Gurteen Knowledge-Letter: Issue 94 - April 2008


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Gurteen Knowledge-Letter: Issue 94 - April 2008


  1 Introduction
  2 Luke's Dubai Adventure
  3 FriendFeed
  4 Thoughts on the human touch
  5 Knowledge Cafe Insights
  6 Building Trust
  7 Media is moving from a source of information to a site of action
  8 My Activities
  9 KM Event Highlights
10 Subscribing and Unsubscribing
11 The Gurteen Knowledge Letter


Since I last wrote, I have been to Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Scottsdale/Phoenix in Arizona.

It was only my second time in the Arab world and I hugely enjoyed it and got to learn a little more about the culture and the renowned Arab hospitality. Dubai is a desert city with some of the most amazing modern buildings in the world including the world's tallest building - the Burj Dubai and Ski Dubai - an indoor Ski Resort!

Saudi Arabia was quite a contrast. I flew from Dubai to Bahrain and was picked up by my hosts (SABIC) and driven to Jubail - an industrial city about 1 hour's drive north up the Persian Gulf.

Wikipedia says this about Jubail: "The industrial city is a complex of petrochemical plants, an iron works and a number of smaller companies, plus a Royal Saudi Naval Base. It holds the Middle East's largest and the world's 11th largest petrochemical company SABIC."

At times, the industrial complex stretched across the horizon and although not pretty was quite awe inspiring.

There were over 4,000 people at the SABIC conference and exhibition and although not unexpected, it felt strange that there was not ONE woman at the event. And an evening beach party of only men and no alcohol was a first. The experience however provoked a lot of thought on our cultural differences. I wish I had had time to see more of the country as the industrial city of Jubail was hardly representative!

You will find photos of my travels on Flickr.

In writing this, I knew in the back of my head that I had seen a great quote from Michel de Montaigne on the benefits of travel and so I Googled it. The quote is delightful - far better than my recollection:
Traveling through the world produces a marvelous clarity in the judgment of men. We are all of us confined and enclosed within ourselves, and see no farther than the end of our nose. This great world is a mirror where we must see ourselves in order to know ourselves. There are so many different tempers, so many different points of view, judgments, opinions, laws and customs to teach us to judge wisely on our own, and to teach our judgment to recognize its imperfection and natural weakness.

Michel de Montaigne (French Philosopher and Writer. 1533-1592)

Luke's Dubai Adventure

When I was in Dubai I met up with two Aussies KMers working there - Luke Naismith and David Rymer whom I met for dinner at the Madinat Jumeirah - we had a great evening. The Madinat Jumeirah seemed like Disney World - an amazing place.

Much of Dubai has this Disney feel to it at times but Luke is blogging his stay in Dubai and his blog is a great way to get to see a lot more of Dubai and the region that is far from Disney-like!

I was also delighted to see this post on Theodre Zeldin and conversation in Luke's Knowledge Futures blog and a quote of Theodore's that I love.
Conversation needs pauses, thoughts need time to make love.

The idea of thoughts making love - what a lovely metaphor!! Two thoughts coming together, intermingling their DNA to create new baby thoughts with a unique life of their own. I am getting carried away now!


Would you like to know almost everything I or friend has been up to of late then take a look at FriendFeed.
FriendFeed enables you to keep up-to-date on the web pages, photos, videos and music that your friends and family are sharing. It offers a unique way to discover and discuss information among friends.

Sign up for FriendFeed, invite some friends, and get a customized feed made up of the content that your friends shared - from news articles to family photos to interesting links and videos.

FriendFeed automatically imports shared stuff from sites across the web, so if your friend favorites a video on YouTube, you get a link and a thumbnail of the video in your feed.

And if your friend likes a news story on Digg, you get a link in your feed. FriendFeed makes all the sites you already use a little more social.
I have been using it for a month or so now but I'm not yet convinced of its use as it gives me TOO much information. But the good thing about social tools - what does not work for me might work for you and vice-versa.

Thoughts on the human touch

I recently wrote about Kiva - an amazing microfinace website and then on the human touch - the importance of face to face communication in my Knowledge Cafes and so I was delighted to receive this email from Larry Gardiner that I have included in full:
First an update on your item about Kiva. We asked our family and friends to send Kiva Gift Certificates instead of cards and presents at Christmas after reading about Kiva.org in your newsletter. 15 Kiva certificates have now been redeemed and we receive regular bulletins on our portfolio of micro-finance investments from Cambodia, Vietnam, Peru, Mexico, Nigeria and Kenya. Each of our investments is thriving and the most rewarding part of watching their progress is the sense of solidarity which I think is also a feature of the human touch you were talking about.

We have started convening Parent Cafe's too. The purpose here is to facilitate knowledge sharing around the development of parent and peer advocacy for families with disabled children (http://www.parentadvocatestogether.org.uk). We also have used the time-discipline you talked about so that each person has the same amount of air-time.

We have not intentionally set out to create a therapeutic knowledge cafe, or I suppose what would be a support group session, but to simply borrow from a framework of ideas (which we do use to promote emotional support and 'discharge' in other parent support groups convened for that specific purpose). I suppose that when everyone knows that they will get their own space, their own air time and their own opportunity to think and listen out loud, it makes it easier for us to relax and to listen and to process on what what each speaker is saying.

While we didn't deliberately set out to do this awarely; solidarity and mutual self-help and assistance are what we seem to be eliciting in each of our own knowledge cafe ventures. It is very satisfying and rather beautiful both to see and to experience. It is rather that the experience of using co-counselling tools in that setting that has enabled us to cross-pollinate some of the ideas. We have noticed that they have been useful in promoting an emotional safety allowing people to enjoy and even to revel in the human touch you talked about.

You are absolutely right to claim that it is this human touch which is the key distinguishing feature of the knowledge cafe phenomenon. Essentially, we now set out purposefully to cultivate, nurture and promote every opportunity for creating that human touch you have described in every knowledge cafe where we participate. From experience we can state that 'the human touch is also the magic touch!' As far as culture change is concerned; this is simply a smarter way to work.

Best wishes,

Larry Gardiner
Secretary - Parent Advocates Together

Knowledge Cafe Insights

While in Scottsdale for the BSEC 2008 Conference, I took the opportunity to run an open Knowledge Cafe. Mark Goldstein has captured the essence of the event in the photos he took and posted on Flickr along with some of mine.

Amazingly Twitter brought us one extra participant Colleen Carmean who blogged a little on the Cafe; said some nice things about me (blush) and had some interesting comments about the format that I had not quite seen before given my closeness. Here are two quotes from her:
David uses a specific, distributed, what I would call "emergence" format where 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts' for encouraging knowledge transfer amongst participants. No leaders, no report outs, no death by PowerPoint. Everyone matters, every voice counts.
The closing moments of a Knowledge Cafe reminded me of a Quaker meeting. You don't speak unless you're compelled to share an important thought, realization, or theme that emerged from your multiple small group discussions. Some participants violate the framework and just need to be heard, but like the Quakers, everyone listens respectfully and reflects on the thought without the need for comment or debate.

Building Trust

Whenever I meet new people with whom I would like to work I often say lets find a small project on which we can work together so we can build mutual trust. The process is simple.
  • We work on something small and build trust.
  • Having built trust we work together more and the trust grows.
  • Its an iterative process: work together; build trust; work together build trust ... but this is key - it always starts by working together.
  • If at any time either of us lets the other down badly or abuses the relationship then the trust is pretty much destroyed and its unlikely that we will ever work together again.
Dave Snowden sums it up well in this post on Confusing symptoms with cause.
Trust is an emergent property of the process of engagement not a precondition.

Credit: Dave Snowden.
The trust question is a classic confusion of symptoms with cause, just as creativity is a symptom of innovation not its cause, so trust is the symptom of interaction over time. If that interaction is not testing, then the trust is fragile. If the trust is simply the result of few contextual exercises (throwing yourself backwards off a brick wall is the classic) then it is temporary. Focus on the process, rather than trying to preset emergent outcomes and you get a more sustainable solution.
Credit: Dave Snowden.
And note his point creativity being a symptom of innovation and not its cause!! Dave is so right we often confuse symptoms with cause.

Media is moving from a source of information to a site of action

Thanks to Nerida Hart in Australia I recently discovered Clay Shirky and this quote from him:
Media is moving from a source of information to a site of action.

Credit: Clay Shirky
When I read this, a light bulb flashed. When working at home, I am a documentary junkie - the UK History Channel and other documentary and news channels are pretty much all I watch. But time and time again I get a angry when I see the program makers turn the problems facing the world into entertainment. Their objective is not even to educate but to entertain. Often I switch off and throw the remote at a distant chair (a soft one I might add as I never get that angry)!

What I have long wanted more media companies to do - is to start taking the problems seriously and move from saying "here are the problems - isn't it tragic; isn't it crazy" to "here are the problems and here is what you can do to help solve them. And this is what we are setting up to help support you".

But the participatory web is moving us in this direction. In 50 years time I think we will look back at old news clips and documentaries of today in a similar way we look back at the propaganda newsreels of the Second World War and wonder why so many people at the time did not see things for what they were.

Here is a video of one of Clays talks.

My Activities

This section of my Knowledge Letter highlights my planned activities over the next six months or so. Its prime purpose is to allow you to know where I will be and to contact me if you would like to meet.

I also use Dopplr to allow people to track my travlels more closely and to potentially meet up with me.

You can see a list of my immediate activities below or a full list here.

Henley Knowledge Management Forum
23 Apr 2008, Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom
Talk on KM2.0 at the Henley Knowledge Management Forum

Series of Knowledge Cafe Workshops for StatoilHydro
05 - 09 May 2008, Stavanger, Norway
I will be running a series of Knowledge Cafe workshops & open Knowledge Cafes

Special Libraries Association Annual Conference
15 - 18 Jun 2008, Seattle, United States
I will be facilitating a Knowledge Cafe

Indonesia Trip
12 - 21 Jul 2008, Jakarta, Indonesia
I am planning a trip to Jakarta, the week of the 14th July

Brazil Trip
25 - 29 Aug 2008, San Paulo, Brazil
I will be talking at the KM Brazil Conference in San Paulo 27-29 Aug

Australia Trip
13 - 17 Oct 2008, Canberra, Australia
I may be visiting Australia, the week of the 13th October

South Africa Trip
10 - 21 Nov 2008, Cape Town, South Africa
I am planning a two week trip to South Africa, the week of the 10th November

KM Event Highlights

This section highlights 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.

Library + Information Show 2008
23 - 24 Apr 2008, Birmingham, United Kingdom

APQC Knowledge Management Conference 2008
28 Apr - 02 May 2008, Chicago, United States

KMICE'08: Knowledge Management International Conference and Exhibition 2008
10 - 12 Jun 2008, Langkawi, Malaysia

Special Libraries Association Annual Conference
15 - 18 Jun 2008, Seattle, United States
I will be giving a talk on the Knowledge Cafe at this event.

KC UK 2008
25 - 26 Jun 2008, London, United Kingdom
I chaired the collaborative steam of this event for the last two years but due to other commitments will not be attending this year.

KM Australia 2008
21 - 23 Jul 2008, Melbourne, Australia
I won't be attending this event in 2008 but I can highly recommend it.

KM Brazil 2008
27 - 29 Aug 2008, Sao Paulo, Brazil
I will be speaking at this conference.

9th European Conference on Knowledge Management
04 - 05 Sep 2008, Southampton, United Kingdom
I have attended this conference for the last 3 years. I will likely attend this one.

KMWorld & Intranets 2008
22 - 25 Sep 2008, San Jose, United States
I attended this conference in 2007 and hugely enjoyed it. I hope to do so again in 2008 but thats not confirmed yet.

actKM Conference 2008
14 - 15 Oct 2008, Canberra, Australia
I may be participating in this conference again.

ICKM 2008: Fifth International Conference on Knowledge Management
23 - 24 Oct 2008, Colombus, Ohio, United States

KM Asia 2008
25 - 27 Nov 2008, Singapore City, Singapore

Online Information 2008
02 - 04 Dec 2008, London, 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 Knowledge Management Forum of Henley Management College, 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.

David Gurteen
Gurteen Knowledge

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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