Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 180 - June 2015


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Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 180 - June 2015


  1. Introduction to the June 2015 Knowledge Letter
  2. The inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person
  3. Organizational Conversation - the life-blood of an organization.
  4. The Pulse of Conversation
  5. Do we need more conversation and less brainstorming?
  6. Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: June 2015
  7. Upcoming Knowledge Events
  8. Subscribing and Unsubscribing
  9. The Gurteen Knowledge Letter

Introduction to the June 2015 Knowledge Letter

Amazingly, this is issue 180 of my Knowledge Letter - yes that's right - one a month for the last 15 years. I can't believe it!

You will find all the back copies still online though many of the links are now broken.

And here is the very first one, dated 30th May 2000 that I distributed to about 300 people compared with 22,000 or so today. Say hi to me if you were one of those first 300 :-)

Looking back at my invoices for that year I was still doing a lot of Lotus Notes development work that took until 2003 to totally die away and that was the real start of my KM and Conversational Leadership journey. Interestingly, my first Knowledge Cafe was in London in September 2002. Little was I to know then that I would end up running them all over the world.

I wonder where the next 15 years will take me :-)

The inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person

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" :-)

Organizational Conversation - the life-blood of an organization.

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.

The Pulse of Conversation

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

Do we need more conversation and less brainstorming?

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.

Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: June 2015

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.

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.

Changing the world with empathy
Tue 30 Jun 2015, London, United Kingdom

KM Australia 2015
04 - 06 Aug 2015, Melbourne, Australia

The First International Conference on Dialogic Organization Development
Thu 06 Aug 2015, Vancouver, Canada

KM Singapore 2015
02 - 04 Sep 2015, Singapore City, Singapore

16th European Conference on Knowledge Management
03 - 04 Sep 2015, Udine, Italy

CoachingOurselves: Reflections 2015
10 - 11 Sep 2015, Montreal, Canada

Knowledge Sciences Symposium Western NY 2015
08 - 09 Oct 2015, St. Bonaventure, NY, United States
I will be giving the keynote talk at this conference.

20th Knowledge Management Tracks
28 - 29 Oct 2015, Milano, Italy
I will be running a Knowledge Cafe worskhop at this conference.

KM World 2015
02 - 05 Nov 2015, Washington DC, United States

Knowledge and Information Systems for Knowledge Management (ICKM2015)
04 - 06 Nov 2015, Osaka, Japan

12th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organisational Learning
05 - 06 Nov 2015, Bangkok, Thailand

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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