Blog Post

A tale of two cafes

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 24 May 2011



A tale of two cafes
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 131
Posted DateTuesday 24 May 2011 21:47 GDT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
CategoriesKnowledge Cafe; World Cafe
PeopleJuanita Brown; David Isaacs 

Many of you will be familiar with my Knowledge Cafe and maybe also with the World Cafe. Until now, I have not really involved myself with the World Cafe as although it is a similar process to my Knowledge Cafe process there are some subtle but significant differences. But now, as I start to put more of my focus into my Knowledge Cafes and other face-to-face conversational tools, it makes sense for me to get involved with the World Cafe in various ways.

A start to this has been to make contact with Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, the founders of the World Cafe and also to join the World Cafe Online community  and their World Cafe LinkedIn Group. As most people, in the World Cafe community are not familiar with me or my work, I recently posted this introduction to myself on the World Cafe Online Community  website.

I thought I would share a key element of this with you ... the section that briefly describes the difference between the World Cafe and my Knowledge Cafe. I will be writing more on this over time.

I would like to tell you more about my Knowledge Cafes. I call them Gurteen Knowledge Cafes mainly to distinguish my process from other forms of Knowledge Cafe and the World Cafe but also partly to brand them. The roots of my Cafe are different to those of the World Cafe. I started to run my Cafes in London, in September 2002 in response to my frustration with death-by-powerpoint KM talks. Although I was aware of the World Cafe at the time (Juanita and David gave birth to the World Cafes way back in 1995), because of the language that was used to describe it, I did not see it as a business tool and did not take too much notice of it.

I developed the Gurteen Knowledge Cafe from my own experiences and a desire for an alternative to traditional presentations. In recent years, I have run my Knowledge Cafes and my Knowledge Cafe masterclasses, where I teach people how to design and run Knowledge Cafes, all over the world. To give you an idea, I have run them in cities such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok, Hong, Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland, Seattle, Phoenix, Quebec City, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Oslo, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Brussels, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

What is interesting, now that I have taken the time to look closer at the World Cafe, is that the two processes are very similar. There are differences though that although small on the surface, I think are significant e.g. no table hosts. But the major difference is that my Cafes are business focused where the World Cafe is community focused. I use business language rather than community language and although there is a core process, I teach people how they can adapt the Cafe to different business ends.

Don't misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with the World Cafe and I love the work that the World Cafe Community is doing around the world to address social issues and build community. This is an area I am increasingly interested in. If you follow me on Twitter (@DavidGurteen) you will see many of my tweets tagged #SocialGood. But it is hard enough selling the Knowledge Cafe concept into business organisations when the outcomes are so intangible, never mind using the language of the World Cafe which turns most business managers off. I don't agree with it but that's the reality

I see a number of KM face-to-face knowledge sharing processes as having a great deal in common with each other e.g. peer assists, after-action reviews, post-project reviews, knowledge cafes and knowledge jams. If we add to these the World Cafe, Open Space Technology and Appreciative Inquiry then we have a category of face-to-face conversational based tools that I call "Conversation Cafes". I am also a keen advocate of Unconference and Barcamps. This is increasingly my area of focus.

Over the coming 12 months, I plan to run many more of my open Knowledge Cafes (these are free events) and Knowledge Cafe masterclasses in London and around Europe but also as I have always done, around the world as I travel.

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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