Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 232 - October 2019


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Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 232 - October 2019


  1. Introduction to the October 2019 Knowledge Letter
  2. Welcome to the Transformative Age
  3. Bob Buckman on Knowledge Sharing
  4. What are the flaws in Steven Pinker's thinking in Enlightenment Now?
  5. Answerer could answer anything provded it was a legitimate question
  6. Steven Pinker almost gets complexity
  7. Excellent video introducing the Cynefin Framework
  8. Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: October 2019
  9. Upcoming Knowledge Events
  10. Please help support my work
  11. Unsubscribe
  12. The Gurteen Knowledge Letter

Introduction to the October 2019 Knowledge Letter

My blook on Conversational Leadership continues to grow and develop by the day. If you have not checked it out for a while, you will find a lot of new material

In particular, check out the people profiles. The blook is not just about me. Numerous people, some living, some not, have understood the power of conversation, appreciated the complexity of the world, and have influenced my thinking.

Each profile says (or will say when complete) a few words about the person and how they have influenced me.

The profile includes where available, a video and a quotation by the person that I have chosen to best convey one or more of their key ideas and a little of their personality. I have also included several links to resources such as their website, LinkedIn profile, and Twitter account where available plus I have embedded their Twitter stream and RSS feed, so you have direct access to their current thinking. Check it out.

Welcome to the Transformative Age

We are living in the Transformative Age.

Much like the Industrial Revolution, we can expect a fundamental shift in everything we know - not only in the speed at which all these changes are taking place, but also in our increasing reliance on connectivity.

This is the signature difference of the Transformative Age: being connected, whether it's to data, interfaces, people or experiences.

I think EY have got it spot on - what they call the Transformative Age is about being connected - hyper-connected. Increased connectivity leads to massive complexity and "a fundamental shift in everything we know" - an inherently unpredictable world.

We are entering a new era, one in which we need new ways of making sense of things, decision making, strategizing and working together. To me, this is the challenge. We need to co-create the world we would like to see and not allow technology to blindly shape it for us.

In 100 years, what will history call this new age? We might call it the transformative age, or more likely The Fourth Industrial Revolution as it is being called now by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

But in the broader sweep of time it will be part of the Anthropocene - a proposed geological epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems.

Various start dates for the start of the Anthropocene have been proposed, ranging from the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution 12,000–15,000 years ago, to as recent as the 1960s.

As do others, I favor the date of the first detonation of a nuclear device in 1945, code named the Trinity test. This date corresponds to the end of the second world war, the birth of computers and digital communications and the hyper-interconnected world in which we live today.

Bob Buckman on Knowledge Sharing

I recently published a blog post Knowledge Sharing is only one component of Knowledge Management where I shared a post of Nick Milton's "Knowledge Sharing doesn't work as an alternative title for KM".

A good friend, Bob Buckman, one of the early pioneers of KM replied to me to make the point that there are places for both descriptors. With his permission, this is the central text of Bob's email:

What struck me was the conflict that exists in some people between the terms Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Management. Personally, I think they describe two different objectives in the organization. I will try and explain:

The label Knowledge Management was created by C. Jackson Grayson who was founder and head of APQC when they put on the first major conference on Knowledge that was held in Houston in the 90's. I got to know Jack through one of my Board members and he attended the second Knowledge conference put on by McKinsey and Brook Manville. There was about 50 people at the conference which we held in the fall. In the following spring APQC put on their conference with about 400 in attendance. The term Knowledge Management was created to describe what we were doing or trying to do. Jack felt it was a good descriptor that they could also build courses around dealing with productivity, etc. (APQC stands for American Productivity and Quality Center) If you were interested in how to manage knowledge for maximum benefit to the corporation, then they could help you do it. They still hold the best KM conferences in the world every spring. I gave one of the keynote addresses at this conference.

We had a problem in our company at the time that needed addressing. We had knowledge on how to apply our products in multiple locations around the world but our people had never met each other. We had been sending experts around the world to each location to bring and get knowledge on how best to use our products, but the process was not fast enough to meet the needs of the customers. We had to figure out how to get them to share knowledge as needed and where needed. To do that we had to put in systems that connected people together. And, when I came back from the conference at APQC, I told everybody we were going to do Knowledge Management. And, I got a lot of blank stares and the usual non-committal response. The more I used the term Knowledge Management, the more I got poor responses and resistance.

I took the problem to Dr. Rueben Harris who was head of Systems Management at the Naval Post Graduate School and also head of Research for the Tom Peters Group at the time. Rueben's response was that he thought it was a cultural perception issue. So, we change the descriptor of what we were trying to do to Knowledge Sharing instead of Knowledge Management and we got immediate acceptance and the rest is history. It turned out that when we used the term Knowledge Management, they thought we were going to manage what was in people's heads. Changing the descriptor was instrumental in achieving success.

Personally, I think there are places for both descriptors. If you are trying to manage knowledge, then Knowledge Management is perfectly fine. If, you are trying to get people to share knowledge, then I think you would be wise to use the term Knowledge Sharing. We need to remember what we are trying to do and not get hung up on trying to put everything under one descriptor.

Credit: Bob Buckman

A BIG thanks for the clarification Bob.

What are the flaws in Steven Pinker's thinking in Enlightenment Now?

I am currently reading Steven Pinkers latest book Enlightenment Now about the many ways in which the world is improving and why we don't believe it.

It is an impressive work, full of statistics. The one that jumps out for me is that before about 1870, the average world life expectancy was about 30 years of age. Today it stands closer to 70. That is quite an achievement.

I have not finished the book, and although his statistics and arguments are persuasive, I feel the gains have been at too high a cost e.g. global warming, plastification of the oceans, species extinction, and more.

What I need to do next is to read a few articles such as these and see what I make of things on balance.

Regardless of how right or wrong Steven is, there is still vast potential for improvement in the human condition but not at the cost of destroying the planet.

Answerer could answer anything provded it was a legitimate question

If you have an interest in KM, are a bit of philosopher and love science fiction - I think this short audio book will delight you: Ask a Foolish Question by Robert Sheckley

Imagine a machine that could answer anything provided it was a legitimate question. What is life, what is death? And no, the answer is not 42.

"This thing has the answer to the whole universe and it can't tell us unless we ask the rght question!"

The closing message: "In order to ask a question, you must already know most of the answer."

Steven Pinker almost gets complexity

A real society comprises hundreds of millions of social beings, each with a trillion-synapse brain, who pursue their well-being while affecting the well-being of others in complex networks with massive positive and negative externalities, many of them historically unprecedented.

It is bound to defy any simple narrative of what will happen under a given set of rules.

A more rational approach to politics is to treat societies as ongoing experiments and open-mindedly learn the best practices, whatever part of the spectrum they come from.

Steven Pinker in his book Enlightenment Now almost grasps the Cynefin Framework and recognises that in the complex domain we need to perform experiments to make sense of things in order to make good. decisions. In Cynefin-speak: we need to "probe-sense-respond",

But he gets it wrong by saying we need to learn best practices. There are no best practices in the complex domain. They belong to the obvious domain.

Excellent video introducing the Cynefin Framework

In our increasingly complex world, everyone should have a grasp of the Cynefin Framework.

Watch this excellent short video Making Sense of Complexity – an introduction to Cynefin by Jennifer Garvey Berger if you are not familiar with Cynefin or wish to understand it better.

If you would like to lean more about complexity, follow the work of some of these complexity thinkers through their books, blog posts etc.

Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: October 2019

Here are some of my more popular recent tweets. 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.

  • Everything you need to know about the Fourth Industrial Revolution https://buff.ly/2VWo88U

  • Being silenced and silencing others : developing the capacity to speak truth to power by Megan Reitz, John Higgins. https://buff.ly/31OuqsS #ConversationalLeadership #ConversationalWisdom #conversation #dialogue

  • Human nature hasn't changed, but our understanding of human cognition, decision-making, and social systems has grown enormously in the past few decades but has not really made much of a dent in schools of management and the C-suite, yet. https://buff.ly/2BDvZPV

  • Human reason left to its own devices is apt to engage in a number of fallacies and systematic errors, so if we want to make better decisions in our personal lives and as a society, we ought to be aware of these biases and seek workarounds. https://buff.ly/2JhcxMW

  • What if we can share our ideas on the nature of reality, agree to keep criticising one another's ideas and then keep that conversation going for centuries? https://buff.ly/2Mhz4eE

  • Oscillators coordinate people physically by regulating how and when their bodies move together. You can see oscillators in action when you watch people about to kiss; their movements look like a dance, one body responding to the other seamlessly. https://buff.ly/2LxtToa

  • Conversation Day New York Bryant Park, Manhattan on June 8th 2019. https://buff.ly/2AS0Nfr #ConversationalLeadership /short video explaining what this was all about

  • “It's not what you say, but how you say it. By analyzing online arguments, Cornell researchers have identified how language and interaction with the other party contribute to winning an argument.” https://buff.ly/2oX28Pm #ConversationalLeadership

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

Upcoming Knowledge Events

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.

European Conference on the Impact of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
31 Oct - 01 Nov 2019, Oxford, United Kingdom

Learning & Development Executive Summit Fall 2019
03 - 05 Nov 2019, New York, United States

KM World 2019
04 - 07 Nov 2019, Washington DC, United States

Knowledge Management Summit 2019
05 - 06 Nov 2019, Bandung, Indonesia

Knowledge Summit 2019
19 - 20 Nov 2019, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

16th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning 5-6 December 2019, Sydney, Australia
05 - 06 Dec 2019, Sydney, Australia

7th European Conference on Social Media
02 - 03 Jul 2020, Larnaca, Cyprus

Please help support my work

I have been writing and publishing this Knowledge Letter every month for over 17 years and most of you have been receiving it for 5 years or more. My Knowledge Café also had its 16th birthday last September.

If you enjoy my work and find it valuable, please consider giving me a little support by donating $1 (or more) a month to Become a Patron or making small one off contribution.

I am not going to get rich on this but it will help cover some of my website hosting expenses.

I have 49 patrons so far. A big thanks to you all.


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The Gurteen Knowledge Letter

The Gurteen Knowledge-Letter is a free monthly e-mail based KM newsletter for knowledge workers. Its purpose is to help you better manage your knowledge and to stimulate thought and interest in such subjects as Knowledge Management, Learning, Creativity and the effective use of Internet technology. Archive copies are held on-line where you can register to receive the newsletter.

It is sponsored by the Henley Forum of the Henley Business School, Oxfordshire, England.

You may copy, reprint or forward all or part of this newsletter to friends, colleagues or customers, so long as any use is not for resale or profit and I am attributed. And if you have any queries please contact me.

Gurteen Knowledge
Fleet, United Kingdom

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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