Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 165 - March 2014


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Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 165 - March 2014


  1. Introduction to the March 2014 Knowledge Letter
  2. "Yes" has no meaning, if we cannot say "No"
  3. Capturing actionable insights from Knowledge Cafes
  4. Don't give advice - just listen?
  5. Conversation sharpens the saw
  6. Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: March 2014
  7. Upcoming Knowledge Events
  8. Subscribing and Unsubscribing
  9. The Gurteen Knowledge Letter

Introduction to the March 2014 Knowledge Letter

I have a little Lotus Notes agent that reminds me of birthdays and other important events. It's just informed 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 though some might say it's a weed.

"Yes" has no meaning, if we cannot say "No"

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.

Capturing actionable insights from Knowledge Cafes

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.

Don't give advice - just listen?

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.

Conversation sharpens the saw

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 - "coversation sharpens the saw".

Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: March 2014

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

Upcoming Knowledge 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.

What does Conversational Leadership mean to you?
26 Mar 2014, London, United Kingdom

APQC's 2014 Knowledge Management Conference
07 - 11 Apr 2014, Houston, United States

4th International Action Learning Conference
14 - 16 Apr 2014, Berkhamsted, United Kingdom

The Middle East Leadership Communications Conference
21 - 22 Apr 2014, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
I will be speaking at this conference and running a workshop.

ASTD 2014 Conference
04 - 07 May 2014, Washington DC, United States

KM Legal 2014
14 - 15 May 2014, London, United Kingdom

KM UK 2014
11 - 12 Jun 2014, London, United Kingdom

European Conference on Social Media ECSM 2014
10 Jul - 11 Feb 2014, Brighton, United Kingdom
I will be speaking at this conference.

KMICe2014 : Knowledge Management International Conference
12 - 15 Aug 2014, Langkawi Island, Malaysia

The 9th International KMO Conference (Knowledge Management in Organizations)
02 - 05 Sep 2014, Santiago, Chile

15th European Conference on Knowledge Management
04 - 05 Sep 2014, Santarém, Portugal

KM Brasil 2014
17 - 19 Sep 2014, Florianópolis - SC, Brasil

19th Knowledge Management Tracks
06 Oct 2014, Milano, Italy

KM LatinAmerican 2014
20 - 24 Oct 2014, Buenos Aires, Argentina

KM World 2014
04 - 07 Nov 2014, Washington DC, United States

11th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning – ICICKM 2014
06 - 07 Nov 2014, Sydney, Australia

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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