Gurteen Knowledge-Letter: Issue 135 - September 2011


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Gurteen Knowledge-Letter: Issue 135 - September 2011


  1 Introduction to the September 2011 Knowledge Letter
  2 Conversation in the wild
  3 My recent Knowledge Cafe workshop in London
  4 Five quotations that represent my values
  5 A conversation doesn't just shuffle the deck of cards -- it creates new ones
  6 Don't give talks - hold conversations
  7 Major upcoming Knowledge Events: September 2011
  8 Knowledge tweets: September 2011
  9 Subscribing and Unsubscribing
10 The Gurteen Knowledge Letter

Introduction to the September 2011 Knowledge Letter    (top | next | prev)

I would estimate that over 90% of all my professional news comes to me via RSS feeds that I subscribe to and read via Google Reader, primarily on my iPhone. Its how I keep in touch with a rapidly changing world.

I could not imagine being without this source of information and it still surprises me how many people I speak to who do not understand RSS and how valuable it could be to them.

RSS is simple. See this RSS page on my website that describes it in simple terms and includes two short animations "RSS in Plain English" and "Google Reader in Plain English".

Then see my RSS Feeds page for a list of all the RSS feeds that I generate and include website updates, jobs, events, photos, videos and more.

Finally, take a look at the blog rolls of the RSS feeds to which I subscribe.

You can subscribe to any feed on an y of these two lists yourself. Enjoy :-)

Conversation in the wild    (top | next | prev)

In my knowledge cafes and workshops, a frequent question asked is "what is a conversation". Surprisingly, people cannot agree. Many think an exchange of emails, even SMS messages can be classed as conversations. I disagree.

Browsing the dictionary definitions on the web, conversation clearly involves talking. It is an oral, spoken activity, not a written one

Here is a definition from the Merrian-Webster dictionary: "an oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas"

And another from the Macmillan dictionary: "an informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy"

The key words here are oral, exchange and informal.

So you can have a conversation, face to face, on the phone or via a video link. Anything else such as email, a written letter, or an exchange of IM or SMS messages are not conversations.

I would also add that conversation is highly interactive and takes place in real time - so an exchange of voice messages is also not a conversation.

To my mind, the best conversations are face to face, you need to be able to sense other people in their totality; their dress, their body language, their habits, their perfume or cologne; you need to be able to reach out and touch them even. This you cannot do over the phone or even a video link.

If you want a real human experience it must be literally face to face; body to body. That's the way conversation evolved, long before writing technology, its what us human beings are good at

It's conversation as it exists in the wild.

My recent Knowledge Cafe workshop in London    (top | next | prev)

On September 13th at the RSA in London I ran one of my Knowledge Cafe workshops.

I have run dozens of these workshops around the world these last few years, most recently in Edinburgh and Copenhagen and always have tremendous feedback.

This one was no exception and it was made special in that my eldest daughter Lauren came along ... so now when people ask her what her Dad does ... she can do a little better then say "he travels the world having conversations with people" :-)

I had 21 people in total, most of them had paid the full price but I had given a few discounts and one or two freebies to people who were keen to take part but could not afford the full price.

I have posted an album of photos from the day on Facebook if you are interested. As you can see ... lots of great conversation taking place.

My good friend David Pottinger also blogged a little about the day in Rethinking The Benefits Of Conversation In Business and he is one of the people interviewed below.

And my daughter Lauren shot a few short video clips where she asked people what they were taking away from the day.

The very first short clip with Megan Morys is a rather special one for me. In my workshops, I have long suggested that many meetings would be better broken into two meetings separated by at least a week. The first meeting would take the form of a knowledge cafe where the sole purpose was to explore and better understand the issue at hand. It should not be about making a decision or coming to consensus. And it should be about dialogue and not debate.

The second meeting would then focus on making the decision. This can and would be more adversarial and more debate-like format with often the manager who has convened the meeting making the final decision. This to my mind, overcomes the complications faced when you try to do both in the same meeting. The people who wish to explore the issue get shouted down and the people who want to make a quick decision and often have already made up their minds tend to win the day. Often a bad decision is made and the people put down come away feeling not listened to and demoralised.

Personally, I have always respected that a decision has to be made and that I may not like it. What I have always hated is not to have had my say.

Megan is the fist person to have told me that as a manager this is just what she does. Listen to what she has to say :-)

I am running another Knowledge Cafe workshop in London on December 13th. if you like what you hear above then come along.

Five quotations that represent my values    (top | next | prev)

I love quotations. I tend to remember them and they help me focus on what is important to me and inspire and motivate me. Some people try to identify their core values. I try to identify the quotations that most represent who I am or wish to be. Here are probably my top five. They change slightly every time I draw up the list :-)

We must become the change we want to see in the world.

To be a catalyst is the ambition most appropriate for those who see the world as being in constant change, and who, without thinking that they can control it, wish to influence its direction.

I have to tell it again and again: I have no doctrine. I only point out something. I point out reality, I point out something in reality which has not or too little been seen. I take him who listens to me at his hand and lead him to the window. I push open the window and point outside. I have no doctrine, I carry on a dialogue.

Credit: Martin Buber

Children do not need to be made to learn to be better, told what to do or shown how. If they are given access to enough of the world, they will see clearly enough what things are truly important to themselves and to others, and they will make for themselves a better path into that world then anyone else could make for them.

Credit: John Holt

Suppose we were able to share meanings freely without a compulsive urge to impose our view or conform to those of others and without distortion and self-deception. Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture.

Credit: David Bohm

You will find over 900 quotations on my website. I have selected them carefully over the last 20 years or so and each means something to me. I hope you enjoy them too.

What quotations best represent who you are or what you would like to be?

A conversation doesn't just shuffle the deck of cards -- it creates new ones    (top | next | prev)

One of my recent newcomers to my London Knowledge Cafes is Andrew Armour. Andrew is one of those people who immediately "got" what the Cafes are all about and has delighted me in blogging about them and expressing elements of them in ways that I have never been able to articulate.

One of his first blog posts was On Cafe Conversations which I commented on a month or so back and more recently another Are You In The Conversation Business from which I have extracted the following:
A Knowledge Cafe tries to eliminate the traditional point scoring, that is such a feature of our everyday conversations. It is a notion that is neatly expressed by the brilliant Theodore Zeldin and his famous quote; "A conversation doesn't just shuffle the deck of cards -- it creates new ones".

The 'Cafe' format has been smartly honed by Gurteen as a way to encourage the making of those new cards by stimulating dialogue rather than monologue. In addressing the above questions, the various groups shifted the conversation from how you define good and bad outcomes, to discussing (in a sign of the times) -- how you engage in a conversation with looters. The idea was to explore and share knowledge.

I ended the evening with as many new puzzling questions as answers -- and as many new insights. But isn’t that the point of a good conversation? It leads you to a different view, adds insight and helps you play with 'a new card' rather than flip over that same one again and again and again. And if you are trying to innovate, to explore, to create something fresh -- isn’t that where your next conversation should start?

Like Andrew, I love Theodore's card metaphor. And just in case you missed it - listen to Theodore's recent interview on New Conversation on the BBC's Radio 4.

Don't give talks - hold conversations    (top | next | prev)

I am often asked to give a talk to an organisation and where I have the freedom to, I do my best to transform it into a conversational format.

A few days ago I discovered that Google Video had lost a video of one such talk that I gave at the National Library in Singapore in 2007 and so I uploaded it again to YouTube and in watching it, I realised it was an excellent example of how I like do things.

The traditional way goes something like this:
  1. Give the talk with loads of Powerpoint slides and don't allow any questions during your talk as it can upset your rehearsed speech and someone may ask you a difficult question.
  2. Take questions at the end but don't leave too much time as again you may be asked a difficult one or no one has any questions for you as you put them all to sleep and they are dying to get back to the office.
  3. Leave quickly.
The way I prefer, goes more like this:
  1. Give the talk (some Powerpoint slides are OK) and take questions as you want the session to be engaging and interactive.
  2. At the end of your talk, ask the participants to have a conversation about the topic of the talk or ask them a specific question. This can either be a short conversation at their tables or a more fully Cafe like session where they change tables in order to have a broader conversation with more people.
  3. Ask them to form a circle with their chairs.
  4. Continue the conversation as a whole group and take more questions.
  5. Hang around over coffee and engage in more conversation.
Just browse my talk (unless you are interested in it of course) and you will get the idea of how it all hangs together. Note: the small group conversation starts at about 44:00 and the whole group conversation in a circle starts at about 59:00.

Try this for yourself. You don't have to be a professional speaker. The format is simple. It is easy to do. You do need a little bit of confidence to try it but people really enjoy conversation and they will love you for it. You can't go too far wrong.

I am coaching someone at the moment who is a newly appointed head of a University department and they have been experimenting with the format. Not only are they enjoying introducing more conversation into their meetings but their members of staff are too.

Major upcoming Knowledge Events: September 2011    (top | next | prev)

This section highlights 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.

KMO 2011 (Sixth International KMO Conference)
27 - 28 Sep 2011, Tokyo, Japan

13th KnowTech 2011
28 - 29 Sep 2011, Bad Homburg, Germany

KM Brazil 2011
05 - 07 Oct 2011, Sao Paulo, Brasil

International Conference on Knowledge Economy (ICKE2011)
24 - 28 Oct 2011, East London, South Africa

8th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning (ICICKM 2011)
27 - 28 Oct 2011, Bangkok, Thailand

KM Asia 2011
08 - 10 Nov 2011, Singapore City, Singapore
I will not be at KM Asia this year.

Online Information Conference 2011
29 Nov - 01 Dec 2011, London, United Kingdom
I will be at Online Information this year where I will be running a Knowledge Cafe at the end of the first day.

Workshop: Implementing Knowledge Cafes
13 Dec 2011, London, United Kingdom
The second in my recent series of "How to run a Knowledge Cafe" workshops to be held in London in December

Online Information Asia-Pacific 2012
20 - 21 Mar 2012, Hong Kong, China

KM UK 2012
13 - 14 Jun 2012, London, United Kingdom

Knowledge tweets: September 2011    (top | next | prev)

Here are some of my more interesting Tweets for August - September 2011. 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. And if you like what you see then subscribe to my Tweets.

Subscribing and Unsubscribing    (top | next | prev)

You may subscribe to this newsletter on my website. Or if you no longer wish to receive this newsletter or if you wish to modify your e-mail address or make other changes to your membership profile then please go to this page on my website.

The Gurteen Knowledge Letter    (top | next | prev)

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 Knowledge Management 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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