It’s Time for Knowledge Management to Evolve

There is no value in knowledge management, the value is in the learning and experience.

When I started out in knowledge management 20+ years ago, I defined knowledge management as the people, processes, and technology that allowed people to have the knowledge they needed when and where they needed it. It encompassed all three of people, process, and technology, not one or two of those things, and technology was an enabler, not the goal. Change management was a significant component as was having a strategy, working cross-functionally, and involving the various users and stakeholders that were involved and affected by what we were doing.

These ideas still hold true, but there has been a significant shift, because over the last 20 years what has become important isn’t finding the knowledge that has been written down and somehow codified, it’s not even about finding the person who knows what you need to know—although again, these are still useful and necessary, they are, however, not enough.

With the pace of change, and the constant evolution of what we know, as well as the uncertainty and, dare I say, chaos, that exists in our lives today—whether work life or personal life, what is necessary for knowledge management is knowing how to learn; knowing how to question; knowing how to discover.

Knowledge is no longer as static as it once was, and it has become increasingly context sensitive. We need to have the confidence to jump into the void and figure out what we need to know. That can, in part, be through referencing explicit knowledge, or finding the tacit knowledge, but it is increasingly through trial and error. Using what’s we know as a launch pad and iteratively discovering what works in our given situation.

Knowledge Management in 2020 is not about big programs and investments in technology, it is about how to take what you know and get started, discovering what you need to know as you go, one step at a time. The investment is smaller, and you’ll get there faster and more sustainably if you adopt these behaviours.

Knowledge management isn’t knowledge management, it’s continuous learning. It’s flexibly pivoting to adjust to a new environment, a new context, a new set of circumstances. It’s not being stymied by change, it’s embracing it. It’s experimenting to learn new behaviours and techniques and transferring those skills to new areas.

We do this through not just knowing, but through doing/making/experiencing, and, most importantly, through playing and engaging both the analytical and the creative.

Transformation Through Creativity

I have 3 courses/programs released into the wild, the theme through all of them is: Transformation Through Creativity. Details follow

1. Transform yourself:
A Creative Pause: mindfulness through art https://coursecraft.net/courses/z9269
Do you crave a pause during the day to re-energise you and bring you focus? A Creative Pause: mindfulness through art gives you that pause. We will lead you through creative activities that will bring you back to the moment and give you that break you need.

2. Transform your meetings:
Creative Activities for Virtual Work
https://coursecraft.net/courses/z921g 
Would you like to learn some ice breakers to improve the experience in your online meetings? “Creative activities for virtual work” will teach you seven ice breakers that will make your meetings more engaging.

3. Transform your organisation:
Applying Creativity to Business
https://www.realisation-of-potential.com/acb/
Applying creativity to business engages the whole person, thus enabling the development of solutions to transform your organisation.

How do we deal with chaos and uncertainty?

Alternative 1: Do nothing, i.e. maintain the status quo, do what we’ve always done and get completely overtaken.


Alternative 2: Do something different. Doing something different might work, it might not, but at least we’re trying and we’re learning (hopefully) while we do it.


So, how do we do something different, when we’ve “always done it that way”? How do we minimise the risk and maximise the outcome?


First, we can ask, what has changed? Why is what we’ve always done not working any more? 

If we’re having trouble thinking outside our box of normality, there are interventions we can try: we can reflect and give ourselves some space, maybe by going for a walk, we can try talking to someone from a different department, company, industry, working with a coach, bringing in an outside facilitator, just to name a few of the possibilities.


If we want to create an organisation that is constantly adapting to our ever changing world, we need to enable continuous learning. 


Continuous learning allows people to try and fail and adapt their approach. It gives them the flexibly and resilience deal with change and uncertainty. To enable continuous learning we need to give people the tools, and I don’t mean the technology, I mean the processes, and especially the skills/know-how. We need to help people (regardless of their position/role) feel confident asking questions, challenging the status quo, admitting they don’t know the answer, to collaborate and work together towards a common goal. We have to help them bounce back when something hasn’t gone as planned, and give them the space and time to try again, incorporating what they’ve learned into their next attempt.

We can create an organisation that is flexible, purposeful, that allows people the freedom to find the right solution, if we have the courage to enable it, to let go of the need to control everything. We need to have the courage to trust the people we’ve hired and trust ourselves that giving up control will take us to new levels of achievement.

Creative Activities for Virtual Meetings, part 2

Today, April 30, 2020, was the last day for the mini-online workshops I’ve been hosting over the last 7 weeks.

The first two-weeks was an experiment to see if the ideas were useful/helpful for people, they were and so I continued.

Unfortunately, the attendance in the second series wasn’t what it was in the first 2-3 weeks, and most days no one showed up, although I continued to have people telling me they were watching the videos (which YouTube stats confirmed), finding the information helpful, and that they wanted to come but couldn’t make it work in their schedule.

For me, the series was a good learning experience, it confirmed that adding creative activities to work situations was useful and interesting for people, I got to meet some new people, and learn about things going on in other parts of the world. And, it helped me get through the first few weeks of lockdown and things being turned upside down. I’ve worked remotely for 20+ years, but having most of the rest of the world also working remotely was new, and chaotic.

I’m working with a couple of colleagues to create a new, bigger program of how to apply creativity to business, so watch this space and my social media accounts for details in the coming weeks, or get in touch directly for a sneak-peak.

Until then, the full set of videos is on my Youtube channel, here and if you would like the slide deck, feel free to get in touch with me.

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 is your KM Program Helping you Through the Chaos of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Do you see your KM program as a key partner in your strategy to deal with the chaos of Coronavirus or just an extra, a nice to have, a luxury, and not a serious component of your business and emergency preparedness strategies?

If you see them as a key partner, are they helping you with disaster planning/emergency preparedness? Are they making sure everyone has access to the same knowledge and information when they are working from home as when they are in the office?

Are they making sure people know how to use the tools at their disposal for collaboration, knowledge creation, and sharing?

Are they helping you map key knowledge resources within your organisation?

Are they making sure the knowledge that can be documented is? How about retention, are they helping you make sure that knowledge is retained and protected?

Are they helping you prepare for the time in the future, when all of this is a distant memory in a couple of years. The future of work is here, KM can take a lead and help facilitate the change.

Now is the time to be engaging KM in these activities, not later, not “when things calm down”, now. There is no good time, start now, take the first step now.

Sustainable Leadership

At the end of February 2020, I did two talks on Sustainable Leadership. The first was with Janus Boye from Boye Company, you can find his blog post and a link to the recording and slides here.

The second was with Glenn Behenna for him MBA class. In that video Glenn interviewed me about my thoughts and experience with sustainability and leadership. Glenn has graciously allowed me to share the recording of that interview with you. You can find it on my YouTube channel, here.