Gurteen Knowledge-Log


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Welcome to the Gurteen Knowledge Log for 2014 - 2015. 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

Thursday 27 October 2016

10:59 GDTPermanent link to #Numeracy and literacy are important but what about oracy?# Numeracy and literacy are important but what about oracy? - Comments

The other morning in the shower, I was reflecting on the UAEs reading initiative.

I could not help but wonder if the ability to hold a good conversation was as important as being able to read well. And so I asked myself the question "Is conversation as important as reading?" or "Is the love of conversation as important as the love of reading?"

Of course, we need both, and in many ways, they are equally important in life but if that is the case why is so much emphasis attached to reading and writing - so-called literacy. In school, once we have learned the four basics of language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing - the educational focus tends to be on reading and writing. In fact, listening and speaking are not really taught in schools they are more absorbed than taught and what teaching does take place is by our parents.

I suspect the focus on literacy, more than anything else, is for the purpose of being examined on what we have been taught. It is far, far easier to test someone's knowledge by getting them to answer written questions or writing an essay than having a conversation about what they know. Being taught to listen and to speak well, in other words, hold a conversation, in its various forms such as discussion, dialogue, and debate don't get much of a look-in. in our exam-obsessed educational systems.

But think about it - in our adult lives which is more important? In the home and in the office which is the more important life skill? The ability to read, the capacity to write or the ability to hold a good conversation? As very young children, when we are learning the basics, doesn't listening and speaking naturally come first? Isn't the ability to hold a good conversation the foundation of literacy? Shouldn't more focus be placed here?

Well, I went to Google and Googled something like "Is conversation more important than reading?". And I discovered something quite fascinating - a new word - oracy - well at least to me and my spell checkers, though if you are in Education you well be familiar with the term.

The concept of ‘oracy' was coined as recently as 1965, by the researcher Andrew Wilkinson to give the subject of ‘speaking and listening' more gravitas. So to numeracy and literacy, we need to add oracy.

  • numeracy: the ability to understand and work with numbers.

  • literacy: the ability to read and write.

  • oracy: the ability to express oneself in and understand spoken language.

09:46 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: October 2016# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: October 2016 - Comments

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.

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

Wednesday 26 October 2016

09:42 GDTPermanent link to #Knowledge principles for government# Knowledge principles for government - Comments

It is tremendous to see a resurgence in KM in UK Government in the form of a set of Knowledge Principles.

This set of knowledge principles has been designed by Knowledge and Information Management (KIM) practitioners in government to assist their colleagues in developing strategies and plans to improve how knowledge is shared in their departments.

Knowledge is not information, although information management principles may be applied to captured knowledge. Knowledge capture, however, must not be seen as synonymous with, or a substitute for, a holistic knowledge management programme.

Knowledge is the sum of experience, training, insight and education and is tacit, whereas information is tangible, captured, manipulated in information systems and subject to further interpretation.

And a recognition that KM is different from IM. I have a lot of my own to say about this.

This looks like a great step forward but I have a nagging concern. It is one thing for a working group to craft a document defining Knowledge Principles but how many people actually read it and understand it and of those, how many will actively engage with the ideas and put them into action.

I always feel that documents, like this. on their own achieve very little. An additional second step is needed.

What I would like to see now is a series of Knowledge Cafés being run across Government in all sorts of ways to allow people to engage with the principles and bring them to life.

This may be happening but I doubt it, though I'd love to hear that I am wrong :-)

Writing a document is the relatively easy bit, engaging people is the challenge!

Friday 30 September 2016

09:06 GDTPermanent link to #In the future, will everything be a coffeeshop?# In the future, will everything be a coffeeshop? - Comments

In the future, will everything be a coffee shop?. Universities? Bookstores? Retail Stores? Offices?

Note that like the coffeehouses of 17th century London, that even today coffee shops are more than just places to drink coffee. They are places to meet, to read, to study, to work, to hold meetings, to have conversations and more.

What do you think?

Thursday 27 October 2016

09:36 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.

How do we become better teachers of our knowledge?
Tue 08 Nov 2016, Farnborough, United Kingdom

KM World 2016
14 - 17 Nov 2016, Washington DC, United States

Cultural and Community Knowledge in Australia
16 - 17 Nov 2016, Melblourne, Australia

Create good conversations with the right tools
Wed 16 Nov 2016, Copenhagen, Denmark

Knowledge Cafe Masterclass - with David Gurteen
Tue 22 Nov 2016, London, United Kingdom

KM Asia 2016
30 Nov - 01 Dec 2016, Hong Kong, China

KM Legal Europe 2017
18 - 19 Jan 2017, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Advancing your OD practice
24 - 25 Jan 2017, Henley on Thames, United Kingdom

IntraTeam Event Copenhagen 2017
28 Feb - 02 Mar 2017, Copenhagen, Denmark

Henley Forum Annual Conference 2017
01 - 02 Mar 2017, Henley on Thames, United Kingdom

The Wheels of Knowledge Management
07 - 09 Mar 2017, Melbourne and Canberra, Australia

9th European Conference on Intellectual Capital
06 - 07 Apr 2017, Lisbon, Portugal

5th International Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship 2017
26 - 27 Apr 2017, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

4th European Conference on Social Media
03 - 04 Jul 2017, Vilnius, Lithuania

Tuesday 27 September 2016

15:53 GDTPermanent link to #The dangers of anonymity# The dangers of anonymity - Comments

There are several ways in which we express our ideas or have discussions while hiding who we are.

Many on-line discussion forums allow us to post anonymously or to give a false name and we can frequently express our opinions anonymously in surveys or interviews.

We employ these techniques for seemingly good reason. If we are introverted or lack confidence in our beliefs; they allow us to speak up without fear of judgment or personal criticism.

And in fear of the consequences, they potentially make it possible to be more truthful by saying things that others might not wish to hear.

But anonymity has a serious downside as it encourages us:
  • to be less authentic
  • to avoid intimacy
  • to avoid building relationships
  • to lie rather than tell the truth
  • to avoid confrontation
  • to be nasty and vindictive (think internet trolls)

But worst of all, it allows us to avoid conversation.

I don't want my views challenged.

I want to have my say, but I don't want to hear what you have to say.

It's about monologue, not dialogue.

Anonymity kills the conversation.

11:50 GDTPermanent link to #World Values Day 20th October 2016# World Values Day 20th October 2016 - Comments

World Values Day is coming up on 20th October and will be the first truly international World Values Day.

The objective of the Day is to raise and deepen the awareness and practice of values all around the world. Positive values that is :-)

The day will provide an opportunity to think about our most deeply held values and to act on them. If we are aware to our values and put them into action each and every day, we can change our lives and change the world we live in.

See the World Values Day website for information on events and activities taking place around the world as well as many useful tools and resources that can help in exploring our own values and those of our organisations and communities.

And if you are in London on the 20th then come along to my World Values Day Café in the evening where the subject of the conversation will be "Putting our values into action - why is it so hard?" It's free.

11:39 GDTPermanent link to #The last of human freedoms# The last of human freedoms - Comments

In 1989, I first read Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and he introduced me to the life and work of Viktor Frankl.

Viktor Frankl was an internationally renowned psychiatrist. In 1946, he wrote the book Man's Search for Meaning.

In his book, he begins with a deeply moving personal account of his imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps during the Second World War, and his struggle during that time to find reasons to live.

In the second part of the book called "Logotherapy in a Nutshell," he describes the psychotherapeutic method that he pioneered as a result of his experiences in the concentration camps.

At the core of Logotherapy is his belief that man's primary motivational force is a search for meaning.

One sentence in the book stood out for me:

The last of human freedoms - the ability to chose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances.

Credit: Viktor E. Frankl

Stephen Covey expresses the concept a little more fully:
In the space between stimulus (what happens) and how we respond, lies our freedom to choose.

Ultimately, this power to choose is what defines us as human beings.

We may have limited choices, but we can always choose.

We can choose our thoughts, emotions, moods, our words, our actions; we can choose our values and live by principles.

It is the choice of acting or being acted upon.

Credit: Stephen R. Covey

This idea that we have the ability to chose our response to any stimulus in any set of circumstances has had a huge shaping influence on me over the years and I have tried to abide by the philosophy. Not always successfully I might add.

And then much more recently, I came across the work of Peter Block. Peter in his book Community: The Structure of Belonging says this:

The real task of leadership is to confront people with their freedom.

Credit: Peter Block

Peter's ideas have been very much influenced by the work of Peter Koestenbaum

To my mind, we are all leaders to one degree or another, and so it's the task of each and every one of us to remind each other of our freedom to choose not only how we respond to situations but:
  • who we are
  • what we think
  • what we do
  • and how we go about it

Monday 26 September 2016

15:33 GDTPermanent link to #Decisions Are Emotional, Not Logical# Decisions Are Emotional, Not Logical - Comments

Neuroscience is throwing more and more light on our true nature as human beings and has the potential to dramatically transform the way we see the world.

This is an interesting article about decision making and the research that confirms what I suspect most of us have intuited for a long time - decisions are emotional - not logical.

Think of a situation where you had bulletproof facts, reason, and logic on your side, and believed there was absolutely no way the other person could say no to your perfectly constructed argument and proposal.

To do so would be impossible, you figured, because there was no other logical solution or answer.

And then the other person dug in his heels and refused to budge. He wasn't swayed by your logic. Were you flabbergasted?

Tuesday 30 August 2016

16:18 GDTPermanent link to #The Myth of Thamus and Theuth# The Myth of Thamus and Theuth - Comments

Have you ever considered the invention of writing to have been a bad thing?
But Thamus replied that, as the “father of writing,” Theuth's affection for writing had kept him from acknowledging the truth about writing.

In fact, Thamus asserted, writing increases forgetfulness rather than memory.

Instead of internalizing and understanding things, students will rely on writing as a potion for reminding.

Moreover, students will be exposed to many ideas without properly thinking about them.

Thus, they will have an “appearance of wisdom” while “for the most part they will know nothing” (Phaedrus, 275a-b).


Socrates used the illustration to point out that writing alone has no understanding of itself and “continues to signify just the same thing forever” (Phaedrus, 275d-e).

Nor does it discern its audience nor offer self explanation. Socrates instead favoured conversation, “the living, breathing discourse of a man who knows, of which the written one can be fairly called an image” (Phaedrus, 276a)

Think again - what a fascinating view point of Socrates :-)

15:46 GDTPermanent link to #Why we need to talk# Why we need to talk - Comments

Problems in organizations tend to get labelled as lack of information.

It feels more professional to try to solve a knowledge management problem that is called lack of information than a problem that is called confusion.

The same event means different things to different people and just getting more information will not help them.

Credit: Esko Kilpi

In this article by Esko Kilpi he explains why we need to talk - not because we lack information but to resolve ambiguity and confusion.

12:36 GDTPermanent link to #What is the meaning of Shared Meaning?# What is the meaning of Shared Meaning? - Comments

As I write my blook and research and reflect on various topics, I frequently need to think through and define what things mean to me:
  • What is leadership?

  • What is meant by "shared meaning"?

  • What is the difference between responsibility and accountability and how do they relate to commitment?

  • What is a complex adaptive problem?

  • What is meant by serendipity?
Some of these are not easy questions and I find myself drafting something and then leaving if for weeks, if not months and continually returning to iteratively refine my definition and thinking and tinkering with it over a period of time until I am happy. Well at least, happy-ish - my blook will always be in perpetual beta :-)

Here are my current thoughts on shared meaning - a phrase bandied about a lot but rarely defined.

Let me know what you think, is this what it means to you or have I missed something?

10:56 GDTPermanent link to #There is Something Different in London# There is Something Different in London - Comments

If you live in London or visit occasionally, I think you may love this website: Something Different in London.

The aim of the site is to provide a platform for you to discover new and exciting things to do in London, geared towards alternative and unusual experiences, which as a general rule, don't cost a fortune.

It's an amazing website put together by two of my children - my twins Jonathan and Sally Gurteen (they are in their 30s now - so no longer children) who live and work in the Capital.

Even if you never get to London, take a look - its amazing the quirky things you can find to do in a large metropolis.

I have not visited it yet but this is one of my favourite places Board game cafe.

10:00 GDTPermanent link to #Legal KM Mini-Interviews with Ginevra Saylor# Legal KM Mini-Interviews with Ginevra Saylor - Comments

eClerx Services in India have been conducting mini-interviews with KM experts from across the world for the last few years. Take a look at their YouTube Channel.

They have recently added a number of interviews to their video library focusing on KM in law firms, in a series of short Q&A clips with Ginevra Saylor, head of KM at Denton's.

If you delve back 6 years ago you will even find a few interviews with me :-)

Monday 26 September 2016

09:43 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: September 2016# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: September 2016 - Comments

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.

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

Tuesday 23 August 2016

14:45 GDTPermanent link to #Seth Godin thinks compliance is quite different from contribution# Seth Godin thinks compliance is quite different from contribution - Comments

I think I have said it before, I love Seth Godins blog. His posts are frequent, short and insightful.
Organized bureaucracies thrive on compliance. It makes it easier to tell people what to do .

But contribution is the only way that tribes thrive, the best way to make change happen and the essence of being part of a community.

It's a shame that we spend so much time teaching our children (and our employees) to comply. Far better to seek out contribution instead.

Credit: Seth Godin

This recent post resonates so strongly with me that I have included it in my blook in a post Create ownership - not buy-in.

12:09 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: August 2016# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: August 2016 - Comments

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.

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

Wednesday 27 July 2016

15:06 GDTPermanent link to #Do noise and distractions boost your creativity?# Do noise and distractions boost your creativity? - Comments

When I used to code and had to focus, I needed a quiet room without interruptions but today when I write far more than I code, I find that working in a coffee-shop is more conducive to my thinking and writing.

I have often commented or reflected on this phenomenon and recently tripped over some research that shows that the background noise of a coffee shop may be helping to boost my creativity.

There is even a website Coffitivity that recreates the ambient sounds of a café supposedly to boost your creativity and help you work better. Give it a whirl and see if it works for you - not so sure it does for me - it just gets annoying after a few minutes :-)

But I think there is more to the café environment than just the noise of the background chatter - it's the distractions of people as they come and go that seem to inspire me. Being highly social, I like to take the opportunity to strike up a conversation with someone - often not for long, but long enough, for my mind, to relax and change state so that when I return to my writing, I see things in a new light. I like to be able to observe and interact with people as and when I choose.

So I thought I would Google to see if there was any research to support the idea that distractions boosted creativity and sure enough there was: Inspired by Distraction; Mind Wandering Facilitates Creative Incubation and here too The Right Distractions Can Boost Creativity.

Though maybe I could find research to support any hypotheses I might have :-)

But seriously, I think there is a great deal in this and I think the distractions of the noise and bustle and social interaction of a Knowledge Café have a positive impact on the conversations and the creativity of the people taking part. There is some research to support this also.

I am always on the lookout for research concerning conversation - do let me know if you are aware of any.

09:28 GDTPermanent link to #Blending online and face-to-face conversation# Blending online and face-to-face conversation - Comments

I have talked in the past about telepresence and beaming into a Knowledge Café and also looked at some spectacular Kinect based technology were the user is able to see and talk to people inside another room via an interactive 3D display.

I have yet to experiment with any of this technology myself but I just spotted that Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner having been doing some very interesting work in blending online and face-to-face conversation.

And none of this is using expensive or exotic technology, just everyday stuff such as laptops, smartphones, Skype and Whatsapp.

Take a look, you may well be able to use some of these ideas in your own workshops and get-togethers.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

17:18 GDTPermanent link to #NYC Knowledge Cafe# NYC Knowledge Cafe - Comments

When I first began to run my regular evening Knowledge Cafés in London back in September 2002, I also started to run them in one or two other locations around the world.

The one in Adelaide, Australia is still running but has metamorphosed into the Adelaide KM Group.

And the one in NYC stopped operating a few years back - well until now - it has been resurrected thanks to Suzanne Roff-Wexler and Sharon Gai.

The next Café is on August 3rd. So if you live in the NYC area - try to get along - I am sure you will have a great evening :-)

There is also a Knowledge Café in Hong Kong run by Maria Leung. It is not one of my Gurteeen Knowledge Cafés and the topics and format are not quite the same but if you like interesting conversations - take a look.

10:26 GDTPermanent link to #Downoad a copy of Shawn Callahan’s new book Putting Stories to Work for free.# Downoad a copy of Shawn Callahan’s new book Putting Stories to Work for free. - Comments

For a very limited time you can download a copy of Shawn Callahan's new book Putting Stories to Work for free with absolutely no strings attached.

This is an amazing offer from Shawn. Get in here quick - I don't know how long the offer will last :-)

Or if you wish, you can buy a paperback version on Amazon. Also, check out the great reviews.

10:12 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: July 2016# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: July 2016 - Comments

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.

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

Thursday 30 June 2016

09:05 GDTPermanent link to #Serendipity Café# Serendipity Café - Comments

I am always looking for ways to experiment with different formats of my Café.

Some of you may be familiar with the Café Debate format that I trialed recently at the KM Legal Conference in London. It was a big success.

And then there was the series of three Cafés I ran at St Ethelburga's in the City late last year entitled Do your little bit of good which worked well but not quite as well I had hoped.

You also may be aware of the Randomised Coffee Trials I am running in London to bring people together random to have coffee with each other once a month.

There is also my Espresso Café - a Café that can be run in 30 minutes which I had hoped to run at KM UK but because of illness had to drop out at the last minute. Ian Rodwell of Linklaters ran a slightly modified version that I am told went well.

But for a long time now I've had the idea of what I call a Serendipity Café in my head.

Unlike my regular Cafés, in a Serendipity Café there is not be a speaker and a single conversational theme. I am looking to create an environment where people can have a multitude of short conversations with lots of different people about all sorts of random things and see what emerges.

I haven't quite figured out the precise format yet, but my current thinking is this:

Each participant brings along one object with them. The object could be a book it could be a piece of jewellery, a toy, a magazine article, an ornament, a photograph or a clipping from a newspaper. Anything that appeals to them but ideally something personal that has a story attached to it in some way. Something to talk about. Something that the individual feels passionate about.

After an initially extended round of speed conversations the participants each take a few seconds to say a few words and thus share their object with the room. Maybe I should call it a "show and tell" café. LOL People then continue the networking style conversations in twos or threes where they talk about the objects they have bought along to the event.

Finally, as with my regular Cafés, everyone comes together at the end to share the insights they have gleaned from the conversations and any serendipitous events that have resulted in their going away with something unexpected from the Café.

That's the idea! All a bit of an experiment. I am running one in London on the 5th July.

I'll let you know how it goes :-)

08:34 GDTPermanent link to #Conversare Events in Adelaide and London# Conversare Events in Adelaide and London - Comments

My good friend Alan Stewart has a similar passion to me for hosting interesting conversations and organises events called Conversare which he started running in Hong Kong several years ago and now runs regularly in Adelaide Australia. This is how Alan describes his events:

The name Conversare (pronounced conversari) comes from the Latin: to turn or to dance together. Conversare events are social gatherings in public places in which participants converse – talk well to each other. There is a host who co-creates with those present an ambiance in which everyone feels welcome, included and ready to participate in face to face conversation.

The purpose is to have safe, friendly contexts in which all who come – whatever your background – quickly feel welcome and at ease. With a setting which is gentle and accepting, by the end your fellow participants don't feel like strangers at all.

A central feature is engaging, in pairs, in one to one conversation with a stranger. Everyone in the room does the same; everybody participates fully. Not knowing anything about this person means having to be aware of how to question, listen and contribute appropriately. Doing this often leads to the finding that, no matter who the person is, the pair have much in common even though their personal histories may be quite different.

And so here is an opportunity to meet others who have different life experiences, lifestyles and fascinating stories to share; people who know something you don't know. There can be totally unexpected outcomes – learnings and insights! – from doing this.

Developed firstly in Hong Kong these new kind of social gatherings are now being held regularly in the Adelaide Central Market after trading hours on weekday nights.

These events can be held in diverse places such as cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, community centers … Being public places means that anybody is welcome to participate. And it is not necessary to know any of the people present before coming to join in.

In our modern, complex, and often quite fragmented lives, there is little opportunity to have satisfying conversations other than with people we already know. And many find it very difficult to meet new people in ways which may lead to satisfying friendships.

The events are for people who yearn to be heard and to listen to stories of lived experience which they could not have imagined. They bring attention to people that there are now places in which these happen

Credit: Conversare

They are similar to Theodore Zeldin's Conversation Dinners but without the conversation menu. You can learn more about them here.

Alan Stewart will be in the UK in July. So what better opportunity to hold one in London for my Knowledge Community. Alan will be hosting the evening and If you love the idea as much as I do then come along on the 19th July and enjoy the conversation. It may well be the first of many such Conversare Cafés in London :-)

And if London is a tad too far for you - why not get in touch with Alan and talk about running one yourself. Or take part in one of his events in Adelaide if that is any closer for you :-)

Wednesday 29 June 2016

15:44 GDTPermanent link to #The Huawei Break the Book Community# The Huawei Break the Book Community - Comments

In November 2015, I gave a talk at KM Asia (a large annual Knowledge Management conference) on Conversational Leadership in Hong Kong. One of my fellow speakers was Frankie Lai, a Knowledge Manager at Huawei Technologies Co. – the world's largest telecom equipment and solution provider, based in Shenzhen City, China.

As part of his presentation, Frankie talked about the Huawei Break the Book Community or BBC for short - a form of book discussion club.

It is such a simple but powerful example of peer learning that has so much in keeping with the principles of the Knowledge Café and what I call a Reading Group Café that I asked if I could interview him by email and document in detail the background and philosophy to the Huawei BBC and how it was run. This is the recent interview with him.

Take a good hard look at this, it is something that you could so easily implement in your own organization.

11:48 GDTPermanent link to #Unhurried Conversations# Unhurried Conversations - Comments

I talked recently about Johnnie Moores Unhurried Conversations but since then came across Dean Emily-Chamlee Wright at Washington College describing the importance of unhurried conversations in this short video. There is a webpage here too.

The most powerful part of a liberal arts education is found in a single, unfettered conversation between a teacher and a student.

It means understanding that sometimes the most significant part of an education is found beyond the classroom.

These unhurried moments are what we delight in sharing with each other, where we explore the ideas and experiences that excite our minds.

It's a powerful but simple idea.Why not give some thought to convening some yourself?

10:07 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: June 2016# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: June 2016 - Comments

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.

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

Tuesday 31 May 2016

10:40 GDTPermanent link to #Buying second hand books in mint condition# Buying second hand books in mint condition - Comments

A few months back I ordered a second hand book from America via Amazon that was out of print. It took some weeks to arrive but it was in near mint condition at a fraction of the original price.

So a week or so ago, rather than ordering new copies of three books I wanted again via a Amazon I decided to buy them second hand. This time I ordered them from 3 separate UK suppliers to ensure I did not need to wait so long.

They all arrived within a few days and without exception they are as good as new. I could afford to buy them new - but why should I? In fact, it means I will buy more books :-)

I bought a few Kindle books a year or so back that in retrospect I wish I had bought as hardcopy. I may just go back and order them - second hand of course :-)

And the books:

09:29 GDTPermanent link to #FUD is a good thing# FUD is a good thing - Comments

FUD – fear uncertainty and doubt. No, not the marketing sort of FUD but the kind of stuff in your head whenever change takes place.

It is OK to fear and question things. Having doubts and reservations is OK. It is a natural part of the thinking, reflection and commitment process.

Every new endeavour starts this way. If it doesn't then, the chances are that something is terribly wrong.

The last thing we should do is to stifle these thoughts. It is essential they are expressed openly. They should be actively solicited.

Coercing people to agree or to commit is one of the many destructive things we do to each other.

Expressing our true feelings is the start of a conversation that leads to ownership and commitment.
If we cannot say "no" then "yes" has no meaning.

Credit: Peter Block

Friday 27 May 2016

17:53 GDTPermanent link to #Conversation is hard# Conversation is hard - Comments

"I'm afraid the senior managers in my organisation have got no interest in conversation. They see it as far too soft."

How many times have I heard that comment or something similar? Far too often, I am sorry to say.

I have a different perspective. Paradoxically, I think conversation isn't soft; I believe that it's extremely hard.

It is hard in two ways:

First, it's hard to convince people of the power of conversation. Such difficulty is not too surprising as few of us have experienced the types of compelling conversations that make a difference in our organizations.

Managers think they need to be seen to talk tough and argue and debate things and conversation or dialogue is soft and wooly. How many times do you hear that something needs to be debated, but you rarely hear that we need to have some creative dialogue?

We need both – dialogue and debate. Each has its place.

Second, conversation is hard in that it creates some solid outcomes. Making a decision may seem like a hard result. And of course, it is. But what if that decision is flawed. It's a hard outcome but a bad one. Now imagine a conversation that helps a group of people make sense of a situation and thus put them in a better position to make an improved decision.

Is this outcome – “improved understanding”- soft or is it hard? It's hard of course! Conversation is anything but soft and wooly.

16:45 GDTPermanent link to #If history could be folded, where would you put the crease?# If history could be folded, where would you put the crease? - Comments

I walked past Southwark Tube Station during the week and could not miss this work of art - a huge eye level bill board that said:

"If history could be folded, where would you put the crease?"

What an amazing question! Where would you put the crease? Would you crease it vertically, horizontally or diagonally? Are there other ways of creasing it?

When designing my Knowledge Cafés, I often wonder what it is that makes a really good provocative question and I am trying to write something on the subject but I feel there is a "secret sauce" that I have yet to discern.

But this question, seems to hold out a clue. Is it something to do with metaphor?

15:41 GDTPermanent link to #Johnnie Moore Johnnie Moore's Unhurried Conversations - Comments

I love this idea from Johnnie Moore on unhurried conversation and an update here and may well experiment with it in one of my future Knowledge Cafés.

The idea is amazingly simple but at the same time powerful. In Johnnies's words:

"We invite up to 12 people via MeetUp. We don't specify a topic, rather letting people talk about whatever they want. Apart from briefly describing our idea, we use one very simple device to support the conversation.It's a talking piece. We pick an object and whoever holds it gets to talk. And everyone else listens. Which means the speaker won't get interrupted. (And I add that you can hold the object and not speak… you can hold silence until you're ready to speak.)"

And a comment of his:

"After lots of these conversations, I am appreciating more and more how surprising people can be, given a bit of space to think and express themselves. Conversations are rich and complex, with much less of the battling for attention we often experience."

Taking the time to have slow meandering, reflective conversations is never a waste of time. It's an investment in building relationships and all sorts of amazing insights and ideas can surface from them that are unlikely to be gleaned in any other way.

And I am totally with Johnnie, when he says we need less flip charts and post-it notes and other bells an whistles when facilitating such conversations. If anything worth noting or following through on surfaces it will get followed up on naturally. All the usual workshop paraphernalia just gets in the way of the conversation.

12:31 GDTPermanent link to #Call for book chapters on Organizational Learning# Call for book chapters on Organizational Learning - Comments

Idongesit Williams and a colleague Albert Gyamfi are editing a book titled "Evaluating Media Richness in Organizational Learning". The publisher of the book is IGI Global and is due by March 30th, 2017.

See the call for chapter proposals.

The deadline for submitting the proposal has been extended to the 20th June, 2016.

10:43 GDTPermanent link to #Cafe Debate Feedback# Cafe Debate Feedback - Comments

I ran a Knowledge Café Debate at the KM Legal UK conference in London a few weeks back. The debate format is still a bit of an experiment and so I was delighted with the feedback. Carol and Claire my two debaters did a fantastic job!
Many thanks again for your participation in the recent KM Legal UK event.

Please find your speaker feedback below. Overall speaker average was 5.8. 12:15 – David Gurteen, Gurteen Knowledge Community
Carol Aldridge, Burges Salmon
Claire Stripp, Browne Jacobson

Presentation style - 6.4/7
Content - 6.1/7

  • Thought-provoking and stimulated good debate.
  • Great, very interactive.
  • This was fun – and a good opportunity to share and chat with others.
  • Very good; well-structured, good presentations, thought-provoking discussion.
  • Excellent presentation/debate style, dynamic. Topic to be discussed could be less determined (i.e. difficult to argue ‘against').
  • Loved this session, really effective.
  • Another of my favourite sessions, entertaining and genuinely got us talking amongst the room and meeting others.
  • Liked the interactivity of the format.
  • Really enjoyed this – a bit of fun and meant the audience mixed which was very useful from a networking point of view.
  • Very engaging style. Felt having two debaters with opposing views gave the right environment in which to contribute freely. Credit to the debaters too - they were excellent.
But this piece of feedback hit me the most - the debate format seems to help reduce social silencing.
David's Knowledge Café, rather than just bringing up a topic for discussion, began with a debate.

The two excellent debaters provided polar opposite views on the topic as a starting point for a larger discussion.

These views, I felt, established the environment for the larger discussion – encouraging honest and more provoking conversation than expected.

It effectively gave permission for us all to push the boundaries, and feel safe to do so.

Personally, I felt more confident to offer left-field views to the group than I would have done during a normal conference discussion.

Credit: Andrew Pope, Consulting Partner, Innosis
Andrew, wasn't the only one to comment on this. I am going to experiment more in light of this feedback.

09:52 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: May 2016# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: May 2016 - Comments

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.

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

Thursday 28 April 2016

15:35 GDTPermanent link to #Henley Forum: Advanced Course in Knowledge Management# Henley Forum: Advanced Course in Knowledge Management - Comments

I have been a "friend" of the Henley Forum for Organisational Learning and Knowledge Strategies (known as the Henley Forum) since its inception in 2000..

It has done some great work over those years - some of it published freely online. Take a look at their Knowledge in Action series of leaflets for example (over 30 of them) such as this one on Evaluating communities of practice: adopting learning-oriented approaches - really good, useful material if you are working in KM or even if you are not!

They also run an annual conference and regular workshops. Most of these events are only open to members but increasingly they are making a small number of places available to non-members.

They have a 2-day Advanced Course in Knowledge Management facilitated by Dr Christine van Winkelen coming up in July. for example. I often get people asking me where they can find a really good Knowledge Management course and this is one - go take a look.

12:43 GDTPermanent link to #Espresso Café and Café Debate# Espresso Café and Café Debate - Comments

I am often asked to host a Knowledge Café as part of a conference. To run a good Café, ideally, I need two hours but I can run them in an hour at a pinch. But I have never tried to run one in less - until now that is.

I have come up with the idea of an "Espresso Café" - one that can be run in as little as half-an-hour. I will be trying it out for the fist time at Knowledge Management UK 2016 in London in June. I have been taking part in this conference for more years than I care to remember. It's an excellent conference - take a look if you are not already registered. Paul Corney and Nick Milton are among the speakers.

And then Café Debates, I have talked about them in the past. I am delighted to be running one at KM Legal UK 2016 in London in May. The motion, I think is an interesting one:

"This Café believes that legal KM can only be successful if embedded in the organizational culture."

I have found two eager debaters to debate the motion and then we will open things up to Café style conversation. If you work in the legal sector, take a look at the rest of the agenda, the conference has a great line up of speakers and topics. I am looking forward to this one!

11:17 GDTPermanent link to #Humble Inquiry is the first and most important step in building any kind of relationship# Humble Inquiry is the first and most important step in building any kind of relationship - Comments

Some people seem to think that Knowledge Management is dying or has died but it hasn't - it is alive and well. One of the reasons for this misconception is that so much that falls in the realm of Knowledge Management masquerades in another form or under another name.

Humble Inquiry - a term invented by Edgar Schein is one such example.

Edgar has written a book on the subject Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling and you will find a substantial excerpt of it online.

Quite simply, in Edgar's words, "Humble Inquiry is asking the question to which you already don't know the answer, bolstered by an attitude of inquiry, an attitude of interest in the other person, a curiosity."

He goes on to say that "And the importance of that very curiosity, that interest in the other person, is precisely why Humble Inquiry is the first and most important step in building any kind of relationship, whether you are just making a new friendship or wooing a girl or trying to talk to a team-mate on a more personal basis. It should usually almost always start with some form of Humble Inquiry."

Watch this video, where Edgar explains what it is all about, and notice this is not just at the heart of KM but about face-to-face conversation and relationship building - something that Conversational Leadership is all about too :-)

It keeps bringing me back to the words of Peter Block:
We must establish a personal connection with each other.

Connection before content.

Without relatedness, no work can occur

Credit: Peter Block

10:09 GDTPermanent link to #Henry Mintzberg Henry Mintzberg's TWOGS - Comments

I am a great fan of Hentry Mintzberg and subscribe to his TWOGS.

He writes some entertaining and interesting blog posts such as this one Ye gods: an efficient orchestra!

And this is one of my all time favourite quotes from his work.

An enterprise is a community of human beings, not a collection of "human resources".

If you are not familiar with his work - check him out - he is one of the more insightful business and management academics. You can also follow him on Twitter.

09:29 GDTPermanent link to #Tripp Crosby ... has joined the meeting# Tripp Crosby ... has joined the meeting - Comments

What do you think of conference calls? Love them? Hate them?

This conference call in real life, I think, will have you rolling in the floor in laughter :-)

08:49 GDTPermanent link to #The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality# The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality - Comments

I have a degree in physics but my scientific life is long ago in my past.

But I try to keep up with scientific thinking and still regularly read New Scientist.

As I get older, I become more and more curious about the world, why we are here and the nature of reality. Maybe more philosophical questions than scientific ones LOL.

I have long suspected that we have got reality all wrong. That there is something fundamental we are missing that what we see is some sort of mirage. But these are just idle thoughts of mine, I am no expert in the matter.

And then this morning I came a across this article The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality and the thinking of the cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman. I must admit I don't fully understand all of what he has to say but he has seriously provoked my thinking about reality. This sentence especially so:

"It's not that there's a classical brain that does some quantum magic. It's that there's no brain!"

What are we really? Does it matter? Take a look, in some ways it is a little scary :-)

Tuesday 26 April 2016

08:25 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: April 2016# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: April 2016 - Comments

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.

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

Tuesday 29 March 2016

13:24 GDTPermanent link to #A Cafe Debate is a powerful way of triggering deeper conversations# A Cafe Debate is a powerful way of triggering deeper conversations - Comments

Although the context for a Knowledge Café conversation is usually set by a single speaker giving a short talk and posing a question there are a number of other approaches – a Café debate is one of them.

In a Café debate, the context is set by two people (or more) debating opposing views on a topic – the motion of the debate - that also forms the Café question. The Café then proceeds as normal and concludes in a vote being taken.

This goes a little bit against the philosophy of the Café as some people may hold on to fixed views in order to “win” the debate but this style of Café can be great fun if people do not take it too seriously and are prepared to “win” or “lose”.

The value is not in the outcome but in the conversations that are held at the tables and the insights into the issue that are gleaned by the participants.

I have run Cafés like this in the past but more recently I ran one at an open Knowledge Café at BAE Systems in Farnborough and I am hoping to run one at KM Legal UK 2016 in London in May. I just need to find a hot topic and two good debaters!

They work well - see here to learn more about the process.

11:36 GDTPermanent link to #Time Chasm# Time Chasm - Comments

My good friend John Hovell popped around for a cup of tea the other day and during our conversation explained a fascinating concept of his that had been lying dormant in his head for the past few years. Our conversation reawakened it and having walked home he shot a little video where he describes it.

It's a strange two-by-two matrix for reflecting on the world in the context of time, where both axes are on the surface identical, that he calls Time Chasm. It takes a little bit of getting your head around. Take a look and see what you make of it. The video is only 5 minutes long.

10:37 GDTPermanent link to #How to Have a Good Conversation# How to Have a Good Conversation - Comments

I am not a great fan of "10 ways to do something". The items are far too often, trite or just plain wrong.. But take a look at this TEDx talk from Celeste Headlee (@CelesteHeadlee) on How to have a good conversation. It's quite good.

In it she quotes from an article My Students Dont Know How to Have a Conversation by Paul Barnwell (@MindfulStew):

"Conversational competence might be the single-most overlooked skill we fail to teach students."


"Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain confident, coherent conversation?"

Do you agree with Paul? If it is not conversation, what are the most important skills we sholud be teaching?

Thursday 24 March 2016

16:23 GMTPermanent link to #How to disempower people# How to disempower people - Comments

When we try to empower people - do we inadvertently disempower them?

Just a thought :-)

11:58 GMTPermanent link to #Do we make people dependent?# Do we make people dependent? - Comments

I was talking to someone recently and they told me that although people engaged enthusiastically in the workshops that they organised that when they returned to the office they fell back into their old ways of working and failed to collaborate.

Someone had suggested to her that they did not have sufficient motivation or lacked the time or that it could just be weight of habit and of culture.

But an alternative explanation occurred to me - when you organise events for people - they will usually take part, engage and enjoy but they will never learn to do it for themselves. You make them dependant on you.

I think we need to organise more open space type events where people get to determine what is important to them, what they want to talk about and what they want to do. They take ownership.

We should then join in as an equal participants or get out of the way!

Wednesday 23 March 2016

14:28 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: March 2016# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: March 2016 - Comments

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.

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

Tuesday 23 February 2016

14:41 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: February 2016# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: February 2016 - Comments

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.

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

13:58 GMTPermanent link to #Café Debate# Café Debate - Comments

I am still working on my online book (my blook) and adding to it each day and now have over 150 posts. There is still a huge amount of work to do before I make the content generally available but I am opening up certain posts as I go along for comment and feedback. Here is one - it is how to use a debate to trigger a Knowledge Café conversation. I hope you find it useful.

I have run Cafés to this format only a few times in the past but I tried the process again recenlt at one of my recent Farnborough Knowledge Cafés. The two debaters took a more conversationalist approach than a debating one as explained in the post and it worked a treat.

12:12 GMTPermanent link to #Take a Guess: How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth?# Take a Guess: How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth? - Comments

Have you ever wondered how many human beings have ever lived on earth? Go on take a guess. And what percentage of those people are alive today?

This page on the Population Reference Bureau website does it's best to make a sound estimate and explains the rationale in some detail.

It surprises me just how small the total is and how high the percentage that are alive today.

One sobering fact is that "Life expectancy at birth probably averaged only about 10 years for most of human history." So much for the "good old days".

11:15 GMTPermanent link to #Steve Jobs on "Think Different"# Steve Jobs on "Think Different" - Comments

You may be getting a little bit tired of all the stories and videos posted online about Steve Jobs but I am still enjoying and learning from them

This video is from an Apple "Think Different" - Internal Meeting in September 1997 - just 10 weeks or so after he returned to Apple. What a difference almost 20 years makes!

Friday 19 February 2016

15:18 GMTPermanent link to #Got a meeting? Take a walk.# Got a meeting? Take a walk. - Comments

Next time you have a one-on-one meeting, make it into a “walking meeting”.

Research shows that walking improves your creativity – never mind being good exercise, so take a walk and let ideas flow while you walk and talk.

Nilofer Merchant: Got a meeting? Take a walk.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

16:05 GMTPermanent link to #A Knowledge Cafe for 100 people# A Knowledge Cafe for 100 people - Comments

I promised a detailed description of a Knowledge Café that I ran for Johnson & Johnson in Ireland last November for 100 people - well actually 4 concurrent Cafes in one room.

Here you go. Let me know if I can run one for you :-)

15:33 GMTPermanent link to #Transforming decision making meetings# Transforming decision making meetings - Comments

How many times have you taken part in a meeting to make a decision about an issue where they have been two factions in the room?

The first faction have already made up their minds what the decision should be and see the meeting as a means of coercing the others in the room to agree with them while the second faction wish to explore the issue further before making the decision.

The two groups do battle and it is usually the ones who have made up their minds ahead of time who win. This group tends to comprise the more senior managers, the more dominant characters and those who are used to getting their way.

In my corporate life, I experienced this many times. They were painful affairs.

But it need not be like this. There is a simple solution. Split the meeting into two parts.

The first part is a dialogue: exploring the issues with no predetermined outcome in mind other than to better understand the issues. This can be run as a whole group discussion but is better run to the Knowledge Café format.

The second part is more of a debate: actually making the decision. This can be as passionate and as heated as any meeting where a tough decision needs be taken but the in-depth exploration has been got out of the way.

You go into the fist part saying “We are going to take some time to explore and discuss the issues – to gain a better understanding of the situation. We are not going to make a decision and it is important that everyone's voice is heard”.

You then go into the second part by saying “Look we have spent time exploring the issues, you have all had your opportunity to contribute to the discussion but at the end of the day we need to make a decision. Time for dialogue is over – we must now make a decision.”

The gap between the two meetings could be a tea break or a morning and afternoon session or better still several days where people have the time to have side conversations and explore some of the issues further. It may even make sense to have two or more dialogue sessions if the decision warrants the time taken.

Try it, like here. It is such a simple thing to do.

12:40 GMTPermanent link to #Do you have listening difficulties?# Do you have listening difficulties? - Comments

We all appreciate the benefits of listening such as listening to ignite other people's thinking But most of us are not that good at it.

As Stephen Covey points out we tend to listen with the intent to reply rather than to understand or we fall into the trap of ditting other people's stories or we start to judge or evaluate what they have to say. There are many techniques that we can learn to improve our listening ability such as empathic listening. But there is a fundamental problem with listening that Patrick Callaghan pointed out to me after my recent post on ditting.

Even if we can withhold judgement and although we may be genuinely intent on listening, how ever hard we try to listen, the instant a spark of a response enters our heads we stop listening and start to compose our response silently in our mind. It is hard not to do this, it's a conversation after all and we are afraid that when it comes our turn to speak we will have nothing to say or have forgotten our earlier ideas or that we may be somewhat bumbling in our response if we have not rehearsed it in our heads.

On the surface this may seem like an insurmountable barrier to really listening to someone. But maybe it is easier then we think.

Let go!

Just drop all intention of replying at any point in the conversation and simply listen and when those responses pop into your head ignore them.

Then when there is a pause in the conversation and it makes sense to respond just go with it in real-time.

I realize this takes some confidence and trust that you won't make a bumbling fool of yourself and there may be longer silences between taking turn in the conversation and you may not even get to say much but then you are trying to listen after all. And in any case short periods of silence where everyone can reflect on things can only be good.

10:11 GMTPermanent link to #Ten questions for work that matters# Ten questions for work that matters - Comments

I do love Seth Godin's blog - almost every post is short and a gem. Here is a recent one
Ten questions for work that matters

What are you doing that's difficult?
What are you doing that people believe only you can do?
Who are you connecting?
What do people say when they talk about you?
What are you afraid of?
What's the scarce resource?
Who are you trying to change?
What does the change look like?
Would we miss your work if you stopped making it?
What do you stand for?
What contribution are you making?

Hints: Any question that's difficult to answer deserves more thought. Any answers that are meandering, nuanced or complex are probably a symptom of something important.

Go on - take a moment now - run through the questions in your head and try to briefly answer each one.

Monday 25 January 2016

17:15 GMTPermanent link to #Leave nothing but footprints - don Leave nothing but footprints - don't try to dent the universee - Comments

Dave Winer says Leave nothing but footprints. I've always wanted to help improve the world, so in many ways I disagree with him but I can see where he is coming from. There is an argument that says the Universe is just OK as it as and could not be any other way and that problems only exist in the human mind.

Should I really just try "to do something nice that won't change anything in any lasting way"?

No, I need to try to do more. I may make things worse (in some small way - hard to see I am going to have a big impact for the better or the worse) but is not in me to observe and do nothing.

How do you feel?

16:54 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: January 2016# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: January 2016 - Comments

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.

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

Tuesday 26 January 2016

15:55 GMTPermanent link to #Watch Bowie perfectly predict the internet Watch Bowie perfectly predict the internet's impact on music and society 15 years ago. - Comments

Watch David Bowie in an interview with Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight predict the potential of the internet way back in 1999

"We are living in total fragmentation ..."

"The audience is at least as important as who ever is playing ..."

And in this interview he was as much a philosopher as he was a musician.

Wednesday 30 December 2015

16:42 GMTPermanent link to #The art of ditting# The art of ditting - Comments

Ditting is the the art of sharing anecdotes while trying to trump the story of the previous person.

Too often conversations fall prone to it and we end up not listening to the other person's story but recalling and rehearsing our own in our head so we can trump their story. We all do it at one time or another when really we should just take the time to listen to and fully appreciate the other person's story.

Monty Python's Four Yorkshire men is a humrerous ditting sketch.

But closer to real life is the scene near the end of the movie Jaws where Brody, Hooper and Quint share their "scar" stories.

Credit: Thanks to this old post of Ron Donaldsons for reminding me of this conversational phenomana.

16:11 GMTPermanent link to #Knowledge Café Stories# Knowledge Café Stories - Comments

It always surprises me at times what I stumble over when Googling.

I was looking for stories and the like that people have published over the years about my Knowledge Cafés - you will find a few stories here but this one surprised me - Exploring the Gurteen Knowledge Café approach as an innovative teaching for learning strategy with first-year engineering students.

The researcher and author Prof. Deonarain Brijlall of the Durban University of Technology in South Africa had not told me about it :-)

Anyway, thanks to Google for helping me to find it and to Prof. Brijlal for adapting the Café as a teaching method for his students.

This style of teaching is one of the major untapped applications of the Café and the philosophy has much in common with flipped teaching.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

15:10 GMTPermanent link to #Up Periscope# Up Periscope - Comments

I told you about Blab recently. Now take a look at another video app - Periscope. This is how the developers' describe it.

Just over a year ago, we became fascinated by the idea of discovering the world through someone else's eyes. What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Cappadocia?

It may sound crazy, but we wanted to build the closest thing to teleportation. While there are many ways to discover events and places, we realized there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around.

Credit: Periscope
Like Blab, the video and sound quality are superb and it is possible for the broadcaster to interact with the viewers via text messages that appear superimposed on top of the video - a little crude but effective. I suspect we are going to see some very interesting citizen journalism.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

14:23 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: December 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: December 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Friday 27 November 2015

16:19 GMTPermanent link to #Wasted Reception Areas# Wasted Reception Areas - Comments

The larger the organization - the larger and more grander the reception area. Huge impressive, impersonal halls of glass, stainless steel and marble. What a waste of space!

I wish I could recall the name of the law firm I heard about in Germany who transformed their reception area by moving both their library and cafe there. It was not only used to hold internal meetings and meetings with clients but clients were even welcome to come in to have coffee and make use of the library.

Does anyone know whom I'm talking about?

I'd love to see more organizations so this :-)

15:21 GMTPermanent link to #Blab Conversations# Blab Conversations - Comments

I have been giving a lot of thought on how to run virtual Knowledge Cafés of late and have some thoughts as to how to run them using a series of telephone conference calls but I have also been looking for a a video application similar to Skype group video or Google Hangouts that would allow up to 4 people have a conversation Café style.

Well I may just have found what I am looking for. It's called Blab. It is still in beta but works exceptionally well - the video and sound quality are excellent. It's really designed to allow people to host their own little chat shows and invite in participants but I think it would work well in the context of a Café.

Fine, if the Café is a public one, as at the moment all conversations are broadcast publically (they can also be recorded to be viewed later) but if the Café is private then there is no option to have a private group conversation but I am hoping that might be a future feature. If so, it might prove a near perfect tool for virtual private Knowledge Cafés!

Read more about it on Mashable and here is a recorded Blab on Blab for Learning and Knowledge Management from Bruno Winck. And take a look at Michelle Martins blabs

Oh and it works on your iPhone too!

08:33 GMTPermanent link to #The Dialogic Mindset: Leading Emergent Change in a Complex World# The Dialogic Mindset: Leading Emergent Change in a Complex World - Comments

If you are interested in how leadership needs to adapt to better cope with our increasingly complex world then this paper from Gervase Bushe and Robert Marshak will be of interest: The Dialogic Mindset: Leading Emergent Change in a Complex World

In it they make seven assumptions about a dialogic mindset for leaders. Something very similar to what I call Conversational Leadership
  1. Reality and relationships are socially constructed.
  2. Organizations are social networks of meaning making.
  3. Transformational leadership shapes how meaning is made and especially the narratives which guide people's experience.
  4. Organizations are continuously changing, in both intended and unintended ways, with multiple changes occurring at various speeds.
  5. Groups and organizations are inherently self-organizing, but disruption is required for transformational adaptation and change.
  6. Adaptive challenges are too complex for anyone to analyze all the variables and know the correct answer in advance, so the answer is to use emergent change processes.
  7. Leading emergent change requires mobilizing stakeholders to self-initiate action, then monitoring and embedding the most promising initiatives
What people believe to be true, right, and important emerge through socialization and day-today conversations.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

14:44 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: November 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: November 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Tuesday 27 October 2015

10:28 GMTPermanent link to #The communication issues that prevent effective leadership# The communication issues that prevent effective leadership - Comments

Here are three interesting Harris Poll statistics from an HBR article The Top Complaints from Employees About Their Leaders by Lou Solomon.
  • Complaint 3: 52% of U.S. workers say leaders do not make the time to meet with them
  • Complaint 4: 51% of U.S. workers say leaders refuse to talk subordinates
  • Complaint 7: 36% of U.S. workers say leaders don't know employees names
It's not too surprising that employee engagement is such a big issue with less than one-third of Americans are engaged in their jobs. Leaders need to talk more with their people.

This all adds weight to my thinking on conversational leadership.

09:37 GMTPermanent link to #What makes a powerful question?# What makes a powerful question? - Comments

In my work on Conversational Leadership I am researching and thinking about conversation and a big part of that work is about the power of questions to trigger meaningful conversations.

So the question I have been asking myself is "What makes a powerful question?" And Wes Saade helped me realise that at a high level there is a very simple answer.

There are everyday questions and then there are powerful questions. What is the purpose of a question? Well to solicit an answer of course. If I ask "What time is it?" Someone might tell me "ten past two". I have asked my question and received an answer. But are questions that solicit simple informational answers powerful questions? Clearly not.

So what is different about a powerful question?

A powerful question is one that compels others to think.

There is clearly more to it as Wes explains in his article How to ask powerful questions but this is the key point.

08:33 GMTPermanent link to #We are flipping teaching - how about flipping journalism?# We are flipping teaching - how about flipping journalism? - Comments

We are flipping teaching - how about flipping journalism?

"We're the facilitator of a conversation," instead of "we're speaking for you."

08:21 GMTPermanent link to #Most companies have created downtown Calcutta in summer inside themselves# Most companies have created downtown Calcutta in summer inside themselves - Comments

What a feeling of sadness when you discover a great man, a great thinker, only to learn he died some years ago.

Even worse, when he was born the same year as you, has a degree in Physics like you but died at the young age of 55 from a brain haemorrhage.

Watch Sumantra Ghoshal talk at a past World Economic Forum about The smell of the place.

And listen to the story he tells starting at about 1.07 and his metaphor that "Most companies particularly large companies have created downtown Calcutta in summer inside themselves"

The message - don't try to change the person but the context in which they work.

Monday 26 October 2015

19:24 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: October 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: October 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Monday 28 September 2015

11:50 GDTPermanent link to #My blook (no that My blook (no that's not a typo) - Comments

At long last I am writing a book. Well not quite. It is a blook - a cross between a blog, a website and an on-line book.

Why like this? Well I realised I could never sit down and write a book in one go. I wanted to release it in revisions - I guess a little bit like a software app. I wanted it to be multimedia, with photos, video and with multiple ways to navigate it via categories and tags. Also, for each page or post to be stand-alone and to be short enough for each to be read in less than 5 minutes to make it easy to browse.

I wanted it be responsive and to be readable on a range of devices without any need to modify the code.

I also needed the ability to write it in small pieces and to add to it at will and to continually restructure it as I went, as it evolved. But more than anything else I wanted feedback as I wrote it.

The best platform I could find for the job was Wordpress and with the help of a small number of plugins and some minor tweaks to the code I have a platform that is not perfect but does the job. The subject? Well its is about Conversational Leadership and my Knowledge Cafe. But it has turned out to be great thinking and research tool and so I am not so sure what is going to eventually emerge. Already I am straying off my original topic in many areas but I see at as a good thing and its why I am taking this blook approach.

I don't foresee ever completing it - just continually updating and improving it as my ideas develop. At the moment it is hidden from search engines and so you need the URL to find it. but I have started to open it up to a small number of people.

Let me know if you are interested in taking a peak but the pledge you make is to give me some critical early feedback. :-)

11:32 GDTPermanent link to #How do we transform the world for the better?# How do we transform the world for the better? - Comments

Four quotations that are churning around my mind as I dwell on the problems of the world, transformation and what it takes to achieve it.
For both the rich and the poor, life is dominated by an ever growing current of problems, most of which seem to have no real and lasting solution.

Clearly we have not touched the deeper causes of our troubles.

It is the main point of this book that the ultimate source of all these problems is in thought itself, the very thing of which our civilization is most proud, and therefore the one thing that is "hidden" because of our failure seriously to engage with its actual working in our own lives and in individual life of the society.

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.

My belief is that the way we create conversations that overcome the fragmented nature of our communities is what creates an alternative future.

This can be a difficult stance to take for we have a deeply held belief that the way to make a difference in the world is to define problems and needs and then recommend actions to solve those needs.

We are all problem solvers, action oriented and results minded. It is illegal in this culture to leave a meeting without a to-do list.

We want measurable outcomes and we want them now.

What is hard to grasp is that it is this very mindset which prevents anything fundamental from changing.

We cannot problem solve our way into fundamental change, or transformation.

This is not an argument against problem solving; it is an intention to shift the context and language within which problem solving takes place.

Authentic transformation is about a shift in context and a shift in language and conversation. It is about changing our idea of what constitutes action.

Credit: Peter Block
So what is it they we need to change about our thinking or mindset that will help us transform the world for the better?

Are there a few key leverage points that would have a dramatic impact? Is there one that stands out?
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

There are so many people in the world trying to do good but then why are we making such poor progress?

11:03 GDTPermanent link to #Evernote is a great writing and thinking tool# Evernote is a great writing and thinking tool - Comments

If you have not tried out Evernote yet - give it a whirl. It's an amazing app. I do all my writing in it these days but I also use it as a thinking tool to capture and pull my fragmentary thoughts together.

It synchronises my notes and articles between my laptop, iPad and iPhone. I do serious writing on my laptop. I tend to proof read and reflect on my iPad and while waiting for my wife at the station or travelling into London on the train I use my iPhone for both reading and minor editing. I just love to able to read, write and edit like this any time, any place.

And I can work off-line and it syncs via the web later when I'm connected to the Internet. I love the ability to create different notebooks - a bit like categories and its great also to be able to tag items.

But what I think is the coolest feature of all is the Evernote Web Clipper. This allows me to capture webpages straight into Evernote. There are various options but if I capture a page as a "simplified article" - its strips out all the ads, all the menus, all the side bars - pretty much all the junk and leaves me with nice clean text.

I tend to use it mainly to capture a blog post or an article. In this way as I read through the item later I can strike through the paragraphs that I feel are junk and highlight the good stuff. Then a few weeks later when I come to read it again I can focus my reading on the critical text. Oh and I can mail stuff into the database too - so I also use it to capture ideas and fragmentary thoughts that I can dwell on and pull together later.

Take a look, it has many more features I have not mentioned, I think you will love it.

Friday 25 September 2015

09:42 GDTPermanent link to #Paul Sloane has a great way of initiating creative conversations# Paul Sloane has a great way of initiating creative conversations - Comments

I love this idea from Paul Soane's latest newsletter.
One of the exercises on my Creative Leadership workshop runs like this.

People in pairs have short conversations. In the first conversation one person makes a suggestion for something new that could be done for customers (say). The second person replies with an objection. They start their sentence, 'Yes but ...' The first person then rebuts the objection with another sentence starting, 'Yes but ...' They carry on, ensuring that every sentence starts with the words, 'Yes but ...'

After a couple of minutes they stop and then begin a second conversation. One person starts with a suggestion for something new that could be done for employees (say). The second person adds to the idea with a sentence beginning, 'Yes and ...' The first person responds with a sentence starting, 'Yes and ...' and so it goes on.

The results are instructive. Typically the first conversation spirals down into an argument with no agreement. The second conversation goes to all sorts of creative and unusual places. It is fun and leads to interesting ideas.

I then ask the delegates which conversation type is more common in their organization. It is always the 'Yes but ...'.

Credit: Paul Sloane

You can sign up for his free newsletter on the home page of his website destination innovation

Wednesday 23 September 2015

17:13 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: September 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: September 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Wednesday 26 August 2015

14:58 GDTPermanent link to #Knowledge Sciences Symposium: St. Bonaventure University October 8-9# Knowledge Sciences Symposium: St. Bonaventure University October 8-9 - Comments

It is not very often I get invited to speak at a KM conference in the US. I think the last time must have been KM World in 2007, so I am really delighted to be speaking at the Knowledge Sciences Symposium at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York October 8-9.

You will find more information in the press release and you can register here. I hope to get to see a few old friends.

The topic of my talk? Conversational Leadership.

14:09 GDTPermanent link to #Monty Python - Philosophy for two: Good evening, would you care for something to talk about?# Monty Python - Philosophy for two: Good evening, would you care for something to talk about? - Comments

I have talked a lot in the past about Theodore Zeldin's conversation dinners - a great way for getting to know someone whom you have never met.

And I have even run my own Intimate Conversations Cafe But it looks like Monty Python beat us both to it - I guess some 40 years ago or more. Watch Philosophy for two


13:48 GDTPermanent link to #Happy birthday to the World Cafe# Happy birthday to the World Cafe - Comments

The World Café is 20 years old this year. Happy birthday!

This is how it all started on a rainy day, way back in 1995 in the home of Juanita Brown and David Isaacs in Mill Valley, California.

As part of the celebrations they have a nice new website. At long last, they also have a Wikipedia entry.

12:07 GDTPermanent link to #Getting rid of annual performance reviews and rankings# Getting rid of annual performance reviews and rankings - Comments

I have never liked annual performance reviews - either receiving them or giving them when I was a manager. They took huge amounts of time and emotional energty and I always felt that they did far more harm then good. I also got to see them distorted.

I can still remember one year going through the process and my manager submitting the proposed salary increases to his VP - only to have the list come back marked up in red with the VPs adjustments based as far as we could see on who he liked or disiked! And yet another year having to reassess everyone to fit a predetermined distribution curve.

But slowly companies seem to be waking up: In big move Accenture will get rid of annual performance reviews and rankings. As you can see in the article, it is not just Accenture - others too are transforming their performance-review process. About time too :-)

Wednesday 26 August 2015

12:12 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: August 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: August 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Thursday 30 July 2015

10:54 GDTPermanent link to #It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes# It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes - Comments

I often get criticized when I talk about the power of conversation.

People conclude that I think conversation will solve all our problems and nothing else is needed. Or that I am ruling out debate or other powerful forms of human interaction.

I am not.

Conversation is not a panacea for everything. It can too easily descend into chit-chat and people being too nice to each other and not confronting the real issues. It can be dull and boring or a conversation can turn quickly to an intellectual scrap where relationships are destroyed.

There are also the problems of Groupthink and Group polarization

We should not throw the baby out with the bath water. We need to recognise these problems and limitations and learn to engage more positively in conversation and to architect more powerful conversations. This is what Conversational Leadership is all about.

Douglas Adams got it right when he said: "It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes."

The world is far too complex to think that there is a single solution to anything but conversation is one tool that we too often overlook.

08:29 GDTPermanent link to #Is your organization a listening organization?# Is your organization a listening organization? - Comments

I talk about Organizational Conversation so it intersting to find someone talking about Organizational Listening - albeit in a different context.
While listening receives extensive attention in relation to interpersonal communication, there is little focus on organizational listening in academic and professional literature, with books and articles focussed predominantly on disseminating organizations' messages (i.e. speaking) – a transmissional or broadcast approach to public communication

08:18 GDTPermanent link to #Are you in any doubt about the perverse outcomes targets can cause?# Are you in any doubt about the perverse outcomes targets can cause? - Comments

I have never been a big fan of key performance indicators (KPIs) for a variety of reasons including they are too easily gamed, they often have unforeseen negative consequences and they can too easily become explicit targets in their own right removing the need for people to think and do the right thing in an increasingly complex world.

So I was delighted to see this news-item recently. Maybe the UK Government is at last waking up to the "perverse outcomes targets can cause" as the Home Secretary Theresa May puts it. Though frankly I doubt it.

I can't help being impressed but at the same time sceptical (for the reasons above) by the ambitious key national performance indicators for the UAE.

What would be really interesting to know, is why these particular indicators were set and not others and how the values attached to them were determined. The strategy adopted to meet them would also be of interest.

07:02 GDTPermanent link to #The Pulse of Conversation: Is there such a thing as a real conversation?# The Pulse of Conversation: Is there such a thing as a real conversation? - Comments

I have added two more items to my Linkedin Pulse newsfeed since last month. These are the older ones.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

18:30 GDTPermanent link to #The Seven Ages of Information & Knowledge Management# The Seven Ages of Information & Knowledge Management - Comments

David Skyrme retired some years ago and does not do any formal KM nowadays.

However, he has written up an interesting retrospective of two decades of IKM (Information and Knowledge Management) based on a presentation that he gave on the 21st anniversary of the UK networking group NetIKX.

You may be interested http://www.skyrme.com/kmarticles/7ikm.pdf

16:30 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: July 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: July 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Friday 26 June 2015

11:31 GDTPermanent link to #Do we need more conversation and less brainstorming?# Do we need more conversation and less brainstorming? - Comments

During my corporate life I never liked brain storming. It just never worked for me. And I wasn't convinced it worked for others either.

Brainstorming sessions can be conducted in all sorts of ways and it could be that I just had some bad experiences but I am not so sure. Some time ago, I was invited to give a talk and run a knowledge cafe as part of a large workshop and I stayed on and took part in the rest of the workshop. At one point we had to think up ideas, write them on post-it notes and stick therm on the wall.

As I did this I was talking with the people around me until the facilitator ordered me to keep quiet and to focus on what was doing! I explained that I didn't find trying to think up ideas on my own very effective. That good ideas surfaced from the conversations I was having. He was not moved so I kept quiet.

But this reminded me of my corporate brainstorming days. You were not allowed to discuss the ideas - just shout them out to be captured on a flip chart with no discussion and especially no criticism.

Imagine my delight when I came across this article Groupthink: The brainstorming myth by Jonah Lehrer, The New Yorker. Here are a few extracts:
The underlying assumption of brainstorming is that if people are scared of saying the wrong thing, they'll end up saying nothing at all. The appeal of this idea is obvious: it's always nice to be saturated in positive feedback.

Typically, participants leave a brainstorming session proud of their contribution. The whiteboard has been filled with free associations.

Brainstorming seems like an ideal technique, a feel-good way to boost productivity. But there is a problem with brainstorming. It doesn't work.
Our findings show that debate and criticism do not inhibit ideas but, rather, stimulate them relative to every other condition.

Osborn thought that imagination is inhibited by the merest hint of criticism, but Nemeth's work and a number of other studies have demonstrated that it can thrive on conflict.
According to Nemeth, dissent stimulates new ideas because it encourages us to engage more fully with the work of others and to reassess our viewpoints.

“There's this Pollyannaish notion that the most important thing to do when working together is stay positive and get along, to not hurt anyone's feelings,” she says. “Well, that's just wrong.

Maybe debate is going to be less pleasant, but it will always be more productive. True creativity requires some trade-offs.

Andrew Armour beleives we need more conversation and less brainstorming. I agree.

09:14 GDTPermanent link to #Organizational Conversation - the life-blood of an organization.
# Organizational Conversation - the life-blood of an organization. - Comments

I talk a lot about conversation these days - its the focus of my work.

One thing I feel the need to do is to give a label to the everyday conversation that takes place in an organization and quite naturally I call such conversation "Organizational Conversation". This is how I describe it:

Conversation permeates our organisational lives.

David Weinberger in the The Cluetrain Manifesto 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."

Alan Weber, in the Harvard Business Review says: "In the new economy, conversations are the most important form of work ... so much so that the conversation is the organisation."

Organizational Conversation is the myriad of such conversations that take place on a minute to minute basis everyday within organizations

Conversations take place in formal settings such as meeting rooms but often the more important conversations are the informal ones that take place in the corridors, at the water-cooler or in the cafe.

It is through conversation that knowledge flows directly from person to person, learning takes place, insights are gleaned, connections are made and relationships are built.

But conversation is so much more.

Conversation provides a medium through which we reveal something of who we are: our values, beliefs and what is important to us.

Conversation helps break down departmental-silos, build trust, motivation, commitment, engagement and accountability.

Conversation helps us make better sense of our world, leading to improved decision making and stimulates creativity and innovation.

Conversation is the life-blood of an organization.

The key to my mind is in recognising its importance as the role and impact of everyday conversation is so often overlooked.

Thursday 25 June 2015

16:19 GDTPermanent link to #The inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person# The inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - Comments

A friend asked recently why we seemed to get on so well in conversation. I replied that we both tended to be non-judgemental and open minded and thus we felt safe. But it reminded me of this quote from Dinah Craik.
Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

But I have another shorter, less eloquent way of saying something similar:
The kind of conversation I like is one where I don't feel the need to censor anything I say!

Credit: David Gurteen

Kind of in response to Theodore Zeldin's "The kind of conversation I like is one in which you are prepared to emerge a slightly different person" :-)

15:55 GDTPermanent link to #The Pulse of Conversation# The Pulse of Conversation - Comments

I have added a few more items to my Linkedin Pulse newsfeed dedicated to articles on conversation. There are now nine short posts:

15:06 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: June 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: June 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Thursday 28 May 2015

12:09 GDTPermanent link to #Would you like a Lean Coffee?# Would you like a Lean Coffee? - Comments

My love for all things conversational is no secret. So when my daughter Sally told me about a concept called Lean Coffee, I just had to take a look. And I was pleased I did.

It's kind of like an open space session but with a twist. I like it a lot and plan to experiment with it at one of my future London Knowledge Cafes.

Watch this 3 min video: How to Run a Lean Coffee This is how the process works for a small group of 3 or 4 people. But clearly, you could have several groups all running in parallel.

It was designed in 2009 by Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith for Lean and Agile project management but could be used to discuss anything. You will find another description of the process here :What is Lean Coffee?

11:07 GDTPermanent link to #KM UK and Inside Knowledge# KM UK and Inside Knowledge - Comments

Don't forget this year's big UK Knowledge Management event - KM UK coming up in London on 10th June. It' should be a great two day conference with speakers including the BBC, DWP, Oxfam and Bentley Motors.

I tend to get there most years but unfortunately I can't make it this year as I will be in Turin running a workshop.

And take a look at their rejuvenated Inside Knowledge Portal - it pulls a lot of stuff together that is going on in the Knowledge Management world: KM blogs, KM videos, lKM podcasts and more.

10:59 GDTPermanent link to #Seth Godin thinks we are all social entrepreneurs# Seth Godin thinks we are all social entrepreneurs - Comments

If you are not a follower of Seth Godins blog - take a look - his posts are short, frequent and mostly deeply insightful.

This recent one for example, is a gem. We are all social entrepreneurs in some way - it's just that some people have a bigger impact than others :-)
It's tempting to reserve the new term 'social entrepreneurs' for that rare breed that builds a significant company organized around the idea of changing the culture for the better.

The problem with this term is that it lets everyone else off the hook. The prefix social implies that regular entrepreneurs have nothing to worry about, and that the goal of every un-prefixed organization and project (the 'regular kind') is to only make as much money as possible, as fast as possible.

But that's not how the world works.

Every project causes change to happen, and the change we make is social. The jobs we take on, the things we make, the side effects we cause -- they're not side effects, they're merely effects. When we make change, we're responsible for the change we choose to make. All of us, whichever job or project we choose to take on, do something to change the culture. That social impact, positive or negative is our choice.

It turns out that all of us are social entrepreneurs. It's just that some people are choosing to make a bigger (and better) impact than others.

It's a spectrum, not a label.

Credit: Seth Godin

10:39 GDTPermanent link to #Henley Forum: Making a Difference through knowledge and learning.# Henley Forum: Making a Difference through knowledge and learning. - Comments

This year's Henley Forum members are actively working on Making a Difference through knowledge and learning. If you work for a large public, private or third sector organisation and believe your organisation could benefit from membership of the Henley Forum, this is a chance to spend a day with thrm.

The event will give you insights into how to change mindsets and behaviours which research suggests is a critical step in making a difference. You will have the opportunity to hear speakers at the forefront of the change challenge, meet current members, join the conversation and take away some actionable insights that help you operate more effectively in a knowledge based business.

Places are limited so please book early and by 30 June 2015 at the latest. Contact: henley.forum@henley.ac.uk

10:09 GDTPermanent link to #An update on KM in Indonesia# An update on KM in Indonesia - Comments

Given my close ties to Indonesia - my wife is Indonesian - it is always good to see KM developing in that country.

Two things:

First, there is a big KM Conference coming up August in Jakarta KM Summit Indonesia 2015. I am sorry to say I won't be there but it looks like a great event.

Second, my good friend Alvin Soleh of KM Plus has produced some nice little video animations about KM. The subtitles are in Bahasa Indonesia and the voice over in English. KM Plus Videos

I guess only of interest if you are Indonesian - but take a look.

A Knowledge Cafe I ran in Bandung Sept 2014 for KMSI - Indonesians love to talk.

09:38 GDTPermanent link to #An Innovative HR Strategy: Creating space for conversations# An Innovative HR Strategy: Creating space for conversations - Comments

Christine Lloyd spoke at the Henley Forum for Organisational Learning and Knowledge Strategies recently and when she mentioned what Nokia had done a few years back - my ears pricked up- my emphasis in bold. Enjoy!
Nokia Venturing Organisation was established in 2000 to grow the 'next new business' for Nokia. In addition NVO was also mandated to develop 'new ways of working' for the Finnish Mobile communications company. This gave those working within NVO the space to work in a more entrepreneurial and experimental mode.

NVO set up teams to focus on future global trends and insights as well as exploring new approaches to strategy development, innovation and rapid implementation. New measures were introduced to evaluate the amount of learning extracted from successful and abandoned ventures, as well as measuring the strength of the networks and relationships that new ventures developed.

As part of this, the NVO HR team adopted 'Creating space for conversations' as their HR Strategy. Their approach was to encourage more dialogue and connection around the organisation so that new ideas and opportunities could emerge. It was translated into practical actions such as designing meeting agendas with more space for dialogue, running large scale workshops which brought diverse teams together and facilitating sessions so that all voices could be heard regardless of hierarchy.

NVO soon gained a reputation within Nokia for encouraging diversity and doing things differently. It helped launched a number of new ventures which eventually became independent businesses in their own right.

If only more organizations would take conversation quite as seriously.

Sunday 24 May 2015

19:14 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: May 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: May 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Monday 27 April 2015

13:34 GDTPermanent link to #Interactive Dialogue or Serial Monologue: The Influence of Group Size on conversation# Interactive Dialogue or Serial Monologue: The Influence of Group Size on conversation - Comments

Over the years, in running my Knowledge Cafes, I have discovered through trial and error and careful observation that the ideal size of a group for interactive conversation is four people. If not four, then five is OK but three is better.

Anything more than five and the conversation does not work so well: one or two people tend to dominate; the conversation breaks into two, even three; frequently one person is totally cut out of the interaction and there is little energy in the group.

This research paper confirms my observations.

Current communication models draw a broad distinction between communication as dialogue and communication as monologue. The two kinds of models have different implications for who influences whom in a group discussion.

The experiments reported in this paper show that 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.

The difference in mode of communication is explained in terms of how speakers in the two sizes of groups design their utterances for different audiences.

So in those workshops and conferences where people are sat in groups of 8 at large round tables (often the only tables available in hotel conference centres) or long, narrow tables, no real conversation takes place!

To have a good conversation you need to be in touching distance of each other and each person in the group needs to be equi-distant.

These two settings are ideal:

12:55 GDTPermanent link to #Are there any more questions?# Are there any more questions? - Comments

Johnnie Moore recently blogged that Q&A is not interaction

Nancy Dixon has ranted on A Rant on Are There Any Questions?

I have suggested we dont give talks but hold conversations and like Nancy I have talked about Are There Any Questions?

and Donald Clark so often says Dont lecture me.

I have been trying to encourage conference organisers and managers to take a more, conversational, interactive, participatory approach to talks and meetings for some years now.

Do people like Johnnie, Nancy, Donald and myself have it so wrong or are people just reluctant to change the habits of an organizational life time? Actually, in my day it was the same in school though I doubt things have changed much.

How often have you experienced the situation where he chairperson asks "We have time for just one long-winded self-indulgent question that relates to nothing we've been talking about." Well, no, they don't actually say that do they? But it is so often what they get!

Lastly, you may find this little video amusing Chicken chicken chicken but see it through to the "Any questions?" session at the end :-)

11:54 GDTPermanent link to #Is there anything wrong with the term Is there anything wrong with the term 'Company Culture'? - Comments

Is there anything wrong with the term Company Culture?

In an article in HBR, Why Company Culture Is a Misleading Term John Traphagan thinks there is.

But Dan Pontefract in a response in Forbes There Is Nothing Wrong With The Term Company Culture thinks there isn't.

Scott Adams has a thought provoking thought on culture too - Success improves culture more than a good culture can cause success

I have a lot of sympathy with what John Traphagan says about organizational culture but I still find it a useful concept.

What do you think?

Friday 24 April 2015

08:18 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: April 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: April 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Tuesday 21 April 2015

08:33 GDTPermanent link to #Cloudy with a hint of fog
# Cloudy with a hint of fog - Comments

I ran one of my regular London Knowledge Cafes recently at the Rubens Hotel in London, sponsored by Joyce Harmon of Core and Conrad Taylor, one of the Cafe regulars who very kindly did a great write-up of the evening. A big thanks Joyce and Conrad. And of course the speaker Andrew Driver

It gives a good overview of how the Cafe is run and the details of the conversation in this particular Cafe.

Cloudy with a hint of fog

A personal account of a Gurteen Knowledge Café hosted by Core.

Conrad Taylor

David Gurteen promotes the practice of ‘Knowledge Cafés', a kind of discussion workshop which is structured to encourage creative conversations around a topic, with the aim of bringing the knowledge of the participants to the surface, sharing ideas and insights between them. In process, a Gurteen Knowledge Café is related to the World Café process originated by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs in 1995, but the Gurteen café meetings are run with shorter table-group sessions, and smaller attendance overall. Not only does this make a Gurteen Knowledge Café easier to organise and to host, but with typically forty or so people in the room it is also possible to close out the event with a discussion in the round.

For a number of years David Gurteen has run a series of occasional Knowledge Café events in London. The principle is that an organisation hosts the meeting, providing the venue and some refreshments, and the meeting is open to all comers and free to attend. Note that the Café methodology lends itself very well to internal organisational knowledge sharing, but David's London Café series is left deliberately open and free, encouraging networking and inter-networking.

The most recent Gurteen Knowledge Café event was held on the evening of 16th April 2015 at the Rubens Hotel by Buckingham Palace, and like the previous café event was generously hosted by Core. Core is a Microsoft business partner company with special interests in secure mobile working for government and business, virtualised managed IT services and such like (See http://www.core.co.uk).

To seed the series of round-table discussions at a Gurteen Knowledge Café, the normal practice is for a presenter, who is generally from the hosting organisation, to speak quite briefly to the proposed topic, winding up with some open questions which the participants can then discuss. In this case, the meeting had been given the title ‘Cloudy with a chance of fog?' (explanation follows shortly!) After Joyce Harman of Core had welcomed us and David Gurteen outlined the process for the Café (generally about half the people who come have not attended one of these events before), Core's senior technology strategist Andrew Driver gave the talk.

The proposition

There is, of course, an advertising process which David runs through his mailing list, so that people are aware of the event and attracted to it. It makes sense then for me to directly quote the topic synopsis which had been circulated about this meeting:

‘If you send and receive email, share photos or documents from your computer, or do your banking or shopping online, you are using ‘Cloud' computing.

‘Hotmail, Skydrive (now OneDrive), iCloud and Dropbox are all examples of cloud computing which we now take for granted.

‘This is IT consumerisation; allowing an individual or a business can buy their IT the way they might buy any other subscription based product.

‘Now we have the 'Internet of Things', the idea of everyday objects like cars and toasters being connected to everything else. What next?

‘What are the wider implications for the future?

‘As well as the many benefits of a more connected world, should we be concerned about a future led by terms such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

‘Further, what is the gap between what we believe and reality?'

Defining the Cloud

Now, I had been thinking about the assertions in the above text, and doing some reading around, and it seems that the term ‘cloud computing' only really became current towards the end of the 2000s, when it became possible to use ‘software as a service' (SaaS) and remote storage and computation-on-demand services available over the Internet. By this definition, I considered my early use of email and file transfer (via SMTP and FTP) not to be that ‘cloudy', so I asked Andrew early into his presentation for clarification.

Andrew's usage is a very wide one; as far as he is concerned, it is a newly-minted term, but it describes arrangements that have been around for a long time. He said, ‘Cloud computing is whenever you have a collection of computers performing a function [for you], but they are not directly your responsibility.' By this token, the advent of the Internet itself was ‘cloudy' because it pooled the resources of all the participating networks (owned by companies, universities etc), and the routers forwarding data between them; every one of these items may have been owned by someone, but nobody owned The Internet per se.

(I wonder how far the envelope will stretch; and speaking of envelopes, if we remove the requirement for computers to be involved, was the Royal Mail even in Victorian times ‘cloudy' because once you dropped the envelope in the post-box, the business of who fed the horse, drove the train or tramped the pavements to get your letter to Aunt Emily was not your concern?)

Wherever we draw that line, it is clear that people and organisations increasingly use online remote services, some free of charge and some paid for by subscription, to host email accounts and web pages, back up large amounts of data and so on. Helping companies to do this big-time is one of the reason's for Core to be in business.

One can also, said Andrew, have a ‘personal cloud'; at home he has a several-terabyte Western Digital ‘My Cloud' drive attached to his home network (that is, Network-Attached Storage or NAS) where all his Stuff is kept. He can also access that remotely.

Fog computing

Turning to ‘a hint of fog', Andrew revealed Fog Computing as a concept that's been swirling about only in the last couple of years (and yes, there is a Wikipedia page about it). It refers to the sharing of computing resources between larger numbers of smaller machines and devices that are often rather more local to each other towards the ‘edges' of the Internet, in comparison to the more established model of cloud computing reliant on big central data centres. An article in IEEE Spectrum (1), for example, highlights the service provided by Symform, which federates the computing resources of its customers and uses them as a distributed storage resource with good redundancy built in, making it less likely that data will be lost in, for example, a large natural disaster. (Note that a data centre's backups are not *that* secure if the back-up disk sits in the next rack to the primary disk.)

Everything connected?

Andrew then moved on to the ideas of ‘the Internet of Things' (sometimes called the Internet of Everything). This is a vision of things which are not traditional computing devices now being hooked up to the Internet to send and receive messages and data. One example might be a local authority using Internet connections to link its borough-wide CCTV cameras to a control centre rather than having dedicated fixed cables. But there are also stranger ones: Andrew described a refrigerator on the Microsoft campus which barcode-scans the container of milk as you remove it to make your tea, and weighs it as you replace it, to compute when it is necessary to resupply the fridge with a fresh bottle. (Andrew didn't say whether it also can sniff the milk to see if it has gone off.)

We had a bit of fun wondering whether a network-attached toaster might constitute a security risk (horrible thoughts of hackers mounting a Denial of Toast attack). I think it's a bit ludicrous to speak of everything talking to everything else. But generally speaking, we can expect more and more devices (sensors, environmental monitors, GPS locators, whatever next?) to communicate with relevant end-points using the Internet.

There are going to be a lot of emergent applications in health and social care, for example, helping to guarantee safety in independent living for elderly and vulnerable people. Londoners in particular have seen many aspects of cloud-connected things improve the capital's public transport, with GPS-tagged buses, Oyster and contactless-card payments, and bus-stops which offer increasingly accurate estimates of when buses will arrive (though I confess I do have a giggle when the bus-stop ‘crashes' and displays its IP address and an error code).

Machine Learning and AI

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are two more terms with contested scope and meanings, and they do not necessarily imply anything cloudy at all. However, Andrew was focusing on what they might imply in the context of a ‘cloudy world', when the software services which we access are programmed to try to learn more about us and our preferences. Facebook and Google do this to direct advertising at you in a more targeted way. I have recently passed some sort of age threshold, so that Facebook no longer offers me dates with attractive African ladies, and has started to suggest solutions to incontinence and ways of paying for my funeral.

Should we worry? Professor Stephen Hawking has recently offered the opinion that we should be careful about what might emerge from machine intelligence, as they may not turn out to be those benign guardians, those ‘machines of loving grace', as the poet Richard Brautigan dreamed of in 1967. Might it be more like the Cyberdyne Systems ‘Skynet' computing cloud envisaged in the ‘Terminator' film franchise?

Some of us are wary of sharing too much about ourselves online lest machine intelligences get us in their sights; but as Andrew said, many of the younger people we know, the ones who seem permanently wired into social media, seem to care far less.

And so in conclusion, Andrew opened up to us the question, should we welcome the universality of connection, the wired things surrounding us, the machine intelligences keeping an eye on us? What sort of understanding do we have of where this is all going? What is the gap between what we may believe, and what is in fact true or probable?

Table group conversations

The next, arguably the main phase of a Gurteen Knowledge Café, is the point at which the audience stops being an audience, and the table group conversations begin. The idea is that we sit four or five to each table (the small tables at the Rubens pushed us towards three and four per table), and we share whatever ideas come to us around the topic, for ten minutes until David Gurteen blows his magic whistle.

Some of the people at each table should then move to another table, and the reconstituted groups continue for another ten minutes. Quite often this second session includes a period of people sharing what just happened conversationally at the first table group they found themselves in. Chances are that the conversational trend was different at various first-round tables, so the conversation ‘re-fractures' in new directions. After another ten minutes, David blows the whistle again and a third session is initiated.

There will always be some people who say more and who may dominate the table conversation, but having small table groups tends to mitigate against that. However the groups are big enough not to put undue pressure on people to feel forced to contribute.

I made notes and recorded at each of the table groups I was at. However, it makes better sense to skip to the final in-the-round session which in a sense gathered all the conversations together. It's never a complete picture because in the larger group some feel ill at ease speaking out, and back-and-forth reactions will foreground some issues and throw dust over the traces of others. But as a lightly-managed method for knowledge sharing, it does pretty well…

In the round

Following the table groups session, we gathered our seats into a big circle and David asked us to share as we wished. This session lasted about 40 minutes.

The first person to speak said that in the conversations he had had, the issues seemed to be less technical than socio-political. For example, machine learning might make middle class and managerial professionals redundant, and this could result in serious social dislocations.

Andrew referred to a recent conversation with the person at a client organisation moving their email out to the Microsoft Office 365 system; he feared he might be left with nothing to do. No, said Andrew; at present you use the systems you have to facilitate communication in the business, and surely you will continue to have the same job, but using a different technical system.

Several people chipped in with worries about what machine learning and machine ‘intelligence' might do for a tier of middle class support jobs: amongst paralegals, legal researchers and journalists for example. The top fee earners won't be threatened, but the ranks who support them might indeed be replaced by expert automated systems.

One rather scary aspect of machine intervention is represented by the research trend towards ‘autonomous killer robots', drones and missile batteries and battlefield weapons which are coming close to being granted powers to decide whether to kill or not. They may be constrained by their coding, but when there is the need to react quickly, quicker perhaps that human judgement would take, how long will this remain the case? South Korea has automated gun emplacements along its border with the North (the Samsung SGR-A1 system), currently under human control but capable of being made autonomous.

One lady mentioned that South Korea may be the only country which has actually developed an ethical framework for robotic behaviour, possibly akin to what the science fiction author Isaac Asimov put forward in ‘I, Robot' and other books. For South Korea it is significant not just because of the defence system mentioned above, but also because they hope to drive towards each Korean home having a robot by 2020.

Richard Harris, in his book ‘The Fear Index', suggests that we may control the morals and parameters of robotic systems, but it may still be the case that a system decides its behaviours for itself. The scenario is based on automated decisions in the investment banking industry. Now, one hopes that good decisions would be coded in; but it is often the case that we have lost control of the code, and no-one knows how it is working.

As a thought experiment, someone imagined a self-driving car. A small child runs out in front of the car and the car must act. To the left is a bus stop with eight people in the queue; to the right is a precipitous cliff. Which choice should the vehicle make, and would it make that choice?

One of us raised the issue of how different generations think about privacy behaviours and privacy laws.

The conversation took a turn towards the second question Andrew had launched at us, about the gap between perception or belief on the one hand, and reality. Challenged to explain, Andrew expanded by saying that he was often in conversations with people who he might have expected to have a wider vision, but was coming to appreciate that many senior and experienced people have their mindset in a kind of rut, ill-prepared for what is about to bring radical change. For himself, he thinks it behoves us to show an interest in our future.

Someone recalled the perceptual experiment that asks people to count the number of times that a basketball is passed, and hardly anyone charged with this task notices that someone in a gorilla suit walks right through the shot. It's what we might call ‘entrained thinking', the captivating power of mental models, and though mental models have their uses, so does naďvety? Assumptions undermine our ability to understand the world, especially in novel contexts and arrangements.

I asked if any of the table groups had addressed the question of ‘the Internet of Things' and someone replied that yes, on her table they thought it had the potential to create some large security risks and loopholes.

David Gurteen said that as an iPhone user, he recently became aware that when he has his phone plugged in to charge in the same room, he has become aware that ‘Siri' (the natural-language control interface for the telephone) is listening to every second of time and his every word. Siri has imperfect ears, and might hear David and his wife use a phrase in dinner conversation and interject, ‘How can I help you?' I raised the recent news stories about the Samsung voice-control TVs and the talking Barbie doll, both of which use an Internet link to a natural language processing software system ‘in the Cloud' and which therefore are also continuously listening to whichever human is in the same room (though soon, they start to listen and react to each other).

Someone remarked that there is a kind of trade-off between gaining increased machine help and losing our privacy and control over our own information. A trade-off along those lines may be perfectly acceptable, were we able to decide about it ourselves. But do we really understand what are the terms of the trade off? And who is in charge of those terms? Until Edward Snowden enlightened us, how much did we understand about how those trade-off were handing vast amounts of information about us to the security organisations?

What, for example, are we to make of the harvesting and mass pooling of our medical records and genetic data? It has some huge potential to advance medical science through Big Data analysis.

We had a bit of a debate about whether ‘radical transparency' with respect to our data is asymmetric (they want to know everything about Us but don't let us know much about Them), or whether the information flow is more symmetric than that.

In closing out, Andrew Driver suggested we check out a book by Peter Fingar called ‘Process Innovation in the Cloud', which is related to an article called ‘Everything has changed utterly'. The book, he suggested, is not that exciting, but the article is worth a look.

At this point David Gurteen thanked our hosts; he got people's unanimous agreement that it was OK to share emails amongst us, but we demurred at him sharing those with his toaster. And so we rose, and spent some more valuable informal time networking with the aid of wine and beer generously provided by our hosts.

Endnote: Privacy, protection and control

To the above I will add that at my first table group there was a strong focus on issues of privacy and confidentiality in email communications and in personal data in the cloud. For example, medical records are supposed to be kept securely, and this raises worries when suggestions are made that these could be kept ‘in the cloud'. Indeed, the most popular GP records system in the UK, EMIS, is moving to a cloud-based model for data storage, and this does provide substantial protection against data loss (for example in the case of a fire at the surgery). But just exactly where is the data being stored, and who can take a look at it?

Many cloud storage providers use servers based in the USA. When George W Bush signed the USA Patriot Act into force in 2001, its Title II in particular gave unprecedented powers to the US government agencies to snoop on the communications and data of individuals and organisations. This has caused concern amongst organisations in the European Union, which through Directive 95/46/EC has fairly stiff provisions in favour of protecting personal data. Companies operating in the European Union are not allowed to send personal data to countries outside the European Economic Area unless there is a guarantee that it will receive adequate levels of protection.

There is an agreement called ‘US-EU Safe Harbor' which was negotiated between the US Department of Commerce and the EU; this is supposed to provide a fast-track way to assure European customers that American cloud service providers will comply with Directive 95/46/EC, but it has been subject to at least two critical and sceptical reviews as regards to compliance and enforcement. It seems still very important to know where your data is, even if ‘cloud theory' says it isn't!

A further point that came up in one of my table groups was how companies use our information, and whether we mind about that. As has already been remarked, young people seem less concerned about privacy than older people, but perhaps that is a bit of a caricature, and it is more significant to know what value our information is to them, and what we get in return. Maybe we don't mind if by allowing a supermarket to associate our identity with our purchasing habits, by swiping a club card, we get access to special offers. But what about the recent sale of hospital data to commercial entities? Even if it is anonymised, said one person, we are ultimately the providers of that data, so should we not get some remuneration or benefit for allowing out data to join the pool?

(1) IEEE article about Fog Computing: http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/computing/networks/what-comes-after-the-cloud-how-about-the-fog

Wednesday 25 March 2015

13:47 GMTPermanent link to #The difference between a Knowledge Cafe and a Community of Practice# The difference between a Knowledge Cafe and a Community of Practice - Comments

I am frequently asked the difference between a Knowledge Cafe and Community of Practice (CoP) as it is not always clear to people.

Etienne Wenger defines a Community of Practice as a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact on a regular basis.

A Knowledge Cafe on the other hand is a highly adaptable face to face conversational process that can be used in many different business situations to bring a group of people together to have an open conversation for a specific purpose.

A Cafe can be run as a one-off event, for example to explore the impact of a new technology or as a regular series of events, for example a series of talks/cafes on a specific theme or a variety of different themes.

A Cafe or a series of Cafes does not constitute a CoP. And although a series of Cafes for people with a common interest may appear very CoP like, in reality a CoP will adopt many different ways of interacting rather than just the Cafe format. e.g. less structured conversations, open space technology sessions and on-line discussion forums.

So in summary, the Knowledge Cafe is a powerful conversational tool that can be employed by a CoP but is not the same as a CoP.

I hope this helps.

10:10 GMTPermanent link to #The Red Cross Red Crescent Experience of the Randomised Coffee Trials# The Red Cross Red Crescent Experience of the Randomised Coffee Trials - Comments

Randomised Coffee Trials (RCTs) are an amazingly simple way of connecting people in an organization, helping to build the social fabric and build community.

The Red Cross Red Crescent have been one of the pioneers to implement them on a global scale. This report from Shaun Hazeldine describes their experience with them in connecting over 600 people from around the globe to have regular "virtual coffee meetings" with each other once a month. The bottom line: "people loved them".
In the Red Cross Red Crescent the RCTs were implemented as a component of a broader Learning andEngagement Plan for Volunteering Development. A core principle underpinning this plan has been to createspaces (both physical and otherwise) where people could come together and talk, learn from each other andcollaborate for solutions and innovation. The plan focuses on conversation as an underestimated tool forlearning. A number of similar ‘conversational approaches to learning' have also been implemented alongsidethe RCTs in the Learning and Engagement Plan.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

10:34 GMTPermanent link to #Capturing the Value of Project Management Through Knowledge Transfer# Capturing the Value of Project Management Through Knowledge Transfer - Comments

If you are into project management then you may find this report from the Project Management Institute on Capturing the Value of Project Management Through Knowledge Transfer of interest.

Larry Prusak has written an introduction and highlights some of the more important points. Here is the key one he makes:
The first highlight that stands out is the very substantial value the respondents place on the identificationof “critical” knowledge. This is essential, yet often difficult to do. It's essential because without this activityone can drown in the huge amounts of “stuff” labeled knowledge in any organization, which leads to greatwaste. It also gives knowledge activities a bad reputation. At the same time, it is difficult to do, because thevery word “knowledge” encompasses many forms of “knowing” that are more tacit and, not only uncodifed,but often not easily codified at all. We sometimes call this type of knowledge “know-how” or practiceknowledge, and it is often difficult to identify in ways that make it more scalable and effective.

Credit: Larry Prusak

10:09 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: March 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: March 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Tuesday 24 February 2015

19:31 GMTPermanent link to #Do we need to learn or do we need to adapt?# Do we need to learn or do we need to adapt? - Comments

You are no doubt familiar with Peter Senge's quote of "the only sustainable competitive advantage is an organizations ability to learn faster than it's competition".

But maybe we should take the lead from Charles Darwin:
According to Darwin's Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.

So is sustainability/survival not so much about learning but about the ability to adapt (more quickly than competitors?) to a changing environment?

I prefer like the word adapt rather then learn as adapt signifies change where it is possible to learn/know something but not change :-)

19:23 GMTPermanent link to #Is Social Media silencing personal opinion?# Is Social Media silencing personal opinion? - Comments

Social media is not living up to its promise of being an online outlet for discussion that mirrors our communications and conversations that take place in the offline world. In fact, people are less willing to discuss important issues on social media, than they are in real life, a new report from Pew Research Center has found.
A major insight into human behavior from pre-internet era studies of communication is the tendency of people not to speak up about policy issues in public -- or among their family, friends, and work colleagues --when they believe their own point of view is not widely shared. This tendency is called the “spiral of silence.”

Some social media creators and supporters have hoped that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter might produce different enough discussion venues that those with minority views might feel freer to express their opinions, thus broadening public discourse and adding new perspectives to everyday discussion of political issues.


The survey reported in this report sought people's opinions about the Snowden leaks, their willingness to talk about the revelations in various in-person and online settings, and their perceptions of the views of those around them in a variety of online and off-line contexts.

These were the key findings of the research:
  • People were less willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story in social media than they were in person.
  • Social media did not provide an alternative discussion platform for those who were not willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story.
  • In both personal settings and online settings, people were more willing to share their views if they thought their audience agreed with them.
  • Previous ‘spiral of silence' findings as to people's willingness to speak up in various settings also apply to social media users.
  • Facebook and Twitter users were also less likely to share their opinions in many face-to-face settings.
The research confirms some of my observations over recent years about face to face conversation and the problems of creating forums for good online conversations that I spoke about in this recent talk on Smarter Online Conversations at the University of Brighton.

Keynote Talk by David Gurteen on Smarter Online Conversations at ECSM 2014

Monday 23 February 2015

10:02 GMTPermanent link to #Intellectual Capital in Organizations# Intellectual Capital in Organizations - Comments

Leif Edvinsson has been one of the key proponents of the importance of intellectual capital reporting for as long as I can remember, so I am delighted to see this new book published: Intellectual Capital in Organizations. Non-Financial Reports and Accounts - edited by Patricia Ordońez de Pablos and Leif.

The book reviews the development of the field of intellectual capital reporting, including core concepts, latest developments, the main components of intellectual capital, how a statement is built, and key indicators of each component.

Thursday 19 February 2015

16:12 GMTPermanent link to #Dialogue Rendezvous: the sageless stage# Dialogue Rendezvous: the sageless stage - Comments

My good friend John Girard has a rather nice twist on the Knowledge Cafe/World Cafe process called a Dialogue Rendezvous.

I never wish to see the Cafe process set in stone and I think of it more as a set of principles for designing "interesting conversations" for a specific purpose and so I am always on the lookout for variations.

John uses TED talks to trigger the engagement, thinking and conversation of his Dialogue Rendezvous - an approach I rather like.

Here John describes how the process works.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

11:07 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: February 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: February 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Wednesday 28 January 2015

10:46 GMTPermanent link to #Conversation is more than communication# Conversation is more than communication - Comments

Face to face Conversation is far more than just communication. When we have a Conversation we don't just exchange information. That's what computers do. It's not what people do. People filter, interpret and elaborate on what they hear.

Everyone does this differently. Two people can hear the same thing and take away very different ideas. In fact, we actually have little idea what others really takeaway from a conversation or what they are thinking.

Conversation is spontaneous and dynamic. It is not planned or scheduled. We don't plan our response to something that someone says - it emerges spontaneously. The Conversation can be thought of as being in charge. Conversation takes us where it wants to go.

Conversation is shaped by our moods. A conversation held one day will take a very different path and have very different outcomes compared to the same conversation on another day.

The environment in which a conversation is held also has an impact on the actual conversation. Conversation held in a quiet room will take a very different form to one in a noisy cafe or one on the train on a boat or in a car or while walking.

And it's not just the words spoken that form the communication. The speed and volume of delivery, the tone and the emotion in the voice shapes the meaning of the words conveyed. And the eyes and the smile convey so much along with other body language.

We have evolved to be very sensitive to body language and can detect deceit, lies, stress and other underlying emotions. Someone said to me recently "I don't quite trust her, she smiles far too much when I talk with her."

Conversation can inspire and motivate us or it can depress and turn us off.

In conversation, we make new connections in our minds and our thinking can be triggered down entirely new paths. It's probably not an exaggeration to say that a good conversation can entirely change our lives though such conversations are rare and we hardly ever recognise the long-term impact of the conversation at the time.

A single conversation or a series of conversations over a period of time can have a huge impact on us. We start to make different decisions not realising the influence that earlier conversations have had on us. A conversation held today is heavily influenced by conversations held in the past.

Conversations shape and mould our minds and thus our thinking and the decisions that we make. Conversation shapes our lives.

Monday 26 January 2015

16:50 GMTPermanent link to #What does research tell us about the effectiveness of lectures?# What does research tell us about the effectiveness of lectures? - Comments

Most people who know me are aware of my views about the lecture - certainly, if you have attended one of my knowledge Cafes or workshops you will be. It was death-by-powerpoint lectures that provoked me to start to run my Knowledge Cafes back in 2002.

This document Conversational Talks and Conferences sums up some of my thinking. And Donald Clark in his talk Dont lecture me is highly critical of the lecture style of teaching also.

But this article by Dr Tony Bates: Why lectures are dead (or soon will be) is a comprehensive review of the lecture, its history and its future. It is well worth the read and looks at both the strengths and the weakness of the lecture especially in the light of modern day technology and the ability to flip teach

This is what Tony says the research shows about the lecture.
  1. The lecture is as effective as other methods for transmitting information (the corollary of course is that other methods – such as video, reading, independent study - are just as effective as lecturing for transmitting information)
  2. Most lectures are not as effective as discussion for promoting thought
  3. Lectures are generally ineffective for changing attitudes or values or for inspiring interest in a subject
  4. Lectures are relatively ineffective for teaching behavioural skills.

Oh and make sure you read the comments - they are not totally supportive and add some additional insight into what Tony has to say.

15:36 GMTPermanent link to #An innovative way to document meeting minutes# An innovative way to document meeting minutes - Comments

I was on the Expert Advisory Group for a large meeting being held in Bangkok recently by the IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) We had a long discussion via Skype at one point and I almost fell off my chair when I saw the meeting minutes! What a great way to write up meeting outcomes with a YouTube video: Expert Advisory Group Minutes 2nd meeting.

Take a look - not only an innovative way to document the outcomes of a meeting but some interesting ideas for making meetings more participatory also.

Step 3 - the idea to consider the four questions from Peter Block came from me - I have used them at meetings and conferences in the past and I think they are a great way to get people to think about the degree to which they will participate in an event and help actually improve their engagement. Question four is the key.

13:31 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: January 2015# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: January 2015 - Comments

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.

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

Tuesday 30 December 2014

14:36 GMTPermanent link to #The Participatory Narrative Inquiry Institute# The Participatory Narrative Inquiry Institute - Comments

I received this note from Ron Donaldson on the 21st December - a fascinating story and an introduction to the Participatory Narrative Inquiry (PNI) Institute.
Stonehenge wasn't oriented on the summer solstice sunrise, but the winter solstice sunset - and not to any winter solstice sunset, but one every 19 years that coincided with the New Moon. This would be special as it's the longest, darkest night in the whole 19 year Metonic cycle. And tonight's that night! Tonight the longest night of the year is not broken by any moonlight

It corresponds to a mythical point in time, like the Egyptian Zep Tepi - the First Time, which is the days before or out of time in which the gods were born or the cosmos created; the lack of sun and moon on the longest night are important as this mythic time was thought to have been before either sun or moon were created. - and was seen by our ancestors as the day of re-creation, of an end of one cycle and the start of the new. This night, then, is a repetition of that moment.

The Bronze Age excavation at Flag Fen in Peterborough, where I live, has a causeway that led out to an island in the fens. The Archaeologists have recently discovered/realised that it was completely rebuilt every 19 years, presumably to match this 'day of re-creation'.

With great serendipity, Cynthia Kurtz (author of 'Working with Stories), myself and a few learned colleagues are at the point of launching a new initiative to encourage more people to work with stories. We are inviting anyone interested to join with us around what we are calling the Participatory Narrative Inquiry (PNI) Institute.

More details and the option to register can be found on our new website at https://pni2.org. All forms of story workers are welcome especially those who engage in any form of participation and return the stories and meaning back to the community where they arose.

Wishing you every success for the next nineteen years, Happy, double dark, Winter Solstice

Ron Donaldson
knowledge ecologist
Ecology of Knowledge Ltd

Look-up Metonic cycle - an amazing story of Astronomy and Maths. And check out the Participatory Narrative Inquiry Institute (PNI) website, it looks like an interesting endeavour.

14:35 GMTPermanent link to #Personally speaking# Personally speaking - Comments

Over the last 15 years that I have been producing this newsletter, I am occasionally criticised for writing in the first person. I am told that I use the word "I" far too much and that it is a sign of narcissism.

I find this amusing as I quite deliberately use the word. I strive to avoid the passive voice. Both my website and my newsletter are personal endeavours and so it makes sense to write in the first person, but it took me a while to learn that.

In the early days it was feedback from a friend who said, “Hey David, I love your newsletter but it is so much more interesting and authentic when you are ‘yourself' and speak in ‘your own voice' about something you feel passionate about”. That helped convince me to write in the first person.

It was also at that time I first read the book The Cluetrain Manifesto and the thoughts of David Weinberger on voice:

We have been trained throughout our business careers to suppress our individual voice and to sound like a ‘professional', that is, to sound like everyone else. This professional voice is distinctive. And weird. Taken out of context, it is as mannered as the ritualistic dialogue of the 17th-century French court.

But it goes deeper. I was educated as a scientist. I was instructed to write in the passive voice. That's what scientists do. I never really questioned it. Well at least not until I came across an article in New Scientist magazine by Rupert Sheldrake, the biologist and author. Here is how he started his article:

The test tube was carefully smelt.' I was astonished to read this sentence on my 11-year-old son's science notebook. At primary school his science reports had been lively and vivid. But when he moved to secondary school they become stilted and passive. This was no accident. His teachers told him to write this way.

Writing in the passive voice is meant to make science objective, impersonal and professional. Maybe it makes it seem that way, but it cannot disguise the fact that despite the Scienticfic Method scientists have the same cognitive biases that we all possess.

Unfortunately, this style of writing has spilt over into our business world

To my mind one of the best examples of the distortion caused by the passive voice are the biographies of conference speakers. Everyone knows they are not written by an independent person, but by the speakers themselves. So when they read, “Dr John Smith is an internationally acclaimed educator, speaker and trainer … he is a world renowned thought leader, author and practitioner,” you know it is highly likely that you are reading hype.

Writing like this is misleading. It is alienating. But if you write your bio in the first person then it becomes harder to write such rubbish. You are making it personal. And before someone points it out, most of my bios are written in the 3rd person - conference organizers demand them that way but I hope I manage to avoid the hype!

The active voice is more truthful. It gives us ownership of our work. It makes it harder to distort things. It involves us with the subject more. It liberates us to be ourselves. Bloggers and storytellers have already discovered this.

So I love to use the word ‘I'. I hope you are inspired to write more personally too.

13:37 GMTPermanent link to #The Running Desk: another form of Randomised Coffee Trial# The Running Desk: another form of Randomised Coffee Trial - Comments

When I was at the annual KM Asia conference in Singapore in November one of the speakers was Janan Goh who works for BASF in Kuala Lumpur. During his talk he spoke very briefly about something he called "Running Desk". My ears immediately pricked up as it sounded similar to a Randomised Coffee Trial and I asked Janan if he could send me more information. This he has very kindly done and has also taken the trouble to translate it from German into English. Thanks Janan.

The concept is a little bit more elaborate than an RCT but the essence is the same. It's about bringing people together across silos in an organization to get to know each other better.

In BASF's words: "It creates a better understanding between, scientists, engineers and business people" Take a look here

I rather like the idea. In any large organization there are buildings that you never get to visit. In a "Running Desk" you get to meet people on their own turf. There is a lot of value in that.

And you don't have to run one exactly the same way as BASF. Take the RCT and Running Desk principles and design your own "silo buster".

12:57 GMTPermanent link to #Dave Snowden takes down sacred cows, little tin gods and a paper tiger or two# Dave Snowden takes down sacred cows, little tin gods and a paper tiger or two - Comments

Dave Snowden - people either love him or hate him - sometimes both at the same time :-) And for good reason - he speaks his mind - and has a wonderful way of questioning things that we take for granted or have held sacrosanct for far too long.

I don't always agree with him - but even when I don't agree - I am left with a nagging doubt that he may be right or there are elements of truth in what he says. This causes me to think harder and more deeply about my own views and beliefs. That has always got to be a good thing!

So, I was delighted to see that he is writing a blog post (an attack blog as he calls it) for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas in which in his own words he plans to "take down sacred cows, little tin gods and a paper tiger or two". Here are the first few in the series:
  1. Breaking Goodharts Law
  2. Confusing correlation with causation and the paucity of good data
  3. The old ways are evil
  4. Anything requiring you to attain levels of enlightenment
As he posts them, you will find the others here. Some enlightening (whoops - should not use that word LOL) and enjoyable reading to take you into the New Year. Enjoy!

10:07 GMTPermanent link to #The Pulse of Conversation# The Pulse of Conversation - Comments

I have just started to publish short posts to the Linkedin Pulse newsfeed. There are four so far:
I intend to slowly build this up as a little resource of short articles on various aspects of conversation. You may recognise some of them as appearing in my blog or this newsletter in the past.

I hope you enjoy. They have already sparked some interesting discussion.

Friday 19 December 2014

20:23 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: December 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: December 2014 - Comments

Here are some of my favorite recent intersting 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.

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

Monday 1 December 2014

11:09 GMTPermanent link to #There is nothing new about the Knowledge Cafe or is there?# There is nothing new about the Knowledge Cafe or is there? - Comments

There is nothing new about the Knowledge Café or is there?

When people say that something is not new, they usually mean that they are familiar with the concept and its in common practice.

To my mind, when this objection is levelled at the Knowledge Cafe - it means that they do not fully understand it.

When I look at how organizations operate and the behaviours of people in organizations - it is quite apparent that people are either not aware of the fundamental principles and the power of good conversation or they understand them but do not to change their way of doing things either out of habit, laziness or choice.

Why in meetings and presentations are we still so dependent on Powerpoint? Why is the dominant format of a talk, a long presentation with lots of Powerpoint slides and a very short time for Q&A? Why is no time included for reflection and no time for conversations amongst the participants in order for them to engage with the topic or issue? Why do we insist on talking at each other rather than with each other.

Why is the dominant layout of our meeting rooms: either lecture style or large tables, when we know from experience and observation that these layouts are not conducive to good conversation? The research shows that good conversations take place in small groups of 3 or 4 people sitting around a small round table or even no table at all.

Why in meetings, especially those where the people do not know each other well, do we not allow time for socialisation and relationship building before getting down to business when again the research shows that such socialisation improves people's cognitive skills. Why are circles rarely used in meeting's when the research and our own personal experience demonstrates their power?

Why do managers and facilitators seek to control meetings so tightly and are afraid of negative talk or dissent. By surpressing people's fears, doubts and uncertainties - you do not eliminate them - you just drive them underground. Peter Block says "Yes" has no meaning if there is not the option to say "No". You need to bring people's doubts and fears out into the open and talk about them at length.

And why when we know from research that group intelligence relates to how members of a team talk to each other. That it depends on the social sensitivity of the group members and on the readiness of the group to allow members to take equal turns in the conversation. And that groups where one person dominates are less collectively intelligent than in groups where the conversational turns are more evenly distributed, do we allow the same old people to dominate the conversations in our meetings and do nothing to encourage the quieter ones to engage and speak up.

The Knowledge Cafe may not be totally new but it addresses all these issues and more but as a conversational method is still sadly very poorly adopted.

In fact in many organizations conversation is seen as wasting time. But slowly this is changing. More and more people are starting to understand the power of conversation and take a conversational approach to the way that they connect, relate and work with each other. They see themselves as Conversational Leaders.

10:28 GMTPermanent link to #Award for running a Knowledge Cafe# Award for running a Knowledge Cafe - Comments

Now this I like :-)

Recognition for Knowledge Management - thanks to David Gurteen

Congratulations Gavin!

Anyone else running Knowledge Cafes - let me know how you are getting on.

10:21 GMTPermanent link to #Thoughts on conversation from Moscow# Thoughts on conversation from Moscow - Comments

One of the things I like about conferences is that they trigger thoughts and ideas in my head as I listen to the speakers. Interestingly, the thoughts often have little to do with the subject of the speaker.

Usually I just make notes of these thoughts in my note book but at KM Russia 2014 in Moscow. I decided to tweet a few of them.
  • A thought: Conversation is a simple tool for making sense of a complex world.
  • Another thought: We should not try to control the outcomes of a conversation but let the conversation take us where it wants to go.
  • A thought: Conversation is a powerful tool for helping us challenge our existing mindsets.
  • A thought: get older managers to have open conversations with their youngest employees to learn about social tools and new mindsets.
  • Thought: we inspire each other through conversation.
  • Thought from #kmrussia It's not that communication is key. Conversation is key!
Clearly my mind was focused on the power of conversation.

06:57 GMTPermanent link to #More KM Videos from eClerx Services# More KM Videos from eClerx Services - Comments

eClerx Services now have 45 videos with interviews from leading KM practitioners from India and the world. Here are the lastest four:

Sunday 30 November 2014

18:04 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: November 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: November 2014 - Comments

Here are some of my favorite recent intersting 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.

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

Monday 10 November 2014

17:49 GMTPermanent link to #Introduction to the November 2014 Knowledge Letter# Introduction to the November 2014 Knowledge Letter - Comments

It has been a busy month and hence my apologies for a very late and rather short newsletter this month.

Four great trips: but no more travel until the new year.

If you are interested you can view my presentation on Conversational Leadership at KM Russia here.

Monday 27 October 2014

15:18 GMTPermanent link to #Beautiful Questions: Are questions more important than answers?# Beautiful Questions: Are questions more important than answers? - Comments

Andrew Armour pointed me to a great book recently A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger.

He has since posted a review in two parts: Book Review -- A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger. Part One and A More Beautiful Marketing Question? Part Two

So what is a beautiful question?

A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something -- and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.

That definition makes clear that this book is not about grand philosophical or spiritual questions -- Why are we here? How does one define "good"? Is there life after death? -- all of those great questions that spark endless, impassioned debate ... the focus here is on questions that can be acted upon.

When designing Knowledge Cafes - such beautiful questions should be crafted to serve as catalysts for the conversation.

Warren's book looks like a great new resource but also take a look at The Art of Powerful Questions by Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs.

14:12 GMTPermanent link to #Adding knowledge cafés to the repertoire of knowledge sharing techniques# Adding knowledge cafés to the repertoire of knowledge sharing techniques - Comments

There are not too many academic articles published on the Knowledge Cafe so I am delighted that Prof Martie Mearns and Tracy Lefika at the Department of Information and Knowledge Management - University of Johannesburg have published an article on the Knowledge Cafe as a knowledge sharing application. Martie, Tracy, a big thank you.

Knowledge cafés, a fairly new technique used to facilitate knowledge sharing, offer individuals within organisations the opportunity to interact on a face to face level with topics that are relevant to a particular organisation, and enhances knowledge transfer.

One of the major impediments of knowledge cafés is that, to date, there is limited literature concerning this knowledge sharing technique.

For this reason data was gathered through a Delphi study to investigate and discuss various aspects of knowledge cafés as used for the purpose of knowledge sharing.

The results of the study provide guidelines, advantages, disadvantages and similar techniques to knowledge cafés.

The core differences between knowledge cafés and world cafés are also highlighted.

Essentially it is the aim of this article to add knowledge cafés to the existing repertoire of knowledge sharing techniques by firstly reviewing literature on the existing techniques used for knowledge sharing and then elaborating on the value of knowledge cafés as a knowledge sharing application.

The article published in the International Journal of Information Management can be downloaded for free from here until 5 December 2014. So download it now, after that you will need to pay :-)

11:25 GMTPermanent link to #Avoiding groupthink in conversations# Avoiding groupthink in conversations - Comments

I wrote extremely briefly recently about Group Think & Group Polarization to make the point that two of the biggest challenges facing group conversation are how to overcome Group Think and Group Polarization.

I was delighted a few days later when Paul Sloane picked up on this and wrote a short article How to Fight the Scourge of Groupthink.

Thanks Paul.

When I get a little bit more time I will write about how to how to ensure that when you design a Knowledge Cafe - you can avoid or at least reduce Group Think and Group Polarization as although the Cafe process naturally tends to avoid these issues, in some circumstances extra care needs to be taken.

Dave Snowden's ritual dissent method has a role to play here.

09:57 GMTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: October 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: October 2014 - Comments

Here are some of my more recent intersting 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.

  • All books talk but a good book listens as well. Sarah Rozenthuler @srozenthuler Life Changing Conversations YouTube http://bit.ly/1D1jXap

  • Bill Gates or Steve Jobs? Who will we remember in 50 years? http://linkd.in/1CTSyXJ

  • The Chemistry of Connection by @DanielGolemanEI http://linkd.in/1yQMba9

  • We don't need more scientific data ... but to engage individuals at a deep emotional, psychological & spiritual level http://bit.ly/1xRlLBU

  • People think they like creativity. But teachers, scientists, and executives are biased against new ways of thinking http://theatln.tc/1t580PF

  • Conversations aren't trivial. Culture is reinforced by shared conversations and understanding Euan Semple http://bit.ly/1t326zI

  • Through conversation we connect, we communicate, we influence and we learn @IndaloGenesis http://bit.ly/1t326zI

  • How to Use "Conversational Leadership" to Manage Your Company http://bit.ly/1tzBebz

  • The new building is really designed to spark not just collaboration but that innovation you see when people collide http://bit.ly/1DbroO5

  • The real task of leadership is to confront people with their freedom. Peter Block http://bit.ly/1DzmICV #GurteenTalk

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

09:57 GMTPermanent link to #There is something special about meetings in the flesh, which cannot be replicated digitally# There is something special about meetings in the flesh, which cannot be replicated digitally - Comments

I wrote a little while back about Serendipity and Randomised Coffee Trials and since then I seem to keep coming across articles on the role and importance of serendipity in organizations. Here are a few quotes from two recent articles.
  • Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.

  • We get a particular intellectual charge from sharing ideas in person.

  • If you just think of serendipity as an interaction with an unintended outcome, you can orchestrate pleasant surprises.

  • Silicon Valley's greatest advances came through collaboration -- making serendipitous encounters critical.

  • There is something special ... about meetings in the flesh, which cannot be replicated digitally.

  • When Steve Jobs designed a new headquarters for Pixar, he obsessed over ways to structure the atrium, and even where to locate the bathrooms, so that serendipitous personal encounters would occur.

Serendipity has always been a big part of what my Knowledge Cafes have been all about. You can never predict the outcomes of a conversation. Conversations have a life of their own - you have little control over them. They take you where they want to take you - sometimes down blind alleys but more often than not to fascinating places you would have never have visited on your own.

07:49 GMTPermanent link to #PEER ASSIST! Calling all charters, codes of conduct and guidelines# PEER ASSIST! Calling all charters, codes of conduct and guidelines - Comments

Sparknow would love your help. They're currently doing some benchmarking of cultural charters at organisations - knowledge, information, records management, behaviour, values, greenness, diversity, ethics, moral compass, risk management, even running effective meetings - in fact any charter, code of conduct or guidelines that codify and make explicit what's expected of people and what they can expect of each other.

An example of a charter, and of bringing it to life, would be the Natural England's 2008 ‘ask, learn, share' knowledge charter which you can read a little about here

Could you please share with Sparknow
  • any charters, codes, guidelines etc (by whatever name) at all that you might have been part of making or involved with implementing
  • any case studies you like, have experienced or know about
  • any personal experiences of how (not) to get something like this done
They will consolidate whatever they get and share it back of course, upholding a principle of generosity and generating shared resources.

All contributions and queries to Victoria Ward victoria.ward@sparknow.net

Wednesday 1 October 2014

07:40 GDTPermanent link to #Introduction to the October 2014 Knowledge Letter# Introduction to the October 2014 Knowledge Letter - Comments

At the risk of getting a little boring I'd like to briefly talk about Randomised Coffee Trials again. Quite simply, if you have not taken a look at them yet - then give over a few minutes of your time to learn about them.

Apart from other benefits they are a powerful way of increasing the opportunities for serendipity and thus innovation in your organization - something I talk about here There is something special about meetings in the flesh which cannot be replicated digitally.

I also just came across a service called Global Hangouts which is designed to "ignite inspiring conversations about pressing global issues by introducing young people from different countries to each other."

It seems a great concept and you can see the connection to RCTs. I would give it a go myself but I don't quite fit the "young people" profile. Maybe I should create one for "oldies" like me :-)

Actually, I think it would be far more interesting to connect young people with old people across cultural divides - it would make for some potentially interesting conversations.

Monday 29 September 2014

17:05 GDTPermanent link to #Randomised Coffee Trials get hotter# Randomised Coffee Trials get hotter - Comments

I am still very excited about Randomised Coffee Trials and their potential in organizations for connecting people, building relationships and delivering all sorts of serendipitous outcomes.

I mentioned RCTs in a video talk on KM that I gave as part of a United Nations Volunteers (UNV) KM Workshop in Bonn last March and Shaun Hazeldine of the The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) picked up on the idea and has started running them.

What they are doing is fantastic! They started RCTs about 10 weeks ago and currently have 400 people from 70+ countries signed up and it grows every day by 5 - 10 people. They run it in 5 languages and it seems feedback from the first round is overwhelmingly positive. They have 17 million volunteers and 400,000 staff so there is a lot of space for growth yet.

Recently I also got in touch with Michael Soto - one of the co-inventors of the RCT concept. I am pleased I did as I discovered he had left Nesta to form Spark Collaboration to take all the admin hassle out of running RCTs

So its getting all quite exciting. So much so I have created a resource page on my website for RCTs. This is the current contents:

A Randomised Coffee Trial or RCT for short is a rather fancy name for an incredibly simple idea.

RCTs are used to connect people in an organization at random and give them time to meet to have a coffee and talk about whatever they wish.

The original idea was inspired by Pedro Medina and developed by Michael Soto and Jon Kingsbury of Nesta UK in 2013. Nesta is an innovation charity with a mission to help people and organisations bring great ideas to life.

An RCT can be run in a wide variety of ways but one way is like this.

Anyone interested in taking part, sends an email to a central address and asks to be randomly connected with someone else in the organization.

An administrator collects these requests and enters them into a specially designed spreadsheet that matches people at random.

Some organizations use a simpler technique like drawing names from a hat or use more sophisticated software that automatically does the matching. (See the commercial services listed below.)

The administrator then tells the person with whom they have been connected.

It is then up to them to get in touch with that person and organise a 30 minute chat over coffee.

It need not be a coffee - it could be tea, lunch or dinner. What ever works best for them.

Better still, in a geographically dispersed organization - the meeting could be a virtual one say over Skype.

This is what Nesta says about the benefits
  • Provides legitimacy to chat to people about things that aren't directly work related. Although every time there have been direct beneficial impacts on various projects and programmes.

  • Totally random conversations, as well as some very useful work related conversations. Breaks silos at Nesta in a really effective way.

  • Offers the chance to make time to talk to people they should be talking to anyway, and to meet people who they won't be directly working with but it's nice to know who they are!

  • It's a really good way of revealing links within the organisation and encouraging us to collaborate. It's interesting that being part of the wider 'RCT' banners gives permission to spend and honour the time. Less likely to cancel a catch up if it's an RCT coffee than a social catch up on a busy day.

  • They like the prompt to talk to someone new (or someone they already know), and the permission to take 30 minutes just to see what's going on, without any particular agenda or goal.
See more at: Institutionalising Serendipity via Productive Coffee Breaks

As of September 2014
in various languages explain how the Red Cross Red Crescent are using them globally via Skype.

Some early feedback from the Red Cross Red Crescent trials

  • I came to know that in Austria students are teaching the way of building disaster shelters as well as awareness in hygiene promotion and disaster where in my country it's such a technical session we have not introduced in schools. But I realized this is a very good practice and of course I will introduce it here in Bangladesh also.

  • It was a great experience and I think we definitely will connect again! We also exchanged email IDs to keep each other posted on new youth developments specifically (since we're both involved in youth work).

  • I have a coffee partner from Trinidad and Tobago. She is a volunteer leader overseeing Red Cross activities for children and teachers in her District. She is so passionate about her work! I was very inspired and will have our next meeting next month

  • The first round went remarkably well, as I was paired up with a brilliant woman from Australia who provided me with a good picture of the Australian Red Cross and general Australian civil services; amazingly, our different countries have very similar strategies in our communities! We're also planning on keeping in contact with one another for fun / for cultural education (including Red Cross information)

  • I wanted you to know that I just did the first coffee meeting at 6am this morning before work and it was such a lovely way to start the day! Great idea to link up volunteers and staff from different national societies. As well as a good chat, we both learnt a fair bit and hope to maintain the connection.

  • What were the chances that I got connected with someone who shared the same name with me! We had a wonderful chat...I am looking forward to my next "hook up" :).

  • Thank you for providing the opportunity to share and forge links with other volunteers world wide. I had my first virtual coffee trial today and it was an awesome experience. Discussing our work and sharing our experiences just added the right flavor to what we do regardless of the distance. We are not alone . We have a voice. Thank you. Looking forward to the Second Round.

There are a number of commercial organizations that provide an RCT type service:

Spark Collaboration from Trackmind on Vimeo.

This is how Spark Collaboration describes their RCT service: "Spark is a simple tool to help people meet. Colleagues who spend time socializing are more innovative and more productive. The problem is, it's hard to socialize with people you don't already know. That's why Spark was built. It's a tool that introduces people who work together and invites them to meet for lunch or coffee."

Footnote: Where did that seemingly crazy name Randomised Coffee Trails come from? Well its a play on the concept of Randomised Control Trials. Ben Goldacre of Nesta talks a little about them here in this post on his launch of Randomise Me - a free online trials generator.

Further Reading:

16:45 GDTPermanent link to #Group Think & Group Polarization# Group Think & Group Polarization - Comments

Two of the biggest challenges facing group conversation are how to overcome Group Think and Group Polarization .
Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.

Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

Group polarization refers to the tendency for groups to make decisions that are more extreme than the initial inclination of its members.

These more extreme decisions are towards greater risk if individuals' initial tendencies are to be risky and towards greater caution if individuals' initial tendencies are to be cautious.

11:29 GDTPermanent link to #Ray Ozzie launchesTalko - an app for collaborative voice communications# Ray Ozzie launchesTalko - an app for collaborative voice communications - Comments

Those of you who know me - know I used to work for Lotus Development and of my involvement with Lotus Notes My website and this newsletter for example, are brought to you courtesy of code I have developed in Lotus Notes (I am still a techy at heart!)

You may also know of Ray Ozzie, the creator of Lotus Notes who went on to create Groove (another amazing collaborative application) that was later acquired by Microsoft.

Ray was named chief software architect at Redmond in 2006, ultimately taking over software strategy from Bill Gates, who stepped aside in 2008. Ray left Microsoft in 2010.

Well it seems Ray has been hard at work on his third startup Talko. Talko is a fascinating new app for the iPhone. Take a look at how Ray introduces his new baby here Welcome to Talko! - especially this segment (may emphasis in bold):

I passionately believe that there's immense latent potential in voice -- to convey tone and emotion, to quickly resolve issues, to make decisions and to get things done.

There's simply no faster and no more effective way to express essential emotions such as urgency, anxiety, understanding, confidence or trust.

Quite simply, amazing things can happen when we just choose to talk.

Looks like Ray and I feel the same about the power of voice and of the importance of conversation :-)

This is how TechCrunch describes the app:
Talko ... replaces your usual conference line with VOIP, cloud-based calls between team members. The app records the entire live conversation to make it accessible to those who can't tune in while it's going on. It also enables users to create bookmarks within the conversation and tag other users with action items.

Perhaps most importantly, the conversation doesn't end when a particular call is over. Any member of the team can start a new call or add voice-based follow ups to the conversation, and they will be shared asynchronously with the rest of the participants. By doing so, it makes certain that everyone is on the same page, whether they were able to call in or not. Users in a group can also add text and photos in line with the conversation, which get shared with all participants.

Credit: TechCrunch

I have many great tele-conversations with people and have long wished to record them in a useful way to play back later and reflect on the ideas and insights that surface and that are so often forgotten. Talko seems to be a great way of doing this and so much more.

If you have an iPhone - connect with me - I need a few people to chat with to experiment with the app.

10:13 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: September 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: September 2014 - Comments

Here are what I consider some of my more interesting Tweets for August to September 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 real task of leadership is to confront people with their freedom. Peter Block http://bit.ly/1DzmICV #GurteenTalk

  • The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization. Sigmund Freud

  • Ray Ozzie Launches App to Get People Talking Again http://on.mash.to/1pu8qZL

  • Powerful questions are those that, in the answering, evoke a choice for accountability and commitment. Peter Block http://bit.ly/1DzmICV

  • Communities are human systems given form by conversations that build relatedness. Peter Block http://bit.ly/1DzmICV #GurteenTalk

  • It is just coffee, but at the same time it is much more http://bit.ly/YCXvre #RCTS

  • A sign of wisdom: having strong opinions, weakly held. @psaffo, via @work_matters

  • The brain, the Internet and the future of work @EskoKilpi http://bit.ly/1q6uX3L

  • Professor Michael Roberto's Blog: Why We Don't Seek Advice, but We Should! http://bit.ly/1peUGl5

  • What is really achieved with 50 to 100 people in a room, a presenter and then questions from the floor? Nothing. http://bit.ly/1lk3vPJ

  • Casually occupying yourself as you putter around an idea increases the quality of ideas http://read.bi/WY0oCn

  • What does research tell us about the effectiveness of lectures?" @DrTonyBates http://bit.ly/1p1D414

  • The Chemistry Of Conversations | Steps & Leaps http://bit.ly/1kL6WP0

  • What is conversation? How can we design for effective conversation? http://bit.ly/1v0B8Xe #GurteenTalk

  • Is Silence a “Dangerous” Tool in Communication? http://bit.ly/XgJ1wN #GurteenTalk

  • Can a machine connect two strangers over coffee? http://bit.ly/1lDsg44 #GurteenTalk

  • A beautiful question ... can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something ... @GlimmerGuy http://bit.ly/1tZPbP3 #GurteenTalk

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

Sunday 28 September 2014

09:55 GDTPermanent link to #Introduction to the September 2014 Knowledge Letter# Introduction to the September 2014 Knowledge Letter - Comments

You may have noticed that some Knowledge Letter's are long, others are short. It's a function of how busy I have been during the month - the busier I have been, the shorter the newsletter and the later in the month it gets published :-)

This is a short one on account of two weeks in Indonesia. It was mainly holiday with my wife Leni but I got to run three Knowledge Cafes on Conversational Leadership while there.

A big thanks to everyone I met, especially Rusnita Saleh for all her help in organising the KCafes and my apologies for all those I did not have time to meet but I'll be back,

Friday 22 August 2014

09:40 GDTPermanent link to #Jakarta Trip:15 - 24 September 2014# Jakarta Trip:15 - 24 September 2014 - Comments

I am greatly looking forward to visiting Jakarta with my wife Leni in September. We will be there from the 15th to 24th of the month.

It's mainly a personal trip for Leni to see her family and for her to catch up on a lot of stuff as she has been away from Indonesia for 2 years since we married.

So I will have several days free time.

If you would like to meet with me or invite me to give a talk or run a Knowledge Cafe or workshop for your organization then please get in touch.

I will be speaking at KM Asia in Singapore, the week of 17th November and may possibly spend a few days in Bangkok.

I will also be speaking at KM Russia in Moscow the week of the 24th November.

08:26 GDTPermanent link to #Engaging each other and challenging our thinking# Engaging each other and challenging our thinking - Comments

Those of you who have had the privilege of hearing Dave Snowden speak know that he delights many people and angers others.

I never quite understood why until I read this recent blog post of his On Public Speaking.

His style is quite deliberate and for good reason. He is purposefully disruptive to engage people and to provoke them to think for themselves.

Here are a couple of snippets from his blog post.
If I am in shock and awe mode, trying for a long term shift then I operate my three-thirds rule.

That seeks to inspire a third, confuse a third and anger/disturb a third of the audience.

It works! Everyone who hears Dave speak talk about him for days, weeks, even months afterwards. They don't always agree with him or appreciate his style. But he engages them and challenges their thinking!

Some years ago, I recall recording one of Dave's talks and playing it back to myself on the train home, pausing every few moments to take in an outlandish statement of his and reflecting - "Is this really true?" "Have I had this so wrong in my head for so long?" or "Is Dave just saying this to provoke the audience?". Either way he sure gets me thinking.
Another good disruptive technique is to read the descriptions of other speakers and deliberately create the odd virus like the five most dangerous things people say about X which includes paraphrases of points you know will come after.

Good speakers take this in their stride and give as good as they get, others get flummoxed and that is no bad thing as we need better speakers, oh do we need better speakers.

The point about all of this is to create diversity for learning.

Conferences where all the speakers agree with each other are turgid.

Dave also makes the point that "Good speakers stimulate debate and discussion at events and organisers need to provide for that."

It's why I am so keen to promote conversational techniques such as Knowledge Cafes at conferences. The Cafe is often seen as people talking nicely to each other and thus prone to Group Think. Some times this is true, some times it is not.

There is nothing I would like to see more in my Knowledge Cafes than more passionate but respectful dialogue and debate around a significant issue.

Some time ago Dave suggested that I run Ritual Dissent sessions in addition or as part of my Knowledge Cafes. Somehow I have never got around to this. It's about time I did :-)
Ritual Dissent is a workshop method designed to test and enhance proposals, stories, ideas or whatever by subjecting them to ritualised dissent (challenge) or assent (positive alternatives).

In all cases it is a forced listening technique, not a dialogue or discourse.

The basic approach involves a spokesperson presenting a series of ideas to a group who receives them in silence.

The spokesperson then turns their chair, so that their back is to the audience and listens in silence while the group either attack (dissent) or provide alternative proposals (assent).

The ritualisation of not facing the audience de-personalizes the process and the group setting (others will be subject to the same process) means that the attack or alternative are not personal, but supportive.

Listening in silence without eye contact, increases listening.

Overall plans that emerge from the process are more resilient than consensus based techniques.

Ritual Dissent is meant to simulate the process of delivering new ideas to management or decision-makers, and to open up new thinking to necessary criticism and iterations.

The process is meant to enforce listening, without disruption.

The scenario replicates real-life proposal making especially with regards to new and non-conventional ideas - as more experimental approaches are commonly met with the most challenges from management.

Watch out for a Ritual Dissent session as part of one of my future London Knowledge Cafes!

Thursday 21 August 2014

23:21 GDTPermanent link to #IKI Talks: Interviews with 34 International Experts in Knowledge Management and Innovation.# IKI Talks: Interviews with 34 International Experts in Knowledge Management and Innovation. - Comments

The Institute for Knowledge and Innovation South-East Asia (IKI SEA) at the Bangkok University in Thailand has interviewed 34 International Experts (Practitioners and Academics) in Knowledge Management and Innovation.

They have asked all of them the 6 same questions and are publishing one new interview each week. Six have been published so far, interviews with Davd Snowden, Patrick Lambe, Eric Tsui, Geoff Parcell, Kate Andrews, Waltraut Ritter, Dr. Manasi Shukla and Prof. Rivadávia C. Drummond de Alvarenga Neto.

The six questions:
  1. How do you explain the difference between information and knowledge?
  2. What will be the most important topic in KM in the future?
  3. How do you foresee KM as a discipline in the future?
  4. How do you explain the link between Knowledge Management and Innovation?
  5. How do you foresee the future of Innovation Management?
  6. Why do you think companies are still struggling to implement Knowledge Management and Innovation Management?
You can watch the videos here and while on their site check out their Creative Bangkok six day workshop in October 2014.

18:23 GDTPermanent link to #Randomised Coffee Trial Variations# Randomised Coffee Trial Variations - Comments

I had an interesting meeting with the KM Team at Airbus CIMPA in Bristol recently.

At one point, we talked about RCTs (Randomized Coffee Trials. CIMPA knew the concept and liked the principles of it but raised the concern that in the business environments they are used to dealing with there would be a need for tangible business outcomes from an RCT.

In further conversation, an interesting variation of the RCT concept emerged.
  • take a group of people

  • take a small collection of business problems/challenges/issues

  • randomly match two people with a random business issue

  • ask them to meet over coffee and discuss the selected issue (no reason why they cannot discuss other things too)

  • at the end of the session, each person writes up a short summary of their conversation and any ideas that emerged - these are posted and shared centrally in someway
a further variation on this idea:
  • take one big issue and over a period of say a month, run RCTs where all the pairs discuss the same issue

  • at the end of the month bring them ALL together in a Knowledge Cafe style gathering to discuss the issue further and draw some conclusions

This could be a powerful innovative process.

I think the real beauty and success of the RCTs is in the organic flow of the conversation. Focusing on tangible business outcomes although worthy and useful is maybe a little bit too organised and just a short step away from being another form of business workshop. I therefore wonder, can this variation still be considered an RCT?

What do you think and have you experimented a similar form of RCT?

18:04 GDTPermanent link to #Question: Do strong relationships create an impasse to cutting-edge debate?# Question: Do strong relationships create an impasse to cutting-edge debate? - Comments

Read this blog post on Robust Dialogue Without Roasted Feelings and then ask yourself the question:

Do strong relationships create an impasse to cutting-edge debate?

Or have coffee with someone and discuss (maybe not a close friend LOL)

11:37 GDTPermanent link to #Introduction to the August 2014 Knowledge Letter# Introduction to the August 2014 Knowledge Letter - Comments

I'd like to remind you this month of some of the services available to you as a member of the Gurteen Knowledge Community.

If you would like to be an active member of the community and not just receive stuff then you should join the Gurteen Knowledge Community Group on LinkedIn. It has over 4,500 members and is a great place to meet and have discussions with like-minded people. You can join here: http://www.linkedin.com/groupRegistration?gid=1539

In addition there are several other services. Here are just three of them:

RSS Feeds
Subscribe to a number of RSS feeds

Quote of the Day
Receive a quotation by e-mail on a day of the week of your choosing

Event Alerts
Receive e-mail alerts for new conferences & workshops in your region

11:20 GDTPermanent link to #The Coffee Connector: Can a machine connect two strangers over coffee?# The Coffee Connector: Can a machine connect two strangers over coffee? - Comments

If you like the idea of Randomized Coffee Trials (where two people are connected at random to have coffee with each other) then I think you will love this coffee machine.

The machine known as the Coffee Connector was created by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and its agencies TSLA, Tellart and Strawberry Frog. This is what they say about it.

In Asia, Singapore often facilitates connections between companies and successful business ventures with a wealth of resources.

Our machine, the Coffee Connector, is this symbolic idea brought to life.

Designed for high-end conferences and networking events, the Coffee Connector only brews a cup of coffee when two attendees work together to request one.

Once you've found a partner, the machine's exposed kinetic brewing process engages viewers and uses interactive touchpoints to support the EDB's messaging.

I have no idea of the cost but I suspect it's a tad too expensive for wide use at conferences and in any case when getting a coffee at a conventional coffee machine its not too difficult to start up a conversation with the person next to you.

10:20 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: August 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: August 2014 - Comments

Here are what I consider some of my more interesting Tweets for July to August 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 18 August 2014

17:05 GDTPermanent link to #Video of my Smarter Socially Mediated Conversations Talk# Video of my Smarter Socially Mediated Conversations Talk - Comments

I recently wrote about my talk on Smarter Socially Mediated Conversations at the European Conference on Social Media (ECSM 2014) at the University of Brighton in July.

I now have the Video

and here is the Presentation

Monday 28 July 2014

15:40 GDTPermanent link to #Smarter Socially Mediated Conversations# Smarter Socially Mediated Conversations - Comments

A few weeks back I was a keynote speaker at the European Conference on Social Media (ECSM 2014) conference.

I have been designing and hosting conversations in the form of knowledge cafes for the past 12 years or more. and during this time I have developed some simple principles that help ensure the engagement of the participants and the quality of the conversations.

My focus has always been on face-to-face conversations and not ones mediated through social media but during this time many people have asked me how to run virtual knowledge cafes or how to improve the way that people hold conversations online.

Online conversations are fraught with difficulties. Often they are an exchange of monologues - a series of highly crafted statements by the participants. They are not like normal face-to-face conversations and I would argue that they are not in fact conversations in the strictest sense of the word.

Misunderstandings abound; certain people dominate; trolls deliberately stir up trouble, intellectual arguments and fights break out and conversations rapidly become ad hominem. Quieter, more reflective people, people who favour dialogue over debate stay away or lurk silently in the background.

In my talk I reviewed what I've learnt about face-to-face conversation in developing my knowledge cafes and how the principles that underpin them might help improve socially mediated conversations.

The talk was videod and if and when I get a copy I hippo to share it with you but in the meantime here are the slides from my presentation.

15:08 GDTPermanent link to #Intimate Conversations Cafe: What would you like engraved on your tombstone?# Intimate Conversations Cafe: What would you like engraved on your tombstone? - Comments

Some years ago, I attended one of Theodore Zeldin's Conversation Dinners  in Oxford.

The dinner was quite fascinating - we sat in pairs, our partner had already been selected and as well as the dinner menu we were given a 'conversation menu' by Theodore.

For each course there were several questions about ourselves we could chose to discuss. We were instructed to only talk with our partners.

The questions were intended to help us discover what sort of person we were talking with, their ideas on different aspects of life, such as ambition, curiosity, fear, friendship and the relations of the sexes.

I enjoyed the experience so much that back in November 2005, I held an "Intimate Conversations" Cafe at the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Then on 8th July 2014 (yes that's nearly 9 years later!) I ran another "Intimate Conversations" Cafe at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in London.

During the evening, I paired people off with each other and give them a short list of questions from which they could choose to discuss.

The questions were designed to be open-ended and to give them the opportunity to reveal as much of their inner-selves to each other as they felt comfortable.

Here are three of the questions:
  • What are your earliest memories of your childhood?
  • What brings you greatest happiness when you think back on your life so far?
  • What would you like to be engraved on your tombstone?

I had 20 people - 10 pairs and as I knew from past experience that it is possible to be matched with someone whom you don't quite get on with- I broke the conversation into two 40 minute sessions.

I allowed people to have a 1:1 conversation for about 40 minutes and then told them to switch partners but if they really wished to carry on their conversation and stay with thie current partner they could.

Only 5 pairs (half the people) switched partner. I also let people select their partner - I did not do it for them randomly (that may or may not have been the best way).

We then came back together at the end in a circle for about 30 mins to share our thoughts on the Cafe - almost everyone engaged and was enthusiastic about the event.

What a great way to break down barriers: get people talking about themselves and give permission to go deeper and engage in a way that you would never normally do with a complete stranger.

Credit: Sally Gurteen,Senior Digital Communications Executive

I enjoyed the Intimate Conversations Cafe last night. One of the main things that struck me was how open complete strangers were with me about quite raw events in their life e.g. death when I was open with them. Maybe this is something we can learn from and adapt in a business environment to make them less of a battlefield?

Credit: Sara Culpin,Head of Information & Knowledge

I was later asked by someone who did not attend - whether it was transferable in-house to say use as an ice-breaker at the start of internal conferences or alongside Randomised Coffee Trials which was something I had not considered.

Reflecting on this, and reviewing the questions, I realised that questions like "Describe your perfect partner?" could become "Describe your perfect job?" and "When are you at your best?" could become "When do you do your best work?" So the answer is yes!

If you are interested, get in touch and I can send you the list of questions that I used.

This is a simple and effective way of allowing people to get to know each other better at a deeper level and is no where near as "scary" as it sounds. Although I had one person say that were not coming as they were not prepared to talk quite so intimately with a complete stranger.

15:08 GDTPermanent link to #Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: July 2014# Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: July 2014 - Comments

Here are what I consider some of my more interesting Tweets for June to July 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.

11:37 GDTPermanent link to #Is PowerPoint evil or is it a strategic tool?# Is PowerPoint evil or is it a strategic tool? - Comments

I started running my Knowledge Cafes in 2002 in response to my frustration with "Death by PowerPoint" presentations.

I thought that PowerPoint as it was commonly used was an ineffective way to teach people but I never thought it evil until a German friend put the thought in my mind when she sent me this article recently Der Powerpoint-Irrsinn (in German) which references an original article from 2003 (in English) by Edward Tufte PowerPoint Is Evil - Power Corrupts - PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely.

In Googling the topic - I then quickly came across an article with a somewhat different point of view Is PowerPoint a Strategic Tool?

Take a read! So which is it - evil or strategic? I guess like most tools it all comes down to how you use it and what you use if for! Even I use a few PowerPoint slides in my Knowledge Cafes :-)

09:55 GDTPermanent link to #Introduction to the July 2014 Knowledge Letter# Introduction to the July 2014 Knowledge Letter - Comments

I did not know 15 years or so ago when I started to travel the world with my work that I would make so many wonderful friends and learn so much about other cultures and religions. Least of all to find myself a beautiful Indonesian wife.

During my travels, the most important thing I have learnt is that despite our different languages, cultures and religions, we all have similar fears, insecurities, hopes and aspirations. It's what it means to be human and I have learnt to respect all people.

And so with the ending of Ramadan I would like to wish all my Muslim friends and readers of this knowledge letter Eid Mubarak and to my Indonesian friends Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri.

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 - "conversation 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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