Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 238 - April 2020


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Gurteen Knowledge Letter: Issue 238 - April 2020


  1. Introduction to the April 2020 Knowledge Letter
  2. Catalysing commitment to transformative change
  3. Zoom Knowledge Café: Leadership as a practice
  4. The importance of talking rubbish
  6. Maximizing, minimizing and optimizing stuff
  7. We are in the grip of an astonishing delusion.
  8. Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: April 2020
  9. Upcoming Knowledge Events
  10. Unsubscribe
  11. The Gurteen Knowledge Letter

Introduction to the April 2020 Knowledge Letter

I awoke a few days ago and started to think about everything I had read on the web that was laying all manner of blame on a wide variety of people and organizations for the coronavirus pandemic. Just go to Twitter and google "covid-19 blame" for a rich sample.

There was so much misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and lack of evidence in the claims. Much of it was tribal in nature and nothing that you could say with any degree of certainty to be true.

It all underscored what Daniel Schmachtenberger has to say about the pollution of our global info-ecosystem..

I determined to write something in my blook about the pointlessness of casting blame. But when I got up and switched on my laptop, there was this tremendous article Learning Not Blame -- Inquiry Not Inquisition. by Bill Kaplan.

In the article, he asks this:
Is now the time to focus on the politicization of the pandemic and its tragic consequences?

There will be plenty of time to address accountability later but more effectively from the perspective of what lessons we learned about forecasting, research, threat analysis, planning, mitigation, logistics, policy and the other knowledge areas that form part of what should be a transparent and multidimensional response to a future threat.

The population can make accountability decisions at the ballot box based on the facts.

Credit: Bill Kaplan

Blame is useless. Learning not blame.

Catalysing commitment to transformative change

I have been having long Zoom conversations with Andrew Gaines in Australia for some months now.

Andrew is the convener of Inspiring Transition, an educational movement to inspire mainstream commitment to transitioning to what he calls a "life-sustaining society".

In May, we are hosting two Zoom meetings to explore how we can catalyse commitment to transformative change.

This is what Andrew has to say about the first event:
You may be concerned about current disastrous environmental trends. Always the question arises: But what can I do?

As individuals on our own we have little influence on the great course of things. However, aligned towards a common overarching goal we can be hugely influential. In this conversation we will explore how to stimulate on a mass scale the thinking that will get us on track to evolve a society that operates within planetary boundaries, and promotes the well-being of humans and other life forms.

We are not starting from scratch, in this first event I will introduce a simple model for enabling ordinary people to think usefully about systemic change.

The problem to be solved – how to evolve a healthy culture – is massive. There is enormous scope for innovation, and I am interested in your ideas. At the same time, hearteningly, there are a multitude of positive initiatives already underway, and we have huge resources.

This is part of a larger movement to catalyse mainstream commitment to doing everything required turn things around and transition to a life-affirming culture.

The events are stand-alone. You can take part in one, without necessarily taking part in the other but ideally you should register and participate in both.

You can find the time in your time zone on Eveytime.

Zoom Knowledge Café: Leadership as a practice

I have now run three Zoom Knowledge Cafés in a series on Leadership as a practice.

The first one was mainly for the European time zone and the last two for Asia Pacific.

I have a fourth Café scheduled, for the 7th May, mainly for the Americas, but the time works well for Europe and MENA too. There are still a few places remaining if you get in quickly.

All three of the Cafés so far have been heavily oversubscribed, and I plan to keep running them on the same theme until I have satisfied the demand. If you have missed out on one so far, your time will come.

The Cafés have gone remarkably well - they always do - but don't take my word for it - take a look at the two blog posts below.
A huge thanks to Dave and Carlin for these blog posts and capturing the essence of the two Cafés.

One of the many things I enjoy about running the Cafés on Zoom is the fact that I get a rich mix of people from different countries and cultures. For example, in my third Café for Asia/Pacific, I had people registered (not all showed up) from 14 countries: UK, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Netherlands and Tajikistan. Some of them old friends who I had not seen for years.

The Cafés are relatively easy to run, and I have helped several people/organizations start their own. Take a look here for some ideas on how to get started and how to run them on Zoom.

The importance of talking rubbish

Too often, in a conversation when you are exploring an issue, you find yourself saying something that you immediately realize is ill-conceived, worse still, utter rubbish. Your conversational partner picks up on it a little more quickly than you and starts to attack you, and you cannot help but go on the defense, and the dynamic of the conversation is killed.

More and more, I find myself using these words in such a conversation.

"I'm thinking out loud here, so what I might say could well be a pile of rubbish, please bear with me."

Then when I'm told, I am talking rubbish, I can quickly reply, "I told you so." and laugh.

The conversation can then move on and is even energized by the exchange.

Jordan Peterson explains why it is crucial to talk rubbish in this video on the importance of free speech.

Paradoxically, it is through taking rubbish that we make sense of the world.


My wife works for a bank in the City of London, and I frequently meet her there. Well, I used to before lockdown.

Although large swathes of the City were destroyed in the blitz of the second world war, much remains, and when I visit, if I observe carefully, I get to step back into almost 2,000 years of history.

Under the ground of the Guildhall, just yards from my wife's office in King Street is a Roman Amphitheater, and under the new Bloomberg building behind Bank Station is the Roman Temple of Mithras, now some 20 feet below ground.

Opposite the Bank of England is the Royal Exchange founded in the 16th century by the merchant Sir Thomas Gresham.

But what I love more than anything are the old coffee houses of the 17th & 18th centuries - no, they are no longer there, but if you search carefully, you can find where they once stood.

In 1652, Pasqua Rosée, a Greek, opened the first coffee stall in the churchyard of St Michael's Cornhill, a few minutes walk from the present-day location of the Bank of England.

Ten years later, in 1663, there were over 80 coffeehouses within the City, and by the start of the eighteenth century, this number had grown to over 500.

These old London coffeehouses were the engines of creation that helped drive the Enlightenment – the European intellectual movement of the time that emphasized reason and individualism rather than tradition. Their history is a fascinating one.

Maximizing, minimizing and optimizing stuff

In a complex setting, I always have a problem with words like maximize, minimize, or optimize in any material, especially marketing bumph.

How do you maximize revenue? e.g. "Simple Strategies to Maximize Profit."

How do you minimize costs? e.g. "The best ways to minimize cost overruns?"

How do you optimize performance? e.g. "How to Optimize Employee Performance."

How do you ever know if you've maximized, minimized, or optimized anything or not?

You don't.

All you can do is measure whether things have increased or decreased. Significantly or otherwise.

Furthermore, in a complex environment, at what cost? What are the unintended but not so readily apparent consequences of your actions?

We are in the grip of an astonishing delusion.

We teachers - perhaps all human beings - are in the grip of an astonishing delusion.

We think that we can take a picture, a structure, a working model of something, constructed in our minds out of long experience and familiarity, and by turning that model into a string of words, transplant it whole into the mind of someone else.

Perhaps once in a thousand times, when the explanation is extraordinary good, and the listener extraordinary experienced and skillful at turning word strings into non-verbal reality, and when the explainer and listener share in common many of the experiences being talked about, the process may work, and some real meaning may be communicated.

Most of the time, explaining does not increase understanding, and may even lessen it.

Credit: John Holt

I love this quote from John Holt. Knowledge is not best transferred by explanation, but through dialogue.

Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: April 2020

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.

  • Learning Not Blame -- “Inquiry” Not “Inquisition.” We Can Work With This in Getting Back to Some Form of Normal. @billkaplankm https://buff.ly/2S6wrP2

  • The real task of leadership is to confront people with their freedom. - Peter Block https://buff.ly/3eHKJ2A #ConversationalLeadership

  • How does After Action Review build emotional resilience? by @JudyWalker5 https://buff.ly/2KpaAy1 #aars #aar /after action reviews are so undervalued

  • Fake News? Learn to recognize common indicators of fake news, understand the consequences of careless sharing, and learn to become a fact-checker. https://buff.ly/3eoAYWN /a really useful guide, should become part of the school curriciuum

  • How can we humanise online meetings to be more human and social, with less pressure to absorb data and instruction? Can we take more risks, show more feeling and be less focussed on instructing, explaining and teaching? @johnniemoore https://buff.ly/2xWmNra

  • Three webinars/recordings on Leadership from Ron Heifetz, Jennifer Garvey Berger & Amy Edmondson https://buff.ly/2JuCfNN /each one of these speakers is a thought leader in their own field, Ron/leadership, Jennifer/complexity & Amy/psychological safety #ConversationalLeadership

  • In the Digital Fray, Don't Just Converse. Collaborate. | Katrina Pugh @katrinapugh https://buff.ly/3dHpFc0 #KM #KMers #KnowledgeManagement #ConversationalLeatdership #KnowledgeCafe #ConversationalWisdom /great article from Katrina

  • Are you open to being wrong? Intellectual humility, Dunning Kruger and foxes and hedgehogs… https://buff.ly/2vfVovW

  • A contextual conversation is better than a predefined meeting @Tim_Denning https://buff.ly/3aa3MiG /ditch the pitch https://buff.ly/3a7eG8R

    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.

    I'm not so sure if some of these events will still take place and several may go online but I have listed them anyway.

    Virtual Certified Knowledge Manager (CKM) Class
    18 - 20 May 2020, European time zone

    Knowledge Management in a time of crisis
    Tue 19 May 2020, Online

    TAKE 2020 - Theory and Applications on the Knowledge Economy
    01 - 03 Jul 2020, Sttutgart, Germany

    7th European Conference on Social Media
    02 - 03 Jul 2020, Larnaca, Cyprus

    10th Knowledge Management International Conference
    17 - 19 Aug 2020, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    21st European Conference on Knowledge Management
    03 - 04 Sep 2020, Coventry, United Kingdom

    15th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    17 - 18 Sep 2020, Rome, Italy

    Twenty-first International Conference on Knowledge, Culture, and Change in Organizations
    15 - 16 Jan 2021, Auckland, New Zealand


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    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.

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    David GURTEEN
    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
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