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

Reflections on HBR Technology Must Reads, Stitch Fix Case Study

Reference Case Study: Stitch Fix’s CEO on Selling Personal Style to the Mass Market

I’m not going to re-hash the article, you can go read it yourself, that’s why am providing the link, what I am going to do is highlight the things I found interesting, the first two weren’t technology related, but the third one was and the fourth one was more personal.

My first thought was who shops that much and/or needs that many clothes? Now, to be fair, I’ve never been much of a shopper, I typically only buy things when I need to replace something that I’ve worn out. There were a few exceptions to this after I moved to Berlin and realised I’d gotten rid of a few things that I really should have kept, and bought things to replace them, but mostly, I just replace things that have worn out.

My other thought was around the fit/sizing. I have a terrible time finding things that fit the way I want them too, even when I know my measurements and buy according to the sizing chart, so I end up in a store/stores trying things on, who needs the hassle of online shopping and sending stuff back?

But, turning to the technology, that part was interesting, allowing for the fact that I am not even remotely in the target market for such a service. The fact that they have used AI/Machine learning to bring the fashion industry into the 21st century is interesting. It is all about understanding the customer-base/target market and the nuances of the sector and knowing what to do with the data once it’s collected. 

Finally, and more personally, I liked that Katrina Lake, the founder and CEO of Stitch Fix, when she didn’t see anyone else doing anything to address what she perceived (rightly) as an opportunity in the market place, decided to do it herself. This sounds like something I would do, and in fact have done, not that I have started a successful online business, but I have stepped into the void and provided leadership and guidance when there was none; I have done things that I thought “someone else” should be doing/responsible for but they weren’t interested or didn’t perceive the need. 

Those are my thoughts (quick and cursory as they may be) on the second article/case study in the HBR book, “On AI, Analytics, and the New Machine Age”.

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.