One of my articles on Radical KM has been published by the GfWM (Gesellschaft für Wissensmanagement) or Society for Knowledge Management here in Germany as part of a collection of articles celebrating the 20th Knowledge Camp. You can download the PDF or read it online, here.
I have another version that will be published in 2021, it’s a bit longer, and a third version that I keep adding to, and which is heading towards being a book, although it has a long ways to go.
Artistic Attitude means being curious, passionate/ tenacious, confident, and resilient, while artistic practice embodies perception, reflection, play, and performance. These two ideas combine to be learning from the artistic experience of artists.
Artistic Attitude is about the mindset, and Artistic Practice is about the actual activities of looking at something and considering from all angles/sides, and asking questions, then thinking about it and combining it with what’s know and experimenting through play and ultimately performance. Especially the artistic practice piece looks like iterations of trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t.
Both Artistic Attitude and Artistic Practice also tie into other frameworks and methodologies, like New Work, Agile, and Design Thinking although those frameworks/ methodologies don’t make the connection with learning from artists.
(Note: Creative Company is available in both English and German and I co-edited the English version.)
Why “radical” and not something else? Which definition of radical do I mean?
Radical has three definitions that are all relevant for Radical KM (taken from Oxford Learners Dictionary): 1. relating to the most basic and important parts of something; complete and detailed 2. new, different and likely to have a great effect 3. in favour of extreme and complete political or social change
Why do all three of them apply? Because knowledge management must include all aspects of knowledge (creation, curation, learning, un-learning, re-learning, and sharing), and two of the things that are most important for this are curiosity and critical thinking. Both of these have been lost through the focus on efficiency and effectiveness, and trying to be logical/rational/analytical while ignoring the creative and emotional, but if we are truly going to manage knowledge then we need to re-introduce the creative and emotional: humans are not machines.
Bringing creativity into knowledge management and helping our organisations embrace both the creative and analytical is critical to their success and the individuals who comprise them. That is radical and will have a great effect and will bring about change in ourselves and our organisations.
In addition to the 3 meanings of radical, radical has an interesting origin. From Merriam Webster, we learn that radical originally meant “root“, so by returning creativity to our knowledge processes we can consider that we are returning to our roots. Roots, which were playful and creative: that’s how we learned when we were children. It wasn’t until later, when we went to school, that this learning by doing was replaced by learning by reading. Going back to our roots means re-learning that creativity that has been ignored. Knowledge management has a role to play in that, hence Radical Knowledge Management.
In the spring I completed Scrum Master certification (PSM I), and right now I am taking a design thinking course. I had delayed both of these courses because they describe the way I work anyway, and I couldn’t see the point of wasting time and money on them. So, why am I doing them now? Because they keep coming up in discussions I’m having, so I thought I would see what all the fuss is about.
They’re both frameworks/methodologies, and useful, as far as they go, but what occurred to me as I worked on the Design Thinking course, was that they are both trying to teach people to be more innovative and creative, to be more curious, however, they have taken an analytical approach to innovation and creativity, to monetize it, I suppose. These frameworks have taken the space for reflection out, the space for emotion out, just like our education systems, they have taken the creative out of being creative and made it analytical.
If we really want to be creative, we need to engage the creative parts of our brains, not the parts that do analysis and process work. We need to engage the whole person, not just half, and that’s what Radical KM does. It recognises that the creative has been disengaged and forgotten, and it needs to be re-learned and re-engaged if we are truly going to be creative and change the ways our organisations function.
If we want our organisations to reap the benefits that agile and design thinking promote, we need to make space for true creativity, not just creativity that’s been analysed to death.
What do I mean when I say, “integrate creativity with knowledge management”?
Well, the first thing I want to say is that in some cases I may use business/organisation instead of knowledge management, they are not necessarily interchangeable. I will tend to use knowledge management if it is specific to a knowledge management activity and business/organisation if it’s more general, in practice, they may look very similar and difficult to distinguish. That is due, in part, to the fact that I think knowledge management should be integrated with the business/organisational processes and activities and not something separate.
Okay, now on with the integration of creativity with KM/business/organisation.
Easy to do In the simplest terms, this is doing things like quick creative ice breakers at the beginning of meetings. This includes things like a short meditation, or short drawing or improvisational games. There are all kinds of things that you can do, there are books available that are filled with possibilities, I have also created an online course which has 7-8 different activities in it that you can do online or in person.
Advanced integration Then we move to more advanced activities like setting up a studio in your office and staffing it with someone. The person acts as a catalyst/artist in residence and can facilitate workshops or coach individuals on a one-to-one basis.
Radical KM is not analytical or creative, it’s both.
Much the same way that to be successful with the analytical side (traditional KM), one needs to work from both the bottom and the top of the organisation chart, to be successful with Radical KM, and therefore successful as we move further into the 21st century and the knowledge economy, we have to be successful with creativity as well as the analytical.
If and organisation believes it has the traditional KM side worked out, but needs help with the creative, then, focus on the creative and the integration points with the analytical, to bring them together.
If an organisation has the creative side figured out, then focus on the analytical and the integration points with the creative.
If both sides are immature, then create a strategy that includes both the analytical and creative and their integration points and move forward from there.
Radical KM is the evolution of knowledge management.
Focusing on the division of labour, the compartmentalisation of knowledge, and treating knowledge work like it is part of a production line has led us to a place where work is not sustainable. It is time to do things differently, embracing the things that have been forgotten, ignored, and laid aside. Encouraging people to use all of their creative and analytical skills by incorporating art and artistic practice back into our organisations is a way of moving forward in a sustainable, wholistic way.
Adopting artistic attitudes and practices and integrating them with our knowledge age work, creates: Radical Knowledge Management. It enables the adoption of agile/flexible behaviours and culture change which in turn allows the digital transformation of our organisations, so that they are successful in our knowledge age future.
Knowledge management has a significant role to play in this future, it needs to step up and take-on this leadership role and embrace Radical Knowledge Management.