Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The fun and creative side of sharing knowledge

One of my favorite people, Dorothy (Dottie) Black, the Pepsico K-12 Technology Mentor Program Coordinator for Duke University, turned me on to a blogger you just have to read.

All of us are aware of animated cartoons. Many of us boomers remember the old stuff, when line drawing was prevalent and Daffy Duck ruled.

The history of this genre is multi-layered and complex, and at the same time fascinating. The blogger I want you to read shares his deep understanding of animation in ways that catch your attention, make you think and remember, all with a wry smile on your face. Thad Komorowski is his name and he seems to be quite a leading character in the blogging world of animation. His site is well worth the time to read and come back to.

And, Thad is 19 years old.

Yes, Dottie, the power of Web 2.0. Amazing. Well done Thad. And for those of you who want to see knowledge management in action-- visit the blog, read the comments and enjoy.


Varied viewpoints frame expertise

The deeply held knowledge we have accummulated over time through experience is what we use to make sense of the world and to make good decisions time and again. That knowledge is hard won and many people think it is also hard to transfer. I had a conversation about this today, and I thought it might be interesting to share my experience in why people find transferring deeply held knowledge so difficult.

For one thing, there is a lot of it. For another, it is not all created equal -- it is not all of equal value. Why transfer what is not useful or needed? If you have long term experience and expertise which you want to share with others, you will understand what I mean.

There is experiential knowledge which helps you determine what factors are important in making decisions, identifies your current context, how that context influences your decisions, and how to make sense of what you are about to do. If you had to tell me exactly how you made your decisions and what part of that was most useful to be transferred, it would prove to be quite challenging.

But what if I asked those around you, those influenced by your decision or resulting activity, what they thought was most unique about the knowledge you held and what they turned to you for? Wouldn't that help you determine what knowledge was priority for you to transfer? One view of a subject, issue or challenge is only one view. It can not help but be skewed. How do you know if that view is correct? Or useful? Checking with others helps to frame the knowledge most useful and important. And if knowledge is not useful, why bother?

There is enough information floating around to overwhelm all of us. We need to transfer what is most important, not forgetting the contextual aspects, but to consider what would impact the most if lost. We need to make knowledge transfer as simple and useful as possible. What are your viewpoints?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Methods of sharing deeply held knowledge

Some types of knowledge are harder to transfer than others. For example, teaching your children the life skills they need as they get older is quite complex. Knowledge and experience in such areas as how to build trustworthy relationships, how to make decisions, and how to handle finances can be challenging to convey. Each of these are examples of the types of knowledge we all accumulate and often wish to share with others, at home, on the job or in other contexts.

Two websites dealing with teaching kids about finances, entrepreneurship and leadership do a pretty good job at categorizing, articulating and sharing knowledge and experience to this young audience. The sites keep in mind various forms of learning such as visual, auditory and so forth. The two site vary. One is more 'child-like' for example, and they both do a pretty good job of helping children experience as they learn the concepts and practices.


These sites, one from L.A, the other from South Africa, are meant for a young audience. But once again, if you are willing to look at how they have been organized and written, how the information has been conveyed and the methods used, there is learning to be gained for all of us wishing to share deeply-held experiential learning. I am glad these subjects are being well addressed for the young.

On another note: There are have been some excellent comments to this blog on new technologies and ideas as of late. I appreciate the feedback and will feature these in future blog postings. Thanks again to those who are interested in the collaboration-- sharing our learning is what this is about.

Monday, August 20, 2007

More knowledge than you can manage

Even as our time is more restrained, the amount of information coming at us is exploding. It is often said by my clients and colleagues that they have more than 200 emails to be read yet that day.

And we wonder why it is so difficult to get our work done when most of our day time hours are spent in meetings, answering emails and yes even once in a while, the old standby of the telephone call.

Gail Richards, founder of a website and company called AuthorSmart.com, addresses this issue in today's supplement of her enewsletter. She suggests that we do not answer our email first thing in the morning but wait until later in the day between other scheduled tasks. How many of us might have the discipline to do this? Could you wait until mid-day to answer your emails? And, could your culture handle that?

To me this also says we are working most often in a mode of reaction, not action. We begin our day checking emails partly to see what it is we will handle that day. Presumably our day would have been planned somewhat at the end of the day before. But we are now so programmed to immediate reaction, that we check our emails first to see what our day holds in store for us.

And we get taken off track by the new links, the new connections and the new information we find in those notes to us. I rather like Gail's idea to not check email first thing. At least I want to have the experience and to understand what might make that behavior such a challenge. Do we have too much knowledge coming at us at one time? Can we not find the discipline to deal with this?
I'd like to know your thoughts.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Using creative new ideas: Crowdsourcing

I've written before about the concept of crowdsourcing. For those of us who are boomers, it can be an interesting challenge to keep up with the new concepts, technologies and online options. This one I find intriguing for Knowledge Management.

British Director Alex Jovy is using the concept of crowdsourcing to not only draw publicity to his in-production movie, but also to allow the audience to participate in the entire project.

You can upload your online audition (which is reviewed by a seasoned group of movie types), review scripts, provide creative input, become an investor and so forth. A very interesting concept.

How does this apply to managing knowledge?

What if your organization has 30-40-50 years of research or other history and no way to bring it forward. Why would you want to? To ensure future decisions are informed by past experience and mistakes are not needlessly repeated as one example.

Would crowdsourcing(with a bit of expert review), not be an excellent way to pull various viewpoints, experiences, areas of expertise, innovative ideas not used, forward by using an interesting vehicle the younger generations of workers would view? It might sound outlandish but I think it has possibilities.

The organization would not have to create a movie, but could create other crowdsourced experiences to share contextual yet critical knowledge.

We are moving fast into social networking technologies and we need to be prepared to use and embrace those technologies as we transfer knowledge between generations. And, we have little time to do the actual knowledge transfer. This can be one way to address the knowledge transfer challenges.

I am not saying this is the silver bullet for KM-- there is NO such thing. However, open minds will find ways to use new concepts to meet current and future needs. I think this is worth a quick review. If nothing else, you could become a star!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


There is a report just out published by the The Social Issues Research Center (SIRC) in Great Britain on belonging in the 21st Century. The concept of belonging is changing. There are many viewpoints of what it means to belong and how that differs with belonging in the past. The report, commissioned by the Automobile Association of Great Britain is quite interesting. What has changed and how will that impact our future?

Whether you agree with the information included in the report, the issue of belonging is relevant to our organizations and society and is well worth consideration.

The SIRC website provides interesting data on other topics as well, and as a receipient of their updates and newsletters, I always take time to review them.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Abandoned But Not Forgotten

How often in our work as Knowledge Managers do we hear people say they are afraid the context or stories of what truly happened in the organization are at risk of being lost?

When we do lose the context or rationale behind decisions or actions, we usually make up stories to fill in the gaps. Often without meaning to do so. Somehow people feel uncomfortable simply 'not knowing,' and so we make something up. We create a myth.

An illustration of this is a site I've just found called 'Abandoned But Not Forgotten'. This site provides pictures of places around the world, sometimes even entire villages, which are abandoned. One interesting example is a village in Italy, completely abandoned.

So, how do we come to understand the context behind villages, dams, factories, and so forth now completely abandoned. We make up stories. Yet the context, the actual decisions and rationale behind these pictures would be fascinating. I believe there are other sites such as this as well, though I've not yet visited them. The pictures do help you think about the stories lost, the stories made up, and the aftermath. Myth can become reality simply by telling it over and over.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Many Forms of Infrastructure

It has been a difficult week here in Minnesota. The collapse of the 35W Bridge has left many people devastated and taken a number of lives. Pictures of this tragedy have dominated the news and touched many Americans. I know the people of Minnesota have pulled together not only during the crisis, but to show support to the families of the victims as well as to each other in the aftermath.

Now, in the wake of this tragedy we must learn what went wrong and understand how to apply the lessons to keep other lives from needlessly being lost. We must identify and share key lessons. We need to work on the underlying physical infrastructure of our country. This was known previously but until it became a crisis once again, we lived in denial. Actually this is only one type of lesson to be learned.

We must also recognize that we are human. As a society we have been traumatized by events such as 9/11. Seeing those events again and again on TV and the internet, feeling helplessness, fear and sorrow....all of this has left scars. The collapse of the bridge a few days ago was re-traumatizing as we again saw devastation and watched good people lose loved ones.

Our emotions are the infrastructure of our own lives just as the highways, pipelines and bridges are part of the infrastructure of our physical lives. We need to ensure our emotional infrastructure is sound and that we are giving it the time, the focus, the energy we need to continue to be strong and solid.

In Minnesota, when the bridge collapsed, I saw people with that same look in their eyes as I did when in the tri-state area near NY during 9/11. There is a glassy quality, a bit removed, dazed and almost vacant. The look of trauma and sadness so profound it is hard to express much less experience.

Let us not forget that we need to take time for each other, take care of our emotional selves and heal, just as we work to rebuild the 35W Bridge or the rest of our physical infrastructure. We need to look for signs of fatigue in our selves, as we do in the steel structures around us. And if we find them, we must not be afraid to take the time to heal, and to heal each other. We need each other, and we need to learn our lessons together, with kindness and compassion.

Let's learn together that we need to be allowed to be human, to feel what we feel in a healthy way, and to deal with each other in compassion. Take the time to repair the infrastructure around us now, so that if and when another crisis hits, we will be able to withstand it. I am thankful for the people of Minnesota who pulled together during this time and proud to be in their presence.

Managing Upwards

Recently a reader asked a question concerning how to manage a KM initiative when all of the other people they need to engage for success are at a higher level... stak.

Since this question comes up quite often, I am including my recommendations here...and they are open for discussion!

A great question, and a situation that is quite frequent. Well worth some good dialogue. I will do this top of mind-- and will be glad to be more specific with any additional questions you have.

First, without knowing more about your situation I say congratulations. You have a golden opportunity to increase your name recognition and have impact on the organization. This is an opportunity to use influence to manage upwards. Not easy, but I'll bet you are up to the task.

I would first consider who the major stakeholders are in the initiative. Which directors and above will be most directly impacted by the KM work? Which of those have you had contact with in the past or built a relationship with? I would start there.

It is important to understand what the stakeholders have on their minds. I would want to ask them --if this KM work is successful, how will you know? What does success look like to you? You will need to manage expectations so first you need to know what they are.

When you have those conversations, it will help you to have a very concise, brief and well crafted communication to explain what you are doing. You can have a slide deck (argh, I am such a consultant!), a project description or a story to tell them. However, give them room to provide the feedback you are asking for.

When you speak with them, stand in curiosity and hear what they have to say. They will notice. Do not make promises you can not keep, and do things in bite sized pieces. Set realistic expectations.

Ask them how they want to be kept informed-- do they want emails, meetings, voice mails, etc and how frequently do they want updates. Also, do they have people who could learn from this initiative, who may be willing to give a small percentage of time? That would keep them involved.

Lastly, remember you move people from awareness to acceptance to action and can't move them much faster then that. Create a communications plan for the stakeholders to facilitate them through those steps.

Ok, that is a lot of info...and the question is just general enough that I am not sure I have given you what you need. Please feel free to ask more-- and I will create a blog posting about it. You have a great opportunity, and if well leveraged, you can change your organization!