Monday, August 30, 2010

We Can Connect, But Can We Learn?

As I am doing a bit of research for a client, I am struck by how much and how little has changed in the world of Knowledge Management. I started doing this work in 1994 and realize that I was lucky--I began developing and using the concepts of knowledge management because I had a business problem to solve! So, right from the get-go my work was about solving problems.

In contrast, KM was often thought of in those days as the next great consulting opportunity and therefore was sometimes a solution LOOKING for a problem. That is a very bad way to do business.

We quickly realized, while problem solving with KM, that one of the big benefits was building bridges across all types of boundaries. Organizations were growing as fast as the economy and in the mid-90's the economy was rocking and rolling. We connected people to people and people to data/information and thought life was grand.

The marching of time provides another view and increases our abilities and the complexities of work, life and the world.
Building bridges helps-- but in these times of less resources, little time, no money...people often don't have an understanding of how to use the connections and sometimes not even the permission to do so, based on time, level or goal orientation.

I do not mean to say every organization now has the ability to connect to what is needed across boundaries and that workers have easy accessibility to the knowledge they need for their jobs. No, those problems still exist.

What I am saying is that there is also an increasingly large challenge for workers to know what to do once they find the information or knowledge they need. Do they have the time to act on it, the right to make changes, the ability to bring it forward. Does management allow them to USE the information (learn from it, apply it, discuss it, share it) once they HAVE connected to it?

Do workers at all levels have time to learn?

To make sense of the data we so painstakingly created, identified and connected people to, we have to have the time to reflect, to ponder, to try, TO LEARN....and the critical thinking skills to know what criteria to use, what influences and thought processes, to make good decisions with the knowledge we can access.

Life is complex. Let me boil down what I see. We have the technology and processes to help people find the data, information, knowledge and expertise they need inside and outside the organization--IF the company takes the time, money and resources to implement them.

We also need the time to reflect on and learn so decisions made are well considered, forward thinking and sustainable. And, we need to have enough contextual information and experience to understand how to make sense of the information and knowledge provided to think logically through a decision, considering all of the factors, influences and understand the potential outcomes.

We need to connect, reflect, learn and think critically.

To make the endeavor worthwhile, we also need to share what we have learned. Can you imagine the power in that? It is not just about getting people to the information. They have to know what to do with it. The organization must give them the skills, the competencies and the time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Do You Have Time for Google Realtime

Seems everyday tools, gadgets or widgets are popping up to help us with our intense online information overload...often just to keep us aware of the information we are overloaded with.

I wondered if it would be the same with Google Realtime. I was curious to learn if continual updates of online info on my topics of interest would be useful to me or simply remind me of all of the information I did not have time to wade through.

I choose as my topic Knowledge Transfer. To those of you who might raise an eyebrow and say...hmm, how about painting or cheesemaking for a change, I do have other interests. I wanted to find out if my work could be enhanced by online listings. So, I chose my topic and set a daily alert for myself.

So far, the jury on the question of information overload is out, but the tool is quite fun and probably useful, especially for anyone who spends a lot of time searching or surfing.

Mostly, I use it to quickly view what's being said, to spark new thought, to build on what I am working on or thinking about. It's still about context and connection for me most of the time, but if I want quickly take a pulse on what's up out there...this tool is worth the small amount of effort required.

The short video on Google Realtime's homepage is worth the time to quickly understand what is available.

Is Social Media No Longer a Conversation?

Mitch Joel, in his blog "Six Pixels of Separation" talks about the end of conversation in social media. Before some of us Baby Boomers have even caught on to the power or potential or possiblities around social media, the communication has already changed. In Joel's view, and I tend to agree, there is no longer actual conversation in social media, but simply feedback.

As I read the blog I could not help but relate it to what happens in an organization when the culture is less than trusting. In a less than trusting culture, few people feel comfortable standing in a place of not knowing or in a place of curiosity. They don't ask big, wide open questions....they ask safe, less risk taking questions. They are less vulnerable, they are less apt to let on that they are beginners. Couple this with intense workloads and reduced resources and you have little time for honest, open, big, wide, juicy, exploratory conversation.

I wonder if that is true now on the web and in social media as well? Because everything we say or respond to or dialogue around can be found and reported and re-read, re-tweeted, re-published, have we lost trust and the ability to engage in authentic dialogue?

Did we ever have big, wide, open, honest, exploratory conversation online?

If not, we should have...the web and social media allowed us to reach out and connect to minds and views and experiences we could not have reached in this lifetime. What a great time to really, deeply, mine and explore and learn.

Perhaps Mitch is right. Perhaps blogs are now simply a place to publish with a bit of feedback, but only one way feedback, and tweeting is simply too constrained for real conversation. Which leads me to wonder if we have missed a rare and beautiful opportunity to delve into some of the deeper questions with those you would have never had the opportunity to meet through other means, to ponder the mysteries of life, to dialoge around why things are the way things are and how we might shift them for the better. I wonder what you think, what your questions are and what the dialogue, the conversation would be around it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just the Facts, Nothing But the Facts

As mentioned, I've been working to transfer my knowledge about knowledge transfer to new colleagues. To do this, I'm using my own processes.

My first question to myself? What about what I know is unique, relevant and critical. Those are the three magic terms that help me separate the knowledge which MUST be transferred from all of the other areas of knowledge (Abba lyrics perhaps?) which we hold and do not need to transfer. Some readers may argue that Songs like SOS must be kept alive. True, but not by me. That knowledge is not unique to me-- it's held by many others who can retrieve it much faster (and more accurately) then I. It is also not critical (my business is much more likely to survive and thrive if I do not sing to my clients) nor relevant.

My experiences and stories however are.

This is not meant to be about ego, but about sharing what I am learning, or I should say what I am re-learning.

Often when we are transferring knowledge to others, we believe the most important areas to focus on are the factual aspects or the technical information. Yes, the facts are critical but without context, without an understanding of how the knowledge was applied, the situation it was used in, the influencers and intended outcomes, there is less relevance.

More so, the knowledge will not be retained and will be tough to reuse.

Stories put things into perspective and context. Stories are how we transfer behaviors and beliefs. Stories allow us to provide the whole picture. And, stories are what we remember.

I have a lot of stories. As I transfer knowledge about knowledge transfer, I am able to say why I did what I did, what else I considered, what I intended as the outcome, what the actual outcome was and what I learned from that. I can talk about things that worked beautifully and things that did not, and what I would now do differently. Like the experts with whom I often work, I am finding the telling of stories rewarding as I remember the details, the people, the work.

Stories give us a sense of our own growth and learning, just as they provide context for the listener.

Next time you are transferring knowledge and you want to go to the facts, keep in mind that providing the richness and color of the surrounding stories will make those facts come to life for the learner.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My own knowledge transfer during transition

The term 'walking the talk' has taken on a whole new, and powerful, meaning for me. For the past 16 years, I've helped companies in transition identify and transfer business critical knowledge.

Now, it's my turn.

I have brought a number of new people into the fold here at KLHagen, including two new associates (well not exactly 'new' but more about that later), two talented consultants and a fantastic business manager. What does that mean for the business?

It means increased capacity, expanded competencies and capabilities and enhanced service offerings. KLHagen is moving forward.

What it means for me personally is that I must walk the talk. It means I am in the process of identifying and transferring my tacit knowledge about tacit knowledge transfer. 16 years worth of processes, ideas, learning, experiences, insights, hints, tips, thought processes, alternatives, watch outs, success criteria, rationale...I think you get the picture.

And, it's very good for me.

I chose experienced people with strong backgrounds and their own unique, critical and relevant competencies and areas of expertise. I know they are open-minded learners who stand in curiosity while applying all of the years of experience they bring on board to make excellent decisions for our clients. All that being said, I still had to consider how to share the deep experience and expertise these years have brought me.

I will give you an overview of that process in upcoming blogs and provide my own insights as I walk my talk. And, I will introduce you to my new colleagues.

Life ensures we keep learning lessons and getting better at what we long as we are present and authentically show up for the learning. I'm blessed to have such great people to work along side and with on this journey.