Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 161 - November 2013


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Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 161 - November 2013


  1. Introduction to the November 2013 Knowledge Letter
  2. Serendipity and Randomised Coffee Trials
  3. Serendipity and talking with strangers
  4. If we wish to change the world we first must change our mind
  5. He who got the donkey up the tower knows how to bring it down!
  6. What is co-creation?
  7. It's about time the kids taught the teachers!
  8. Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: November 2013
  9. Upcoming Events
  10. Subscribing and Unsubscribing
  11. The Gurteen Knowledge Letter

Introduction to the November 2013 Knowledge Letter

When I first started this knowledge letter back in May 2000, yes it is in it's14th year, the idea was that I still regularly blogged but selected some of my more interesting posts at the end of each month to include in the knowledge letter. It hasn't quite worked out that way.

Throughout the month, I capture ideas and half-formed draft blog posts that get published at the end of the month in a blitz over a day, maybe two. And then nearly all of those posts end up in my knowledge letter.

What is interesting is how much many of the posts have in common although they have come from different sources or inspirations over the month.. The two posts in this month's knowledge letter - both on the subject of serendipity are such an example. I feel we really need to find more and effective ways of connecting with each other and having meaningful conversations. One of these ideas is Peter Block's Conversations for possibility rather than Conversations to solve problems.

Serendipity and Randomised Coffee Trials

Back in the summer at KM UK I was talking with someone at a KM Clinic who asked me about the Knowledge Cafe and whether it could be run online. I am often asked this question and my simple answer is No. Yes, you can do things online but to my mind they fall so far short of a face-to-face conversation that they are two very different ways of coming together.

The woman I was talking with was looking for ways in which she could connect people across a far flung global organisation and to help them build working relationships. To my mind trying to run an online version of the Knowledge Cafe would not be very effective but as we talked an idea emerged in my mind and that was to connect people at the individual level using Skype. The idea was to match people at random across sites and get them to have a Skype based conversation. It would be one to one, face-to-face and should work quite well. That was it. As far as I know she did not follow up on this.

But then more recently I was talking with Susan Chan and she told me about Randomised Coffee Trials (RCTs) that were being run in the UK's Cabinet Office. I was excited, as the concept was so similar to my Skype idea but face to face - why oh why had I not thought of that :-) In Googling around, I found that the idea had originated at Nesta (an innovation charity with a mission to help people and organisations bring great ideas to life).

This how Nesta describes the RCTs:
Nesta staff that have opted-in are sent a weekly randomized match with another Nesta staff member and the two are invited to grab a coffee together.

There are no requirements or obligations regarding the topics discussed, some [randomized coffee trials] are spent entirely on work-related matters, others are entirely personal in nature.

It is just a coffee, but at the same time it is much more.

At the time, I tweeted it.

Told my daughter @TheCafeCat about Randomised Coffee Trials & within 2hrs her company had agreed to run them! http://bit.ly/1emtbnj

Seems the Scottish Government have been running them too.

Here are some resources Someone has had a similar idea called Lunch Roulette and have made a business out of it.
Breaking down functional silos is key to everything from encouraging communication to building valuable connections to sparking innovation.

But, as we all know, bridging interdepartmental chasms is far easier said than done.

Fortunately, some companies are starting to come up with creative solutions. Take, for example, Lunch Roulette...

The power of this idea is strong and it is so easy to implement. Take a good look and see what you think. Could you do this in your organisation?

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 it here in this post on his launch of Randomise Me - a free online trials generator.

Serendipity and talking with strangers

A day or two ago I came across this post on Serendipity as a style of life. It immediately resonated with me as like the writer I have been making a point to talk to strangers for some years now.

I never thought about it as a serendipitous act before - I have just been looking to strike up interesting conversations with people. We go through life missing great opportunities to meet and have conversations with interesting people.

As the writer explains, it is actually quite easy and a stock of a few simple open ended questions do the trick. It's also rare that people do not respond, if you approach them in a warm friendly manner with an unthreatening question or comment.. Comments often work best as they are the least threatening and do not call for an answer. Having read the post, I am inspired to do it more.

Interestingly having just got back from KM Asia in Singapore - some of the most amazing conversations I have ever had are with elderly Chinese taxi drivers. They seem to have a lot of wisdom for their years. The most recent conversation, while I was there, was with a Chinese taxi driver who had a few years earlier, lost his business, his wife and most of his family and almost committed suicide but for the love and support of his youngest daughter. He was starting to rebuild his life.

And the taxi driver from Bangladesh in Dubai recently, who when I told him my wife was Muslim, proceeded in a very charming and low key way to try to convert me to the religion! LOL

There is an even more interesting story from Singapore some years ago that reminded me of a fundamental principle - "people can have every different perspectives on life - don't make assumptions that they feel the same as you do". I must write up the full story - watch this space.

Theodore Zeldin even organises Conversation Dinners where you get to have dinner and maybe more importantly intimate conversation with someone you have never met. To some degree, its also art of what my Knowledge Cafes are all about.

Go on! Next time you get the chance to start up a conversation with a stranger - do it. You may surprise yourself how easy it is and how rewarding.

If we wish to change the world we first must change our mind

I only recently discovered the work of Peter Block.

To me the most interesting of his work is this Civic Engagement and the Restoration of Community Changing the Nature of the Conversation booklet written by Peter and several others.

Peter is one of those people who sees the world through a very different lens from most of us. I suspect many will have difficulty with what he has to say and his style of writing but he espouses some very profound ideas that I find invigorating food for thought.

One example is that maybe our ideas about what constitutes action are all wrong as he says here:
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.

The booklet also talks about a conversational process that has much in common with my Knowledge Cafe. If you are interested in change and the role of conversation in bringing about change then this document is a must read. I am reading and re-reading it several times over to integrate the ideas into my own thinking and to assess its potential impact on my Knowledge Cafe process.

He who got the donkey up the tower knows how to bring it down!

A few weeks back while in Dubai to run a Knowledge Cafe at the OLC MENA conference I took part in a radio show on Dubai Eye 103.8 (@DubaiEye1038FM) a Dubai-based talk radio station.

The show was Voices of Diversity with presenter Suzanne Radford (@suzanneradford). It should have been with her regular co-host Samineh Shaheem (@SaminehShaheem), a cross cultural psychologist but Samineh was ill and a rather fun gentleman Dylan Dolan, an executive coach and trainer took her place.

The topic of the show was "Conversation making across cultures: How to talk to each other truthfully without causing offence or conflict."

In the hour before I joined the show, Suzanne and Dylan talked about misunderstandings and common sayings and meanings across cultures. And when I joined we explored in more detail the art of conversation, sharing of ideas and relationship building.

Here is a podcast of the session, thank goodness I was still wide-awake despite having landed at 6:30am local time, 3:30am UK time on an overnight flight from London in time for the show!

It was a great experience, in fact my first time on radio. Thanks to Maggie Wlliams for suggesting the idea.

My favourite idiom from the show ... "He who got the donkey up the tower knows how to bring it down."

What is co-creation?

"What is co-creation?" This is a question that Vadim Shiryaev, president of SOMAR and partner of the Russian KM Alliance repeatedly posed to everyone he met at KM Asia recently. He explained to me that it was his way of learning and I rather like the approach.

It was not a term I was familiar with, though having Googled it, it turns out that I am much more familiar with the idea behind it. This is the definition I like the most.
At its core, co-creation is about involving a community outside your company in the ideation phase of the new product or service development.

With co-creation, the participants -- which may include customers, suppliers or the general population -- are made aware that they are contributing towards the development of ideas and concepts.

Through a series of steps, people are invited to contribute, evaluate, and refine ideas and concepts.

And elsewhere "Co-creation works best when you build a strong community. People share ideas, build on each others' work, critique, praise, and compete. It takes more than financial rewards to keep smart, creative people engaged."

A small group of us convened by Vadim talked a lot about what the principles might lie behind a co-creation methodology and a key insight for me is that I have the core of such a methodology in an emerging, expanded vision of my Knowledge Cafe.

"The Knowledge Cafe is a highly adaptable conversational methodology for bringing people together to have conversations to achieve a common purpose."

More on this as my ideas develop :-)

It's about time the kids taught the teachers!

This recent post from Euan Semple Hiding from ourselves reminded me of the many conversations I have had over the years where people put down social media or a particular social media tool with a degree of nastiness and spite.

If they just said, "Oh I have taken a look at the tool and it does not works for me." - that would be fine but why the venom?

It's also interesting that when I probe a little (not too hard as they get even angrier) - they have not looked at the tool in question and only have some vague misguided idea of what it all about - often picked up from the popular press.

As Euan, so rightly comments "What are they so afraid of?"

I had two school teachers do this to me recently. With the pace of change, sooner or later, the kids are going to have to start to teach the teachers! Now that's a wonderful idea - a two way teaching process. There is so much that kids could teach us adults! Imagine a school where they actually did that. Someone must be doing it :-)

Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: November 2013

Here are what I consider some of my more interesting Tweets for October to November 2013. 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.

Upcoming Events

Here are some of the major KM events taking place around the world in the coming months and ones in which I am actively involved. You will find a full list on my website where you can also subscribe to both regional e-mail alerts and RSS feeds which will keep you informed of new and upcoming events.

KM Russia 2013
27 - 28 Nov 2013, Moscow, Russia
I will be taking part in this conference.

AKISS: ASLIB's Knowledge and Information Strategy Summit
05 - 06 Dec 2013, London, United Kingdom

David Gurteens Kunnskap Café
29 Jan 2014, Oslo, Norway

Henley Forum Conference 2014
26 - 27 Feb 2014, Henley on Thames, United Kingdom

Subscribing and Unsubscribing

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

The Gurteen Knowledge Letter

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

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

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

Gurteen Knowledge
Fleet, United Kingdom

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

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