Creativity Activities for Virtual Work

From March 17, 2020 until March 27, 2020 I ran a small online experiment demonstrating creative activities that could be done in virtual meetings. The sessions were 30 minutes long and had the same format, except that the main activity each day was different. These mini-workshop experiments were well received by participants, and I enjoyed doing them, so they are continuing through April 2020.

I started them as a way to help and that will continue to be their main objective.

Online meetings get boring and repetitive, and are even worse when our regular routines are as completely disrupted as they are right now. Adding short, creative activities to the meetings, not only adds variety and a bit of fun, but it can help relieve some of the pressure and stress, at least for a few minutes.

The videos from the mini-workshops are in a playlist on my YouTube channel, here.

The slides from the sessions are here.

There’s a short video wrapping up the first series and introducing the April series, here.

If you’d like to join the sessions during April, they take place daily at 4pm (16:00) CET on Zoom. Details are:

https://zoom.us/j/136891675?pwd=eCtZK3IzKzQ3QktXamxxYzlXcytxZz09
Meeting ID: 136 891 675
Password: 022145

I hope you’ll join us!

How your KM Program can help you for life after Coronavirus (COVID-19), part 2

Right now (March 2020), hopefully, your KM Program is helping people adjust to remote work. Helping them use the collaboration tools that maybe they’ve only used occasionally before. Helping them facilitate engaging, creative online meetings . But once the initial panic subsides and people become more accustomed to working remotely, what next?

Lots of organisations have KM programs that focus on the traditional KM activities, things like lessons learned, communities of practice, collaboration; activities that support learning and creating new knowledge, or managing and sharing knowledge that already exists. My ex-HP colleague, Stan Garfield, published a list/ presentation of all the things that can comprise a KM program, you can find his list here. It’s a good list, especially if you are new to the world of KM.

When KM is done well, it is pretty invisible. Nobody really thinks about it, and that’s okay, until, it isn’t. Do you have a KM program that is invisible or non-existent? Maybe this is the first time you’ve thought about KM, or maybe you have an existing KM program that is looking to evolve. If you are wondering about the future of your KM program, read on, if not, you can stop now.

Things are shifting at an accelerated pace and also, somehow slowing down; things are chaotic, to say the least. How do we manage that chaos and come through it better off? How do the skills and abilities that exist within the KM Program and those activities help an organisation come through our current, chaotic situation and not just survive, but thrive afterwards, and maybe even during?

How can the KM program help?

KM programs that are successful are about learning, and adapting; they use people, process, and technology to support the organisation in effectively and efficiently using its knowledge and creating new knowledge.

How do those skills apply in this situation, how can the KM program facilitate the successful navigation of the current crisis and help the organisation adapt so that it is ready for what comes after?

What does come after? Do we go back to the way things were? Are things permanently changed?

No one really knows, although lots of people have guesses, and there’s lots of wishful thinking out there. It probably won’t be “business as usual”, but what exactly it will be is anyone’s guess, and depends exactly what happens during this period and how long it goes on.

So, how does the KM program help? What skills and abilities can they share and help others develop that can help.

In my experience, people who are successful in KM are often good at these knowledge culture behaviours:
• sharing openly
• willingness to teach, mentor, coach
• ideas can be freely challenged
• knowledge and ideas can come from other sources (e.g. other departments, organisations, and industries) 
• sharing comes through many different means:  conversations, meetings, processes, best practices, data bases, and questioning

How can these behaviours be taught, if people don’t exhibit them already?

Well, there are lots of different ways people might learn the things that give them the ability to exhibit these behaviours, some of them are learned when we are children (like learning to share) and stick with us, and others are learned and then forgotten as life progresses and evolves. As adults, how do we remember these behaviours or maybe even learn them for the first time?

The best way is to learn through doing, having the experience or insight ourselves, in a safe, supportive environment.

A group of people who often exhibit many of these behaviours and who are experts at working alone, but also collaborating to get things done, when they need to, are artists.

Artists have an attitude of curiosity, passion, confidence, and resilience, which they refine and hone through their artistic practice: perceiving, reflecting, playing, and performing.

KM Programs should be working with HR and management to help develop these skills and abilities in their staff. Why KM? Because it’s about knowledge creation, it’s about sharing and learning: that’s KM.

Learning these skills and applying them to business problems helps solve problems that may have, at one time, seemed intractable. It helps to develop solutions that are new and innovative.

Other businesses are doing this, have learned this already, isn’t it time your organisation did too, so that you can come out of this crisis ready for whatever is next?

Note: If you want to see/read more about what is possible by adopting an artistic attitude and practice, read, “Creative Company” by Dirk Dobiéy and Thomas Köplin. You can find more info and get a copy, here

How your KM Program can help you for life after Coronavirus (COVID-19), part 1

The previous post was about KM should be doing now, at the start of this COVID-19 Apocalypse, this post is how they can help the organisation prepare for life after Coronavirus.

How long is this going to last? No one really knows at this point estimates are anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. Some analysts suggest that we will have periods of tighter controls and looser controls, but first we need to “bend the curve” and stop this exponential growth. Even when a vaccine is developed, testing and then manufacture is going to take many months.

How can KM help moving forward?

In part this depends on whether the organisation sees KM as a “keeper of historic records and events”, i.e. more on the document/information management, lessons learned side of things, or whether they are seen as key enablers of collaboration, sharing, learning, creating new knowledge. Hopefully it’s the latter not the former.

What we know is that there is going to be uncertainty for a while, and we’re not sure what things will look like once we’re on the other side of this. How do we prepare for that?

By being adaptable and self-aware.

These things are ultimately up to the individual, not the organisation, and yet, the organisation can help. In particular HR, KM, and managers all have a role to play in encouraging employees to learn these skills and to become/be self-aware.

How?

Give employees the opportunity to learn, to try things out, to reflect, to ask questions. Wait, that sounds like knowledge management! It also sounds like quality management (plan-do-check-act), trial and error, being agile, and several other modes of learning/being.

Mostly it sounds like encouraging creativity. And what group are known for their creativity?

Artists!

So, what can we learn from artists? (Learning from other disciplines, that sounds like KM, too.)

First artists have an artistic attitude, they are curious, passionate, confident, and resilient. And then they refine and hone these skills through their artistic practice: perceiving, reflecting, playing, and performing.


Pausing for a second, we were all once creative, but our creativity was educated out of us:

On psychological tests of creativity:

Only 5 percent of people 18 and older registered in the “creative” range?

Among 17 year-olds, 10 percent scored “creative.”

But among 5 year olds, more than 90 percent demonstrated the creativity to suggest innovative ways of looking at situations and the ability to dream up new ideas.

Source:
https://ideapod.com/born-creative-geniuses-education-system-dumbs-us-according-nasa-scientists/

So, we were all artists/creative at one time and we’ve unlearned it. What do we do about it?

We develop an art/creativity practice. Except, we are doing it for another reason, we are doing it to re-learn something we lost. We are re-learning so that we become whole again, so that we can apply it in other areas of our life, because it’s been missing. We are doing it to help us be more successful in our careers, to bring us more balance and satisfaction. We are doing it to be more sustainable.

Back to the original question: How can the KM program help?

One of the motivations for doing KM has been about knowledge creation, some organisations have focused on that as a primary reason for their KM or a secondary reason for KM.

Knowledge creation takes space, it takes questioning, it takes trial and error, as well as collaboration and all those other Artistic Attitudes and Practices that were mentioned above.

To give people a sense of that, of what it feels like, what works and what doesn’t in a safe, supported atmosphere is key. So, in this case, we do, in fact, use art/creativity as a metaphor, as a means to an end.

How does it feel to experiment with different art supplies, or different creative modalities, e.g. poetry, music, to name two, although there are lots more? When people have these kinds of experiences, in a safe supportive atmosphere, it gives them confidence and resilience that transfers to other areas of their lives.

KM Programs should be working with HR to facilitate this experience and the building of these skills and abilities. There are benefits to the organisation as well as the individual–it’s a Win-Win.

But, it’s not a straight-line, the accountants will hate it, however, it is necessary if we are going to come out the other side of this and be able to move forward with whatever the future holds for us as organisations and individuals.

Note: If you want to see/read more about what is possible by adopting an artistic attitude and practice, read, “Creative Company” by Dirk Dobiéy and Thomas Köplin. You can find more info and get a copy, here

How not to fail at digital transformation

It is said that digital transformation projects fail up to 95% of the time! [1], I’ve seen slightly lower numbers, but still exceptionally high.

I’m not going to go into the why, the article I linked to above does that, and I will let you read that, what I’m going to tell you is how I implement digital transformation projects successfully, so that you can do it too.

One of the keys is to work across the silos of your organisation, this makes a lot of people very nervous, but it’s the only way to do it and be successful. This means talking to people, involving them, keeping them informed.

Another key is to involve the users. This often gets called design thinking, these days, but design thinking wasn’t something I’d heard of when I first did it 20 years ago, it just seemed to be the right thing to do. I certainly don’t know what would make people’s jobs easier, and reduce their workload, or at least not increase it, so I ask them. I talk to them about their processes, what they call things, how they are organised. The things that worked for them, what didn’t work for them.

Once I get their input I create wireframes or prototypes and validate them with the people I’ve talked to, making modifications where I’ve misunderstood something or not asked enough questions. We often do this 2-3 times until we get it right. This gets call agile, trying and failing, or iteration; again it just seemed to be the right thing to do when I first did it. I was realistic enough to know that I wasn’t an expert in whatever my users were, so if I was going to help them, I was going to need their help–it was a team effort, we were in this together.

Something else that is critical is keeping everyone informed: users, management, other stakeholders. We have regular emails, updates, and meetings as well as documents being posted online for people to access. It takes a lot of communication: A LOT!

I ask questions and ensure alignment. When something doesn’t make sense, I go back to the users, the use cases they had described, the organisation’s vision or strategy, whatever helps me ensure we are moving in the right direction, in the best interests of the people I was working with and the organisation as a whole. If I have conflicting information, we talk about it and make a decision, sometimes, I make the decision, sometimes the team does, whatever keeps us moving towards the goal. The times that I make the decision, I explain my rationale and reasoning, so that people don’t feel excluded, like I have “done it to them”. We are in this together, we only succeed together.

I treat people like equals, with the trust and respect they deserve. They come to trust me, and work with me to achieve our objectives. It is hard. Lots of people don’t like it. Lots of people want a command and control approach, but that’s not going to be successful. We’re in the age of the knowledge worker, and have been for a long time. It demands a different approach than the industrial age.

You have to be passionate, tenacious, and willing to admit you don’t have all the answers but you’ll find out. Success takes leadership, not a place on the hierarchy.

Future Females: Berlin, Thinking creatively & thinking bigger event

Last night (July 17, 2018), I spoke to a group of about 70 energetic, engaged (mostly) women at the Future Females: Berlin, Thinking Creatively & Thinking Bigger event.

What an honour and a privilege to talk to them about creativity and how to increase it’s presence in both our professional and personal lives.

I shared 4 different creativity activities with them, 1 was an improv activity, and the other 3 were drawing, as well as some background and context information about creativity.

I usually speak with much smaller groups, so this was a great learning opportunity for me, but despite my “learning on the job” or maybe because of it, we had a great time, some good discussion, and some fun trying new activities.

Thank you to all who came out and tried something new!

I have posted my slides on Slideshare, if anyone is interested.