Impressions of the 2nd Gurteen Knowledge Conference 26 November 2003

Knowledge is not something you keep in your head, it's a behaviour




Shane Godbolt ; Tim Dee 


Adrian Hosford , Elizabeth Lank, Mick Cope, Victoria Ward, David Gurteen


Knowledge Management; Communities of Practice; Conversation; Dialogue; Knowledge Cafe


United Kingdom, London

Impressions of the 2nd David Gurteen KM Conference 26 November 2003
"Knowledge is not something you keep in your head, it's a behaviour"

Tim Dee, KPMG and Shane Godbolt, NHS Modernisation Agency Clinical Governance Support Team

Shane writes: ‘As an ‘old hand’ from David’s first conference my expectations were high and they were not disappointed. This conference, sponsored by Addept Solutions, modelled its theme. We gathered in a large, light and airy room and, sitting at round tables, we were able to get to know some of our colleagues before the day got underway formally.

David set the scene around the concepts for the day - knowledge, networking and communities - and then with a mischievous twinkle in his eye told us it was a Power Point free meeting! This was designed to be a highly participative day with all the speakers being skilled in facilitating conversations and in encouraging us to contribute and learn from each other.

Mick Cope
The first session was led by Mick Cope, who had spent 24 years with BT before founding his own Company. He began by telling us a story, which reminded us how deeply the fear of rejection is embedded in the human psyche. Mick was an engaging enthusiast and talked sound common sense with many new insights for me personally on networking. We should take the same care with networking that we would in making any significant financial investment and consider similar issues ’ effective networking is built on the skill of investment appraisal!’ This approach stimulated a lively debate on the ethics of networking; was it simply exploiting others for one’s own personal benefit, especially as Mick himself had told us that ‘ the ability to build an effective social relationship is at the heart of any networking process’? Mick pointed to the long term investment model. The first rule of networking is to give first and seek to help the other; the relationship will flourish if it seeks to create value for both parties. This is the ‘ abundance ‘ or ‘win/win’ mentality, which is positive and energizing. Key learning points for me were:

  • Network is not a synonym for friendship; it is a professional relationship based on the potential for shared value
  • The network is the amplifier to take you to market
  • Personal values need to be very clear before setting out on the networking journey (I was reminded of the biblical phrase about being ‘ wise as a serpent but harmless as a dove’) in order to steer a course through this new territory.
Mick embodied his message and generously provided each of us with a comprehensive booklet on Personal networking; making connections count, which elaborated on his session and included useful models and checklists plus the first two chapters of his book on personal networking.

Adrian Hosford
Following coffee we met Adrian Hosford, the moving force behind the very successful BT campaign It’s good to talk. Adrian directs BT’s Group Social Policy Team. His long experience of marketing combined with his thoughtful approach made this an immensely rich session. The many valuable insights and perspectives, which emerged in discussion, were held together in a coherent fashion by Adrian’s vast store of experience, knowledge and wisdom.

Conversations that work are crucial and encouraging teams to meet and talk is a process in which people need training. Adrian saw motivating people to change as a significant hurdle. As part of its commitment to social responsibility BT is concerned to encourage positive communication; currently 60% communication on the Internet is pornographic so the task is significant. Adrian flagged up the need for capabilities in conversation in organisations e.g. where 2 or 3 people are meeting creativity flourishes if there is a supportive environment and people are open, optimistic and sensitive to where the others are. Adrian and other participants were well informed on recent research and writings in the field but also reinforced centuries old truths e.g. the need to ‘ seek to understand rather than be understood’

It was interesting to hear the concept of IT as an amplifier and that women are better than men on collaborative conversations but less courageous on the use of communications technologies. The key concepts behind Adrian’s message were profound and simple

  • Take turns
  • Check understanding
  • Connect
  • Build
This resonated for me with a model I learnt in Oslo in 1994. All communication should be:
  • Simple
  • Activating
  • Building
  • Respectful
I can still picture this one handwritten slide, the only visual aid in a wide ranging and powerful talk given by a woman professor of Psychiatry from Oslo University.

Victoria Ward and Elizabeth Lank
Lunch was a relaxed affair because we were not rushing to be back within the hour and had time to converse with our table companions. The afternoon was a revelation. David introduced the two ‘ queens of knowledge management ‘ aptly named Elizabeth and Victoria. Between them they shared so much with and through us, and built effectively on previous sessions especially Adrian’s.

We learnt the Neil Mullarkey rule of conversation. Responses should always be ‘ Yes, and…’ ; never ‘No, but…’ . At their instigation we told each other stories sharing our really good and positive experiences of being part of a group or community and the lessons that could be learnt from that. This was again an incredibly rich and rewarding session full of insights, energy and learning. Flipcharts began to paper the wall in front of us all as ideas and contributions tumbled from the group and were picked up, enhanced and recorded. I felt Elizabeth and Victoria led us in a talking, listening , learning dance.

David Gurteen
Tim, a first time attendee, writes - The day drew to a close with a Knowledge Café, hosted by David who introduced the session by referring us to http:www.theworldcafe.com for good examples and guidelines on running a successful knowledge cafe. The main objectives of these cafes are to:

  • get a deeper understanding of issues/standpoints; and
  • build relationships.
Usually someone would set the theme of conversation for 15 minutes, before breaking into groups of 4-5 people to discuss the various issues. We discussed three questions:
  • what are the insights today?
  • what has surprised us?
  • what do we plan to go away and do as a result of today?
After discussing the issues in smaller groups, the whole group then reconvened to feedback our insights and views.

Personally, I found this session quite useful as it was a safe environment and there was no such thing as a "stupid" question. The key soundbite to summarise the day for me would be :

"Knowledge is not something you keep in your head, it's a behaviour"’
The day was enjoyable and a fun learning experience, which ran smoothly under David’s guiding hand. Tim and Shane highly recommend early booking for the 3rd Conference in March 2004 and hope to see you there!

Video: The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff: From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Media Information: Image

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
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