Gurteen Knowledge-Log


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Welcome to the Gurteen Knowledge Log for 2014. See the side panel for other years.

In this blog I write about items of interest that I have found on the web, experiences or insights that I think you will find useful mainly but not strictly limited to the area of Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning.

Like the rest of my site - it an eclectic mix.

If you like the blog you may wish to subscribe to my newsletter where I collate my best blog posts from the month plus other material and distribute it my email monthly.

Or you may subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog here: RSS feed for Gurteen Knowledge Log

Monday 28 July 2014

09:04 GDTPermanent link to #Upcoming Knowledge Events# Upcoming Knowledge Events - Comments

Here are some of the major KM events taking place around the world in the coming months and ones in which I am actively involved. You will find a full list on my website where you can also subscribe to both regional e-mail alerts and RSS feeds which will keep you informed of new and upcoming events.

KMICe2014 : Knowledge Management International Conference
12 - 15 Aug 2014, Langkawi Island, Malaysia

The 9th International KMO Conference (Knowledge Management in Organizations)
02 - 05 Sep 2014, Santiago, Chile

15th European Conference on Knowledge Management
04 - 05 Sep 2014, Santarém, Portugal

KM Brasil 2014
17 - 19 Sep 2014, Florianópolis - SC, Brasil

Social Business Collaboration 2014
28 - 30 Sep 2014, Berlin, Germany

19th Knowledge Management Tracks
06 Oct 2014, Milano, Italy

IKMAP 2014
09 - 10 Oct 2014, Bangkok, Thailand

KM LatinAmerican 2014
20 - 24 Oct 2014, Buenos Aires, Argentina

KM World 2014
04 - 07 Nov 2014, Washington DC, United States

11th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning – ICICKM 2014
06 - 07 Nov 2014, Sydney, Australia

LEARNTech Asia Conference 2014
13 - 14 Nov 2014, Singapore City, Singapore

KM Asia 2014
18 - 20 Nov 2014, Singapore City, Singapore

KM Russia 2014
27 - 28 Nov 2014, Moscow, Russia

30 Nov - 01 Dec 2014, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

7th Iranian Knowledge Management Conference
17 - 18 Feb 2015, Tehran, Iran

3rd International Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship
19 - 20 Mar 2015, Durban, South Africa

7th European Conference on Intellectual Capital
09 - 10 Apr 2015, Cartagena, Spain

Saturday 28 June 2014

16:13 GDTPermanent link to #Introduction to the June 2014 Knowledge Letter# Introduction to the June 2014 Knowledge Letter - Comments

Chris Collison wrote a very interesting bog post recently: Secret Objectives v Shared Knowledge. Open Performance Management anyone? that has been talked about a little on my LinkedIn KM Forum. The nub of the idea is this:
What if we could bury forced-ranking and focus on releasing the best from our people; start managing talent collectively rather than individually, and reform closed performance management into collaborative knowledge sharing?

Is anyone aware of any organizations doing this or have any thoughts on the idea. If so, join the discusssion on LinkedIn.

15:37 GDTPermanent link to #Question: What would be the implications for socety if we discovered we didn Question: What would be the implications for socety if we discovered we didn't have free will? - Comments

I have often thought about posting interesting questions on my blog to include in my monthly knowledge letter.

When somebody tells me what I or society has deeply believed for aons is not correct - rather then get defensive I ask myself the question - "what would it mean if we have been wrong about this all the time". It's rare that I change my mind on the issue unless faced with strong evidence but it makes for an interesting conversation in my head.

So here is my first question: read the following article Free Will May Just Be the Brains Background Noise or Scientific evidence that you probably don't have free will and then ask yourself the question "What would be the implications for society if we discovered we didn't have free will?" And as in my Knowledge Cafes, it is OK to go off topic.

Better still, have the conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee. Enjoy :-)

14:08 GDTPermanent link to #Gamification Cafe# Gamification Cafe - Comments

I recently ran a Knowledge Cafe in London hosted by Westminster Business School on Gamification with Andrzej Marczewski as the speaker. Irene Pardo of Willmington wrote about the Cafe A little KM story… and Claire Valentine of TFPL bogged about it - Gamification – the new way forward in engaging with staff and clients?. You will also find a lot of feedback from the earnings on the Knowledge Cafe Wall for the event if you are interested.

Andrzej Marczewski also spoke on Gamification at KM UK 2014 and an exercise was run to explore how Gamification could be used in a KM environment.

Although Andrzej was an articulate and knowledgeable speaker and removed many of my doubts about gamification I am still not sure that I fully appreciate the concept but these are my thoughts to date:
  • Gamification is not about turning something into a game.

  • Gamification is of value (I am no longer quite as sceptical as I was)

  • When ever I design a system of any sort in the future, I will stop to think how gamification might be of benefit in helping to engage people.

  • Key "gamification elements": Think about how to give more timely feedback to people; how to introduce elements of competition and how to give frequent small psychological rewards. (I suspect there are a few more I have missed).

  • Consider carefully the possibility of people gaming the game or other unintended consequences.

  • Be careful not to undermine intrinsic motivation. Like most "rewards" intrinsic motivation can be easily undermined.

  • I have yet to see or been told about an application in the KM field that works and does not have any of the above pitfalls. Hence my scepticism.

One of the best examples of Gamification I have come across. It can't be gamed. It does not undermine intrinsic motivation and there are no obvious unintended consequences. But then it is a very simple situation.

Thursday 26 June 2014

08:24 GDTPermanent link to #KM UK 2014 storified# KM UK 2014 storified - Comments

For those of you who could not attend KM UK recently, most of it was tweeted by the participants and storified by Paul Corney and Irene Aurianne.

Here are the "stories":

Wednesday 25 June 2014

21:17 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: June 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: June 2014 - Comments

Here are what I consider some of my more interesting Tweets for May to June 2014. Take a look, if you are not a Tweeter, you will get a good idea of how I use it by browsing the list of micro-posts.

If you like the Tweets then subscribe to my Tweet stream.

21:04 GDTPermanent link to #Random Beer Collaborations# Random Beer Collaborations - Comments

As many of you know, I have been spreading the word far and wide about Randomized Coffee Trials (RCTs) and so I am delighted when ever I hear that my efforts have yielded some results.

Sunita Anderson, Head of KM - Group Commercial at SABMiller (the brewing company) mailed me recently to tell me that she and Sara Bell were both at the February Henley Forum and heard me talk about RCTs and this inspired the birth of their Random Beer Collaborations (RBCs). Naturally beer is SABMiller's beverage of choice and at their offices they have a bar area that serves their brands of beer from 4:30pm every day!

The RBC process is a simple one. This is how Sunita describes it:
  • We created a group on Yammer and through this, internal comms and physical posters we announced the launch of RBC, inviting people to sign up by posting #pairmeup on the Yammer group.

  • Sara and I randomly paired people up making sure that they did not belong to the same Function. We keep a log on a simple excel spreadsheet.

  • They are introduced by email and then encouraged to make their own ‘meet up' arrangements. They are not compelled to drink beer – they could meet up earlier in the day over a coffee. Whatever works best for them.

  • Early days yet but we have asked the pairs to feedback on their sessions via the Yammer group. If new ideas have come up as a result of this collaborative conversation, we hope that they will share these and we have offered a prize to the best idea.

I am now looking forward to hearing stories about Random Tea Learnings, Random Water Sharings and Random Fruit Juice Innovations!

Oh I forget to mention, the Bank of England has a form of RCTs they call CoffeeFours where four people meet up once a month for conversation. There are all sorts of different ways of running these things.

Give them ago, the cost is minimal and the potential outcomes high.

11:47 GDTPermanent link to #Learning Circles @ Plan Zimbabwe# Learning Circles @ Plan Zimbabwe - Comments

Its always good to hear inspiring stories of how organizations have gone that "extra mile" in their knowledge sharing and learning efforts.

I recently learnt about how Plan Zimbabwe - part of the Plan international development organisation that promotes and protects the rights of children around the globe share and learn through regular learning circles and bi-annual staff conferences.

Every three weeks, country office and field staff gather for a two-day ‘Learning Circle' to share their successes, challenges and experiences, and at times to engage with external participants and speakers.

These have helped them understand key developments in their specific area of work, and gain new knowledge and skills from their colleagues and visitors.

Examples have included their finance director sharing insights on global economic markets, the Office Drivers sharing their safe driving techniques and a local attorney advising staff on estate planning.

Staff also attend bi-annual conferences to reflect on and share their learnings, and engage with external speakers such as Robert Chambers (see this interesting article by him on Participation: people power by putting the first last?).

Initiatives such as these are simple and effective. Not only do they encourage people to reflect more deeply and more broadly on various aspects of their work, they also encourage them to interact and learn from one another.

Yes - that's two whole days every 3 weeks for the Learning Circles - I'd love to see more organizations take such initiatives.

Monday 23 June 2014

22:23 GDTPermanent link to #My Knowledge Letter is available in Russian# My Knowledge Letter is available in Russian - Comments

If you are a Russian speaker and enjoy my Knowledge Letter then you might be pleased to know that most of it is now available in Russian as part of the Журнал Business Case Study Magazine thanks to the folks at the KM Alliance.

You can download the recent issue here http://yadi.sk/d/VbhFxv7TStxYL

And if you would like to subscribe to it, email your request to Mikhail KIRICHENKO

21:39 GDTPermanent link to #Knowledge Management - Financial Sector Collaboration Group# Knowledge Management - Financial Sector Collaboration Group - Comments

Pam Watson, KM Manager at the Bank of England has recently created a Knowledge Management - Financial Sector Collaboration Group on LinkedIn. You can join here

She has a few members already but it would be good to grow it into a thriving community.

Or if your KM interests are broader then you can join my Gurteen Knowledge Community Group

Also watch out for a London Knowledge Cafe specifically for the Financial Services sector in the next month or two.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

12:18 GDTPermanent link to #Introduction to the May 2014 Knowledge Letter# Introduction to the May 2014 Knowledge Letter - Comments

I have two conferences coming up that I am involved in - both in the UK.

The first is KM UK on 11 -12 June in London.

I have been taking part in this annual conference for far more years than I care to remember and this year I will not only be chairing the first day but giving a presentation on Conversational Leadership.

On the second day, my good friend and colleague Paul Corney will be chairing the event. As ever, it looks like being a first class conference with some great speakers including Dave Snowden, Bonnie Cheuk, Paul Corney and many more.

And then in July, I will be giving a keynote address at the European Conference on Social Media ECSM 2014 in Brighton.

I have not quite decided what I am going to talk about yet - its next on my todo list - but I am tempted to use Cory Doctorow's quote “Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about.” as the title for my presentation. I would like to get across the point that conversation is our most social of social media and should not be overlooked.

Like other Academic Conferences and Publishing International events such as the European Conference on Knowledge Management - ECKM 2014 which amazingly is in it's 15th year. This is an academic conference with speakers and participants from around the globe.

I hope to meet many of you at both conferences.

Oh yes and let's not forget I have a London Knowledge Cafe coming up on 4th June on What does Gamification mean in a KM environment?. If you are in London that evening - do come along - the event s totally free.

10:34 GDTPermanent link to #Provoke your thinking: Suppose how we see cause and effect is around the wrong way# Provoke your thinking: Suppose how we see cause and effect is around the wrong way - Comments

I think you may enjoy this provocative idea by Peter Block from a booklet he co-authored called Civic Engagement and the Restoration of Community (see pages 13 to 15}

The shift in the world begins with a shift in our thinking. Shifting our thinking does not change the world, but it creates a condition where the shift in the world becomes possible.

Peter believes that the key change required in our thinking is to move from thinking of ourselves as the outcome of something done to us i.e. effect, to thinking of ourselves as the cause of what is happening.

So in any situation, a question to ask ourselves is "What is cause and what is effect?" "Which way around is it?" What would it mean if our way of seeing a situation was reversed. If we reversed how we saw cause and effect.

Are we the ones actually causing the situation rather than others? Are we trying to solve a problem that we attribute to others that is in reality a problem of our own making?

Did this cause and effect co-evolve - is there no right answer?

Interestingly, Peter says it does not matter if the reversal is true or not but to ask yourself which form of thinking is the most useful - which gives us the most insight and the most power. So in any situation, you don't have to believe it, just pretend that things are around the other way. What insight does that give you? What would it mean?

Here are some reversals to provoke your thinking (one or two of them especially so) - most of them Peter's but a few of them mine:

  • The audience creates the performance
  • The conversation creates the speakers
  • The consumer creates the marketeer
  • The subordinate creates the boss
  • The child creates the parent
  • The employee creates its leadership
  • The student creates the teacher
  • The future creates the present
  • The listener creates the speaker
  • An openness to learn creates the teaching
  • Problem solving occurs to build relationships

Think about it. I believe this is a powerful personal and group thinking tool. I may try to use it in someway in a future Knowledge Cafe.

09:00 GDTPermanent link to #Let Let's have more interesting conversations - Comments

In the book the The ClueTrain Manifesto, David Weinberger says:

Business is a conversation because the defining work of business is conversation - literally. And 'knowledge workers' are simply those people whose job consists of having interesting conversations .

It's always struck me that David didn't say productive conversations or conversations with "hard outcomes" - he simply said interesting conversations.

I recently shared this quote with someone and their response was but "to what aim are such conversations?"

This strikes at the heart of the matter - many managers, to my mind most managers, worry that people will spend their time talking about things that are not important. They feel the need to control or have oversight of the conversations to ensure they are focused on the business and are efficient.

They don't trust people to decide what to talk about - what is relevant - what is important - what is interesting.

My message to managers "Let your people go - they are in a much better position than you to decide what is interesting and what is not."

08:16 GDTPermanent link to #Counter intuitive conversational research# Counter intuitive conversational research - Comments

As I research and write about Conversational Leadership I am forever on the lookout for good research papers and articles concerning conversation.

If you are aware of any such papers - do let me know. Here are the few I have discovered.

Research Papers on Conversation

Recent research that has not been widely published throws some fascinating light on the power of conversation. Some of it is surprising, even counter intuitive.

Who would have thought that having a friendly conversation can boost your cognitive ability or that team performance can be improved by increasing the amount of face-to-face communication regardless of what is talked about.

  • Friends (and Sometimes Enemies) With Cognitive Benefits:
    What Types of Social Interactions Boost Executive Functioning?
    By Oscar Ybarra, Piotr Winkielman, Irene Yeh, Eugene Burnstein, Liam Kavanagh

    Talking with people in a friendly way can make it easier to solve common problems. But conversations that are competitive in tone, rather than cooperative, have no cognitive benefits.

  • Why is conversation so easy?
    By Simon Garrod; Martin J. Pickering

    Humans are 'designed' for dialogue rather than monologue.

  • Group Discussion as Interactive Dialogue or as Serial Monologue:
    The Influence of Group Size
    By Nicolas Fay; Simon Garrod; Jean Carletta

    In small, 5-person groups, the communication is like dialogue and members are influenced most by those with whom they interact in the discussion. However, in large, 10-person groups, the communication is like monologue and members are influenced most by the dominant speaker.

  • Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups
    By Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris, Alexander Pentland, Nada Hashmi,Thomas W. Malone

    Performance is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group.

  • The New Science of Building Great Teams
    By Alexander Pentland
    April 2012 Harvard Business Review

    The most important predictor of success in a group is the amount - not the content - of social interaction.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

13:11 GDTPermanent link to #iKNOW magazine: Organizational Conversation# iKNOW magazine: Organizational Conversation - Comments

I started running my Knowledge Cafes over 10 years ago out of my frustration with death-by-power-point presentations. Little did I know back in 2002 that they would take over my life!

Since then I have run many hundreds of them all over the world and have further developed the concept. What I love about the Knowledge Café is that it works in all the cultures I have encountered.

Gather people in small groups of 3 or 4, remove the barriers to conversation especially fear, allow people to converse in their native tongue around a topic in which they feel passionate and they will engage enthusiastically every time.

Today, my interest has broadened to the concept of "Organizational Conversation" and "Conversational Leadership" and the multitude of ways that conversation can be used in organisational life.

So I was delighted when Dr. Vincent Ribiere of the The Institute for Knowledge and Innovation (IKI) - South-East Asia and Thailand Office invited me to be the editor for the May Edition of their iKnow Magazine for Innovative Knowledge Workers and agreed I could build the issue around the topic of Organizational Conversation. I am pleased to have some wonderful contributors. First, I take a broad look at conversation. Nancy Dixon looks at what makes a conversation effective. Keith de la Rue talks about conversations for innovation. Shawn Callahan writes about the role of storytelling – a very natural form of conversation. Mariette Peters takes a practical look at what it takes to get lawyers to open up, talk with each other and share their knowledge. And Carla Sapsford Nemman looks at conversations as catalysts for inciting strategic storytelling.

I believe that conversation is our most powerful business tool and that each and every one of us has the potential to leverage our personal effectiveness by taking a conversational approach to our work.

So let's have no more of the "stop talking and get to work" and more "get to work and start talking."

You can read or download the magazine here: http://bit.ly/organizational-conversation

It's superbly produced and you will find back copies here.

12:29 GDTPermanent link to #Conversational Leadership in the UAE# Conversational Leadership in the UAE - Comments

As a result of my recent trip to the UAE to speak at the Leadership Communication Conference (LCME 2014) in Abu Dhabi, I have a few new resources for you that I hope you will find of interest.

First, here is a recording of my conversation on Leadership with Suzanne Radford and Samineh Shaheem on Dubai Today.

Second, I now have an updated version - with Arabic subtitles - of the Knowledge Cafe workshop I ran for the KHDA last year that gives you a good feel for the dynamics of one of my Knowledge Cafe's.

A big thanks to Alaa Zalat of Corporate Excellence Masters International who not only acted as interpreter for my LCME workshop but also for adding the above subtitles.

Third, here are the slides of my presentation on Conversational Leadership from LCME 2014

And finally, a short video interview with me at LCME 2014 talking about my Knowledge Cafes and Conversational Leadership.

11:51 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: May 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: May 2014 - Comments

Here are what I consider some of my more interesting Tweets for April 2014 to May 2014. Take a look, if you are not a Tweeter, you will get a good idea of how I use it by browsing the list of micro-posts.

If you like the Tweets then subscribe to my Tweet stream.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

11:09 GDTPermanent link to #Introduction to the April 2014 Knowledge Letter# Introduction to the April 2014 Knowledge Letter - Comments

I spent the Easter Saturday on an over night flight to Dubai and Easter Sunday speaking on Dubai Eye 103.8 - a Dubai radio station and then travelling on to Abu Dhabi. I then spent Easter Monday delivering a Knowledge Cafe workshop as part of a Leadership Communication Conference. The Tuesday was the main day of the conference and on the Wednesday I flew home.

So that was my Easter break gone. I would have rather been at home with my wife as we do not get that many long weekends together but my job means that I need to work anywhere in the world and be available 52 x 24 x 7. I don't have a problem with that and my wife supports my decision.

So when Euan Semple talks about Proper days off I have a lot of empathy with him .

09:50 GDTPermanent link to #Ownership not buy-in# Ownership not buy-in - Comments

Some years ago I gave a series of mini-interviews that I posted on YouTube. (I am not going to check how many actual years it was as I look so much younger then!) One of them was entitled "How do you make people share?" You can view it here.

In the video, I talk about the need for ownership of any change you wish to instigate in an organization verses trying to get buy-in through bribes such as rewards. This is still an issue dear to my heart as I continually see so many organizations get this wrong.

So I was delighted a few days ago when Lisa Kimball contacted me having seen the slides of my recent talk on Conversational Leadership at the Leadership Communication Conference in Abu Dhabi as she recognised we had so much in common.

In her email she shared several resources with me including a great handbook entitled Engaging Everyone with Liberating Structures It is full of useful resources and advise but what quickly jumped out for me was the section on "Ownership verses Buy-in". Here is what she has to say.

Ownership is when you own or share the ownership of an idea, a decision, an action plan, a choice. It means that you have participated in its development; that it is your choice freely made.

Buy-in is the exact opposite. Someone else, or some group of people, has done the development, the thinking and the deciding, and now they have to convince you to come along and buy-in to their idea -- so that you can implement their idea without your involvement in the initial conversations or resulting decisions. Aiming for buy-in creates lukewarm, pallid implementation and mediocre results.

When it comes to solving intractable socio-technical behavioural problems in systems the notion of buy-in is just not useful – people in the system need to own the new behaviors.

Anytime you or someone around you thinks or talks about buy-in, beware! It is a danger signal telling you that your development and implementation process is missing the essential ingredient of involving all who should be involved.

Thank you Lisa.

Monday 28 April 2014

18:45 GDTPermanent link to #3 mini-interviews with Kuebel-Sorger Ludger, head of the KM practice at Boston Consulting Group.# 3 mini-interviews with Kuebel-Sorger Ludger, head of the KM practice at Boston Consulting Group. - Comments

Ankur Makhija recently emailed me to let me know that three new mini-interviews, recorded at the KM India Summit in Bangalore in February with Kuebel-Sorger Ludger who heads the Knowledge Management practice at Boston Consulting Group have been added to the eClerxServices KM Channel on YouTube. This makes over 40 mini-interviews now, including some early ones with me.

16:15 GDTPermanent link to #A problem with online conversations# A problem with online conversations - Comments

One of the problems of discussing issues in on-line forums is that it is far too easy to be misunderstood.

When you compose a post, you often overlook to explain a lot of the background context and much of your reasoning and so you open yourself up to misunderstanding.

And when reading another person's post, maybe their reply, you misinterpret what they have written in a similar manner. Unlike face to face conversation, you can't correct misunderstandings easily and quickly. and so it is easy to slide into an argument.

What makes things worse, is that you know there are possibly hundreds of observers watching the exchange and you do not wish to lose face.

You also have the problem that when having a conversation with someone you know well you can read between the lines. Even when they state something badly, you know what they really mean. But of course the observers don't and so you feel the need to respond to the issues as stated and not as understood else you are in danger of being misunderstood yourself by the observers and thus open yourself up to attack.

This is just one of the reasons why I think online forums are great for sharing stuff but not so good for two way interactive conversations especially where the participants do not know each other well.

13:09 GDTPermanent link to #Why the Good Share but the Great Collaborate# Why the Good Share but the Great Collaborate - Comments

My good friend and colleague Andrew Armour invited me to talk part in a Webinar last week with Powwownow on Collaboration.

It was a fun morning in Richmond with Andrew and several of the Powwownow team including Robert Gorby, their Marketing Director who joined us on the show.

You can find a recording of the webinar on the Powwownow blog

One thing I said that seemed to resonate with Andrew and Rob was relationship before collaboration - in other words before you can effectively collaborate in an organization you need to establish good relationships first.

Those of you on the ball will recognise this is an adaption of the words of Peter Block when he says connection before content.

Their next free online event comes up on 1st May : Business Yoga -- Why Smarter Businesses Use Flexible Working.

11:51 GDTPermanent link to #Dubai Today: Leadership# Dubai Today: Leadership - Comments

While I was speaking at the Middle East Leadership Communication Conference on Conversational Leadership in Abu Dhabi last week, I was invited as a guest on a Dubai radio show.

The topic was "Leadership" with Suzanne Radford who hosted the show and Samineh Shaheem - a cross cultural psychologist.

It was an interesting chat - where I got to explain some of my thoughts on Conversational Leadership.

You can listen to a recording of the show here

10:41 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: April 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: April 2014 - Comments

Here are what I consider some of my more interesting Tweets for March 2014 to April 2014. Take a look, if you are not a Tweeter, you will get a good idea of how I use it by browsing the list of micro-posts.

If you like the Tweets then subscribe to my Tweet stream.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

10:59 GMTPermanent link to #Introduction to the March 2014 Knowledge Letter# Introduction to the March 2014 Knowledge Letter - Comments

I have a little Lotus Notes agent that reminds me of birthdays and other important events. It's just informed me that my first blog post was 12 years ago on 26 March 2002!

There was no Twitter then - Twitter did not come along until 2006. Nor was there Facebook - Facebook was not founded until 2004. And LinkedIn started up in 2003.

And I have just checked, my first Knowledge Letter was published on 30 May 2000. I have published it every month for 165 months - that's almost 14 years. One day I will stop but not just yet!

I always thought it was the age my children that dated me - now I am not so sure :-)

It's amazing how social media has bloomed in the last 10 years.

10:57 GMTPermanent link to #Don Don't give advice - just listen? - Comments

What is it about conversation at times? I see someone struggling with what to do in a situation. They ask for help. I want to have an open conversation with them to explore ideas.

But as soon as I start to talk - they start to argue, they defend, they attack -- I say "look just reserve judgement for now" - but they seem incapable of that. They state assumptions as a matter of fact - I suggest there maybe be other causes/reasons - they are categoric that their view is the only one and the right one. They turn the conversation emotional. Actually, this is not really a conversation - it never can be.

Maybe I am not skilful enough - maybe what I say or the way I say it seems like an attack on their judgement - on their intelligence. But in some situations - how ever I play it - the conversation is turned into a debate - a fight as to who is right and who is wrong.

But maybe there is another way of looking at it?
Advice is unfriendly to learning, especially when it is sought.

Most of the time when people seek advice, they just want to be heard.

Advice at best stops the conversation, definitely inhibits learning, and at worst claims dominance.

Credit: Peter Block
Is the answer really that simple? Don't give advice - just listen?

Stephen Covey says something similar on empathic listening.

09:26 GMTPermanent link to #Capturing actionable insights from Knowledge Cafes# Capturing actionable insights from Knowledge Cafes - Comments

I have long wanted a way to capture "actionable insights" and feedback from my Knowledge Cafes that did not get in the way the conversation, was easy, simple; that everyone could do and that allowed me to collate and distribute the items to the participants.

A few weeks ago, after some inspiration from Paul Corney and Mark Field, I decided it was time to try an experiment and I have developed a system to capture items by SMS and post them to a page on my website that I am calling an "SMS Wall".

Why do it like this rather than use Twitter or some other social tool? Quite simply, I wanted everyone to have the ability to post to the wall.

Not everyone, has a smartphone, not everyone uses Twitter and not everyone has an internet connection but almost everyone has a basic phone with SMS and knows how to use it.

People can also post messages before the Knowledge Cafe, during the KCafe, at the end of the KCafe and even on the train on the way home.

I can also dump the messages to a text file and email them to all the Knowledge Cafe participants as a record of the event.

I'll be trying it out a London Knowledge Cafe very soon. I plan to display the messages on a screen at the end of the KCafe but I think the real value is not so much the ability to see them in real time but to be able to view them in retrospect - say the following day but as I say this is a bit of an experiment and we will see how t all plays out :-)

This of course took a bit of technology to put in place:
  1. a laptop with a 3G modem that receives the SMS messages
  2. a clever bit of software called SMSEnabler - this takes incoming SMS messages on my laptop and sends them on as email
  3. being able to email messages into a Lotus Notes database i.e. my website
  4. about 2 days worth of coding effort by me to write an agent to process the emails and post them to a webpage (my techie background comes in handy sometimes!)
I have set up a Test Wall - try it out here.

08:49 GMTPermanent link to #Conversation sharpens the saw# Conversation sharpens the saw - Comments

One of the reasons that people often give for not taking a more conversational approach to their work is the lack of time. Many even see it as a waste of time. But its through conversation that we learn, make better sense of the world, glean insights, spot new opportunities and avoid pitfalls. The time invested in a conversation almost always has a payback and saves time in the longer term.

Ponder what these 3 great men have to say :-)
The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, 'Wrong jungle!' ...

Busy, efficient producers and managers often respond ... 'Shut up! We're making progress!'

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.

Personally, I would use much of that 55 mins to have conversations to determine the proper question to ask and then time to disscuss the question with other people.

As Stephen Covey would say we need to sharpen the saw..

Conversation is rarely a waste of time - "coversation sharpens the saw".

06:46 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: March 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: March 2014 - Comments

Here are what I consider some of my more interesting Tweets for Feb 2014 to Mar 2014. Take a look, if you are not a Tweeter, you will get a good idea of how I use it by browsing the list of micro-posts.
If you like the Tweets then subscribe to my Tweet stream.

Monday 24 March 2014

19:57 GMTPermanent link to #"Yes" has no meaning, if we cannot say "No"# "Yes" has no meaning, if we cannot say "No" - Comments

Not surprisingly, I am doing a lot of reading and research around the topic of "conversation" and drawing inspiration from the work of Peter Block.

In a document entitled Civic Engagement and the Restoration of Community he says this about dissent.

Dissent is the cousin of diversity; the respect for wide range of beliefs.

This begins by allowing people the space to say "no".

If we cannot say "no" then "yes" has no meaning.

Each needs the chance to express their doubts and reservations without having to justify them, or move quickly into problem solving.

"No" is the beginning of the conversation for commitment.

Doubt and "no" is a symbolic expression of people finding their space and role in the strategy.

It is when we fully understand what people do not want that choice becomes possible.

The leadership task is to surface doubts and dissent without having an answer to every question.

This resonates strongly with me.

One of the issues that occassionally comes up when I am designing a Knowledge Cafe for an organisation is the fear that people will use it as an opportunity to dissent about some issue. And managers wish to know how I will prevent that.

What I have never been able to understand is why managers are so afraid of people dissenting - so much so that everyone knows that "no" is not an option and so give lip-service to the agenda on the table and moan or bitch behind his or her back - there is no real commitment.

If people, are not happy then surely, as a manager you would wish to know that. As Peter points out its your job to surface doubts and dissent. They need to be discussed.

"No" should be the beginning of a conversation and "Yes" really does have no meaning, if we cannot say "No"

Peter says it with a little humour in this video.

Monday 24 February 2014

18:27 GMTPermanent link to #Social software tools to facilitate research and researchers in achieving their objectives# Social software tools to facilitate research and researchers in achieving their objectives - Comments

My good friend Professor Dan Remenyi is developing a repository of social software tools which will directly facilitate research and researchers in achieving their objectives. He is looking to collect examples of useful products and websites and also anecdotes about how they have been used and what type of results have been achieved. This will eventually be published on a website and in an e-Book and all contributions will be acknowledged.

Please contact him if you would like to make a contribution to this repository of knowledge. His e-mail is dan.remenyi@gmail.com

18:01 GMTPermanent link to #How do we transfer knowledge through everyday meeting talk?# How do we transfer knowledge through everyday meeting talk? - Comments

It's not too often I get the opportunity to help out someone who is doing some really fascinating research into Knowledge Management and conversation. So could anyone help out Lesley Crane please?

Lesley is a final year PhD student investigating organizational knowledge work - knowledge transfer and sharing. Her study focuses on how such work is accomplished in everyday meeting talk. This seems to me to be an original approach in that it locates the study of knowledge in talk and text, and it is this discourse which she is analysing to investigate how and with what effect people share and create knowledge.

She is looking to engage with organizations who would be willing to take part in her study. It is unobtrusive - she doesn't even need to be present! All she needs are good recordings of any type of organizational meeting. The only proviso is that participants need to be English speakers! Confidentiality and anonymity are guaranteed.

If you would like to help please get in touch with Lesley via email @ l.crane1@unimail.derby.ac.uk.

If this approach intrigues you as it does me then you will find two of her past papers here

17:07 GMTPermanent link to #50% discount off my book "Leading Issues in Social Knowledge Management"# 50% discount off my book "Leading Issues in Social Knowledge Management" - Comments

Last year Academic Publishing International published Leading Issues in Social Knowledge Management.

The book is a collection of ten academic papers that I carefully selected to create the volume and wrote a short editorial comment on each paper.

You can now purchase the book at a 50% discount by quoting the code SKM50 when you order online.

Friday 21 February 2014

12:03 GMTPermanent link to #The consequences of wolves and our actions# The consequences of wolves and our actions - Comments

One of the things that has long intrigued me is the unintended consequences of our actions.

We do something either intentionally or by accident and as a consequence of that action a whole load of unintended consequences follow.

Those consequences can be good or they can be bad. If they are bad and we notice them we can take corrective action.

But too often, we either do not notice the consequences of our actions or if we do, we do not attribute them to our original action.

Things change and we have no real idea why and the last thing that we do is to put it down to our own actions.

This little video about wolves in Yellowstone Park is a wonderful example of this in action The last wolf was killed in Yellowstone National Park in 1926 and they were not reintroduced until 1995.

Seems the impact has been amazing. Would you ever expect less than 100 wolves to actually have an affect on the course of the rivers in Yellowstone Park. Take a look at this video and see why! How wolves change rivers or read about it here in the History of wolves in Yellowstone.

What else do we do or decide not to do in this world but have no idea of the real consequences - many of them long them where the connection between cause and effect is lost?

Thursday 20 February 2014

12:45 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: February 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: February 2014 - Comments

Here are what I consider some of my more interesting Tweets for January 2014 to February 2014. Take a look, if you are not a Tweeter, you will get a good idea of how I use it by browsing the list of micro-posts.

  • The only reason to come together face-to-face is for people to be in conversation with each other @NancyMDixon http://bit.ly/YJHM5A

  • Disruptive innovation, conversation, requires no enterprise social media, no 2-yr IT project, no so-called management http://bit.ly/1c9v9Vc

  • Why Groups Fail to Share Information Effectively http://bit.ly/aXO54c #KM

  • For authentic conversation there is no million dollar budget, no fancy PowerPoints on ‘culture', no software ... http://bit.ly/1c9v9Vc

  • Is it the stories being told that define who your company really is and what it believes in? http://huff.to/1nxSx49

  • People when making decisions in groups spend most of their time telling each other things that everyone already knows http://bit.ly/aXO54c

  • Most corporate communications are too polished to be convincing http://huff.to/1nxSx49

  • Imagine KM without richness of authentic conversation, diverse opinions, original ideas, deliberate serendipity http://bit.ly/1nxOtkx #KM

  • A Different Way to Acquire Lessons Learned in Knowledge Management @PaulJCorney http://bit.ly/1g5zDkB

  • Creating participatory conferences - challenging the assumptions http://bit.ly/pTR4um

  • It's Too Quiet, We Need to Talk More http://bit.ly/hPVagy #GurteenTalk

  • Dilbert on checking email while having a conversation http://bit.ly/1c9wjjB

If you like the Tweets then subscribe to my Tweet stream.

12:26 GMTPermanent link to #Introduction to the February 2014 Knowledge Letter# Introduction to the February 2014 Knowledge Letter - Comments

I upgraded my iPhone just before Christmas to an iPhone 5S. I wasn't expecting a great deal. I was expecting it to be faster to have a longer battery life and of course a better camera. I certainly wasn't expecting it to have a major impact on my productivity.

What is the magic app that is making all the difference? Quite simply it is the in-built speech recognition facility. It's quite amazing. If I speak slowly and clearly it is 100% accurate. I use it all the time to dictate SMS messages.

But more than that I use it to compose emails and blog posts. I am using it right now to create this newsletter.

I gather there is a similar function on other smartphones but I have no idea how good the transcription is compared to the iPhone.

What surprises me though is that I discovered it quite by accident. Like me, you may not be familiar with the capability. I have mentioned it to several people with iPhones and they were not using it. Try it out, if you haven't, you will be gobsmacked.

What is really cute though, is that with a little bit of my own coded Lotus Notes technology I can record a blog post and email right in to my website. It's a dream!

10:37 GMTPermanent link to #The Sustainable Organization Library (SOL)# The Sustainable Organization Library (SOL) - Comments

I was talking with Holly Shukla at the AKISS conference recently and she told me about the Sustainable Organization Library (SOL) -- an online collection of book chapters, journal papers and cases on sustainability and social responsibility.

If your business is interested in sustainability and CSR (and damn it you should be!) then this looks an extremely valuable resource.

In browsing, I found this free guide: Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME: Placing sustainability at the heart of management education. PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) is an initiative to inspire and champion responsible management education, research and thought leadership globally.

If you would like to know more about the SOL library then contact Holly at GSE Research and if you mention my name she will give you a free trial access and a discount on any subscription you may take out.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

09:02 GMTPermanent link to #The future of telepresence# The future of telepresence - Comments

I recently posted an item on telepresence. In response, Helen Baxter in New Zealand pointed me to this Kinect Real-Time Room Telepresence. What an amazing development!

Imagine looking into another room through a glass window and as you walked around in your room the perspective of everything in the room through the window changed just as in real life. In other words, when you move, the video follows, adjusting itself in real-time to give the effect that it was a real window! Everything displayed of course is life size!

The Kinect makes this possible by having a depth detecting feature, allowing 3d video capture. 10 Kinect cameras are used for capture and 1 for tracking.

I am imaging that the screen/window was a cylinder in the middle of the room that you could walk around. Is that possible?

There's also a whitepaper from MIT

Thanks Helen!

Monday 27 January 2014

17:15 GMTPermanent link to #Peter Block: Lecture-style seating is a parade ground with comfort!# Peter Block: Lecture-style seating is a parade ground with comfort! - Comments

In the introduction to my April 2013 Knowledge Letter I mentioned Peter Block and Ken Everett sent me the email below in response.
Hi David,

Glad you highlighted Peter Block.

I became an admirer when I attended a presentation in a BIG ballroom thing at ASTD 2008.

He immediately pointed out the 'military' nature of our arrangement--in rows, facing the O-I-C, looking at the backs of heads.

He highlighted that this was a parade ground...with comfort.

And useless for real communication.

The auditorium, he said, should only be used for performances!

He then got us to break the rows of chairs (literally--they were connected) into groups of 3 or 4...and to discuss a question.


Keep up your good work.

Best wishes, Ken

Credit: Ken Everett

It reminded me of a Knowledge Cafe I ran at an ECKM conference in 2007 in a University in Barcelona where the chairs were actually screwed down to the floor ... so we went across the road and held it in a real Cafe!

16:46 GMTPermanent link to #Does Pope Francis know something about Knowledge Management?# Does Pope Francis know something about Knowledge Management? - Comments

Does the Pope Francis know something about Knowledge Management? Here is a recent quote from an interview with him. To my mind, it's not only the Church that needs to preach less and listen more- we all need to :-)
Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense.

We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.

Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs.

This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas.

The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.

Credit: Pope Francis

16:26 GMTPermanent link to #Pause & Reflect Take Two# Pause & Reflect Take Two - Comments

I recently posted an item titled Pause and Reflect referencing a blog post ‘Pause & Reflect' session or an ‘After Action Review'? by Paul Corney.

In response Paul has posted a further item describing the difference between a Pause & Reflect and an AAR: 10 tips for running a successful Pause & Reflect debrief that you may find of interest.

15:46 GMTPermanent link to #Telepresence: "Beaming in" to a Knowledge Cafe# Telepresence: "Beaming in" to a Knowledge Cafe - Comments

There is an interesting thread in the Gurteen Knowledge Forum on the subject of how to run a Virtual Knowledge Cafe that has been running for while.

And then recently, I was talking to Kitty Wooley on Skype about this and we decided it would be interesting for her to join one of my London Knowledge Cafes virtually as an experiment. So this would be one virtual person in a sea of real people. My first thought was to have the "virtual Kitty" sit at a table as a laptop or better still as an IPad and to connect via Skype. It seemed to me that this could even work more generally if there was just one virtual person per table.

But as I reflected on it - I realised that there might be some better technology available than a laptop or an iPad. My first thought was a remote controlled WiFi webcam such as this one BESTEX remote controlled webcam

But it was obviously not ideal and so I Googled around a little and found Beam+

and Double Robotics - Telepresence Robot for Telecommuters.

Both are wonderful but expensive pieces of technology that I am sure will come down in price overtime and will have their place. But I wanted something simpler and less expensive and it did not need to be mobile. I then came across the Logitech BCC950 ConferenceCam

At first glance, it looked as if in combination with a laptop, it might work well until I realised that the person "beaming in" could not control where the camera was looking. A big disappointment!

But I am sure it is only a matter of time before I can purchase something like this at a reasonable price and simply place the virtual person on a chair with the others at the table and for a good group conversation to take place even though it will still fall short of a genuine face to face, "body to body" conversation!

11:18 GMTPermanent link to #Why we should lay off "best practice" in KM# Why we should lay off "best practice" in KM - Comments

I am still surprised to hear people talk about KM "best practices" and to see the topic on conference agendas.

As Dave Snowden, points out in this rather old article Managing for Serendipity or why we should lay off “best practice” in KM, they come at a severe cost.
... The common knowledge management focus on best practice is in effect contrary to natural practice; an attempt to impose an idealistic structured process onto the natural activity of learning and knowledge transfer through a focus on efficiency at the cost of effectiveness.
If you are new to KM and have not read this article then can I suggest you do :-)

10:24 GMTPermanent link to #KM mini-interviews with Nancy Dixon# KM mini-interviews with Nancy Dixon - Comments

Ankur Makhija of eClerx Services recently let me know that they have uploaded two more KM mini-interviews to their YouTube channel. The latest are from Nancy Dixon and include:
They are short and well worth the time to view.

I also have a playlist of video talks by Nancy Dixon if you are interested.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

10:17 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: January 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: January 2014 - Comments

Here are what I consider some of my more interesting Tweets for December 2013 to January 2014. Take a look, if you are not a Tweeter, you will get a good idea of how I use it by browsing the list of micro-posts.

If you like the Tweets then subscribe to my Tweet stream.

Monday 20 January 2014

11:30 GMTPermanent link to #Introduction to the January 2014 Knowledge Letter# Introduction to the January 2014 Knowledge Letter - Comments

In my November Knowledge Letter I posted an item on Serendipity and Randomised Coffee Trials.

These have had quite a lot of attention with several people telling me how much they like the idea and I have added the RSA and the KHDA in Dubai to my list of organisations running them.

I am so excited by the concept that I am encouraging more people to take them up and to collect stories and anecdotes about how they have been implemented and the feedback received.

Also, I have now found two organisations that provide an RCT service: CoffeeWho and Lunch Roulette

Other organisations have mashed up an Excel spreadsheet to administer their RCTs. If you know of any free simple tool that will make the random matches please let me know.

But take a look at them! So simple, so powerful!

Thursday 9 January 2014

12:25 GMTPermanent link to #Making post project reviews more conversational# Making post project reviews more conversational - Comments

I am currently documenting the many ways in which I have seen the Knowledge Cafe taken and adapted by organisations for different purposes. I am also writing about further ways in which I think the KCafe could be used.

Early last year, I wrote how I thought it could improve the Post Project Review process for a colleague, hoping that we might have the opportunity to try the process out with one of his clients but nothing came of it.

Rather than letting my thoughts sit on my hard-disk for another year or so I thought I'd publish them here. They are a little rough but I hope you will get the general idea. If anyone would like to experiment with this process then get in touch with me.

Introduction to Conversational Post Project Reviews
Many post-project reviews rely on people filling in forms. Or on meetings where the whole group is asked a question and people reply individually. Or where people present their pre-filled forms to the group. Others are based on interviews.

Often they are highly structured and formal in nature, with check-lists, specific categories of questions, pre-defined questions and pre-allocated times for discussion and so forth. There is nothing greatly wrong with this structured analytical approach and there is no one way to run post-project reviews but its fair to say that in general they are not very "conversational". By and large, it is assumed that people already know what the problems were and all that is needed is to capture the "lessons learnt".

The Knowledge Cafe Philosophy takes a different approach by assuming that until people start to talk openly about how the project went many of the problems and missed opportunities and insights will not be surfaced. It takes group conversation, people talking freely and openly in small groups of 3 or 4 to achieve this. It's not that the more formal approach does not work, it's that it does not surface the deeper, more important stuff.

The Process
One or more Knowledge Cafes can form part of any larger post-project review process and elements of this conversational process may be built into other activities.

A typical process might be as follows though this methodology can be adapted in many ways to meet the needs of the review.
  • The cafe process is described to the participants if they are not already familiar with it.
  • A speed conversation session is run. Here the participants are asked to join each other in pairs and have a brief conversation about anything they wish. Three rounds of 5 minutes each might be sufficient.
  • Some one talks for 5 to 10 minutes to set the context of the conversation.
  • They then pose a question to the group to trigger the conversation (more on the question in a moment).
  • People are seated in small groups, 3 or 4, at the very most 5 people group. There are no table leaders.
  • The small groups have a conversation around the topic/question and after about 15 mins are asked to change groups.
  • This change of groups takes place twice thus there are 3 small group conversations.
  • Everyone comes back together to form whole group. People move their chairs to form a circle and everyone sits in the circle.
  • The conversation then continues where people share their insights from the small groups with everyone.
  • Finally, the KCafe leader goes around the circle and asks everyone to share one lesson that they have learnt from the project and/or their KCafe conversations.
Speed Conversations
Recent research (Friends With Cognitive Benefits -What Types of Social Interactions Boost Executive Functioning? by Oscar Ybarra, Piotr Winkielman, Irene Yeh, Eugene Burnstein, Liam Kavanagh) shows that talking with other people in a friendly way makes it easier to solve common problems. Conversations that are competitive in tone however, rather than cooperative, have no cognitive benefits and actually suppress the ability to solve problems. This is the reason for the short round of speed conversations at the start of the Cafe. It relaxes, people, gets them talking about uncontroversial things and actually boosts their thinking ability.

Group Size
The essential ingredient of the Cafe is the small group conversations and the fact that each group is only 3 or 4 people in size (never less than 3 and never greater than 5). Research on group size (Group Discussion as Interactive Dialogue or as Serial Monologue: The Influence of Group Size by Nicolas Fay; Simon Garrod; Jean Carletta) shows that in small groups the communication is like dialogue and members are influenced most by those with whom they interact in the discussion. However, in larger groups, the communication is like monologue and members are influenced most by the dominant speaker. Large groups tend to be dominated by one or two members to the detriment of the others. In other words, if you are looking for highly interactive conversation that connects observations, thoughts and ideas and surface new things, then a small group size of 3 or 4 is essential. The whole group is more suited to reporting back and sharing knowledge rather than surfacing or creating it.

The Circle
The circle that is used for the whole group conversation is a very powerful. By sitting in a circle, first and foremost everyone is equal. Everyone can also easily see and hear each other. Its not easy to hide and its actually more difficult to dominate. Importantly, the Cafe leader can also see everyone and through eye contact and body language to some degree can shape the conversation by indicating to dominant people they should talk less and encouraging the quieter members of the group to speak up.

The Question
There is usually only ever one question asked in a Knowledge cafe and as it is the trigger for the conversations that ensue it is of the upmost importance and it is essential to think about it and craft it carefully. The KCafe is about creating a conversational experience. In some ways the question should not be designed so much as to get answers to specific issues but to generate engagement. Engagement at times can be important then content. We are not looking for surface issues here we are looking for deep ones.

If the KCafe is held early on in the post project review, maybe it is the first item, then it sets the conversational scene for the remainder of the session. We want people to feel relaxed, free from fear, energised and engaged. One way to do this is to make the questions personal, responsibility and action oriented.

For example:
  • What did you personally learn from this project?
  • In what ways do you feel personally responsible for the outcome of the project?
  • What would you personally do differently next time as a result of your experience of working on this project?
  • What opportunities did you miss to do things better?
  • What was the most valuable thing you accomplished in this project?
Building elements of the Cafe into the post project review process
One very simple adaptation of the KCafe process is to build time for conversation into your existing process. For example, at present, you may ask the participants as a whole group to answer a specific question and let some sort of conversation emerge around that question.

The KCafe approach, would be to have people seated in small groups of 3 or 4 and to ask them to discuss the question in their small groups first before coming together to discuss as a large group. Forming a circle for the large group conversation is also a powerful KCafe technique to adopt.

There is not one, prescriptive way to do this but I think we need to get away from the rigidness and formality of so much that we do in corporate life and make processes such as this one more relaxed, engaging and conversational.

If you like these ideas, experiment and let me know how you get on.


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Monday 28 July 2014
09:16 AM GDT