Gurteen Knowledge-Letter: Issue 132 - June 2011


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Gurteen Knowledge-Letter: Issue 132 - June 2011


  1 Introduction to the June 2011 Knowledge Letter
  2 Would you like 2GB of storage for free on the Cloud?
  3 Open and transparent?
  4 Latest discussons from the Gurteen Knowledge Community Group on Linkedin
  5 We create machines in our own image and they, in turn, recreate us in theirs
  6 Amo La Vida (I love life)
  7 Proactive Reviews
  8 Think for yourself about KM
  9 Boring conversations and KM
10 Knowledge tweets: June 2011

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

It's been a great month for my Knowledge Cafes. I have run two masterclasses. The first was in Edinburgh on 7th June and the second in Copenhagen on 14th June.

I have long taken photos at almost all my Knowledge Cafes and Masterclasses and posted them to Flickr but I am now increasingly posting them to Facebook also as here people can tag themselves and each other making the whole event far more social. I also love it as I get to remember people's names and faces.

Here are the Edinburgh photos and here the ones from Copenhagen.

And here is a little video montage of the Copenhagen event though I am the only one speaking in English and not Danish.

I have also run two Knowledge Cafes, the first for Cabinet Office and Number 10 Downing Street staff as part of their "Better Cabinet Office Week" and the second at KM UK 2011.

Slowly but surely, interest is growing in the vital role of conversation in business.

Would you like 2GB of storage for free on the Cloud?    (top | next | prev)

Have you discovered Dropbox yet?

Any file you save to Dropbox also instantly saves to your computers, phones, and the Dropbox website. 2GB of Dropbox for free, with subscriptions up to 100GB available.
  • Your files are always available from the secure Dropbox website.
  • Dropbox works with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.
  • Works even when offline. You always have your files, whether or not you have a connection.
  • Dropbox transfers just the parts of a file that change (not the whole thing).
  • Manually set bandwidth limits -- Dropbox won't hog your connection.
You can download the free version here: http://db.tt/i20ny92

I use it all the time to transfer files from my PC to my iPhone and as a bonus I have them backed up on the web also. Love it!

Disclosure: For every one of you who joins and installs Dropbox, they give us both 250 MB of bonus space (up to a limit of 8 GB)!

Open and transparent?    (top | next | prev)

When considering knowledge sharing or creating a more collaborative culture, we often talk about the need for people to be open and for more transparency. These two concepts are usually used interchangeably and often without too much thought as to what they really mean.

For a long time, in my mind, I have made a clear distinction between the two. Recently though, I was interviewed about knowledge sharing and the interviewer asked me what the difference was, as she thought they meant the same thing. I gave her what I felt was a simple answer at the time, but thought I'd try to articulate a more detailed view of the differences, as I see them, here.

To my mind, to be effective as a knowledge worker you need to network – to share more; to work more collaboratively; and, to work in a way that facilitates continuous informal learning. Two of the major complementary behaviors that underpin this are the need to be 'open' and 'transparent'.

If you are open-minded, not closed, you are open to new ideas, to new thoughts, to new people and to new ways of working. When you come across new things you are curious and eager to explore them. You are non-judgmental and you look to engage other people in conversation – not so much in debate, but more in dialogue.

You deliberately go out of your way to discover new things. You are an explorer!

You ask for criticism from people -- not praise. You are not afraid when people challenge your ideas -- in fact you welcome it. This is how you learn. You are willing to 'let things in'. People can 'come in'. Hence the word: 'open'.

If you are transparent, you work in a way which naturally enables people to see what you are doing. You publish your activity and your 'work in progress' as a by-product of the way that you work. You deliberately go out of your way to try to be honest and open about who you are. There is no façade, no pretence – with you, people get what they see.

You speak in your own voice. You are authentic. Others can see clearly who you are, what you are doing and why you are doing it.

You do not try to hide things out of fear of being seen to make a mistake. You actually want your mistakes to be seen. And you want others to point them out to you – that way you get to learn and to get even better at what you do. You make it easy for people to find you and to connect with you. You 'let things out'. People can 'see in'. Hence the word: 'transparent'.

Being open and transparent is a state of mind and more about general behavior than the use of any specific tools. But if you are open, and transparent the more likely you are to blog; to 'Twitter'; use wikis and other social-networking tools; give talks; publish papers, articles or newsletters; keep your calendar on-line; have an on-line presence indicator; and, write regular status reports on your activity and much more besides.

Being open and transparent are not the only traits of an effective knowledge worker, but I do believe they are two of the core behaviors. So do you think openness and transparency are important? If so, just how open and transparent are you and what might you do to improve?

Latest discussons from the Gurteen Knowledge Community Group on Linkedin    (top | next | prev)

The Gurteen Knowledge Community Group on LinkedIn is steadily growing and has increased by about 70 members over the last 4 weeks from 2,488 to 2,566 today.

There are some great discussions taking place .... here are a few of interesting ones that you might like to take a look at or join in:

You can join LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/reg/join and the Gurteen Knowledge Community Group here : http://www.linkedin.com/groupRegistration?gid=1539

And of you are interested in conversational tools such as Knowledge Cafes, AARs, peer-assists and the like then take a look at my recently created Gurteen Knowledge Cafe Forum. This is a LinkedIn subgroup of the main Gurteen Knowledge Community on LinkedIn.

We create machines in our own image and they, in turn, recreate us in theirs    (top | next | prev)

This is one great little blog post Experts and Wikipedia from my good friend Nimmy (we have never met but we have known each other so long through the web that I consider her a very good friend).

In her post, she makes a good point about sharing - that there are some things that we feel almost compelled to share. Things that are:
  • Inspiring
  • Thought-provoking
  • Humorous
  • Positive/optimistic/hopeful 
  • Paradoxical 
This certainly matches the things that I like to share :-)

She goes on to quote from a fascinating article on Wikipedia And The Death Of The Expert. Towards the end of the article, it talks about Marshall McLuhan and says this:
McLuhan's chief insights centered around the idea that technology strongly affects not only the content of culture, but the mind that creates and consumes that culture. He maintained that technology alters cognition itself, all the way down to its deepest, most elemental processes.

As Nimmy points out, if McLuhan is right, then "technology is not just an enabler" which we are so often prone to trot out.

We shape our tools and in turn they shape us! Or in the words of the article "We create machines in our own image and they, in turn, recreate us in theirs."

This idea is worth dwelling on. Its profound. Thanks Nimmy.

Amo La Vida (I love life)    (top | next | prev)

Thanks to Alan Stewart to pointing me to this amazing, inspiring video Amo La Vida

"In this black-and-white interview, filmmaker Nic Askew interviews Julio Olalla. It is not an interview to sell anything or pitch anything. Its just Julio being Julio. He candidly speaks about an encounter with his father that changed his life, and what he learned: "Gratitude in so many ways is so dramatically missing in the world today. Without gratitude nothing is enough. It's the kind of short movie where you want to turn off the lights, and just soak in the spirit of an everyday hero.""

When Alan first pointed me to the video, I tweeted it and in turn Luis Suarez liked it and blogged about it, summing it up far better than I ever could.

It’s one of those video clips that will surely get you to shed a tear or two of pure joy filled with humanity, of what it is being a human being and behaving like one. Julio gets to talk about gratitudeand why we need to get it back into our day lives by sharing one of those moving stories that will make you think for a long while. He gets to talk as well about wisdom and how much different it is from knowledge itself, about the lost art of conversation, about what real friendships are all about.

His sense of touching & embracing life is remarkably inspirational and one that permeates wisdom throughout, as well as being far too difficult to describe it in a single sentence or two over here without having my fingers tremble at that failed attempt. I know for certain I wouldn’t do any justice to it, so I better leave it down to you folks to go and listen to it further with just one thought: "Amo La Vida".

Credit: Luis Suarez

Proactive Reviews    (top | next | prev)

My recent Knowledge Cafe Masterclass in Copenhagen was a joint event with a good friend of mine Ditte Kolbaek where she launched her new book Proactive Reviews.

For some time now Ditte has been running a form of After Action Review in Oracle that she calls Proactive Reviews. Its a similar process to AARs but with a few key improvements that make it a very powerful business tool.

Oracle, for example, runs a high-level Proactive Review after every merger and are one of the few organisations I know of that have taken AARs seriously and are applying them in a systematic way in the business.

If you speak Danish you can hear what Ditte has to say about them here:

Also take a look at Ditte's website (this is in English). The book is currently only available in Danish but an English version will be published in September this year.

I'll be talking more about the process then as I think this is one of the more exciting things to happen in KM for a while.

Think for yourself about KM    (top | next | prev)

It surprises me that so many KM projects are undertaken by people with no training or education in KM and little or no project management/change management experience.

If you plan to undertake a KM project then it makes sense to understand KM thoroughly, especially as most KM projects fail!

One of the reasons many KM projects fail is that we are dealing with complex human systems. In addition to understanding KM, you need to understand organizational complexity. For example, you should study the work of Dave Snowden and his Cynefin Framework.

You should also ensure that you understand the new emerging "Social KM" based on social tools and take the time to understand Intellectual Capital and other related disciplines.

Some key points to keep in mind:
  • KM projects are tough: the toughest projects to undertake in any organization! If you are not a seasoned project manager with a fair degree of experience in change management then you are likely to fail!
  • KM means different things to different people and industries. HR, IT, Librarians etc all see KM through a different lens. What does it mean for your organization?
  • KM is about surfacing unknown problems - not just about responding to known ones or supporting business objectives.
Some things to be cautious of:
  • Beware of prescriptions: KM is context dependent and there is no substitute to thinking things through in your context.
  • Beware of KM certification: There is nothing wrong in receiving certificates for attending a course or for being certified or accredited to practice specific KM techniques. (Cognitive Edge, for example, accredits practitioners who have attended their workshops.) What you do need to avoid is the nonsensical practice of certifying KM and awarding pretentious titles to participants such as "Certified Knowledge Manager." The field of KM is too broad, too deep and too rich for this to have any meaning whatsoever. It’s a cheap marketing technique.
  • Beware of case studies: People often ask me for case studies but I studiously avoid giving them as too often they paint a rosy picture and distort the truth. More often than not they are thinly disguised marketing material for a vendor or their so called “KM System”. They are also dangerous in that people tend to treat them as “prescriptions”. If it worked there it will work here. They inadvertently help avoid the need for thinking in context.
  • Beware of academics and of theory: There is nothing inherently wrong with academics and theory such as two by two matrices and conceptualization but it can cause you to take your eye of the ball. Focus on specifics and real world practical examples. And beware of prescriptive approaches and so called "best practices". Get real!
  • Beware of charlatans: There are far too many people teaching KM who have no idea what they are talking about or promoting old failed methods. There is also a lot of poor material on the web. Be cautious.
The bottom line?

There is no substitute for thinking for yourself in your specific context!

Boring conversations and KM    (top | next | prev)

My website automatically posted the following quotation on LinkedIn via Twitter recently

"David Gurteen There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees. Michel de Montaigne http://bit.ly/ctwrQf via Twitter"

To which Stephen Goodwin commented:

"Not so sure about that ... conversations that constantly air disagreement may be worse."

And I replied:

"They may not be effective, even destructive but never boring LOL. I think much depends on the style of conversation. Intellectual debate and dialogue are effective. Argument, when it gets emotional and personal is not."

I think some issues do need constant airing through both dialogue and debate. KM is one of them! Its also why KM is never boring - there is still so little agreement after so long. To me that is not a bad thing.

Although all the claptrap about KM being dead I do find a little tedious.

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

Here are some of my more interesting Tweets for May - June 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.

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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