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.

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.

Feedback on a Workshop Experience

I’m working on some new marketing/positioning materials and going through the quotes etc. that I have from clients over the years and came across this one from a workshop I did a couple of years ago with a couple of colleagues, although the feedback is directly about me/my role. The workshop was about bringing artistic principles to the workplace and combined artistic activities with more typical (and expected) business activities. The participant wishes to remain anonymous, and I have edited the person’s words for clarity, but otherwise the words are theirs.

“This was one of the funniest workshops that I have ever attended…what I can say though, is two things…

“I had…I am a very curious person, so even prior to the workshop I had [wondered] who is that Stephanie Barnes? I had found her website and looked at some of her art because I wanted to know who is that person, right? I certainly intensified that quite a bit after the event, because I thought this really very interesting, but what else does she do? I need to look at some of her paintings more closely.

“The second thing that happened was that I was really very, very impressed with the way that Stephanie conducted this workshop and how she actually managed, it was magical, but anyway, she managed to make us as in also me, actually paint, I have it sitting at home. Me, I would normally say, ‘aaahhhh’ before I do something silly or stupid or you know…but without having to feel funny about it, just let it evolve, just let it naturally happen, or whatever. I don’t really know how all that worked and came into being, but it was certainly her way. And it was secondly, that the workshop was prepared really well, we had all these facilities that you could think of to become creative, all sorts of crayons, acrylic colours, and all sorts of tools that you could think of and we were treated as (and this is also something I appreciated very much) we were treated like artists ourselves. Like, you know, just get on with it, just do it. And never-the-less, we were always invited to ask for help, or tips, advice…so that was the workshop.”

I am so glad I found these comments, they made me smile and remember why it is I do what I do. I am also grateful that this workshop participant took the time to share these thoughts.

Taking Your KM Program to the Next Level

What is KM about?

It depends on who you ask and what their experience is with it. Some people/organisations focus on technology, some on people, some on process, a very few recognise that it needs to be a balance among the three, and for good measure also create a strategy to support their plans and ideas and to ensure alignment with the organisation.

But beyond that, what is knowledge management about? Why do we/our organisations do it? 

For many organisations and people the answer, has to do with learning, and being able to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. I always liked to say it’s about giving people the knowledge they need to do their jobs, whatever form that knowledge took. But, what if it’s not quite that easy, especially as jobs, like life, are becoming ever more complex?

It’s really not enough to give people a database or app or platform to share knowledge. It’s not enough to implement a lessons learned process, or communities of practice. All good and noble pursuits, but what if that’s not enough to deal with the complexity?

The World Economic Forum’s most recent Future of Jobs Report, a summary of which you can read here, says we need to be life long learners. It also lists the top 3 skills that are growing in need/importance:

  1. Analytical thinking, and innovation
  2. Active learning, and learning strategies
  3. Creativity, originality, and initiative

What struck me most about the #1 item on that list, is that is is both analytical and creative, it requires “both sides of your brain” (yes, I know that we have found that that’s not physically how the brain actually works, but I like the metaphor of it, so I’m using it anyway). But so for so many people their creativity was educated and socialised right out of them. They needed to get good marks in school, do well at their jobs, etc. and so in order to fit in they learned to regurgitate facts and think like everyone else.

However, in today’s world, and in the world that is quickly coming at us, regurgitating facts and doing what we’re told, isn’t enough, doing the “same old, same old” isn’t enough. It’s time to look at things differently, to learn new ways of doing things, to re-learn our lost creativity. KM programs should be supporting that, after-all they are about organisational learning, creating new knowledge (which is innovation, by the way).

And, one of the best things about focusing on creativity and innovation is, people understand what those terms mean, no one understands what knowledge management is. Another great thing about creativity and innovation, is that there is lots of research that supports its importance to people and the workplace, something that can’t be said about KM (mostly because KM can’t decide what it is, not that it’s not useful).

So, for all you KM people out there, don’t you want to take your KM activities to the next level of organisational learning? Help make your organisations innovative and creative? Help them meet the challenges of the age we live in?

Let’s talk about helping people re-learn their creativity!

This is only one way to re-learn creativity, there are lots more….

Creativity and Innovation for KM Programs

If you know me and/or have been following this blog, you know that since mid-July I have shifted my focus to creativity and innovation, something that I have been working on for the last six or more years.

As I have shifted focus I have reached out to some of you in my KM network, because I wanted to share the news with you and renew our connection. I also asked for a favour of some feedback on what I was doing or if you knew anyone who might be interested in what I’m doing. Most of you were happy to help, and a few of you admitted that you couldn’t, which was a perfectly acceptable answer.

Anyway, with that first round of feedback and conversations, I realised that I wasn’t doing a good job of conveying my excitement over my shift, and why I thought I was particularly relevant for KM programs. I’ve taken a few weeks to reflect on how to do this better and received some coaching about how to approach it and have developed a short slide deck, which you can see below.

I’d appreciate it if you have a couple of minutes (there are only 6 slides), to take a look at it and let me know what you think.

Thanks!