Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 174 - December 2014


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Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 174 - December 2014


  1. Introduction to the December 2014 Knowledge Letter
  2. The Pulse of Conversation
  3. The Running Desk: another form of Randomised Coffee Trial
  4. Dave Snowden takes down sacred cows, little tin gods and a paper tiger or two
  5. The Participatory Narrative Inquiry Institute
  6. Personally speaking
  7. Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: December 2014
  8. Upcoming Knowledge Events
  9. Subscribing and Unsubscribing
  10. The Gurteen Knowledge Letter

Introduction to the December 2014 Knowledge Letter

I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas have had a wonderful time and wish all of you a very happy and prosperous New Year.

I wonder what 2015 has in store for us all?

Interestingly, I thought the phrase was "in stall", until being unsure I Googled it a little. Looks like it's a common mistake and "in store" is the correct idiom.

The Pulse of Conversation

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.

The Running Desk: another form of Randomised Coffee Trial

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".

Dave Snowden takes down sacred cows, little tin gods and a paper tiger or two

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!

The Participatory Narrative Inquiry Institute

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.

Personally speaking

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 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 or 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.

Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: December 2014

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.

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.

KM Legal Europe 2015
28 - 29 Jan 2015, Amsterdam, Netherlands

7th Iranian Knowledge Management Conference
17 - 18 Feb 2015, Tehran, Iran

Henley Forum 15th Annual Conference
25 - 26 Feb 2015, Henley on Thames, United Kingdom

3rd International Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship
19 - 20 Mar 2015, Durban, South Africa

7th European Conference on Intellectual Capital
09 - 10 Apr 2015, Cartagena, Spain

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

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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