an area of the business such as a department, a division or a project. This person owns and implements the KM plan or strategy for that area of the business. They
ensure the KM expectations are met,
that the processes happen,
and that KM works for the benefit of the business.
They don't conduct KM processes themselves, but they ensure KM processes are conducted. In my experience, this is a role owned by a business person, and they may also own risk management, quality management or another parallel discipline.
This role is sometimes known as a learning engineer, or a learning historian, and is a role for a practitioner with KM skills.
The CoP leader is often supported by a community facilitator, who
ensures effective transfer of knowledge among the community members through facilitation of online discussion and face to face meetings
ensures new knowledge is captured and shared
maintains energy and commitment in the community
ensures the knowledge assets are built and maintained, and
maintains the community site
The CoP leader is usually a business role, while the CoP facilitator (who has a much greater emphasis on the mechanics of knowledge transfer within the CoP) could be considered a KM role.
The role of the knowledge base facilitator, or cyberarian, is to
determine the customer base of the online library or knowledge base,
carry out market research into customer needs,
work with the SMEs to develop and maintain a structure for the online library
work with the SMEs to develop processes for refreshing and renewing content and for removing old material
monitor these processes, prompting for compliance as required
provide a help-desk service to users of the online library, and
provide coaching in the use of online tools and the search engine
The role of the Lessons Learned manager (who might be based in the project management office, if you have one) is to
support the lesson learned process
analyse, action and communicate lessons
support LL Information Sharing via databases, websites, reports, newsletters, etc.
look for recurring lessons and common threads
support the LL Community
set up or improve the organization’s LL capability.
So as the diagram above shows, at each level we can see a business role with KM as a focus, supported by a facilitative KM role with a business focus. The KM facilitation roles bring the KM skills and knowledge of KM theory and process, while the business KM roles bring the business objectives and the business context.
Then we have the central roles
This blog contains many posts about the KM team and its role. In a fully mature KM organisation the role of the central KM team is to monitor and support the application of the KM framework, rather than to do KM work. The team will have a leader (a CKO) who is accountable for the KM Framework and its application in support of business strategy. Then there may be trainers and coaches who work with the KM roles mentioned above, to give them the skills and support they need to do their jobs.
Those are the three types of role. Not every organisation will have every role mentioned here (you can see the usage of the more common roles here), but every organisation will have roles that fall within these three types.
If you want people to find your needle, don't put it in a haystack. And if you want people to reuse your knowledge, but it somewhere where it can easily be found.
One of the companies we work with collects knowledge as "case studies". Currently there are over 20,000 case studies in their case study library, and finding a relevant study has been described as like finding a needle in a haystack.
My point, however, is that the needle should not have been put in the haystack in the first place.
People will not use knowledge if they cannot find it. Re-use is the end-game and the primary goal for KM, and findability is one of its main supports. A massive monolithic database of 20,000 cases is a haystack, and knowledge within it is very hard to find.
So where would you put your knowledge, if you want it to be found?
To answer this, think about where you would put a needle, if you want others to find it.
For home use, you would put your needles into a sewing kit.
The sewing kit is a collection of tools to do a job. The kit is where you will find needles, pins, thread, safety pins, buttons and scissors. It provides you with the resources to do repair jobs on garments, all collected in one place. The domestic sewing kit is a shared resource for all the needle-workers in the household. My wife uses it, as do her daughters, as do I when I need to sew on a button.
That's also how we need to package our knowledge.
We need to package our knowledge around the jobs that need to be done. Knowledge should be stored based on activity, rather than the type of knowledge. So knowledge on preventative maintenance - to take an example at random - needs to be stored in one place; case studies, lessons, guidance and standards should all be co-located, not hidden away in individual haystacks. We call these collections of knowledge "knowledge assets" - a collection of the knowledge tools needed to do a job.
We need our knowledge to be a shared resource for the relevant community of practice - the maintenance community, in my example above. The knowledge asset is owned by the community, managed by the community, updated as a result of community discussion and knowledge sharing, and re-used by the community.
Keep your valuable knowledge in shared knowledge resources, whether you call them knowledge kits or knowledge assets.
527 of our respondents (Knowledge Managers from a wide range of industries, company sizes and geographies) answered the question "What tangible benefits have you seen so far from Knowledge management? Choose all that apply". The results are shown below in a number of ways, and may be useful to you when discussing the benefits of KM with your stakeholders.
First let's look at the overall results, in the figure above. The most common benefit, identified by over 3/4 of those who replied, is a reduction in time to find information. Although this is a relatively small and tatical benefit - perhaps an order of magnitude or two less in value than the other benefits - it should be common to all KM programs. However this is not really a benefit that will engage senior managers, none of whow will lie awake at night worrying that their staff can't find information fast enough. This is followed by four benefits quoted by over 100 respondents, which are more likely to gain management attention:
Reduced time to competence for new staff
Reduced project or operational costs
Reduced project or activity cycle time
Improved customer satisfaction
Each of these should be measurable, and provided you have a good pre-KM benchmark, you should be able to measure the impact of your KM program. Now let's look at how soon, in a KM program, these benefits are recognised.
In the plot above we show the benefits, as a percentage of respondents, for 3 categories of respondent:
Those from organisations just starting in KM
Those from organisations well in progress with KM
Those from organisations with KM fully embedded.
Note that the benefit of finding information faster is recognised at all stages of KM maturity. Some of the other benefits however, such as improved bid success, improved customer satisfaction and reduced project cost, only become significant when KM is fully embedded. For these more strategic benefits, you may need to be more patient.
Finally let's look a benefits by industry sector. This is a more difficult plot to read, but contains a lot of information. I have removed all sectors where I had fewer then 10 respondents answer this question, and used dashed lines for some of the minor benefits so you can see which line is which.
You can see how "reduced time to find information" is a generic benefit, and the most commonly cited benefit for almost all sectors.
Also "reduced time to competence" is a common benefit for all sectors other than military and emergency services.
After these generic benefits, things get more complex.
Improves customer satisfaction is a major beneft for IT and telecoms companies, and for legal firms
Faster projects are a major benefit for oil and gas
Cheaper projects are a major benefit for oil and gas, utilities and construction/engineering
Bid Success benefits apply to legal, construction and the professional services
You can probably see other results in this plot.
Hopefully these results will help you craft a benefits statement for your own organisation.
As of today, about 1 billion people are in some form of physical isolation. One of my clients, a global financial institution, has most of its over 200,000 employees at home. Many of these people are encountering distributed work for the first time. Free of the office and the commute they might be able to focus on productive work, depending on their living arrangements. What most of us know — who already work from home — is that a good day is only a few hours of productive work. Knowledge workers cannot produce for more than that. Our brains can’t handle it.
“Thus, while it may be hard for some to believe, the eight-hour workday was initially instituted as a way of making the average workday more humane.
Now, the workday is ripe for another disruption. Research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes.
That’s right–you’re probably only productive for around three hours a day.” —Inc.com 2016
Let’s hope that management learns this very quickly. Management is removing barriers to work, not telling people what to do. So what can knowledge workers do with the rest of their work time — the time that was often wasted at the office with people dropping by, asking questions, or just some manager insisting on managing another adult who already manages a family?
One thing I have noticed in more than 20 years of consulting is that many knowledge workers, managers, and executives don’t have time to read. Now is a great time to get started on a reading list. Make it a combination of fiction and non-fiction. It’s amazing what we can learn from fiction in these chaotic times, even science fiction! And if we are going to read more, we can also write book reviews and summaries and share them with colleagues. Maybe there is even some time in the new remote work week to create a book club.
There are many ways we can learn professionally through social media as well. Consumer social media enable the rapid transmission of bite-sized information around the world. But this is also one of the dark sides of these media. In last year’s fast-paced world of keeping up to the digital universe, there just no time for thoughtful reading or expression. Twitter was originally called micro-blogging. It was the perfect tool to get out a quick note or a sarcastic comment. Journalists and politicians loved Twitter. Twitter is good for keeping in touch but not for deeper or more meaningful conversations.
Longer form expression can improve our sensemaking skills. Perhaps not every worker is ready to write a book, though that’s another opportunity in these times, but most people can write shorter form observations. Blogs are perfect for this. There is a wide variety of blogging forms, including daily journals, deep observations, industry insights, reflections, etc.
Think of blogs as slow media. This is my 3,298th post here. It has taken 16 years. My focus has evolved over that time as well as my frequency and form of writing. One nice thing about blogs is that there are few trolls because it’s much faster to send off a tweet than actually write a comment on a blog post. Plus you can easily delete crap comments from your own blogs. If more people engage in longer form writing and share through blogging, we may collectively address some of the challenges we will face as we enter the Great Reset of our society and economy. Perhaps slow media can slow the reversal effects of digital networks.
“In a crisis, you should always deploy an innovation team alongside the business recovery teams … to capture the novel practices … put naive observers in alongside the incident team to capture the key learning points” —Dave Snowden
Are you responsible for learning in your organization? What are you doing during this pandemic as your organization reacts and changes its practices? First of all, stop thinking that your work will be remote but business as usual.
“Stop work on that coronavirus eLearning module you started last week. It is already out of date. Focus on curation and access.” —Lori Niles-Hofman
Curation of learning resources and improving access to people and resources are definitely things that the learning and development department can and should do. They are what you should have been doing before this crisis hit (image above). But there is something even more important to do.
We have to learn as we deal with this crisis. If we wait until later to do some after-action reports about the crisis, we will have forgotten what it was like at the beginning. As the operation staff deal with issues, learning departments can become the naive observers, recording what is happening from an unfiltered perspective.
“People recall the things that happened through the lens of retrospective coherence, to fit with what they thought actually happened and the organisation’s rules. The longer you leave it, the more likely you are to get a ‘blurred’ or biased version of events.” —Chris Bolton
In complexity we should make small continuous probes, make sense as we do them, and develop emergent practices as we work. In chaos we have to take action, any action, try to sense where there is some stability, and develop novel practices (in order to deal with a novel virus).
Taking note of what is happening every day will inform institutional memory in the future, when we may have to deal with another global crisis. For example, climate change may be slowed down a bit this year but it is still a slow-moving ‘black swan’ event we will collectively face. We need to map new stories so that we can act in a more informed way in the future.
The role of learning departments in this chaotic and complex crisis should be — observation > narration > curation. Start by listening, then put observations together, and later curate these for sharing across the organization. Let’s make our own stories from what we see now. We also need to become story skeptics so that some future master storyteller (e.g. the post-truth machine) does not lead us astray.
It is interesting because it gives a CEO's view of KM, which is a view we don't often see.
In the quote below, we read not just what this CEO saw as the value of KM and Organisational learning, but also how the importance of Knowledge changed how he saw the organisation itself.
"Learning is at the heart of a company's ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. It is the key to being able both to identify opportunities that others might not see and to exploit those opportunities rapidly and fully. This means that in order to generate extraordinary value for shareholders, a company has to learn better than its competitors and apply that knowledge throughout its businesses faster and more widely than they do. The way we see it, anyone in the organization who is not directly accountable for making a profit should be involved in creating and distributing knowledge that the company can use to make a profit"
Let me stress that last sentence again
"anyone in the organization who is not directly accountable for making a profit should be involved in creating and distributing knowledge that the company can use to make a profit"
That is a remarkable view of an organisation as a profit-focused knowledge factory, creating and distributing knowledge for the benefit of the front-line knowledge workers.
The same "knowledge factory" image came to me recently, working with a public sector educational organisation, who's whole raison d'etre was to create knowledge. Here we took a new process-focused view of the organisation, and started to identify the knowledge and information inputs and outputs for each step in the value chain. It was really illuminating.
If you think of your organisation as a profit-focused knowledge factory, then you can start to think about applying manufacturing thinking to the flow of knowledge - thinking such as debottlenecking the knowledge flow, or lean approaches to knowledge supply. You can start to ask, who is in charge of production? What is the knowledge supply chain? Can you use Japanese style processes such as Kaizen and quality circles to improve the flow?
Take a look at how well your organisation operates as a knowledge factory, and ask - just how well do we process knowledge? Does everyone who is not making a profit or delivering a service, actually realise that their job is knowledge production?
Every fortnight — and what a fortnight it has been! — I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
6 March — “You’re not going to see public health, let alone pandemic preparedness, at the top of the priority list for this White House.” —The Long Now Foundation
7 March — “It’s interesting seeing all the universities that disparaged distance education as not proper suddenly being converted to the benefits of online education.” —@mweller
9 March — “Shoutout to all the Zoom engineers keeping the servers up and running as usage skyrockets for personal and business communicationss — can’t imagine what would happen if they had an outage, let’s hope we never find out.” —@CallMeVlad
There is something bitterly apt in the fact that coronaviruses take their name from the Latin corona, a crown. Their form is that of the traditional human symbol of dominion and domination.
They come to tell us that they are as much kings of the world as we are. We are not enslaved to nature anymore – but we are not its masters either. We have made a world in which it is not God who punishes us for our misdeeds. We do that entirely for ourselves.
The price for our victory is that we have made an Earth that is subject, not just to our genius, but to our foolishness, our rapacity and our inability to imagine consequences until they are lapping at our doors.
It took us millenniums to acquire the pride of conquerors. We have only a few decades to learn the humility of survivors.
12 March — “Just got off the phone with a Choctaw pal. He told me that the government was blocking Europeans from coming to America to infect the people who lived here with awful diseases. “About 400 years too late for that shit,” he said.” —@CharlesCMann
13 March — “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” —Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, via @HeerJeet
14 March — “Einstein’s works revolved around three rules which apply to all science, problems, and times: • Out of clutter, find simplicity; • From discord make harmony; and • In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Albert Einstein!”
15 March — ‘“That’ll never happen here,” say politicians with deep understanding of math and epidemiology.’ —@DavidMaddocks0
16 March — “World War 3 is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” —Marshall McLuhan 1968, via @JohnRobb
17 March — “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” —George Bernard Shaw, via @GregPayneYAD
Ask someone what happened during a high intensity, rapidly moving situation from a month ago. I’d bet they will put together a ‘story’ that represents a logical, ordered sequence of events that match the actions and outcomes they think happened. I know I do. It’s called retrospective coherence.
The same thing happens in Post Incident Reviews. People recall the things that happened through the lens of retrospective coherence, to fit with what they thought actually happened and the organisation’s rules. The longer you leave it, the more likely you are to get a ‘blurred’ or biased version of events.
19 March — “The coronavirus teaches us a lot about the true nature of our economy. The most important lesson: for decades, we’ve fundamentally misunderstood how our economy works. Our Civic Economy drives our Market Economy. Not the other way around.” —@edmorrison
The 70:20:10 rule is commonly quoted, as in this video by Steve Trautman, as representing the three ways in which people learn.
10% of our learning, comes from formal training
20% of our learning comes from structured mentoring, from a senior to a junior, or teacher to learner
70% of our learning comes "On the job".
In the video, Steve suggests that this on-the-job learning happens by osmosis - "they go to work, they hang out, they are in the space, and they learn".
The dictionary calls osmosis "the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc". Well, in KM its not gradual, it's "just-in-time", and it's conscious, not unconscious. The use of Knowledge Management can deliver on-the-job learning in a far more effective way than just osmosis.
Reflective team learning practices such as After Action Review and Retrospect allow people to discuss what have been learned, and become conscious of learning, thus accelerating personal learning.
Good knowledge bases form an explicit learning resource for people to learn on the job.
So instead of knowledge "just happening to flow", as in the random movement of molecules through a membrane which we call osmosis, the KM processes and framework become a sort of "ion pump for knowledge" (one for the cell biologists there).
So maybe we can change the 70:20:10 rule. If KM is better than osmosis, maybe its a 170:20:10 rule, and people learn twice as much.
10% of our learning through formal training
20% of our learning through mentoring and coaching
170% of our learning through KM processes and tools.
A combination of formal learning and development, mentoring programs and Knowledge Management therefore covers, and expands, the entire spectrum of learning.
The whole world is aiming at 'social distancing' As a facilitator, trainer are you going to cancel lessons and workshops or do you opt for online? It may sound challenges, but now is the time to try that online approach, or experiment more than you did before. We are all looking for ways to continue work and learning as well as possible. So take a stab!
The good thing: flipping your lesson or workshop is a creative process. Plus the flip can have advantages... Things that are difficult in a physical setting may work out better online. A good starting point is the question of what you want to do asynchronously online (each person in his/her own time) and synchronously online (together online at the same time). Brainstorm input, questions or experiences can be collected asynchronously in tools such as Flipgrid, Padlet, Answergarden or IdeaBoardz. You can offer theory through a video or short online lesson. Or you make a quiz with Quizzes or Mentimeter that each takes on its own time, which you then discuss at a synchronized moment. Tools for synchronous online are Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or a tool that is known within your organization. In addition, there are many tools that are less known with which you can create fun online lessons:
Edpuzzle for video lessons with quizzes. Here you will find an explanation
Microsoft teams is also a good basic tool. Here you can learn more.
Ofcourse there are many more options.... We often use Ning because of the social features.
A short checklist
Do I flip my activity to online or postpone? Is there urgency to do it? Will participants have time and energy to do it online?
What activities do you want to do online? Distinguish between activities with the whole group, subgroups and individually
What do you want to do synchronously, what asynchronously? Look for a good balance
Which toolset do you need? Think of a good synchronous tool (Skype, Zoom, Google meet etc) and good asynchronous tool (Ning, Microsoft Teams, Facebook for work etc)
How long will your program last? Synchronous sessions max 1.5 hours
What do you need to facilitate well? Think of help from others, scripts for the sessions, paid accounts, estimated time to prepare yourself
Example of a flipped session
Here you find an example of a flipped work session with 10 organizations and about 5 participants per organization. The session was originally scheduled for an entire morning. The aim of the work session is to share experiences in work with disabled children. The idea is that people work on small products in groups. How is that possible online? We came up with the following form: The online work session lasts 2 to 3 hours and has a theme defined upfront.
In the run-up to the session, we invite all participants to share an important experience with the theme on an online brainstorming wall like Padlet.
When the session starts, we meet online in a webinar room (e.g. Adobe Connect).
We get to know each other (name on map of the Netherlands, answer some light-hearted poll questions and interaction in chat) and make a substantive start by discussing the results of the online brainstorm.
Then all participants work on the theme in small groups for half an hour. Each group gets its own online workspace and the chat is open to questions in between.
With "screen sharing" we view each other's result. We briefly place two groups together in an online "room" to exchange and give each other feedback.
At the end we harvest. We do this by collecting important insights and immediately processing them in an infographic. A tangible product at the end of this session.
The article is entitled "The secrets of leveling up junior employees", is written by Miriam Kharbat, and it deals with the software industry (but is applicable to other industries as well. Miriam describes the value of mentorship in transferring knowledge to new staff, and makes the following points:
Mentorship can be beneficial for both parties Miriam quotes a 2006 Sun Microsystems study which found that mentors were promoted six times more often than those not in the program, and mentees were promoted five times more often than those not in the program.
They also found that retention rates were 72% higher for mentees and 69% higher for mentors than for employees who did not participate in the mentoring program.
Start mentorship by giving the junior staff real tasks. Miriam describes asking new staff to download the source code, run it on their local machine and update any dead links or new issues to the knowledge base or ReadMe file.
Teach them where to look for, and ask for, answers. Show them the knowledge base and get them into the community of practice.
Conduct reviews of real work. Miriam suggests code reviews, and says that "Code reviews can be an excellent opportunity for knowledge sharing. They are a great way to teach best practices and good programming patterns. During a code review, ask questions and suggest alternatives. If you think something is not correctly implemented, explain why you think your way is better. Learn to understand the difference between personal preference and essential changes."
Let the mentee drive the schedule of mentorship, but if you haven't heard from them in a while, check in to see if everything is OK.
Mentoring new staff, as a component of the KM framework, therefore not only benefits the organisation by getting new staff up to speed quickly, it also benefits the mentor and the mentee as well.
“When the shit hits the fan you want your inside information flow to be at least as fast as what is happening outside. In most organisations this is not the case … If you have a big enough, mature enough, fast enough set of internal conversations taking place then you will be better able to work out what is happening and what to do about it.” —Euan Semple 2020-03-17
For the first time ever, most students in schools in many countries are learning at a distance. For the first time ever, in some countries, more people are working remotely than going to a place of work. The network era starts in 2020. Everything before was a prelude.
The new normal, when it comes, will be different. Teaching will be turned upside down. So too will curricula, academic disciplines, and their institutions.
Work will change. Consider that at this moment our essential workers are cooks, cleaners, delivery drivers, and front desk staff. Non-essential personnel like executives, analysts, marketers, and programmers, can stay home.
Many of us have seen this coming. I have been writing about the changes to network era work and learning over the past 16 years. But now everyone can see it. We can reduce commuter congestion by 50% through distributed work. This will reduce carbon emissions as well. There was only one thing stopping it from happening before — management. A microscopic virus took care of that.
Now that management is no longer in charge, every worker has to take charge of their own learning. It won’t come from a program that HR will deliver, after 12 months of development. The standard 20th century training and education model, AKA ‘shaping’ — “Shaping is B.F. Skinner’s ‘Operant Conditioning’, if you want to look into that one” — is dead. Mastery comes from modelling. It is how the apprentice becomes a journeyman and in time a master. It is not done in isolation. Modelling happens in networks, communities, and teams. Shaping may have worked when our environments were complicated, but not after the shit has hit the fan. Who has the base knowledge to do the shaping for the current state of complexity and chaos anyway?
The way forward is to cooperate and collaborate through Strategic Doing. It starts by building safe spaces for deep and focused conversations, not developing a plan or a curriculum. It continues as we learn by doing the work, one step at a time. Don’t wait for orders from above, because in a network there is no above or below. In a network society we are all connected. We can all make our networks smarter, able to make better decisions, and more resilient. In a network society, we are all leaders.
One of the biggest barriers to overcome in Knowledge Management is a lack of desire to learn from others, and therefore a lack of demand for knowledge re-use. You can create the best communities of practice, the best knowledge bases, you can publish all sorts of ideas and knowledge, but if nobody is interested in this knowledge, you have wasted your time.
Some of the phrases you will hear from those complacent people who are not interested in knowledge, are shown in the "Not Invented Here" bingo card to the right.
Behind the reluctance to re-use is the "Not Invented Here" syndrome, and behind "Not Invented Here" are two things
1. People are comfortable and familiar with their own performance, and with the way they currently do things 2. Change involves risk and effort. "If my way works" they think, "why risk changing it? Why change horses in midstream? Why ditch a perfectly good approach, for something unfamiliar?"
The way to break this cycle is to help people realise that "my way" is not the best way, and that the improvement they would get outweighs the effort and change. And the best way to help people realise this, is to show that others are already doing better. In other words, to use benchmark data.
Benchmark data helps people out of their comfort zone
We see this very very clearly in our Bird Island exercise, where people were comfortable building an 80cm tower, and think they might be able to stretch it to 120cm. Then we show them benchmark data where the record is over 3m, the mean is 285cm, and even a bunch of American lawyers achieved 250cm. And we show them a picture of the record tower, so they can see this is not a joke.
What happens, is that the people are shaken out of their comfort zone, They realise their own performance was pretty poor. They become very open to learning. And they DO learn, and in the next round of tower building they also turn in a top quartile performance.
I also have a story from the Peruvian asparagus trade, which tells how publishing data about aircraft loading procedures among Peruvian asparagus producers motivated the poor performers to learn from the good performers, for the benefit of all. The authors of the study I quoted claimed
Objective proof of superior performance helps overcome a principal barrier to convincing experienced professionals to adopt new practices - that is, the belief that they are already doing the right thing and that their current results are the best that anyone can expect
The great thing about good performance data, and good benchmark data, is that people then often come to realise that their approach is not "perfectly good", that their way may "work", but it works pretty badly. They become uncomfortable with their own performance, and become open to learning. "Not Invented here" disappears, because they realise that "Invented Here" is not actually very good!
The driving forces here are two-fold - embarrassment at current poor performance, and competition - to get up there with the leaders. The old motivation, to be safe and secure with a known approach, is replaced by a new motivation. The new motivation is "To do a decent job". (And they often feel that if they are being soundly beaten by a group of US Lawyers, or if they are loading Asparagus in 10 hours when others do it in 4, they aren't doing a decent job!)
When you think about it, most people are professionals. They have pride in their work. They don't like to put in a poor performance. So the existence of benchmarking data or performance data makes people aware if their performance is bad, they become dissatisfied with their approach, and are open to learning something better, hence creating a market for knowledge, and an incentive for re-use.
Shows you your poor performance, and that you need knowledge;
Shows you which knowledge you lack;
Shows you who does it better.
KM without benchmarking can backfire.
KM without benchmarking is difficult, as there is no objective way to tell which knowledge is better. Therefore, as we have argued, there can be a big supply of knowledge (everyone thinks their own way of doing things is best) but no demand for knowledge (everyone thinks their own way of doing things is best). Therefore, despite much KM activity, there is no impact to the organisation, as everyone merely reinforces what they are already doing.
Benchmarking without KM can backfire
The key here is to combine benchmarking with two other things; Knowledge Management and collective target setting.
If you just say to people "other teams are doing this twice as well as you - I want you to be able to match this performance", this could be met by demotivation. People think "we are working our butts off - how can we do this twice as fast? Those other teams must have better managers, or newer equipment, or we working in an easier market".
Instead you need to say "other teams may have some secrets we can apply here which would allow us to catch up with the winners. Let's learn from them, and let's see how well we think we would perform if we used the best of the best ideas"
"If you want to maintain the status quo, then don't benchmark. If you want to remain where you are, secure in the knowledge that you are doing the best that you can, don't benchmark. If reality checks are not your cup of tea, don't benchmark. Benchmarking will open an organization to change, and to humility. Benchmarking provides the stones for building a path toward competitive excellence and long run success."(McNair and Leibfried, 1992).
Pair the drive to change (benchmarking) with the ability to learn (KM) and you have the recipe for long term success.
Know-how is one of the cornerstones of Knowledge Management. If we capture how things should be done, we empower people who need to perform a task, but have no experience of their own. Capturing know-how allows you to build a "recipe book" for repeat tasks, which allow them to be replicated in similar circumstances in future.
However unless you also capture know-why, the know-how can trip you up, especially when the know-how is applied in a different context.
Here is an example of when know-how was misapplied, through lack of know-why.
This story comes from oil-well drilling back in the 90s, where one part of the organisation was learning from another part about a particular technique for drilling in deep water. The details of the technique were transferred, but not the reasoning behind it, and when the team applied the technique in their own part of the world, where the sea-bed was different, it failed, and several days were spent recovering the situation at a cost of over a million dollars.
One of the partners involved with the well, however, picked up the technique and also the rationale behind it(the know-why) and applied it successfully, at a saving of several million dollars per well.
If we capture the Know-how of a technique, but not the Know-why, then
others can "follow the recipe" when the context is the same, but
when circumstances change, people do not have the knowledge to adapt the technique, and either proceed to failure, or tinker with the technique, which often leads to failure as well
If we capture the Know-how of a technique and also capture the Know-why, then
others can know when the recipe is inapplicable, and
know what can be safely changed
How do you capture the Know-Why?
There are a number of ways to capture the Know-why.
In After Action Reviews and Retrospects, the questioning includes a "Root cause analysis" step, that shows why the lessons were derived, and why they are worded the way they are. The observers and participants understand the context, and this is also recorded in the lessons management system. There should always be a paper trail between any changes to procedures made as a result of lessons, and the know-why recorded in the lessons themselves.
The A3 approach used in product design also captures the context and the root cause.
Some equipment designers use a document called Basis of Design. This captures the rationale behind a design of equipment or design of a process. It explains why the design is the way that it is. The Basis of Design can be updated as design continues, to capture any changes, and the rationale behind these. As one Alaskan drilling engineer said to me, "With a good Basis of Design, I could come up to this oilfield and put a quality well program together in a week, and there hasn't been a rig drilling here for two years".
Toyota capture the Know-why in "checksheets", attached to each technical drawing, which captures the rational behind the design, its impact on performance, and any known issues. Rolls Royce Aero Engines have an even more sophisticated system called the Design Rationale Editor, which captures the reasons behind design choices, and the reasons why other choices were rejected, as a Functional Analysis diagram.
In each case, the knowledge product contains not just the final design of a product or product, but the rationale behind it. This preserves crucial knowledge for future use.
Which are the most common cultural barriers to KM? How do these barriers change with KM maturity? Which parts of the world have the most cultural barriers?
These are some of the questions we addressed in our recent surveys of Knowledge Management. The results from the 2014 survey are presented in a previous blog post, and this post includes results from the 2017 survey as well.
First we provided the respondents with a list of the top ten elements of an Organisational Learning culture, and asked them to identify which of these elements was currently a barrier to the implementation of Knowledge Management. The graph above shows the results, with the numbers being the number of people who identified this element as a barrier to their KM program. A total of 473 people answered the question.
The greatest cultural barrier to KM is short-term thinking - hurrying on with work rather than taking the time to learn before, during and after. The second most common barrier is a lack of openness - a lack of willingness for people to be open to knowledge sharing and to analysis of what they have learned. These two barriers are significantly more common that the others, and the same two were in top and second place in the 2014 survey.
Respondents could choose multiple cultural barriers, and to an extent, the number of barriers chosen is a measure of how supportive or unsupportive the culture is.
The number of cultural barriers identified by the respondents is on average fewest (and the culture therefore most supportive) for those companies where Knowledge Management is fully embedded.
This graph may be interpreted in three ways; either KM is easy to embed where the culture is most supportive, that embedding KM requires culture change, or that embedded KM acts to change the culture.
This issue is further explored in the third graph, which shows the average number of cultural barriers identified from respondents from different regions (note that the numbers of respondents are small in some cases).
The most supportive cultures for Knowledge Management seem to be in Australasia and the Indian sub-continent, with the least supportive cultures in Africa and China. The USA and Western Europe sit somewhere in the middle.
What are the most valued ways of learning work? Jane Hart has been asking this question since 2010. Over 7,500 people have responded to date. Jane has analyzed these results first from the perspective of how do people with different characteristics diverge from this overall pattern, and second from the perspective of learning from both internal and external work environments. In the second part, Jane makes three key recommendations.
Help employees (particularly the youngest employees) value learning from the external world, and to take some time to do this for themselves, as well as develop the modern learning skills they need to thrive and survive. In Part 1 we saw how the Freelancers’ profile is one many will need to adopt. See particularly sections 3 – The modern worker and 4 – Encourage a daily self-learning habit.
Help line managers understand the importance of continuous (self-)learning outside the organisation, and to provide time for this – see section 2 – The modern manager
Curate resources and other opportunities from the external environment so that they are integrated into the daily work environment – see section 10 – Offer opportunities for continuous learning
Younger employees may be comfortable with consumer social media but they may have not have used digital media for professional development. This is where they can be coached and mentored to find bloggers, communities of practice, and knowledge networks. Perhaps they can even start blogging themselves. Work is becoming more creative and entrepreneurial and a similar mindset toward learning will be an advantage in this economy. The discipline of personal knowledge mastery should start with each knowledge worker.
Line managers have to understand what resources are outside the organization and managers can play a role in making these accessible at work. They can be knowledge catalysts by making time to learn from peers and share what external resources they use.
Those higher up in an organizations can play a significant role in curating both internal and external resources and sources of knowledge. These three key insights show the importance of 1) learning for ourselves, 2) learning as teams, & 3) learning as an organization.
It seems things have improved a little, but there are still a lot of CKOs out there with few or no KM skills.
I looked at the profiles of 50 CKOs in Linked in - people with "Chief Knowledge Officer" in their current job title - and I counted how far down the list of skills you had to go before you found "Knowledge Management". The results are shown in the pie chart here. (Note however that this job title seems disproportionately popular at the moment in the military and legal fields, so these fields are over-represented in the sample).
Note how 34% of CKOs have KM as their top skill - as you might expect.
But note also how 14% of CKOs have KM way down their list of skills - lower than 10th place - and how 26% of the CKO profiles I reviewed DO NOT HAVE KM ON THE LIST OF SKILLS AT ALL!
I said in my 2015 post that there seems to be two types of CKOs out there, with a fairly even split between the two.
One type, who are reasonably well versed in Knowledge Management, and see this as the CKO's domain. KM is top of their list of skills, or high in the list (and half of the the profiles I reviewed had KM in the top 3 skills).
Another type, for whom the CKO role is held by a person with few or no KM skills at all.
It's the second type that puzzles me. Perhaps the job was titled "CKO" because it sounded good and important rather than because it had anything to do with the management of knowledge, or perhaps they appointed someone with information skills in a knowledge role, or perhaps the CKO plays purely an oversight and coordination role, and leaves the KM aspects to Knowledge Managers (managing the initiative rather than the knowledge)?
Whatever the reason, the results are surprising. 40% of CKOs have few if any KM skills.
Would you see this in any other discipline? Imagine
a CFO with no financial skills
a Chief Lawyer with no legal skills
a Chief Engineer with no engineering skills
So why do 40% of CKOs have few if any KM skills?
What is heartening though is that things seem to be getting better. Bearing in mind the caveats that
these are two different samples, and that
50 many not be a representative number, and that
the profiles I can see on LinkedIn are related to my own personal network;
the plot below seems to show that the situation is improving.
In the 2015 sample, only 24% had KM at the top of the skills list - now it is 34%. In the 2015 sample, 32% had no KM skills on their skills list - now it is 26%.
Perhaps this is evidence that KM is becoming more respected and more established as a discipline, and that CKO is less likely to be used as a random job title.
The trend is heartening, but we still have a long way to go.
A great source of knowledge to plan and conduct meetings is Liberating Structures — consisting of 33 different meeting types for Revealing, Analyzing, Spreading, Planning, Strategizing, and Helping. The site links to free mobile applications — Google Play & Apple App Store — that explain what each structure is good for, how to conduct the meeting, and the rationale behind it.
Liberating Structures can also help focus distributed work teams and groups. In addition, the restrictions created by the technology medium can provide more structure than many of the physical meetings we may have attended in the past. Moving these structures online might require a bit more planning, and likely more time, but can still get the job done. For example, online video conferencing platforms that offer breakout rooms are suitable for both large and small group discussions.
So if you want to articulate the paradoxical challenges that a group must confront to succeed, then Wicked Questions might be a good meeting structure. It requires groups of 4-6 and paper for note-taking. Just substitute chairs for a designated breakout room and use a whiteboard and recorded chat. Even the audio can be recorded. This exercise can be done as sessions over a period of time to promote more conversations and reflections. It does require good facilitation and curation skills by those conducting it.
Or perhaps you want to sort challenges into categories of complexity, then the Agreement-Certainty Matrix may be suitable. This might require a bit more technical expertise but individual responses could be notes which could be translated to a spot on the matrix. A 10 X 10 matrix could have 100 numbered squares and each person would send in their corresponding number for each challenge, which could be collated and reflected back to the group.
If you want to share know-how gained from experience with a larger community then the User Experience Fishbowl might be an effective structure. In this case you have a group of 3 to 7 speakers with microphones while the larger group (±35) are observers and ask questions. The outer group can ask their questions by chat or by being given the microphone. Sub-groups can also move to breakout rooms for deeper conversations on a single topic.
The challenges of distributed work can be addressed by good planning, practice, and learning from the experiences of others. With distributed work, we have to be clear about why we are doing our work, and how we do it. Distributed work makes everything more transparent. Perhaps that why many managers have been avoiding it for decades.
What is the Knowledge management solution? That's a question that's been debated for two decades, but I would like to take a high-level approach to the question and ask - is the solution a tool, a toolbox, or a management framework?
Many organisations start the knowledge management journey believing that the solution to Knowledge Management is a tool. They introduce Yammer, for example, and hope that the connectivity we see in the world-wide web via Twitter will translate into sharing of valuable in-house knowledge. Or they buy a wiki, or knowledge-base software, or get SharePoint, and expect that an in-house equivalent of Wikipedia emerges.
Of course the problems are not solved. One tool does very little to dent the huge issue that is KM. KM has many aspects, and expecting one tool to deliver KM is like buying a hammer, and assuming your home repairs will all be sorted.
Is it a toolbox?
Pretty soon, people realise that one tool does not solve all problems. This is especially true when it comes to KM process - there are a suite of processes that can be applied in different situations; from Peer Assists to After Action Reviews, to Knowledge Exchange circles, and so on. Any one such process is not enough, you need a suite. And the technology tools very rarely stand alone, no matter what the vendors tell you. Any KM technology that claims to be a Jack of All Trades is really a Master of None. Different KM needs require different (though linked) technologies to satisfy them.
So the companies build a toolbox. "Here are the KM tools" they tell the knowledge workers - "Use them when applicable". Most of us have such a toolbox in our house, for home improvements. Most of these toolboxes (other than those owned by the enthusiasts) linger untouched in the basement or garage.
The same is true of the KM toolboxes. The enthusiasts use them, but they never get into the mainstream.
Is is a management framework?
Yes, it is. Tools don't get used regularly unless people know how to use them, when to use them, and realise its their job to use them. The framework you need for Knowledge Management includes not just a listing of the processes and technologies, but a definition of when they are expected to be used, and by whom. The framework adds the governance element (the expectation), and the roles element (the "by whom") to the processes and technologies. The ISO KM standard, ISO 30401, is based on the view of KM as a management framework (they call it "management system").
This management framework defines how KM is embedded into the work process and into the accountabilities in the organisation. Instead of the toolbox lying unopened in the garage, it is brought in and put on the table; made a part of how you work.
If we stick with the analogy of tools, you can imagine an operating theatre as an example of a framework. Yes, the surgical tools are vital, but the surgical toolbox alone does not result in effective operations. You also need the roles (the surgeon, the anaesthetist, the theatre nurse) and the governance (the expectations on each party, the support and training they have, the checklists they use, and the metrics that are gathered). Just having a box of surgical tools does not mean that you can perform effective surgery.
Knowledge Management is not heart surgery - it is far simpler and far easier. However it still needs to be addressed as a management framework - not as a toolbox, and certainly never as a single tool.
We see this in processes such as After Action Review and Retrospect, where the facilitator ensures that the meeting does not leap to judgement until all voices have been heard and all root causes explored.
We see this also in innovation processes, where all ideas must be examined, as sometimes the wildest ideas hold the most promise.
In the video below, Dr Min Basadur, the creativity guru, explains how we much even defer judgement on our OWN ideas, if we are to be truly innovative.
Strategic Doing(TM) is a process where strategy emerges through the continuous asking of four questions.
What could we do? + What should we do — enable us to answer, Where are we going?
What will we do? + What’s our 30/30? [what did we learn in the past 30 days & what will we do in the next 30 days?] — provide us with an emerging pathway.
Strategic Doing comprises 10 skills and the book’s authors state that of 500 projects in one initiative, the most successful teams consistently used eight of these skills, while the least successful used only two.
Building a safe space for deep and focused conversations.
Using an appreciative question to frame your conversation.
Identifying the assets at your disposal, including the hidden ones.
Linking and leveraging your assets to create new opportunities.
Identifying a big opportunity where you can generate momentum.
Rewriting your opportunity as a strategic outcome with measurable characteristics.
Defining a small starting project to start moving toward your outcome.
Creating a short-term action plan in which everyone takes a small step.
Meeting every 30 days to review progress, adjust, and plan for the next 30 days.
Nudging, connecting, and promoting to reinforce your new habits of collaboration.
This book is based on 25 years of experience of the five authors. The process of Strategic Doing is fairly simple and easy to understand, which gives it the robustness needed to deal with complex challenges. I have done or seen parts of this in action, and there are some practices I know that align well with Strategic Doing. For example, some Liberating Structures would help with Skills#1 & #9 and value network analysis could be useful for Skills #3 & #4.
Strategic doing is based on a distributed view of leadership. The book’s full title is ‘Strategic Doing: Ten Skills for Agile Leadership.
“We thought long and hard about the title and the perspective from which we wrote this book. We eventually settled on the perspective of ‘leadership’. But we do not mean leadership in the traditional sense of the inspired individual sitting on the top of the organization … Our focus is not on the individual leader but rather on leadership as a ‘shared characteristic of a group or a team. Elsewhere in this book we’ve used the phrase ‘distributed leadership’ or ‘shared leadership’.
There is a lot of research behind Strategic Doing as well. The ‘Learn More’ references are extensive. For instance, I noticed that the book refers to The Medici Effect and Where Good Ideas Come From as well as the work of Valdis Krebs in network analysis and Amy Edmondson in psychological safety. What I like best about this book is that you start practicing and developing these skills immediately. There are many courses offered through the Strategic Doing network but I intend to use this framework immediately as it is the best guide I have read on addressing collective complex challenges.
We believe we have a responsibility to build a prosperous, sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.
No individual, organization, or place can build that future alone.
Open, honest, focused, and caring collaboration among diverse participants is the path to accomplishing clear, valuable, shared outcomes.
We believe in doing, not just talking — and in behavior in alignment with our beliefs.
This Credo aligns with the Nordic Bildung concept of metamodernity, by Lene Rachel Andersen, which describes a society based on networks of meaning. One challenge in developing a metamodern society is to take the positive aspects of what previous human cultures have achieved and go beyond these to deal with the complexities of modern technologies, the climate emergency, and evolving political situations. Strategic Doing is a pragmatic approach to start this movement and it can be practiced individually, in small groups, or in larger communities and networks.
The Nordic Bildung perspective of societal evolution aligns with David Ronfeldt’s TIMN Model, which I have discussed in — understanding the shift. Andersen suggests we can build upon the positive aspects of each previous societal form in order to create a metamodern society, and move beyond the constantly doubting post-modern era. We do not need to destroy all of the old ways.
In Strategic Doing, with its 10 skills and credo, we now have a tool to help us move society in a positive direction toward metamodernity.
Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“The public has a distorted view of science because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries.” —Freeman Dyson 1923-2020
@RonEdmondson — “One Critical Leadership Error: Assuming what you’re hearing is all that’s being said.”
@curtisogden — “Perhaps too starkly put, but we might consider the difference between “networking” and “network weaving” as the difference between thinking of others for our own sake and thinking of others for their sake or the sake of the larger whole.”
@rhappe — “Communities are, at their core, the way people have always come together to learn. They provide the space, relationships, collisions, and trust necessary to create shared meaning, to iterate on emergent ideas, and to norm new patterns and behaviors.”
@IamMarkManson — “The older I get, the more I appreciate what economists refer to as “human capital”—the intangible, emotional assets that we build up in between our ears and then share with others.”
@William_Blake — “In 1665, Cambridge University closed because of the plague. Isaac Newton quarantined himself at his childhood home. It was the most productive time of his life. He discovered the calculus & laws of motion. Stuck a bodkin in his eye to study optics. How will you spend the next year?”
One of the main reasons for the difficulty in keeping competency frameworks up to date are the technologies and processes involved in their production. If we consider competency frameworks as competency maps describing a professional territory, the process and technologies used to establish these maps have not changed much since the 1960s. It is a top-down process which sometimes takes months, even years, involving a small number of experts and leads to an abstract representation incapable of accounting for variations between companies operating in the same sector. As Alfred Korzybski said: “the map is not the territory”.
“acquiring various competencies does not necessarily make a manager competent. Contrary to the assumption of most leadership competency frameworks, there is neither a linear, nor even causal, relationship between competencies and job performance.” [Mintzberg]
We have reached this point because of continuing increases in the human population, crowding, human movement, environmental alteration, and ecosystemic complexity related to human activities and creations. Cartoonist Walt Kelly had it right decades ago: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
@gleonhard — “I often get asked what the future holds in regards to China and Europe, so here is a brand-new illustration. USA is all about profit / growth / $$, #europe is all about #humanity, china is all about #bigdata and how the state can use it — vastly generalised of course, more soon!”
Here is a fascinating article by Doug Solomon, entitled "The Tube: IDEO Builds a Collaboration System That Inspires through Passion." It describes how IDEO, the famous design and innovation agency, built themselves a KM platform - "The Tube" - after discovering that there was nothing off-the-shelf that fitted their culture and requirements. One key lesson was as follows:
"The unique success of the Tube comes from the insight that effective knowledge sharing is a social activity that is enabled by technology, rather than a technological solution bolted onto an existing work culture".
This is a very interesting way to look at it - as platform for social activity rather than as a technology - and is a refreshingly different approach from a well-respected organisation.
IDEO built the Tube based on 5 design principles, listed below with commentary from the article, and from me.
2) Build Rewarding Systems: a system that requires altruism is unlikely to be successful. Similarly, systems that require users to participate (e.g. compliance-based design) rarely get anything more than participation at the lowest required level. Effective knowledge sharing systems must have a "Whats in it for me" for the users and contributors. IDEO saw The Tube as a platform to allow employees to showcase their best work.
3) Demand Intuitive Interfaces: The system must present as few points of friction as possible from the process of becoming an active user. It must be easy and intuitive to use. Remove all barriers to adoption!
4) Take the Road More Travelled: if a tool requires people to go out of their way to use it, adoption will always be a challenge, no matter how wonderfully designed. Wherever possible, strive to integrate tools into existing work processes. If people are used to receiving notifications through email, then link your system to email. Don't expect people to develop a new work habit just to be able to share knowledge, because they won't. For example, the IDEO blogging system didn't take off until the team added a program that sent digest emails with new content from subscribed blogs. 5) Iterate Early and Often: building effective systems for organisations means designing tools and workflows that mirror the social systems they are meant to support, which means multiple cycles of iteration between the platform design team and the users. We talked about this in terms of the KM Framework as a whole, when we described multiple pilot projects, and releasing a KM "minimum viable product" so the KM team can evolve their KM solution to fit the needs and working habits of the users.
If you need to design your own KM platform, these 5 principles should be on the first page of your design strategy.
Knowledge has a user - the knowledge worker who needs to make a decision or plan an action - and it has a source - usually someone else's experience, or the synthesised knowledge of a community of practice. The KM supply chain consists of getting the knowledge from the source to the user in the most effective, efficient and timely manner.
In the industrial world, much work has been done on the concept of a Lean Supply Chain - one in which all waste has been removed. A Lean supply chain is one where components reach the manufacturer "just in time", with minimal additional processing, and in a form where they can be used immediately.
Can we eliminate the waste from our Knowledge supply chain, and end up with Lean Knowledge Management - where knowledge reaches the knowledge worker "just in time", with minimal additional processing, and in a form where it can be applied immediately?
Let's look at the 7 wastes identified within Lean, and see what we can do to reduce these in the KM context.
Waste #1. Over-production—producing more than and/or ahead of demand.
Over-production of Knowledge is very common in Knowledge Management. We see this particularly in push-based enterprise social media, where we can be bombarded with hundreds of messages, very few of which are relevant. This blog post describes overproduction taken to the extreme, with massive push of (often duplicated) content resulting in destruction of value, with people spending far more time creating content, than time was saved re-using it. It is no coincidence that Lean Supply Chain is pull-based, and Lean Knowledge Management should be pull-based as well.
Waste #2. Waiting.
Knowledge Management can be really helpful, but only if the knowledge arrives on time to impact the decision. A lean KM supply chain will focus on the "clock speed" of KM, to ensure questions receive answers as soon as possible, and new knowledge is identified and embedded into process within minimum time. Waste # 3. Unnecessary transport of materials.
In our knowledge management world, this really refers to hand-off, and to whether the chain between knowledge supplier and knowledge user can be made as short as possible. Communities of practice, for example, where "ask the audience"-type questions can be asked, and answered directly by the knowledge holder, will minimise the number of handoffs. With a large community of practice, everyone is at One Degree of Separation.
Waste # 4. Non-value added processing—doing more work than is necessary.
We often see this in lesson-learning systems, where the work of sifting and sorting multiple lessons or multiple search-hits has to be done by the knowledge user (the knowledge user searches the system, finds 20 hits giving conflicting or multiple advice, and needs to work out which is right, which is misleading, which can be combined, and which is obsolete). Far better is a system where the sifting and sorting is done once, at source, by the lessons management team or the relevant subject matter expert, so that right answers are combined and preserved and obsolete knowledge removed. Then instead of each reader doing the work of synthesis, the knowledge arrives already synthesised.
Waste # 5. Unnecessary motion.
In KM terms, this could be unnecessary online motion - the need to visit multiple databases, multiple knowledge bases, a separate CoP system, another place for Yammer feed etc. It is unfortunately all too common to see a KM platform with separate areas for Standards, Best Practice, Lessons Learned, Video etc, so a person searching for knowledge on a topic - Electrical Engineering Tools for example - will need to look in all four areas t get a complete picture. Far better to have a topic based portal, where the Electrical Engineer Tools section of the portal or wiki will contain standards, best practices and lessons on the topic of Electrical Engineer Tools, with embedded video from the subject matter experts where appropriate.
Waste # 6. Excess inventory— frequently resulting from overproduction.
Lessons systems jammed with lessons, hundreds of hits from the search engine, knowledge bases crammed with near-duplicate content, or obsolete content, or contradictory content - all of these represent the waste associated with excess inventory. Part of the role of the process owner in KM is to ensure that the knowledge inventory is well managed and free from dross. This does not mean eliminating knowledge which might be useful some day; it means eliminating duplicates, wrong knowledge, and otherwise removing noise from the system and leaving the signal behind.
Waste # 7. Defects, or the cost of wrong knowledge.
Wrong knowledge is worse than no knowledge. Any KM system needs to have a quality assurance step, whether this is Community QA of a wiki, or editorial QA of a knowledge base, of Quality Assurance of lessons at source through use of good facilitation.
The lean supply chain analogy allows us a new way to look at KM, and the 7 wastes give us a filter for improving the way we work. If we could make our KM supply chains truly lean, we could considerably improve the way our organisations use knowledge.
Working Smarter with Personal Knowledge Mastery is a field guide for the networked knowledge worker. It is meant to complement the PKM Workshops and help practitioners. At 12 pages it is not designed to cover all aspects of the models, frameworks, and practices that inform PKM, but provide a quick reference, especially for those new to the discipline.
This field guide is made available under a Creative Commons license for easy sharing and is not for resale or commercial purposes. For more detailed explanations, see Life in Perpetual Beta.
Although alien to many in the west, Hansei is an important part of the Japanese culture. Han means “change” and Sei means “to review”, so the whole thing means “introspection” or “reflection for the purposes of change”. This translates into a behaviour , instilled from childhood, of looking for mistakes, admitting responsibility, and implementing change.(When Japanese children do something wrong, for example, they are scolded and are told: hansei shinasai - Do hansei!).
Hansei can become very public, as the footage of the crying Toyota CEO shows. As a response to poor safety performance, the CEO admitted responsibility, apologised, promised change, and wept - behaviour lauded in Japan but deemed strange in the West. In the West we would probably avoid responsibility, deny the mistake as "fake news", and insult our detractors.
Hansei is at the heart of Kaizen - the "learning from experience" approach seen in Japanese industry. It may part of the reason why Japanese companies succeed so well at Kaizen as a core component of Knowledge Management, while other cultures struggle. Where a European company might see lesson-learning as a witch-hunt, for example, a Japanese company would see it as a way to put right the embarrassment of self-acknowledged failure. Where a US company might fear a blame culture, Hansei means that individuals already accept any blame and if they fear anything, they fear the lack of ability to make restitution.
How do we develop Hansei?
In non-Japanese cultures we have not been brought up with Hansei. Seeing our leaders accepting full responsibility for mistakes and sincerely, with emotion, promising change is something exceedingly rare (name me one example!). However this is a behaviour we would dearly love to promote at work, so that mistakes are not hidden, but lead to learning and change.
So here are six things we can do to begin to develop Hansei behaviours.
1. We can understand the current culture, and recognise the barriers. One of the 10 cultural barriers is defensiveness - an unwillingness to take responsibility and examine your mistakes. Our cultural assessment service allows you to see whether this is a major barrier in your own organisation. 2. We can build reflection into the work process.After Action Review, for example, is a Kaizen activity that can be embedded into the working pattern, to trigger reflection and change on a regular basis.
3. We can adopt no-blame learning processes. The Retrospect is widely recognised as a no-blame lesson-learning process for use at the end of projects or project stages. The open questioning within the Retrospect gives people the opportunity to examine what went wrong, and to suggest how this might be improved.
4. We can ask the team leader to set the tone. If we are concerned about lack of openness in a Retrospect, we can work with the team leader before hand to identify an area where they can openly admit to making a mistake, and explore how to avoid this happening again. When the leader sets the tone, the rest of the team may follow.
5. We can ensure all learnings lead to action. We must make sure that everyone present in a Retrospect or After Action review can see that their admissions, introspections and lessons will lead to action. Lessons will not just rot away in overstuffed databases, but become embedded in changes to process. Knowing that your mistakes can be turned into successes for others can make Retrospects into something like group therapy. This is the positive outcome of Hansei.
6. We can become intolerant of complacency. Another of the 10 cultural elements, complacency is the feeling that "we did alright, there was no problem, we don't need to change anything". Here is what the Toyota website says about "no problem":
"Even if a task is completed successfully, Toyota recognises the need for a hansei-kai, or reflection meeting; a process that helps to identify failures experienced along the way and create clear plans for future efforts. An inability to identify issues is usually seen as an indication that you did not stretch to meet or exceed expectations, that you were not sufficiently critical or objective in your analysis, or that you lack modesty and humility. Within the Hansei process, no problem is itself a problem".
This type of thinking - where "no problem" is seen as symptom of a lack of introspection and a lack of analysis, and something to challenge rather than to feel smug about - may be what separates the true learning cultures from the also-rans.
Kennedy, Harmon and Minnock's excellent book "Ready, Set , Dominate" takes a knowledge-centred view of product development, inspired by practices of Toyota Motor Company and refined through application to a wide variety of industries across the globe. Here are the ten principles that they list in the conclusion to the book (my explanation and commentary in italics).
1. Knowledge is both the raw material and the output of product development. This leads to the view of a knowledge workstream in parallel with the product workstream.
2. Set-Based Knowledge is infinitely more valuable than Point-Based Knowledge (this means that generically applicable knowledge, for example "these combinations work in these circumstances" and often stored as trade-off curves, is more valuable than specific knowledge such as "this combination worked in this circumstance")
3. Knowledge must be visible to be used and managed (which means it must be discussed, and must be a conscious issue and asset)
4. The product development organization must be skilled at creating, capturing and using the knowledge (which means that you need a knowledge management framework for product development)
5. The knowledge needed to be successful is a deep understanding of the interests of all the customers in the operational value stream, how decisions made in design affect them and how those design decisions interact with each other (this is some of the critical knowledge. Other core knowledge is "how to develop products effectively and efficiently" and "how does our technology work in practice").
6. The knowledge needed to be successful needs to be available before the decision, not afterwards (which implies knowledge available at the point of need, knowledge for decision support, and that people will seek the knowledge in order to support the decision)
7. The decisions should be delayed as long as possible to allow the maximum learning within time and budget (this is a principle specific to lean product development, and represents the principle that the early stages of product development should not be about fixing the design but about gathering knowledge to ensure the right design is fixed)
8. Mechanisms must exist within the product development process to pull the reuse of existing knowledge and the creation of additional knowledge before the decision deadline (ie mechanisms to ensure knowledge is sought and used)
9. That knowledge should enable and be systematically used to eliminate the weakest alternatives from the set of all feasible solutions allowing designs to converge to the optimum (Toyota run several prototype designs in parallel, eliminating the ones that dont work and combining the characteristics of those that do. This is iterative and parallel development).
10. The organization must manage the process of creating, capturing and using the product development knowledge with the same diligence given to other corporate assets" (Yes, yes, and a thousand times yes. Knowledge is the core asset for product development. As the quote from Toyota goes - "we dont make cars, we make knowledge, and from that knowledge great cars emerge". Knowledge is the asset that enables you to make great products. MANAGE THAT ASSET IF YOU WANT TO SURVIVE!!).
With the possible exception of numbers 5 and 9, which refer specifically to a design/manufacture context, these principles should be applicable in many other Knowledge Management initiatives (see for example the US Army KM principles).
However see the words of warning below from the authors.
"What is difficult is that some of the principles are opposite to today's practices and even seem counter-intuitive. Further, some roles in organizations may need to be created or modified for better knowledge management. And, as with any initiative, there is the need to lead the organizational change. As these principles and capabilities begin to fall in place, engineering productivity and schedule attainment increases rapidly".
If you are a KMer in a product organisation, apply these principles, especially number 10.
The spread of the novel corona virus COVID-19 is having a massive effect on our connected world. Schools are being shut, quarantines are in effect, and airlines have cancelled certain flight routes. So where are we getting our information from? If it’s from Facebook then some secret algorithm designed to maximize advertising revenue is deciding what we see. This does not make for a well-informed citizenry. There are also forces at play that want people to panic. Some misinformation may be designed to push stock prices up or down so profits can be made. Other forces see panic as a way to destabilize competing or warring nations. The digital information sphere is constantly being manipulated and we should understand this and find ways to counter the post-truth machines.
For my own understanding of COVID-19 I start with centres of networked expertise — WHO, CDC, Public Health Agency of Canada. I trust these sources, and if you meet people who don’t, then avoid close contact with them.
If I want to have an in-depth conversation I contact my trusted personal connections — @LucasJarche who holds a MSc in microbiology or @FinlaysonTrick who is currently in medical school.
Having trusted filters is essential for everyone in a global networked society. Developing these filters is a core part of personal knowledge mastery, a discipline that is becoming critical to make sense of our world.
You want to plan a face to face event for your Community of Practice in order to transfer knowledge, but which event style do you select?
This is a discussion I have been having recently, and it struck me that this might be a useful blog post.
Now there may be many reasons for a CoP event; to launch the CoP, to celebrate CoP achievement, or to agree on the CoP charter, work plan, objectives and knowledge focus areas. For these purposes you may use many styles of meeting - Open Space, World Cafe, Knowledge Market etc.
However if we assume that the purpose of the CoP event is to transfer knowledge among the members on one or more topics of interest, then the primary driver of the choice of event style or methodology is driven by two factors:
The number of CoP members who have knowledge and experience on the topic ("knowledge holders", and
The number of CoP members who actively need to acquire the knowledge ("knowledge needers"). These are not just "interested parties" - these are people who will apply the knowledge they gain to improve the way they work.
Please note that many people can be both holders and needers - they hold some knowledge but need to acquire more.
The crossplot of these two factors above is used to suggest some methodologies or styles of knowledge transfer meetings, all of which should be based on positive dialogue between the knowledge holders and knowledge needers. Also note that if your CoP meeting addresses many topics, then you may need many styles of meeting at the same event - either one after the other, or in parallel in separate spaces. How do you find out the topics, and the number of holders and seekers within the CoP? You either conduct a survey, do some knowledge mapping, analyse the questions in the community forum, or hold a Knowledge Market.
If you have a relatively small number of knowledge holders and a large number of knowledge needers, then you can hold a lessons learned discussion. This requires active moderation, and should be driven by questions from the knowledge needers. The discussion will create reference content for the CoP. Alternatively, a storytelling session may be appropriate. Or if the knowledge is very polarised, with one or two experts and everyone else in the CoP novices, then a training session may be the best approach, but try to drive the training by the questions of the needers as much as possible.
If you have one or two people with experience in the topic and a moderate number of knowledge needers, then in some cases a knowledge site visit may be appropriate. Here the CoP meeting is held at the premises of one of the knowledge holders (a factory, or a working office) who can demonstrate the knowledge in application.
If you have many knowledge holders and many knowledge needers, then a knowledge exchange may be appropriate. Here the CoP members discuss the topic, and all its subtopics, exchanging experience, answering questions, and discussing and co-creating best practice. The process is driven by the questions of the knowledge needers, and is suitable when there are one or more areas of practice applied by most of the CoP members, but where approaches differ. This process can develop good practice reference documents for future use by the CoP.
If there are a moderate number of knowledge needers, then you can run a Peer Assist to enable knowledge transfer to the needers. Generally the process adds value to others as well.
If there is a topic where there are a few holders and a few needers, it may be best not to make this the focus of a CoP event, but to create a small action learning group, which will report back to the CoP through the online portal, or through short briefings.
Finally if there is a new topic which the CoP wants to explore, but currently has no experts or knowledge holders, then a more open process such as Open Space or World Cafe/Knowledge cafe.
However if transfer of knowledge is your aim, use one of the processes above to ensure effective dialogue between the knowledge holders and the knowledge needers.
I have been working and learning remotely since 2003, when I became a freelancer. I live in a fairly remote location — Atlantic Canada — away from major metropolitan hubs. I had to understand remote technologies in order to stay connected to my peers and potential clients. There was little chance I would bump into them here in Sackville, New Brunswick. Over the past decade the work with my colleagues at the Internet Time Alliance has been mostly remote, as we span between the UK and California. Necessity has been the mother of invention for a lot of my work.
“Harold Jarche is a true pioneer. Nine years ago , long before online activities were commonplace, we conducted a series of Unworkshops on the topic of web-based learning. We relied on free software. Our students came from Australia, Lebanon, Canada, Austria, the Azores, and points in between. Lessons were both synchronous and offline. To give people exposure, we used a different platform each week. I can’t imagine anyone (aside from Harold) crazy (and innovative) enough to sign up for something like this.” —Jay Cross (1944-2015), founder Internet Time Alliance
I recently came across a site dedicated to remote work — Remote.co. This site has a number of questions to which over 100 companies have posted responses. I would like to highlight what I think are the most interesting responses to some of the questions. While many of the responses come from start-ups I will try to focus on those from larger or more established companies. Today, the drive for more remote work, even in established businesses, is quickly ramping up. Given the current global health situation, this site, which includes a blog, is quite useful.
1. Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
At American Express, we’ve been serving customers for more than 165 years. As the environment and our own business have evolved, we’ve been receptive to new ways we could deliver our customers the superior service they’ve come to expect from American Express. While American Express has had a number of virtual roles for some time, our focused effort to expand the remote telephone servicing team began about a half decade ago.
2. How important is remote work to your business model?
American Express — Our mission is to become the world’s most respected service brand. To do that, we must be able to attract and select the very best talent, people with a passion for service. Having a remote workforce allows us to cast a wider net, reaching prospective employees who may not live within commuting distance of one of our brick-and-mortar customer care locations. We also can attract people who have the right profile but who have specific needs that make virtual work a good fit, such as parents, students, veterans and their spouses, and people with limited mobility. Having employees across time zones and with a more flexible working model also helps us respond to volumes and be there for our customers when they need us.
3. What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
Dell — Work flexibility allows team members options for how, where, and when to do their work. These options create a collaborative work environment between the needs of the company and the team member. A flexible workforce is just as productive (if not more so) as the traditional office model—reducing the global carbon footprint, and helping individuals balance their work life and their personal life. Bottom line: it’s an advantage and a benefit that helps Dell be successful.
4. How do you conduct onboarding for remote workers?
Goodway Group — We ship laptops pre-installed with all of the software needed. We have a dedicated training and onboarding team to guide new-hires through getting organized, settled and oriented on all of our systems and processes. All of that communication is done through email, phone and screen share.
5. What is the hardest part about managing a remote workforce?
At GitHub it’s important to us that we look after our employees. We’re not just in this for short-term productivity, we’re in this for the long-haul, and that means that you need to view the health of your people and teams a bit more holistically.
What we’ve found is that it’s actually quite hard to ensure people are making full use of what’s offered to them. It’s easy to view policies as just sets of rules about what you can or can’t do, but in a distributed company you rely on written documentation much more than in non-remote companies, so one of the challenges we’re facing as we grow is how we can make sure our management practices and internal documentation are focused on encouraging healthy behaviour. That’s the only way you’re going to get sustainable productivity and growth in the long-run.
Sutherland Global Services — Sensing everybody’s mood, level of motivation, identifying issues before they develop. With an on-site team, you get to take advantage of facial expressions, body language, etc. With the remote team, there are a lot of subtleties, often taken for granted, that are missing. Managers really need to be good listeners and learn to “read between the lines”.
6. What were your biggest fears in managing remote workers?
InVision App — Our biggest fear with regards to having a remote workforce was that individuals would feel left out, not engaged, or like they were missing out on being part of a community. We’re human beings with social needs—and we didn’t want our employees to feel hampered in that regard.
To address this, we encourage—and pay for—our employees to join their local networking groups, because we feel in-person connections are key. If someone works better in a social co-working space, we’ll support that.
We’re also very cognizant of that transition phase when a new employee comes on who has been working in a traditional office environment. We aim to help people make that transition as smoothly as possible.
7. How did you implement a remote work policy?
Dell — Our remote work policy was implemented formally in 2009 via Dell’s Connected Workplace program. This program enables eligible team members to work remotely, at variable hours or in other flexible capacities that fulfill the needs of both their job and their lifestyle. Before Connected Workplace, flexibility at Dell was informal, with most arrangements being made one-on-one between team members and managers.
8. What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
American Express — Some companies view a remote workforce as a means of reducing operating cost. We view it as an investment in finding the very best talent so we can deliver the superior service our customers expect. We continue to invest in better tools and unique ways to engage our very committed team of home-based employees. For example, every single employee has a webcam, and we encourage them to connect face-to-face for team meetings, feedback sessions, reward & recognition and other events. Similarly, we have invested in the right technology, data infrastructure, equipment and reporting to put our employees in a position to be successful. Dell — First, do your due diligence. Explore if—and to what degree—your organization can support flexible work arrangements. Talk with other companies to gather best practices and lessons learned. Create remote program strategies and policies that will work for your company. Educate leadership/management on work flexibility. Partner with IT/facilities/HR. Build a robust back office that offers training, toolkits, and FAQs. Design regular health checks and progress dashboards to measure the state of the program. Communicate and collaborate with your workforce to develop a program that allows mutual benefits and positive results.
In addition to working remotely, we have help everyone become skilled at learning in online communities and networks. I am a member of several communities of practice and host the Perpetual Beta Coffee Club. The personal knowledge mastery framework was developed out of a need to learn remotely, using internet tools to connect with experts and peers. The PKM online workshop is one way that cohorts from around the globe learn how to learn remotely.
Transferring knowledge is like passing a ball - both the thrower and the catcher share accountability for an effective pass.
Imagine an experienced practitioner transferring knowledge to a younger colleague or group of colleagues. Who is accountable for ensuring effective knowledge transfer?
The answer is that the accountability is equally shared. It's like a football pass - both the thrower and the catcher are responsible for making a successful pass.
Not only is the accountability equally shared; both parties need to be equally involved, and both need specific skills.
The experienced person (the thrower of the knowledge) needs to be willing and able to share their knowledge. They need a good overview of what knowledge needs to be shared, and they need to have thought through the best way to share it. They need to understand the difference between showing, teaching, coaching and questioning, and know when each technique needs to be used. If they are writing their knowledge, they need to be aware of the curse of knowledge, and have to write it in such a way that it can be fully understood.
The junior person (the catcher of the knowledge) needs to be willing and able to learn. They need a good overview of what knowledge they need to acquire, and they need to have been trained in knowledge elicitation techniques such as open questioning and root cause analysis. If they are reading the knowledge, they need to pay attention; to "read, mark learn and inwardly digest." Also they need a structure for storing the knowledge they acquire, so it can be useful to themselves and also to their colleagues. Learning blogs and a shared wiki can be powerful tools. They may also find it useful to video record their coach at work, and to analyse the video afterwards together with the coach.
So to make sure knowledge transfer works, you need to prep the passer and the receiver, just as in a game of football.
The Farnham Street blog (reporting on the book Mind Gym) describes nine tactics you can use to influence others, while making the point that "“it is essential that you understand the other person’s reasons so you can use tactics that will work to persuade them, as opposed to tactics that would work on you.”
1. Reasoning - the process of using facts, logic, and argument to make a case. You would use this to make a business case for Knowledge Management, but need good evidence to back it up. "Knowledge Management, if applied to the bidding process, should improve our bid conversion rate by 20%, which would be worth $5 million in new business. We calculated this by looking at the bid losses over the last 3 years that would have been avoided through re-use of knowledge and best practices". Reasoning will almost certainly be necessary to support your case, but it is likely that other influencing techniques will create the "sell".
2. Inspiring - focusing on the heart rather than the head, appealing to emotions and creating the vision. You would use this when your Knowledge Management business case is weak or unclear and you want a high level of emotional commitment. The inspiring tactic demands conviction, energy, and passion. "Imagine what it would be like to have knowledge at our fingertips - to know, at every decision point, what we have tried in the past, what works and what doesn't work. We hold 5,000 years of experience in the heads of our staff - imagine what would be possible if that resource was available to everyone in the building". Inspiring works well as a sell in the early stages of KM implementation, especially when backed up by a business case. See a list of KM visions here - some more inspiring than others!
3. Asking Questions - leading the other person to make their own discovery of the value of Knowledge Management. See the example here - "When do your people use knowledge? Tell me about some of the important decisions, where knowledge is critical? If we had a situation where every person facing such a decision had complete access to the knowledge they needed, how much more business do you think we could win? And how certain are you that people in this situation are currently handling this vital knowledge in a rigorous, systematic managed way?" This is one of the more difficult tactics to use because it is impossible to know how the other person will respond and you have to be able to think on your feet, but is one of the most powerful approaches to use when talking to senior staff.
4. Cosying Up You almost always feel positive toward someone who makes you feel good about yourself. This is the cosying up tactic. "Dan, you are the smartest and most progressive leader in the whole management layer, and I know you are always looking for the next way to really improve your department. Let me tell you about this new thing called Knowledge Management". Don't use this approach when talking to people who are much more senior than you, when cosying up can look like sucking up.
5. Deal Making - when you give another person something in return for their agreement with you. "Susie, if you agree to host a Community of Practice pilot, then in return I will support your expansion proposal in the next seniors meeting" or, in an even braver approach (where you need a good reasoning argument to back it up), "Susie, I would like to make a deal with you. Let me set up a Knowledge Management pilot in your part of the business, and I guarantee you a 10% improvement in your results within 3 months." See for example the "KM deal with senior management". Your ability to use this approach depends very much on your ability to offer something in return.
6. Favour Asking - simply asking for something because you want or need it. "Davide, I really need a favour. I need an area of the business to set up a trial Lesson Learning System, and your department would be perfect. Can you help me?" This tactic works well only when the other person cares about you or their relationship with you. If used sparingly, it is hard to resist, but be aware you may have to pay back the favour at some time.
7. Using Silent Allies (aka social proof) - using the fact that others use KM as an argument in its favour. This involves showing or telling stories of other people, as similar as possible to the person you want to influence, gaining value from Knowledge Management. This may be people from other organisations - "Did you know all our competitors are doing KM already? Let me tell you what the head of Acme said about it last week", or people from your own organisation - "Here is one of our engineers talking about how the CoP helped him deliver his project ahead of time". Beware of the "Yes, but we are different" response, and also of the CEO that says "We don't want to copy the competition". Also for this technique to work, you need a success case somewhere you can draw from. However social proof is the most powerful convincing mechanism for most people, especially the knowledge workers and users of the framework.
8. Invoking Authority - appealing to a rule or principle. "You have to hold your lessons learned meeting - it says so in the project procedure". It doesn't matter whether the authority invoked is formal or implicit, so long as it is recognized by the person you are trying to influence. This technique is one you use once you have the support of senior management, when the Knowledge Management policy (or equivalent) is in place, and when KM has become a clear expectation. The downside is that it is more likely to lead to compliance than commitment, but well facilitated compliance can still deliver excellent results. This is a technique to use once KM has been implemented, and you need to drive it's application.
9. Forcing “Do it or else.” The best example of the use of this tactic in KM comes from Bob Buckman, CEO of Buckman Labs, and his memo that says "if you are unwilling to contribute (your knowledge), the many opportunities open to you in the past will no longer be available". Or as Melissie Rumizen said about the same organisation, "In Buckman labs we reward knowledge sharing. If you do it, we reward you by letting you keep your job". This is a technique that senior management can use on your behalf, and which may need to be used to remove the past few vestiges of non-compliance with KM expectations. This can only be used after KM implementation is complete, and you are looking to
People change their minds for their own reasons, not for your reasons. If you are using only one tactic to promote KM (Reasoning is the most commonly used tactic, even though it is largely ineffective), and its not working, then try something else. Also be prepared to change your tactic as your Knowledge Management implementation program progresses.
Learn these 9 techniques - you will need them to market and sell KM within your organisation.
“When the brain has to deal with multiple elements of information, difficult material, and you have to manipulate or process those different elements, working memory can struggle. It imposes a heavy working load on working memory – that is cognitive load … Intrinsic cognitive load is the load complex material places on working memory. It is subjective, intrinsic and there’s not much you can do about it. Extraneous cognitive load is in the designed instruction and can be redesigned to reduce cognitive load.” —Donald Clark
Worked examples can lessen cognitive load, according research by John Sweller, which is reviewed by Donald Clark in the quote above. “A worked example is a step-by-step demonstration of how to perform a task or how to solve a problem”, according to Psychology Wiki. Cognitive load management is one of the four beneficial skills that can be acquired through the practice of personal knowledge mastery (PKM). For example, off-loading some cognitive tasks to an external network or community of practice provides time to focus or reflect.
Based on Future Work Skills 2020 — Institute for the Future
While PKM is designed to lessen the cognitive load, learning how to develop this disciplined approach to sensemaking can actually increase the cognitive load. I have made a few attempts at creating something like a worked example in the past two years.
One of my most interesting projects was when a client gave me a statement of work that merely stated — ‘simplify the complexity’. That was it.
I had worked with this company on a year-long project to transform how workplace learning was supported — working smarter case study. About a year after this project was finished I was asked to help again. With the changes that had been made to workplace learning — Do-It-Yourself Learning, Just-in-Time Support, Performance Consulting — there was a question about what technologies were needed to support the new model. The head of IT asked the head of learning what suite of tools was needed to support learning in the workplace. It was a simple question but there no template available to say what was needed and what was not. I did not have an answer but accepted the project, fairly confident that I, the client, and my network could figure it out.
I started by going through my outboards brains. I had a good library of social bookmarks on Diigo [I am shifting to Pinboard]. I also searched my blog for any clues on how to address the question. At the same time I watched my feeds on Twitter and Feedly for anything related to this challenge. I contacted a few people over several weeks and discussed our project. I also started playing around by visualizing different models.
I can attribute few things to the success of this project. My ‘outboard brains’, based on several years of curation gave me a rich set of resources to initially search. A few clues emerged from these. In addition, as I was now attuned to my quest, I was able to serendipitously find more clues that came through my social media feeds. Many conversations with my clients helped to better understand the situation and play with solutions.
The solution that was developed was a visual template with seven factors that were needed to support workplace learning. Any technology platform could be analyzed through this template to see what facets it supported. A complete suite of tools would have to cover all seven. This became a quick way for the learning specialists to relate to the IT specialists. In the end I was able to develop a simple lens to evaluate current and future tools against the learning and performance requirements of the company. Since this project I have been able to use the template in several other projects. It’s current version is shown below.
I did not have a solution at hand for this project but I felt that with my extended network I would be able to solve their problem. In the end the client was satisfied and I was paid more than what we had originally contracted for — a good day!
I presented this case in London a few years ago, which was recorded — video.
“Chance favours the connected mind.” — Steven B. Johnson
Another case where my PKM practice helped out was when I was asked to conduct research on “new trends in training in the context of the knowledge economy and the social web” for an online university. The budget was for 80 hours work for a graduate student. This was the equivalent of about one day of my consulting service fee, so it did not look very appealing. However, the project had been designed from the perspective that the researcher was relatively new to the field. I decided to take the project and in less than one day I was able to collate years of my own research on workplace learning through my ‘outboard brains’. I also included a couple of papers I had already written as a bonus deliverable. My client was able to use these as the main references for a new program they were developing. PKM in this case was a catalyst for enhanced serendipity!
This reprised blog post is a reminder of that amazing example of free and open knowledge sharing that is Radiopaedia
X-ray published in ABC news, taken from Radiopaedia
As described in this fascinating article, Radiopaedia is an online wiki where Radiologists all over the globe share online X-rays that are interesting, unusual, or demonstrate particular aspects of patient cases that others might learn from. When I was a geologist, there was a saying that "the best geologist was the one what had seen the most rocks". Presumably the best radiologists are the ones that have seen the most X-rays, but no single radiologist can possible have seen a X-ray of every type of condition.
But now they can, thanks to this shared knowledge resource.
Radiopaedia was started in 2005 by Dr Frank Gaillard, as a way of storing online his digital radiographic images. Dr Gaillard had the inspiration to make this store an open resource, and in 2007 made it accessible to other radiologists. By 2015 Radiopedia had
7 million hits a month
2 million unique users
users in every country in the world
more than 10,600 Twitter followers
17,660 cases sorted into 7,636 articles.
The vision of Radiopaedia is
"to create the best possible radiology reference and teaching site and make it available to everyone, for ever, for free..... By pooling our collective knowledge and experience we can make a real difference in how people all over the world are imaged and diagnosed".
I think the primary lesson is that a simple technology solution which serves a knowledge need for a large user base can grow quickly and organically. The barrier to entry is low, and the benefit for users is very high.
Secondly, the starting point for this was one person choosing to open his personal collection to the public. Despite the well-known behaviour of knowledge hoarding, Dr Galliard's decision to open his knowledge base not just resulted in value to other radiologists; he himself benefited from the massive outpouring of knowledge sharing.
The value is particularly great for radiologists, in that many of them work as lone specialists. A global community provides them with a very welcome link to other practitioners.
Also radiologists are visual workers. Their chief tool is images. The more images they can see, the greater their knowledge base. The best radiologist is the one who has seen the most Xrays. A wiki is an ideal way to share visual imagery, and to make tens of thousands of Xrays available to view.
Also the wiki is not a standalone, but part of a KM Framework. This includes
For those of you working in knowledge management, this case history provides a model for how you can connect a large community of lone practitioners, for whom a shared library of images is a massively useful resources.
Are there lone practitioners like this in your company? If so, then Radiopaedia may give you some pointers in how to build a system to support them.
We acquire knowledge through experience or through learning;
We store that knowledge in our short term memory;
If we feel is has long term value, we transfer it to our long-term memory, where it can also be combined with other knowledge as part of our experience base;
We retrieve the knowledge when we need it, through the act of recall (often by association).
This process works well for individuals, and allows us to build up our knowledge over our lifetimes.
Note the two types of memory. Short term memory is rich but limited, and fades if we try to remember too many things (more than 7 seems to be the limit), and if we do not make an effort to commit the knowledge to long term memory (through rehearsal and repetition) within a minute or less.
In organisational Knowledge Management, we see the same processes and systems in operation.
The organisational short term memory is the tacit knowledge held by the communities of practice. When practitioners are active and knowledge is current, leaving important knowledge undocumented is a low risk option, as it can easily be retrieved by asking the community. Through community discussion, new knowledge is acquired and spread, rehearsed through use, and updated through combination with other sources of knowledge. Retrieval is done through questioning; either face to face or online.
However unless the knowledge is captured into the organisational long term memory, it can be lost if not rehearsed. Communities of practice forget over time, and non-rehearsed knowledge (knowledge which is not in everyday use) will fade from the collective memory. Much as the brain's short-term memory is an active system involving rehearsal, so the organisation's tacit knowledge is an active system involving practice.
The long term memory for the organisation is the documented knowledge, as well as the knowledge encoded into practices, procedures and operations. This knowledge needs to be consciously acquired through capture and documentation, using processes such as interviewing, Learning histories or Retrospects. It needs to be validated, and over time it can be synthesised with new knowledge which will often modify or even overwrite the old knowledge. The store for the organisational knowledge is the knowledge bases, owned by the practice owners. This knowledge can even, in some cases, remain while a whole generation of workers come and go.
Retrieval of the documented knowledge is not easy, just as recalling knowledge from our deep memory is sometimes not easy. We tend to recall facts through association, and maybe we need to do the same with our knowledge bases. A heavily-hyperlinked wiki, for example, may help us make connections more easily than a linear filing structure.
Did print enable democracy, and is that why the founders of the USA put freedom of the press into their Constitution?
“ … just invent the printing press. Wait a couple of hundred years while literacy spreads, and presto! We can all talk to one another again, after a fashion, and the democratic revolutions begin.” —Gwynne Dyer
If print enabled democracy, will the emerging digital medium destroy it?
“The main handicap of authoritarian regimes in the 20th century — the desire to concentrate all information and power in one place — may become their decisive advantage in the 21st century.” —Yuval Noah Harari
But perhaps Harari did not factor in that a connected world is more than digital and that our transportation technologies enable the rapid spread of disease vectors as well. Too much control leads to filtered information, making it more difficult to deal with complex problems. Authoritarian regimes then are less able to address complex challenges — like an epidemic.
These regimes then lose the trust of the people, and when trust is lost, knowledge fails to flow, hampering the regime’s ability to react even more. Will these regimes be forced to become more open because a complex world demands it? I believe that leadership through cooperation is the best model to guide our connected civilization. We have evolved to cooperate because that is the best way to deal with a complex environment. Perhaps this is authoritarianism’s “fatal flaw”?
“The misguided agricultural policies of the Great Leap Forward had caused a collapse in food production . Yet instead of reporting the massive failures, the apparatchiks in various provinces had engaged in competitive exaggeration, reporting ever-increasing surpluses both because they were afraid of reporting bad news and because they wanted to please their superiors.
[Chairman] Mao didn’t know famine was at hand, because he had set up a system that ensured he would hear lies … Just as Mao didn’t know about the massive crop failures, [Chairman] Xi may not have known that a novel coronavirus  with sustained human-to-human transmission was brewing into a global pandemic until too late.” —The Atlantic 2020-02-22
“There is a limit to how much honest feedback most leaders really want to hear; and because we know this, most of us sugar-coat our opinions whenever we speak to a powerful person. In a deep hierarchy, that process is repeated many times, until the truth is utterly concealed inside a thick layer of sweet-talk.”
Mao was wrapped in a thick layer of sweet-talk, and so it seems is Xi. How many other leaders are wrapped in these knowledge blockers? The best future for humankind is to weave complex networks of trust that go beyond any single institution or nation state in order to deal with The Entanglement — “As we are becoming more entangled with our technologies, we are also becoming more entangled with each other. The power (physical, political, and social) has shifted from comprehensible hierarchies to less-intelligible networks.” (The Long Now Foundation, 2019).
Instinctively most of us assume that we own the knowledge in our heads. It's our head, so it's our knowledge. A 2012 LinkedIn poll tested this question, providing 3 options -
I own it and the organisation leases it from me
My employer owns it
We co-own it
Most of the respondents felt the knowledge was theirs, and was leased, not owned, by the organisation. And a New Scientist article from 2018, discussed here, took a similar tack, arguing that, in the scientific world at least, the knowledge should belong to the scientist, and that knowledge management is a mechanism or organisational control.
"Scientists are slowly losing control of their discoveries, both in private industry and in academia... (as companies) extract workers’ know-how so that the company can store and own it indefinitely".
But is this view really fair - that knowledge in our heads belongs entirely to us, and KM is an attempt by ruthless business to take control of this knowledge? There are several arguments to the contrary.
Secondly the organisation has invested a lot of money in developing your knowledge. Through training, through on-the-job coaching, and through the provision of knowledge management frameworks, the organisation has supported and sponsored you in developing the knowledge in your head. They have a stake in it.
Thirdly you cannot share company confidential knowledge. You will have been working with confidential material for many years. Some of the codified, documented knowledge in your organisation will be confidential. Some will be secret. The same is true of some of the tacit knowledge, some of which you have have in your head. You cannot leave a company and immediately start to share confidential material just because you remember it. You cannot legally give away trade secrets, proprietary methodologies or confidential approaches.
Fourthly you may well have signed away rights to some of the knowledge. When a consultant works with a company, they sign clear agreements which define, as closely as possible what existing knowledge belongs to whom, and what must happen to new knowledge created during the consultancy. Generally the new knowledge remains with the company, not the consultant, and the consultant keeps what he/she brought to the party, and anything that was in the public domain.
There is some knowledge that is truly yours to take away, however.
The first is the knowledge that has become embedded and encoded in your muscle memory and your skills. Imagine you are a sports star and you transfer clubs. You are not allowed to give to the new club the details of your previous club's playbook (this is confidential knowledge) but you can take your skills and ability with you, even though your previous club invested in your skills development.
Secondly you can take away your judgement. Judgement, aka wisdom, represents how you act on the knowledge you receive, and this is so innate to the way you operate, than it cannot be taken away.
Thirdly you take away your experience. This is the aggregate of all the work you have ever done, and represents the heuristics you apply to future work.
So who owns the knowledge?
I would suggest that the best approach for anyone working in an organisation is to treat the knowledge as something shared within the organisation, something that you do not own, but can contribute to and draw from. Certainly do not hoard your knowledge - your hoard is trivially small compared the the sum total knowledge of the network. Share what you know openly, and openly benefit from the knowledge of others. Then when you move on, leave the details and the confidential material behind and take your skills and experience with you.
Take your playing skills and experience with you - those are yours - but leave the team playbook behind.
As we enter an age of informal and workflow learning, authority is less centralized than ever before. “Learning is best understood as an interaction among practitioners, rather than a process in which a producer provides knowledge to a consumer,” says Etienne Wenger, a social researcher and champion of communities of practice.
We humans exist in networks. We are part of social networks. Our heads contain neural networks. Learning consists of making and maintaining better connections to our networks, be they social, operational, commercial, or entertainment. Rich learning will always be more than a matter of bits flowing back and forth, but the metaphor of learning-as-networking gives us a way to describe how learning can be embedded in work itself.
We’ve essentially outgrown the definition of learning as an individual activity. We’ve moved back to the apprenticeship model, albeit at a higher level. We learn in context, with others, as we live and work. Recognizing this fact is the first step to crafting an effective workflow learning strategy.
Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“Humanity’s problem today is that we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology.” —E. O. Wilson, via @Kpaxs
@snowded — “In complexity … you define a direction of travel, not a goal, because if you start on a journey you will discover things you didn’t know you could discover which have high utility, if you have an explicit goal you may miss the very things that you need to discover.” via @sys_innovation
@UNHumanRights — “Social Media is the new public square to which all Human Rights apply, including freedom of expression, privacy, access to information, transparency, equality. We need to make it a safe space for all.”
@suzie_dent — “English has an ancient law: in words like ‘chit chat’, ‘zigzag’, and ‘seesaw’, we always put the part with an i (as in ‘pit’) or e (as in ‘be’) first. We instinctively know this rule of ‘ablaut reduplication’. You can’t have a pair of flop flips or jamjims, or play pong ping.”
@dpontefract — “Over the past 5 years I’ve interviewed 500+ senior leaders. CEOs, CIOs, COOs, VPs, SVPs, EVPs, Deans, Directors, Provosts, CHROs … The top workplace issue is busyness. They are stressed, overburdened and in too many meetings. No time to coach. They are just trying to survive.”
“The blooding process has begun within the democratic world. The muscles that the propaganda machines need for defending the indefensible are being toned up. Millions and millions of Europeans and Americans are learning to think the unthinkable. So what if those black people drown in the sea? So what if those brown toddlers are scarred for life? They have already, in their minds, crossed the boundaries of morality. They are, like Macbeth, ‘yet but young in deed’. But the tests will be refined, the results analysed, the methods perfected, the messages sharpened. And then the deeds can follow.”
“If Homo sapiens sapiens wants to continue its fascinating yet so far relatively short evolutionary success story we have to evolve wise societies characterized by empathy, solidarity, and collaboration. Wise cultures, societies and a wise civilization will ‘manage the household’ with wisdom (oikos + sophia) and a love for all life (biophilia). Humanity’s challenge in a constantly changing, complex world is to establish a set of guiding questions that focus our collective intelligence on responding wisely to often unpredictable and surprising change.”
I participated in the Masterclass Design thinking for learning designers by Connie Malamed, organized by Anewspring. It was a nice experience to go through all design thinking steps in a structured way for a chosen case study. I had already experienced the value of working with personas and prototypes, but not yet followed all design thinking steps in a structured manner. Our group made a design for managers of retail organizations to motivate employees to stay with the organization for longer (we made the objective smart ofcourse - 25% longer retention by the end of 2021 :).
What is design thinking and why is it interesting for designing blended learning?
Design thinking is an emerging trend to shape innovation in a creative way. Central is the experience of the customer / user. There are 5 steps: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.
Design thinking has long been used to design products. However, it is quite new to use design thinking for the design of learning interventions. The differences with "regular" design processes in my eyes are:
Design thinking is "human-centered". Hardly a not a new element, because when designing a training or course, needs assessment is fairly standard practice when designing. Or designing together with the target group and stakeholders. Design thinking, however, offers specific tools such as personas and empathy maps.
It is an iterative, creative process. Making a design in a day was great for a fast start, getting everyone on board and having the outline. After prototyping you will go back to the drawing table with the feedback on the prototype in your pocket. The iteration - refining, tweaking etc instead of sticking to decisions simply because they were made in the beginning is very appealing to me.
Prototyping! This is something I will start to use more often. It seems more difficult to prototype a training than eg a new teapot. What I learnt is that you can be creative in prototyping: think of a mock-up of a new learning environment, an infographic, a video in which you explain the set-up, a role play between trainer and participant etc. The rapid prototypes ensure that you visualize your ideas. As Connie shared: with one client she hadn't made a prototype, and as a result people said very late in the process: oooooh now I understand what you were talking about! Without prototype it is very easy to talk, agree and have different understanding.
There is a large toolkit with tools that you can apply. What makes me very happy is that it is not a blueprint approach, it is not prescriptive, you can choose the tools that fit your process.
Currently I discuss with content experts and teachers whether we have to do interviews or whether they know the target group. Connie does insist on the interviews with the target group. Although content experts sometimes know the target audience very well, there are always judgments and impressions that may be incorrect. An example is a group that appears to be digitally skilled, but may not have a sound card in their computers at work. This still has some consequences for your choices. I'm going to be stricter when organizations say there's no need to do interviews.
In addition, my biggest eye-opener was to create prototypes. What can you do to show and request feedback? In the session we had built a prototype of an online platform, and in the feedback it became clear that safety is very important. Safety to be able to practice with coaching conversations with employees. Super useful for quickly sharing your design and getting responses.
Curious about our design? Unfortunately I did not take a photo but it is a process where managers start with a study of the motivation factors by conversations with employees. Then there are face-to-face and online sessions. We conclude with gamification: prices for the branches with the longest-serving employees.
An interesting discussion in our group: would we have come up with something completely different if we had not gone through these steps? Maybe not. But now you know for sure that it is well thought out and I suspect that interviews give you a better sense of the learners' context. However, it also shows that the process does not guarantee a consistent design. It requires empathy for the design to fit reality well.
Two days ago I published a quick exercise, looking at the relative "Google ranking" of these four elements, as a proxy measure of where the attention typically lies, and comparing this with results 5 years ago.
A search for "knowledge management process" gave 632000 hits
A search for "knowledge management technology" gave 416,000 results
A search for "knowledge management roles" gave 169,000 results
A search for "knowledge management governance" gave 122,000 results
These figures show an imbalance between the 4 elements (although less so than in 2015) with far more attention paid to KM processes and KM technology than to KM roles or governance. My colleague Ian Fry in Australia then suggested we look at ISO 30401:2018 for a good coverage of governance. So I went through the various clauses of ISO 30401:2018 to determine which referred to each of the 4 elements. The results are shown in the chart below, and are very interesting.
The plot above shows the results. In ISO 30401 there are
4 clauses addressing Roles (4.4.4, 5.3, 7.1, 7.2)
2 clauses addressing Process (4.4.4 and the single clause in section 8)
1 clause mentioning technology (4.4.4)
15 clauses on governance (4.4.4, 5.1, 5.2, and all of sections 6, 7, 9 and 10)
So the view of KM on Google (its all about KM process and technology) and the view of KM on ISO (its all about governance) are diametrically opposed.
Now to an extent that is to be expected, as ISO is a governance document, but it certainly shows that, for organisations wanting to comply with the ISO standard, governance is something that no longer can be neglected. There is no point, for example, in having a toolkit full of processes and technologies if there is no planning, no leadership, no policy, no objectives, no measurement of results, no regular audit, no controlled documentation and no means of continuous improvement of the KM Framework.
Hopefully an increased use of the ISO KM standard will lead to a further balancing of the 4 critical elements that form the 4 legs of the KM table.
The platform monopolists and the surveillance capitalists are at war with us, citizens of the world. They have engaged some of the best minds — from psychology, cognitive science, usability, addiction research, human factors engineering, anthropology, etc. — so that our evolutionary developed cognitive biases are used against us to sell us more crap. Some people call this ‘peak capitalism’. We have been marketed to for ages but now our every action online is used to manipulate us to buy something or believe something that will influence our actions. Monopolies are not good for democracy.
“The people can be successful only when they are right. When monopolies succeed, the people fail; when a rich criminal escapes justice, the people are punished; when a legislature is bribed, the people are cheated.” —Henry Demarist Lloyd 1881
Individually, most of us are stupid in some way. But many people are also ‘non-stupid’ in some way. According to the universal laws of human stupidity — “The difference between societies that collapse under the weight of their stupid citizens and those who transcend them are the makeup of the non-stupid. Those progressing in spite of their stupid possess a high proportion of people acting intelligently, those who counterbalance the stupid’s losses by bringing about gains for themselves and their fellows.” The current range of consumer social media are designed to increase the numbers of stupid people by emphasizing the platforms’ dark sides.
The only way to address this is collectively. No individual can fight Facebook or take on Amazon. Legislators, educators, and citizens need to get collectively smarter. This is a war. A war for our minds — to make us collectively stupid.
“Our world requires more automation to run efficiently and sustainably. The products and services that will be in demand are the products that compensate for our inadequacies. The clear downside of this is that with every assist, the less we exercise our already weak facilities.
The only people maintaining their smarts are the few people willing to constantly exercise their smarts. Meanwhile, we have a population that is becoming more out of shape and lazy with their own mental faculties. We imagine ourselves to being smarter because we can multi-task more. Yet, our brains have not evolved to do multi-tasking well. In fact, recent research have shown that pigeons have greater multi-tasking capabilities than humans. It is just ironic that we’ve taken pride in our new found multi-tasking skills only to discover that we are dumber at it than pigeons!
However, there is a far worse problem than automation making us dumber. The bigger problem is that other humans are aware that it can make us dumber and they are opportunistically exploiting our natural stupidity to influence our behavior. Over the decades, the industry of advertising has spend trillions of dollars inventing new ways to ‘motivate’ us to do new things without us being aware of its influence. The techniques to do this neatly falls under the exploitation of our cognitive biases. After all, if we were indeed all perfectly logical, then we’ll likely spending our money in the most efficient way possible and very few companies will like us to do that. If we reduce our spending, our economies would stall and there would be an economic depression! (BTW, something is really wrong when we must accelerate our consumption so as to avoid economic stagnation)” —Carlos E. Perez 2017-10-17
What can we do?
We can start supporting global social movements that promote human values. Educators should focus on developing social media literacies so that all citizens can be active and engaged online. Sense-making and media literacy skills are critical for everyone. We can also start building better models to replace the current ones. Why should we replace market capitalism with its clone, platform capitalism, when platform cooperativism is a better model for humanity? In this world of global digital networks, we can be the media.
“Never in the history of humanity has a single human being had so much power. Never in the history of humanity have YOU had so much power!
Optimistic or pessimistic, it is like being a spectator of a film of which we seem to know the ending, whether happy or unhappy. Today one must cease to be a passive spectator but an actor in this fast-changing world.”
Our best hope for an aggressively educated citizenry may be the gamers & artists. Both the gamer and artist mindsets can help us navigate the network era. They can probe the systems, detect patterns, and create something new.
One of the few areas where most nations cooperate is in infectious disease control. For nation states, cooperation is the best option in this type of ‘prisoner’s dilemma‘.
“On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization was alerted about a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown etiology in Wuhan, China, which prompted international concern of the potential public-health impact of an outbreak of a new virus [COVID-19] … With the now global spread of the virus, the urgency of a coordinated international response has amplified … This multi-pronged approach to curtail the outbreak, strongly supported by existing R&D, is a testament to the collaborative response of international organizations and the research and clinical communities … The initial global response to the 2019-nCoV outbreak illustrates the power of rapid communication and the importance of sustained research and collaborations that can be leveraged in future outbreaks. Sustained cooperation is essential to their resolution.” —Nature 2020-02-03
In Canada, special funds of up to $1 million per project have been allocated for rapid research into the recent outbreak of the novel corona virus [COVID-19]. Other nations, institutions, and corporations are also cooperating on molecular assays to diagnose COVID-19, including — China, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, USA. A special English-Chinese translation engine for scientific and medical use is being made freely available to researchers around the world UK-based St. John’s Innovation Centre.
“CEPI [Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations] will coordinate engagements between GSK and entities funded by CEPI who are interested in testing their vaccine platform with GSK’s adjuvant technology to develop effective vaccines against 2019-nCoV. The first agreement to formalize this arrangement has been signed between GSK and the University of Queensland, Australia, which entered a partnering agreement with CEPI in January 2019 to develop a “molecular clamp” vaccine platform, intended to enable targeted and rapid vaccine production against multiple viral pathogens. CEPI has extended this funding to work on a 2019-nCoV virus vaccine candidate, and access to the GSK adjuvant technology will now support this early stage research.” —GSK Press Release 2020-02-03
An open source approach to sharing research seems to be the optimal model for rapid knowledge transfer.
“Since the 2019-nCoV gene sequences were made available through GenBank, some labs have developed testing kits to specifically detect the 2019 coronavirus in suspected patients.
So far, six teams have publicly shared their molecular testing protocols with the WHO. These include researchers at Hong Kong University and the Charité Berlin University of Medicine in Germany.
The research team from Berlin, for instance, developed one of the first tests for the 2019 coronavirus as soon as news of the outbreak came out, due to their expertise in SARS-related viruses.
When the first release of the sequence came out from China, the team was able to use it immediately to perfect their molecular detection kit.
The team’s 2019-nCoV diagnostics protocol was announced more than a week before the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Germany.
Since the start of this year, over 90 international papers regarding the novel coronavirus have been made available in the popular biomedical research repository PubMed.” —The Conversation 2020-02-12
According to one news report by Al Jazeera on 2020-02-06 — “The apparent rapid progress in the search for a vaccine to fight the coronavirus, according to analysts, is due to a decision by Chinese authorities to share information about the virus with the public.” However, the New York Times reports a different perspective, stating the outbreak was mishandled by Chinese authorities.
“Once the outbreak occurred, other Chinese scientists rapidly identified the virus and sequenced its DNA, posting it on Jan. 10 on a virology website for all to see. That was extraordinarily good and fast work.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party instinctively organized a cover-up, ordering the police to crack down on eight doctors accused of trying to alert others to the risks. National television programs repeatedly denounced the doctors as rumormongers.” —NYT 2020-02-15
The Beijing law professor — featured in in the New York Times story — Xu Zhangrun, who is denouncing the regime’s action concludes that, “Regardless of how good they are at controlling the internet,” Xu added, “they can’t keep all 1.4 billion mouths in China shut.”
The spread of information has changed in the last two decades. Social media can act in a similar way to this disease outbreak — like a virus. But there are ways to better use social media, curating with tools based on relevance, not ad revenue, such as the corona virus feed on Cronycle. The research community uses social media in very specific ways to share knowledge, not like the average user.
“The world is not the same as it was in 2002 when SARS emerged. Social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, have allowed the rapid exchange of information — and sometimes misinformation. Many of the cutting-edge technologies and techniques scientists use today to analyze big data did not exist in 2002 either … With the use of Twitter, Skype, WhatsApp and bioRxiv (a website where scientists can upload their scientific papers for public review), clinicians, virologists, bioinformaticians (biologists who work with big data) and epidemiologists from around the world have focused and coordinated their efforts to fight the outbreak and contain its spread.
Specifically, scientists are using Twitter to brainstorm and provide ideas that help advance research on 2019-nCoV.” —The Conversation 2020-01-30
Azeem Azar has identified several ways that the corona virus outbreak will change our world. This may be the tipping point into the network era.
1. Reinforce the power of scientific collaboration and the open-sourcing of global threats.
2. Digital quarantines through better information and social credit systems.
3. Reinforce the importance of genomic technologies.
4. Remote everything. [think changing nature of work]
5. Encourage self-sufficiency especially around food, energy, and products.
6. Lend support to the nativists, populists, statists, and wall-builders. [the down-side]
—The Exponential View 2020-02-06
In Canada, some people are urging better cooperation with China — “There is a Chinese saying: “Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.” We hope we can focus on our shared humanity and give Chinese medical workers and citizens a hand during this extremely difficult time – for their sake, in the name of selflessness, in the spirit of Dr. Bethune.” Canadian cooperation with this outbreak may even thaw Canada-China relations, more so than the previous 14 months of talks.
This disease, and how we are dealing with it in a globalized digital world, highlights the fact that we have entered the network era. The market-dominated era is waning. Even the nature of knowledge is changing. Machine learning is enabling the analysis of enormous data sets. It’s a world of humans and machines working together. Cooperation is the optimal behaviour in a knowledge network. This will call for new forms of leadership and modified roles for our institutions and markets.
Why is machine learning [ML] important for your business? If you work at Nokia, your Chairman can explain it to you in a one hour presentation he developed over six months of research. Risto Siilasmaa helped make his network smarter. Everyone needs to know if ML can help with their business problems, but first they have to understand the basics, says Siilasmaa.
Digitization has created an explosion of information
The more high quality data, and computing power, the fewer mistakes ML will make
In a large neural network you can have 100 million parameters in a single layer
Flawed outputs can happen if human oversight confirms incorrect ML conclusions (human oversight becomes very important)
A neural network first learns from a data set (time consuming) and then can be tested against other data sets
The important work is done by systems of ML systems
Machines are still getting faster and more tools are being developed
The data we are helping create (e.g. through use of speech recognition) is feeding AI corporations
ML can be tricked if you know the underlying algorithms
Remember: Garbage-in, Garbage-out
Big question: What data will we need in the future to make better decisions?
Business and human work is moving to — Low Predictability + High Complexity
ML can help to experiment faster and better in order to deal with Low Predictability + High Complexity
The future of work: First experiment … then develop a strategy
In a similar vein, Dave Weinberger says that in a radically unpredictable world, the way forward is to — “Embrace unpredictability and practice unanticipation.”
“If the internet has changed our practical approach to the future, machine learning is providing a conceptual framework for understanding why unanticipation works.
Traditionally, to predict the weather, a model would need to be built that includes the determining factors, such as air temperature and moisture, and their interrelationships. Likewise, to estimate the next quarter’s profits, information about the number of salespeople, the number of leads, marketing costs and so on would be included and connected via formulas.
But machine learning doesn’t start with generalized models. Rather, it builds its models based on oceans of data without any sense of the factors the data represents or how those factors interrelate. It iterates on the data, looking for statistical relationships among them, building a model of connections so numerous and complex that we often cannot understand exactly how a machine learning application comes up with its results.
This lack of explicability raises many important issues about ensuring that machine learning’s outcomes are fair. But the success of machine learning in using models without generalizations is leading us to acknowledge that the future is determined by the unknowable and chaotic interaction of a universe of particulars, each affecting every other simultaneously.” —David Weinberger 2020-02-10
The banking industry sees similar challenges in developing the optimal blend of automation through ML with human skills to create trusted environments.
“Building the necessary trust requires increased awareness and transparency around how the AI is being used, the decisions it makes and the opportunities it brings — this is the essence of ‘responsible AI’ and ‘explainable AI.’ People who understand and can explain AI decisions — for example, how machine learning is used within credit scoring, how the systems were trained and how the process is controlled — are highly prized employees in this environment. Moreover, maintaining diversity among the people who are helping to develop AI programmes is important in ensuring that unconscious biases aren’t built into the outputs.” —PWC Banking CEO Survey 2019 (PDF)
In the book, Only Humans Need Apply, the authors identify five ways that people can work with machines. They call it ‘stepping’. I have added the current competencies (PDF) I think are needed for each adaptation.
Step-up: Directing the machine-augmented world — Trans-disciplinarity
Step-in: Using machines to augment work — New Media Literacy, Virtual Collaboration, Cognitive Load Management
Step-aside: Doing work that machines are not suited for — Social Intelligence, Sense-making
Step narrowly: Specializing narrowly in a field too small for augmentation — Cross-cultural Competency, Design Mindset
Step forward: Developing new augmentation systems — Novel & Adaptive Thinking, Computational Thinking
ML is just one aspect of how we will have to learn to step with the machines.
If you find that people on social media have a tendency toward anger and outrage there is one action we all can take to diffuse the situation. It’s simple, but first we have to stop and think. If there is but one practice that will help make social media more civil, it is to always read the full article or reference before sharing and especially before commenting. In short — RTFM.
I recently posted a link to an article on Twitter — How McKinsey Destroyed the Middle Class — with this quote, “In effect, management consulting is a tool that allows corporations to replace lifetime employees with short-term, part-time, and even subcontracted workers, hired under ever more tightly controlled arrangements … Technocratic management, no matter how brilliant, cannot unwind the structural inequalities that are dismantling the American middle class.” I don’t agree with the entire article but there is some truth that large consultancies have helped to get rid of middle management, blocking career growth for workers at the bottom of the hierarchy, and shifting non-management personnel to contracted or part-time workers.
I received this response to my tweet from someone I do not know, “Do I need to read the whole thing before I disagree with it? Blaming management consulting companies for decisions made by the companies that hire them?” That first sentence is indicative of a dominant behaviour on social media networks. It is reflective of the Internet of Beefs where the only objective is to win an argument, not to understand. We all may have commented on something that we did not bother to read in full. But we need to see that behaviour for what it does — it makes us stupid. Our stupidity can be contagious, says Nicholas Christakis.
“Most of us are already aware of the direct effect we have on our friends and family; our actions can make them happy or sad, healthy or sick, even rich or poor. But we rarely consider that everything we think, feel, do, or say can spread far beyond the people we know. Conversely, our friends and family serve as conduits for us to be influenced by hundreds or even thousands of other people. In a kind of social chain reaction, we can be deeply affected by events we do not witness that happen to people we do not know. It is as if we can feel the pulse of the social world around us and respond to its persistent rhythms. As part of a social network, we transcend ourselves, for good or ill, and become a part of something much larger. We are connected.” —Connected
So let us all work on making our networks a little smarter. The essence of personal knowledge mastery is — Seek > Sense > Share. We can start the journey to smarter networks with another alliterative reminder — Read > Reflect > Respond.