Welcome to the Gurteen Knowledge Log for 2017-2018. See the side panel for other years.
In this blog I write about items of interest that I have found on the web, experiences or insights that I think you will find useful mainly but not strictly limited to the area of Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning.
Like the rest of my site - it an eclectic mix.
If you like the blog you may wish to subscribe to my newsletter where I collate my best blog posts from the month plus other material and distribute it my email monthly.
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I have vastly improved the internal navigation (scroll down to the end of any page and you will see) - though still not totally happy with it. And am getting pretty good at hacking code in Wordpress (once a programmer, always a programmer!). Anything I wish to do, I google and if I can't find a plugin I can find the code and with a few tweaks it is working.
One of the main chapters I have been working on is the Knowledge Café Principles. I have long had these documented but never to my satisfaction. They are much better now. I think I am happy with the seven principles I have defined and hope to clean up their descriptions and finalise them over the next few weeks. But take a look at them below in the meantime.
The strength of the Café rests on these few critical principles that to a large degree differentiate the Knowledge Café process from other conversational methods.
How to quickly and easily capture ideas - Comments
I was asked recently how I capture ideas during a conversation without unduly interrupting the flow of the conversation.
At conferences, workshops and knowledge cafes I keep a small 4 x 2 card and pen in my shirt pocket.
During a conversation to avoid taking lengthy notes and disrupting the flow of the conversation I write just a word or two on the card to remind me of an idea or insight I have had.
Immediately after the conversation if possible, I expand these one word notes by dictating the full idea into my iPhone.
I use an app called Captio to quickly and easily capture my dictation and translate it into text.
Captio then automatically emails this note into another app - Evernote where I can categorise and tag it and where is easily searchable.
Evernote is cross-platform so I can also access it from my laptop and iPad.
These notes then later get incorporated into blog posts or my blook or just pop up serendipitously every so often to remind of something I feel important.
The Captio/Evernote combination is also an ideal way for capturing ideas almost any time day or night. I pick up my phone, I open Captio with one click, click on record, dictate the idea, click send and I am done. Why not straight into Evernote? Captio is just that little bit faster.
How to be a great leader in a complex world https://buff.ly/2HdviNG #ComplexWorld #ConversationalLeadership #leadership
Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn't have to be like this. – Stephen Hawking https://buff.ly/2kpxuZ9 #ConversationalLeadership
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.
Cognitive Edge and Code Genesys to Combine Operations - Comments
You may not have heard that Cognitive Edge and Code Genesys have announced a merger of their business operations.
The new company will be known as Cognitive Edge.
Ajay Reddy of Code Genesys will be CEO of the merged company and Dave Snowden, cofounder of the original Cognitive Edge, will be Chief Scientific Officer.
See the press release.
I have been a huge admirer of Dave's work now for more years than I care to remember and wish him all the best in this new venture.
And it's good to see Dave taking part in a World Café in Zurich in September.
The book is free and you can download it from here.
John Girard tells me that about 1000 people have downloaded a copy of the book already and that they are in the process of developing a series of companion videos, the first of which is now available on YouTube.
For those of you who know John, you are in for a treat, he has shaved off his beard :-)
The list of limitations is long including libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, sedition, incitement, fighting words, classified information, copyright violation, trade secrets, non-disclosure agreements, public security, and perjury.
Like most things in life there are few absolutes Things are nuanced including freedom of speech.
A big thanks to Silvia Bombard for telling me abut the work of Frederic Laloux. I googled him and found this article: The Future of Management Is Teal: Organizations are moving forward along an evolutionary spectrum, toward self-management, wholeness, and a deeper sense of purpose.
He tells the fascinating story of the evolution of the organization (human collaboration) starting 10,000 years ago. He gives each phase of the evolution a colour: red, amber, orange, green and teal. It is well worth a read and helps put today's collaborative efforts into some sort of perspective and explains where he thinks we are heading with a number of examples of what he considers to be teal organizations.
One passage jumped out at me:
In just two and a half centuries, these breakthroughs have generated unprecedented levels of prosperity, added decades to human life expectancy, and dramatically reduced famine and plague in the industrialized world.
But as the Orange paradigm grew dominant, it also encouraged short-term thinking, corporate greed, overconsumption, and the reckless exploitation of the planet's resources and ecosystems. Increasingly, whether we are powerful leaders or low-ranking employees, we feel that this paradigm isn't sustainable.
The heartless and soulless rat race of Orange organizations has us yearning for more.
Short video: What are complex adaptive systems? - Stockholm Resilience Centre https://buff.ly/2JcFw2X / a really good, simple 3 minute introduction to complex adaptive systems
If Galileo had said that people in Padua were ten feet tall, he would have been regarded as a harmless eccentric. Saying the earth orbited the sun was another matter. The church knew this would set people thinking. https://buff.ly/uoY6eN #FreedomOfSpeech
Maybe we've been putting the wrong focus on KM. Maybe KM is not about increasing production or saving dollars. Maybe it is about creating the kind of culture where we would all like to work. @nancymdixon https://buff.ly/2tyOOSZ #KM #KMers /Spot on in my opinion Nancy :-)
Resolve issues face-to-face whenever you can - not by email - Comments
Let me share a true story.
A friend of mine was told by their manager never to resolve problems face-to-face but to do it by an exchange of emails and to copy him so that there was an audit trail. Then if anything went wrong, it was obvious who was to blame.
Sometime later, my friend noticed that the sales manager had made an incorrect entry in the new CRM database. It was a relatively trivial mistake.
Usually, he would have just walked around to the manager's desk explained to him the problem and resolved it in a short conversation. But following his manager's orders, he sent an email to the sales manager pointing out the mistake and explaining that he needed to correct it.
The IT manager misinterpreted the tone of the email and felt he was being criticised and being treated like a child. He responded emotionally and of course copied my friends boss and also copied another level up the hierarchy.
The whole issue took a face-to-face meeting to resolve between my friend, his boss, his boss's boss and the sales manager. It was resolved but at the expense of the relationship between my friend and the sales manager. Things were never quite the same again between them.
Although I have slightly changed the details, this is a real story and not an unusual one.
If you have the choice, always resolve issues face-to-face, not by email. It's the human way to do things.
The next Café coming up is an online Zoom one on Tuesday 3rd April 11:00am - 12:30pm EST.
The topic: "How can experts share and innovate across different disciplines?"
Clearly what is great about online Zoom Cafés is that you do not need to be in Washington DC to take part.
So where ever you are in the world, if the time zone works for you do sign up and join the Café.
I will be there too which will be fun for me as I usually host such events - not take part as a participant. So I can relax and enjoy the conversations.
On the Thursday, my talk is titled "Improving Online Conversation and Knowledge Sharing".
Deep and meaningful online conversations don't come naturally. This is especially true across cultural divides. Based on my experience of facilitating face-to-face conversations around the world, I plan to look at some of the human barriers to conversation and knowledge sharing such as deference to authority, fear of loss of face, and humility. I will then go on to look at some of the technology barriers and to explore some ideas to improve the results of online exchanges: both through good tactical decisions and small improvements in the design of digital tools.
On the Friday, I will be running a masterclass on how to design, convene and facilitate Knowledge Cafés.
In our increasingly complex, fast paced, rapidly changing, ambiguous world, no single leader or individual can know everything or be smart enough alone to address the challenges that face us. One of best ways to make sense of an issue or challenge and ultimately make better decisions is to bring a diversity of people together for a conversation in a Knowledge Café.
But of course I am not the only speaker or masterclass leader. Take a look at the agenda where you will find great speaker/facilitators like Paul Corney, Eric Hunter and James Dellow to name only three.
Strangely, I have never visited Lisbon before but everyone tells me but what a beautiful city it is so given the conference is Thurs/Fri I plan to stay the weekend to make the most of the trip. Why don't you do the same? :-)
The London coffeehouses of the 17th & 18th centuries 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.
Modern-day coffee shops such as the likes of Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and Caffè Nero have their roots in these old coffeehouses but they were quite unlike the establishments we know and love today.
In 1652 Pasqua Rosée, a Greek opened the first coffee stall in the churchyard of St Michael's Cornhill in the City of London and the rest is history as they say but what a fascinating story - one I have been researching these last few years.
I'd love to see the return of those old coffeehouses. Not for the vile coffee of the day but for the real face-to-face conversation.
I'd love to walk into a Starbucks and sit down next to a total stranger and yell out “Your Servant Sir what news from Tripoli?”
Knowledge Management Matters: By Practitioners for Practitioners - Comments
Some of the top thought leaders in KM have been brought together by John and JoAnn Girard to create a very practical book on KM. See the description below. You can purchase a hardcopy from Amazon or download a free e-version.
Knowledge Management Matters: By Practitioners for Practitioners
Knowledge Management Matters: Words of Wisdom from Leading Practitioners is a collection of works penned by an amazing and diverse group of thought leaders. Each of these trailblazers has generously shared their knowledge with a view to helping you and your organization succeed in the knowledge environment. The tips, tactics, and techniques they suggest are time-tested and proven concepts that will help you achieve your organizational objectives. Their collective works are based on decades of experiences with real-world organizations. This is not a book of untested theories that might work, but rather a compilation of genuine words of wisdom from experienced KM practitioners who know knowledge management.
Knowledge Management Matters starts with a brief overview of the evolution of knowledge management. Building on this historical foundation, we launch a wide-ranging exploration of the domain. Throughout the book are excellent examples of what works, what doesn't, and some thought-provoking teases about the future. The authors offer great advice on a variety of subjects including storytelling, big data, creativity & innovation, leading communities, knowledge assets, co-creation, catering for a transient workforce and so much more.
Stephanie Barnes, Director of Doing Things Differently at Art of Innovation
Shawn Callahan, Founder of Anecdote
Paul Corney, Founder of knowledge et al
Nancy M. Dixon, Author of Common Knowledge, HBSP
Stan Garfield, Knowledge Management Author, Speaker, and Community Leader
Anthony J. Rhem, President/Principal Consultant of A.J. Rhem & Associates, Inc.
Arthur Shelley, Founder of Intelligent Answers
Douglas Weidner, Chairman & Chief Instructor of KM Institute
Ron Young, Founder of Knowledge Associates International
John Girard holds the Peyton Anderson Endowed Chair at Middle Georgia State University's School of IT. JoAnn Girard is the founder and managing partner of Sagology, a firm that focuses on connecting people with people to collaborate, learn, and share knowledge.
Knowledge Management Matters: a new free e-book by @johngirard @MPuzzlePiece @ShawnCallahan @PaulJCorney @nancymdixon @stangarfield @tonyrhem @Metaphorage @KMInstitute @ronyoung #KM #KMers https://buff.ly/2Grwz4Z
Let's spend more time listening to what really matters: listening to our partners, to our children, to our friends, to our patients, to our employees, to our managers, to ourselves, and especially to our bodies. @Mintzberg141 #ListenMore https://buff.ly/2Fr0ahD
Maybe we've been putting the wrong focus on KM. Maybe KM is not about increasing production or saving dollars. Maybe it is about creating the kind of culture where we would all like to work. @nancymdixon https://buff.ly/2tyOOSZ #KM #KMers /Spot on in my opinion Nancy :-)
The results are maybe not too surprising but the item that jumped out at me was community as I have been trying to document just what it community means in my blook. It is still work in progress to some degree and I'd love any feedback you may have.
Dave Snowden: A succinct overview of his groundbreaking work - Comments
Dave Snowden is an prodigious and extraordinary thinker and I guess best known as the developer of the Cynefin framework - a decision making tool. I love his blog and read every post. He has had a profound influence on my thinking.
Next year, I hope to see his long awaited book published but in the mean time if you are looking for a succinct introduction to his work take a look at these takeouts (by Sonja Blignaut) and video from a TedX talk he gave in November 2017.
It's an 18 minute summary of the key aspects of his work and a wonderful resource for anyone looking for a succinct introduction.
There are many subjects that everyone should be taught in school but I think one of the most important things that children need to learn is how to make sense of the world and thus they need to learn about the scientific method.
They need never be scientists if that is not their calling but they simply need to understand how science works.
Science is not a collection of facts; it is a way of viewing and studying the world. Teaching the scientific method for kids does not expect them to reason as miniature adults, but kids can use a simplified version of the scientific method to explore their world.
Ask a question.
Learn as much as you can about it.
Come up with a hypothesis (a possible answer/solution).
Since 2012 the BBC have been collecting intimate conversations between friends or relatives, to build a unique picture of our lives today.
They have collected over a thousand so far, and most are being broadcast on BBC radio and are being archived by the British Library to preserve them for future generations.
Go listen here. Each conversation is only a few minutes long.
The project was inspired by StoryCorps, an initiative set up in the United States.
Their mission is “to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives”.
The conversations are stored at the Library of Congress.
I personally think in terms of the Human Economy - as it is broader than just caring. The concept is a simple one.
As technology develops, especially AI, there are going to be less and less traditional jobs. The machines are going to take them. We can see the impact already.
The jobs that will be left will be the "human ones" - the jobs ONLY human beings can do - the "caring jobs"- the jobs that require human warmth, touch and empathy, nursing, healthcare, education etc and of course other work that only humans can do such as entertainment, the arts and sport.
These will be the only jobs available to the vast majority of "young people" with or without skills or a University degree.
There will still be a Knowledge Economy but it will be for the few - the people who program and tend the computing machines and digital infrastructure.
Gurteen Knowledge Tweets: February 2018 - Comments
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.
“Community is about people: feeling respected, cared about, and recognized by others. It drives our sense of connection and belongingness.” https://buff.ly/2CzsKXM /interesting research at Facebook as to what people want from work. Career, Community and Purpose.
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. Groucho Marx /Just love Groucho Marx!
The two views of “labor as a resource” and “engaged workers” are incompatible @nancymdixon https://buff.ly/2CsvGVU #KM #KMers#EmployeeEngagement
The Listening Project: a partnership between BBC Radio 4, BBC local and national radio stations, and the British Library: Capturing the nation in conversation. #ConversationalLeadership https://buff.ly/2o4aJwl
“How to Save Face and Not Cause Someone to Lose Face” https://buff.ly/2ESvJx0 /A really good article on the mainly Asian concept of "face"
We need more dialogue and a little less debate - Comments
One of the many posts I have in mind for my blook is to compare debate with dialogue.
We often say we need to debate something - especially in the political world - when what we really need is a dialogue.
Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward a common understanding while debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.
In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal while in debate, winning is the goal.
In dialogue, one listens to the other side(s) in order to understand, find meaning and find agreement while in debate, one listens to the other side in order to find flaws and to counter its arguments.
Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participants point of view while debate affirms a participant's own point of view.
To resolve issues and make decisions, we need both debate and dialogue. One is not intrinsically better then the other - they serve different purposes.
But we have a strong tendency to enter into debate and even argument when we should be doing is having a dialogue.
Non-verbal signals play a role in communication but they are not more important than the words. #ConversationalLeadership https://buff.ly/2EOTZ1Y
Volume 15 Issue 4 of the Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management has now been published. EJKM is an open access journal and you can read, download and print the papers from here https://buff.ly/2CMxWZ2 #KM #KMers #EJKM
When all is said and done, nothing beats human relationships, dialogue, discourse, dialectic and discussion. Turn off our e-devices, close the books and have a chat. https://buff.ly/2EqfmX5
James Dyson: Listen. Create an open environment where everyone's involved and appreciated. If you don't put people down for making a silly suggestion, you can get great ideas. A lot of great new ideas come from silly suggestions or wrong suggestions. https://buff.ly/2m36Plu
The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting - Comments
Whether it is our educational systems or the presentations we give at conferences, we focus far too much on filling people's heads with content. It is not an effective way of teaching. We need to inspire people to learn for themselves, not attempt to fill their heads with stuff.
Plutarch understood this, almost 2,000 years ago when he said:
The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.
You are probably familiar with this quotation but actually it is a popular contraction of what he really said, here is a translation of the original text in context.
The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting -- no more -- and then it motivates one towards originality and instills the desire for truth.
Suppose someone were to go and ask his neighbors for fire and find a substantial blaze there, and just stay there continually warming himself: that is no different from someone who goes to someone else to get to some of his rationality, and fails to realize that he ought to ignite his own flame, his own intellect, but is happy to sit entranced by the lecture, and the words trigger only associative thinking and bring, as it were, only a flush to his cheeks and a glow to his limbs; but he has not dispelled or dispersed, in the warm light of philosophy, the internal dank gloom of his mind.
Getting your head around the Cynefin Framework - Comments
Some years ago,when I first started to learn about Dave Snowden's Cynefin Framework, it took me a little while to wrap my head around it as there were never any good examples given of the different types of problems associated with each domain.
I've just spent a few days in Riyadh where I gave a talk and run a Knowledge Café as part of a KM Forum entitled "Knowledge Management Utilization in Realizing Saudi Vision 2030" organized by the Naseej Academy.
Saudi Vision 2030 is a plan to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism.
My talk was about how KM could be used strategically to help achieve the vision and the question that initiated the Knowledge Café "Given that even the experts do not have a good track record of predicting the future, and strategic plans often fail to deliver fully on their promises, how can KM help us better formulate and execute strategy?"
It was good day and I was delighted with the extent to which the participants engaged with the Knowledge Café and saw it's potential.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation (MBRF) recently organized and held the fourth annual Knowledge Summit in Dubai. Here are a few videos that you may find of interest from the Summit.
A bit of harmless fun you might think or is it harmless?
Harmless enough, if you understand that Sophia, although a fantastic bit of technology is not that smart. It is somewhat like Apple's Siri combined with some sophisticated puppetry plus the ability to recite preprogrammed scripts. No intelligence there at all.
But if you don't understand this, Sophia is misleading you (and even scaring you) into believing that general artificial intelligence is far more advanced than it is.
117 people registered from 25 countries but there is always a large drop-off and in the end I had 47 people from 16 countries - still a good turnout.
The countries were: Australia, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Martinique, Netherlands, Nigeria, Romania, Switzerland,Trinidad and Tobago,Tunisia, Turkey,UK and USA.
We had some in-depth conversation for 2 hours triggered by two short talks from Charles Fowler and Alan Williams and the question "What could be done to bring values to life?"
Sorry Asia-Pacific, this was out of your time-zone but I will make up for it!
What really amazes me about these virtual Cafés is just how well they work. This one worked a treat.
First, I wasn't aware of anyone who had connection problems - Zoom worked flawlessly.
But it is not just the technology - the small group break-out conversations work well too. This is what one of the participants said in the final whole group conversation.
This is only my second knowledge cafe and I'm still really struck by the quality of the conversation that I can have with people that I've never met before in some other
part of the world through an online medium.
And I just wanted to say that and I found it really meaningful. It's like I don't think it would have been more meaningful if they would have been right here in the office.
I'm real surprised by just how much I enjoyed it and how impactful it is.
I never thought, before Zoom, that we could get so close to the quality of face-to-face conversations through an on-line medium.
I gave a talk and ran a Knowledge Café at a recent Large-Scale Scrum Conference in London and had the pleasure of meeting Craig Larman, the co-creator of LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) with his colleague Bas Vodde.
It is not the most intellectual or the strongest of species that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.
In our rapidly changing, unpredictable world, the ability "to turn on a dime for a dime" is fundamental to personal, organizational or societal survival.
In order to adapt, we need to better understand the changes taking place and to act accordingly. We can only do this through open conversation and collective sensemaking. Hence our "conversational capacity" - our ability to hold strategic conversations is key.
Are vague Ideas sometimes better than firm ones? - Comments
I rather like this thought about ideas from Pablo Picasso.
We don't necessarily need a clear, crisp, sharp idea or vision.
A hazy one, a sense of vague direction may sometimes be better as we are then more likely to explore along the journey and make serendipitous discoveries.
Maybe vague ideas are at the heart of being creative.
You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea.
Out of the coffeehouses came a number of institutions that exist to this day such as the London Stock Exchange, Lloyds of London. The auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's also have their origins in coffeehouses.
Another was the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) which was established in a coffeehouse in 1754 by a group of people who came together with a shared vision for a better tomorrow.
I am a member of the RSA have long thought and even suggested that they should turn part of their London premises into a coffeehouse in the tradition of those long lost coffeehouses.
Was James Damore acting in good faith and does it matter? - Comments
I am sure many of you are by now familiar with the Google memo controversy where a Google software engineer James Damore was fired for a memo that questioned Google's diversity policies.
If you have not read the memo you will find it here.
The memo has caused a heated online debate with people fiercely arguing in support of James Damore or against him.
To me, the issue is not who is right or wrong, it is "Was James Damore acting in good faith, was he genuinely trying to open up a conversation or was he expressing misogynist views?"
I have read the memo and watched several interviews with him and I believe he was sincere in his motives.
If you are not familiar with the controversy and wish to form your own opinion here is some interesting reading.
A beautiful piece here by Paul Graham on How to disagree where he attempts to create a disagreement hierarchy of six different levels from "name calling" to "refuting the central point".
His bottom line is "don't be mean" and his rationale is that it makes people happier.
I don't think howver that this is the main argument. You are more likely to convince people of your point by being "less mean" and moving higher up the hierarchy in you conversational style.
If you enjoyed the above article, I think you will enjoy this one too What you cant say. This comment about Galileo particularly set me chuckling:
"If Galileo had said that people in Padua were ten feet tall, he would have been regarded as a harmless eccentric. Saying the earth orbited the sun was another matter. The church knew this would set people thinking."
Thanks to James Damore (yes the guy who wrote the Google memo) for pointing me to both of these articles via his twitter stream. (You can understand why both articles resonate with him.)
This all makes interesting and relevant fodder for my blook on Conversational Leadership. And it is at the heart of what Knowledge Management should be all about - "making better sense of the world".
In researching for my blook on Conversational Leadership I come across some fascinating people, doing some great work.
Julia Galef is my latest find.
On her Twitter feed she says she is "A SF-based writer & speaker focused on reasoning, judgment, and the future of humanity." So you can see why I am drawn to her work.
Good faith is central to holding real conversations. In human interactions, good faith is the intent to be sincere, to be fair, open, and honest, regardless of the outcome of the interaction. Without good faith, a conversation can never be a real one.
Franklin's Junto Club was about self-development and improving his local community.
What I like about the Junto Club concept is that anyone can start their own modern day Junto.
You can decide on your community and select, twelve or so members from diverse backgrounds.
I think the focus should be on community improvement not on personal development as individual learning comes naturally from taking part in the Junto.
So what community are you part of that you would like to improve? It could be your local community as in the case of Franklin, or any other community you care about and to which you belong.
This includes the organization for which you work.
The Junto Club is not a community of practice but a form of community of innovation.
The other thing to do is to review Franklin's 24 questions and four assertions and update them so that they are more suited to the present day and your chosen community.
Interestingly, having spent some time thinking about modern day Junto Clubs or even Junto Cafés (a cross between the Junto and the Knowledge Café) I came across Franklin Circles - another form of modern day Junto focused on societal improvement.
Let me know if you feel inspired to form your own Junto Club or Franklin Circle.
Zooming around the world to Singapore and Sydney - Comments
I have run two more Zoom virtual Knowledge Café this month - one for the Singapore time zone and another for the Sydney time zone, made a few mistakes, learnt a lot and becoming more adept in designing and running them.
Planning now to run a Café for Dubai. I will also be running one as part of World Values Day. Here I am going to be a little bit more ambitious - all my virtual Cafés so far have been for less than 20 people but for the World Values Day I am going to shoot for 100 participants. A little bit of a risk but I'll learn a lot and hopefully it will attract people from many different countries. More on both these Cafés soon.
If you would like to be the first to hear about my Zoom events, please sign-up to my Virtual Café mailing list.
Content tagged with a "*" is freely readable but if you wish to access the blook in its entirety please request access and I will I will grant it,
If you wish to take a look at just the latest material visit the Recent Updates page.
One recent addition - is a new chapter on Conversational Space. It is still rather bare but includes a substantial post on the Enlightenment Coffeehouses of 17th and 18th century London, and more rudimentary posts on Stammtisch Tables, the Dewaniya, the Salons of France, the Viennese coffee houses and of course the Junto Club.
I have more conversational spaces to add and much more to write about them - both the specific spaces themselves and more generally what makes a good conversation space, their purpose and benefits.
If you have any conversation spaces specific to your culture such as the Kuwaiti Dewaniya - I would love to hear about them,
I also joined a KMI KM workshop in Washington DC with John Hovell and give a short talk/conversation on Conversational Leadership via the Zoom platform and it worked a treat! It is the second one John and I have done together and I think John may have cracked how to do the Q&A session by passing an iPhone around the room also with Zoom loaded.
If you would like to be the first to hear about my Zoom events, please sign-up to my Virtual Café mailing list.
You know, all mystics - Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion - are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.
So what do you make of the idea that "all is well?"
When I reflect on the reality of the world in an everyday way then it is hard to see that "all is well" but deep down I understand what de Mello means.
Somewhere else in his book "Awareness" he says that "problems only exist in the human mind". If we look at the universe in its totality and from a perspective of its evolutionary history then its hard to see that it could be any different.
So maybe in a strange sort of way "all is well". That thought though should not stop us from striving to make it a better place!
But I think I know what Tony would have said "Don't try to change it - it will change of its own accord".
Benjamin Franklin's Junto Club led to the birth of the first US Public Library in 1731 - Comments
I was driving into town recently and switched on the car radio and caught the last few minutes of BBC Radio 4 programme called Making History and was gobsmacked at my serendipitous discovery of a so-called "Conversation Society" founded in 1727!
I have downloaded the audio and clipped out the key passage and uploaded to YouTube - it is only two minutes long. (I am sure the BBC won't mind.)
Why not start your own Junto Club. It has some very KM like features. All you need to do is update Benjamin Franklin's 24 questions into modern day English and a business environment - and you have it!
In each case, the submission is held in a queue until I have checked it out and categorised it. This normally only takes a day or two. If the item is off topic or I feel it is inappropriate for any other reason I reserve the right to delete it. The service is free.
I am often asked how to get started designing and running Knowledge Cafés.
Given that the outcomes of the Knowledge Café are sometimes seen as “soft” by more hard-nosed, business focused managers, and by those working under time pressure, you may have difficulty convincing people of their value, and so it is essential to think carefully about how to get started.
I suggest you do not try to run a Knowledge Café with the sole purpose of convening some “interesting conversations.”
What you have in the Café is a powerful business tool, so when you see opportunities to use the Café for a real business purpose then seize the opportunity.
Offer the Café as a response to an issue – maybe don't even call it a Café and do not try to “sell it” in a traditional way.
A Café should always have a strong business purpose.
If you are a manager, then you should not have too much of a problem as you have the authority and power to do new things, but even if you are lower down the organizational hierarchy and do not manage people, then it is still possible.
To celebrate the event Leif has collected some volunteering 12 voices, into a free of charge on-line booklet Forward Future Center 3.0.
This booklet is about some of the global experiences from more than 20 years of prototyping since the start of Skandia Future Center in Sweden in 1996. It has been followed since by many others both in Europe and Asia, especially Japan, with its Future Center Alliance Japan.
When does the Future start? According to some research from Japan it starts in about 14 seconds. Are you ready?
Patricia, very kindly gave me a copy at KM UK a few weeks ago. It is an excellent little book packed full of short stories about various KM programs - in fact 19 of them including ones from Airbus, ARUP, Cadbury Schweppes, Hewlett Packard (HP), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, (CIAT), Lloyds Register Marine, NASA, MPM PETRONAS, U.K. National Health Service Digital, and the U.S. Army.
In it, they examine and analyze these diverse KM programs, using quotes, insights, and stories to show why these programs were successful and how they improved both knowledge capture and knowledge flow in their respective organizations.
I am really starting to question everything I ever been taught!
For example, I was taught that people during the Middle Ages in Europe thought that the Earth was flat and not spherical.
Well it turns out, it's another big, fat myth as explained here in Wikipedia and again here. It seems that since the third century BC, few educated people in the western world have believed the earth to be flat - expect of course members of societies such as the Flat Earth Society.
The prevailing logic seems to be that as we build more and more powerful processors that have a similar compute capacity to the human brain or similar massive connectivity that consciousness will simply emerge. "Experts" predict AGI will happen in the next 25 - 50 years.
I believe this is wishful thinking. We could connect a quadrillion or more iPhones and consciousness is not just going to emerge!
Today, we don't have a clue how the mind works or the nature of consciousness and until we do any prediction of when AGI might happen is just a wild guess.
I am sure we will crack it one day - just not in any of our lifetimes. That's my best guess :-)
I have been a friend of the Henley Forum for Organisational Learning and Knowledge Strategies (known as the Henley Forum) ever since its inception back in 2000 and frequently take part in its events.
It is an exceptionally good forum and I would highly recommend it.
The events are mainly for members-only but some are open to the public.
Take a look -- you may be interested in becoming a member or attending some of the public events.
Here are a few of the activities coming up later in the year:
I am as guilty as the next in "falling" for all three of these myths in past. It makes me wonder how many more common management concepts and practices we take for granted. Jack Martin Leith lists some more on his Debunking Unit website.
I facilitated a Knowledge Café a month or so ago in my home town of Worcester for WINN (Worcestershire Innovation) on the topic "What are life's big questions that require innovation as an answer?"
It was an excellent evening and they captured its essence quite nicely in this little video.
If you are concerned with what the future may hold - why not run a Future Café to explore the trends and issues that are shaping, influencing and distrupting our world and your organization. One of the great things about the Knowledge Café method is that it is so easy to adapt and to run to fulfil a wide variety purposes.
The Knowledge Café as a Research Technique - Comments
I have come to learn over the last 15 years that the Knowledge Café is more a state of mind than it is a fixed process.
It is a way of viewing the world through a conversational lens.
It is about looking at any organizational process or activity and asking:
How can I apply the Knowledge Café philosophy and principles to make this task more effective by making it more conversational and engaging?
Some held firmly; some held not so tightly. Some true, some false. Some we are prepared to change. For others, we are prepared to die.
One of my firmly held beliefs is that if we are going to create a better world, then each and every one of us needs to figure out which of our beliefs are true and which are false. We should be forever questioning everything.
We need to understand better how the world works and the nature of what it means to be human, especially how we think and make decisions. We do this through conversation - by thinking together.
I recognize that many people do not fully hold this belief. They believe that some things are preordained; that they are the way they are; that some things should just not be questioned. Even beliefs such as these are worth talking about, however difficult that might be.
Let's look at an example of different beliefs:
I believe in climate change. Some people don't. I would like to persuade them that climate change is a reality. And they would like to persuade me that I am wrong.
I am open to being proved wrong, and as long as they are open to changing their minds too, I am happy to have a conversation with them. But I don't want a debate. I don't want to argue. Such interactions usually only entrench each other's beliefs.
I would like to have a conversation where we can "think together" and leverage our different views on the subject to gain a better understanding.
I am always looking for ways in which we can do this. Here is one nascent idea.
For the purpose of the discussion, I would like to swap places with the other person. I'd like to "argue" against climate change while they "argue" for it. Wouldn't that be a revolution in how we hold conversations and think together?
I wonder, could I adapt the Knowledge Café process to have such contra-conversations?
Empowering conversation in the workplace - Comments
Conversation is not a nice-to-have but a critical competence of a 21st-century organisation. But often we take it for granted and fail to capitalise on the power of conversation to drive performance, transfer learning, build relationships, make better decisions, innovate and more!
Dr Sharon Varney will start the day by warming people up to the theme and I will follow with a Knowledge Café -- using conversation to help you explore how to empower conversation in your own organisation.
Fiona Hiscocks and Jim Scopes from Sparknow will then consider the issue of "speaking up" – empowering more difficult conversations.
And finally, Vicky Short and Monica Danese-Perrin from Lloyds Banking Group will share how they put people at the heart of their work in embedding Knowledge Management into a fast paced Financial Services organisation that is in the midst of a large scale digital transformation.
Although this is a members' event, a few guest places are available. Contact Marina Hart firstname.lastname@example.org at the Henley Business School if you are interested.
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time ...
Then in doing a little bit of due diligence - something I do far more often today - given our era of "fake news" and "alternative facts", it seems there is no record that Churchill ever made the first statement :-)
But two interesting quotes nevertheless regardless of author.
And quite a fascinating, thought provoking talk it was too. Here are few clips from the book.
We think we know far more than we actually do.
Humans have built hugely complex societies and technologies, but most of us don't even know how a pen or a toilet works.
How have we achieved so much despite understanding so little? Because whilst individuals know very little, the collective or ‘hive' mind knows a lot.
The key to our intelligence lies in the people and things around us. We're constantly drawing on information and expertise stored outside our heads: in our bodies, our environment, our possessions, and the community with which we interact -- and usually we don't even realize we're doing it.
The fundamentally communal nature of intelligence and knowledge explains why we often assume we know more than we really do, why political opinions and false beliefs are so hard to change, and why individually oriented approaches to education and management frequently fail. Our collaborative minds, on the other hand, enable us to do amazing things.
You may have come across the phrase "speak truth to power" a lot in the last year and wondered quite what it meant, and it's origin.
The Quakers coined the phrase during in the mid-1950s. It was a call for the United States to stand firm against fascism and other forms of totalitarianism.
I think it can take two meanings.
The first meaning is in keeping with the Quaker use and maybe typified by Shari Runner in this Huffington Post article:
Speaking truth to power means believing deeply in what you say and fighting every day to have that heard.
It may not be popular; it means taking a risk, it means standing for something.
But depending on the context, it has a second, less grandiose meaning that I can best describe like this:
“Speak truth to power” means speaking what we believe to be true to someone in authority who might take it as a criticism or be offended and who has the power to punish us in some way.
In writing my blook, I am researching the barriers to what makes a good conversation and being afraid to "speak our minds" is clearly one of the obstacles.
There are many reasons why we might be reluctant to "speak up." Fear of authority is one of them.
But I am starting to use the phrase in a slightly different way.
Fear comes from the power difference between ourself and the other person. We feel we have less power (perceived or real) than them and so are afraid.
But there are many forms of power difference:
to name but a few.
What I am trying to better understand is how we learn to "speak truth to power" in all of these contexts or create conversational environments that make it easier.
Well, it is not just a name for a conversational method to bring people together in conversation but a metaphor for that process. Let me explain.
The term "café," frequently written as "cafe" without the e-acute accent, comes from the French and means "coffee."
And of course, a café is a small restaurant which mostly serves coffee, tea, other drinks and an assortment of snacks. But cafés are far more than places to eat and drink.
They are places where people, usually friends and sometimes strangers, meet in pairs or small groups to have informal conversations and to socialize. They are also places to read books, magazines, and newspapers.
Many cafés have comfy, easy chairs or sofas or small nooks where people can relax, chat in comfort and chill a little.
Today, many people use them to access the Internet through their laptops or smartphones, sometimes to browse the web, other times to work but frequently to chat with other people on Facebook or Whatsapp.
In short, cafés are hospitable, social places where people go to connect, to have conversations, face-to-face or virtual and to read.
In some ways, the coffee and food are secondary, though conversation is always enhanced while eating and drinking together.
Cafés have a long and distinguished history as places of creativity and innovation where people meet to talk and exchange information going back to the Enlightenment Coffeehouses (or penny universities as they were sometimes known) of 17th and 18th century London.
And "knowledge"? It is through conversation that we learn and develop our personal knowledge.
So the term "Knowledge Café" makes a great metaphor for the types of conversation you might have in a café.
I am asking you for permission to continue - Comments
What with Brexit and Trump I have been dismayed this last year by the lack of respect that people, especially politicians show for each other.
Regardless of your politic leanings or views on oil pipelines, I hope you admire the way that Justin Trudeau handles this situation when demonstrators interrupted him recently in a town hall meeting in Winnipeg.
How are we ever going to sort out the problems we face in the world if we can't talk respectfully with each other?
Non-violent communication: Ed you have a big mouth! - Comments
My daughter Sally posted a short item on her blog recently about the verb "to be" and violent communication.
Can we (or should we) ever say that 'something is', if it is not a permanent state of being? In Spanish, for the verb 'to be' we say 'ser' and 'estar'; essence and condition; identity and being; one is often more permanent than the other.
The verb 'to be' in the English language, however, has just one core manifestation.
Does this have the capacity to be most violent in communication?
Exploring the relationship between space, collaboration and knowledge transfer - Comments
A few years ago Paul Corney asked a number of Knowledge & Information Management (KIM) professionals about the environment in which they worked.
He believes that creating the right environment is one of the core requirements to nurturing a culture where people are willing to share. The results of that questionnaire were shared at a workshop, at the annual KM UK conference and as an open report.
With the growth of the digital workplace and more transient ways of working now is a great time to revisit the topic and Paul is asking for a few minutes of your time to answer just 10 questions which can be found here in this survey.
The survey will close 5pm GMT on Friday 3rd March 2017.
I am sure most of you by now will have heard the phrase alternative facts.
This is what Wikipedia says if you are not familiar with the term.
"Alternative facts is a phrase used by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview, in which she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's false statements about the attendance at Donald Trump's inauguration as President of the United States."
You can see the interview here.
It has of course caused quite an uproar and a lot of laughter.
But it is a serious issue as this TEDx talk by Sharyl Attkisson makes plain in explaining how fake grassroots movements funded by political, corporate, or other special interests very effectively manipulate and distort media messages.
It has always been the case but these days we need to be extra vigilant especially when republishing material through social media!
I think the Knowledge Café is often at its best in organizations when it is used to convene conversations to give people “a say” in topics and issues that are relevant to them and where they can express their opinions freely.
This helps them make better sense of the issues and allows them to appreciate that other people have different perspectives to them. This helps build community.
I received an email in January 2017 from Samira Ahmed in the Group Learning Department of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in which she explains how the Knowledge Management Team has used the Café in this way to great effect.
I am experimenting with a potential Virtual Knowledge Cafe platform - Zoom Meetings.
The experiment is confined to my local time zone right now but if all goes well I will open it up globally. (Download Zoom and connect with me if you wish to play with it.)
If you don't want to read too much - just watch these two videos and you will see why I think it will make a viable platform for Virtual Knowledge Cafes.
Ignore the content - just see the format :-)
Now read on if you wish to know a little more.
Zoom is a relatively new (January 2013) cloud-based video meeting system.
You can read more about the company here.
It is inexpensive, easy to use, can handle the requisite number of users for a Knowledge Café. Not only can it be accessed through your Windows or Mac desktops but also through your Apple or Android smartphone or tablet. The quality seems good and I am told it is stable.
Critically it has a break-out room capability where the Café host can randomly assign participants to one of several break-out rooms for small group conversations.
I don't know of any other video meeting system that meets all these criteria. (break-out rooms, numbers and cost being key.)
There are two versions of Zoom, a free basic version and a pro version that costs $15 per month. The pro version can host up to 50 participants.
The free version contains many of the key features of the Pro system except meetings are limited to 40 minutes.
So to host a virtual Knowledge Café, only the Café host needs to subscribe to the Pro version of Zoom (to get past the 40 minute limitation).
The Café participants need only the free Basic version.
As the Knowledge Café works best for less than 30 participants, 50 participants in not a limitation.
So all in all, it looks a viable technology platform for virtual Knowledge Cafés.
What will be interesting is how the dynamics differ to a face-to-face Café. I'll let you know how it goes.
The discussion on "What makes a powerful question?" in the Gurteen Knowledge Community group on Linkedin has pretty much wound down.
But take a look if you have not already - there are some really useful insights there.
And take a look at David Griffith's recent post on Do you ignite knowledge wildfires? where he makes the point that Knowledge Management doesn't have to be about the theatre of action.
A simple change to the way people ask questions can ignite knowledge wildfires and get everyone in the organisation practising Knowledge Management.
Who should you be talking with in your organization and what are the questions you should be exploring together?
If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the
or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on
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