About Ewen Le Borgne

Relentless optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. 10 years of experience learning / KM, comms, innovation for change in cooperation & development. I cherish empowerment. Based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Flap your wings for the ‘butterfly revolution’ of learning and change


A simple idea: change yourself and you might see entire systems transform.

Change (Peter Downsbrough, 2011)

Aren’t we all butterflies fluttering our wings somewhere and causing tsunamis on the other side of the world? We are connected, and global change starts with individual change. Or perhaps it doesn’t, but what is certain is that without individual change we won’t see systemic change…

So why do we keep chasing the unicorns of this world in such simplistic ways? We want to achieve scaling up, sustainability, social learning, systemic change…but we don’t ask ourselves the right questions. All these unicorns won’t materialise if organisations are not willing and capable of operating together, and organisations won’t manage that if their own staff – individually – are not capable of learning by themselves, of being intentional about the change they want to see happen, of sharing with and caring for others, of connecting deeply. Exactly like the unit 0 of civilisation is the family, the unit 0 of learning and change is ourselves as individuals.

One of the concepts that has taken me recently is ‘process literacy': the capacity of people to go beyond ‘what has to be done‘ to also understand the fine processes that happen behind those objectives – what process documentation, systematization and capitalisation are trying to do. Being ‘process literate’ means that you constantly pay attention to the channels that are most appropriate to understand the issue you are contemplating. It means you can talk content (dive deep) and connect it with relevant fields and ideas (go wide).

It is through that process literacy lens that a lot of the questions we are grappling with will actually reveal some useful angles. Someone I just met is trying to unpack ‘knowledge management in value chains‘ and it turns out there is very little at the junction of these two fields, but she is adamant that it is in documenting the process of (not) doing KM in value chains that we will find ways to improve knowledge creation, sharing and use in those value chains. Spot on!

So, while social learning remains great, we need to nurture and cultivate that process literacy within ourselves. Social learning, by the way, is also understood by some as individual learning connected – via social media – to others (see the presentation below in its attempt to manage information through that type of social learning).

But the lesson is the same: learning, sharing, change, better livelihoods lives, they all start with each and everyone of us. So get ready to shed your caterpillar skin for the learning and change revolution to happen: we need all butterlies around to flap their wings.

Related posts:

KM… the extra mile that saves (y)our time


What is it that makes knowledge management worthwhile? A lot of things I’m tempted to say as a knowledge manager, but there’s one important benefit that you cannot ignore: it saves time. And so it saves money.

KM... the Time Jumper? (Credits: Hartwig HKD / FlickR)

KM… the Time Jumper? (Credits: Hartwig HKD / FlickR)

Whether applied at an individual level (personal knowledge mastery), within an organization or in a network, KM is the extra mile that saves your time.

It saves time because it goes beyond the immediate needs of one person in one situation at one time in one place, to extract generic lessons that people can use, in other places or at other times.

In doing so, KM helps people identify relevant experiences, information, knowledge that they need to solve problems and it even helps them connect with the people that can help them fully understand or address the puzzle they’re facing.

But KM does require a little extra mile.

Spontaneously, a good KMer encountering a problem will not just try and fix it. S/he will record it, bring it to the attention of others concerned with it, and also document the way that problem was solved, or the gap in policies and processes that was revealed in the process. It would be much easier to just fix the problem and get on with it.

And that extra ‘KM’ mile may not always come in handy:

  • Looking back at what past information, experience or expertise you can find at hand to understand an issue is not something most of us like doing;
  • Sharing, alerting others about some specific information takes time;
  • Documenting the process needs tedious consistency;
  • Involving others in the work you do (because you ) adds a lot of complexity to ‘fixing an issue';
  • Updating guidelines, good, bad or best practices requires discipline;
  • And you don’t even have a guarantee that others will find your information, understand it well enough, or use it…

So, at least initially, KM takes some time off you… but hey, if that extra mile helps others facing similar issues (or yourself the next time you are in that situation), what the heck, it’s worth it! If you believe in KM, you share because you care. Pay it forward!

Just make sure you use the most appropriate places to share, document, update that critical information. If you use the right arenas, then you’re sure to help others save time, in space or… time…

In addition, at some point you just develop the habit of routinely going that extra mile and hardly feel the time it takes anymore. You are entering the ‘effortless helping’ phase that blesses all good KMers.

So, even if KM takes that little extra mile, as it saves your time, keep your smile (and just do it)…

Related blog posts:

Interview with Krishan Bheenick (CTA) – KM, systems thinking and the backlash of knowledge sharing


Following the global consultation of CIARD (Coherence in Information about Agricultural Research for Development) in May 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Krishan Bheenick, Senior programme coordinator knowledge management at CTA (Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation) on his take about KM and where it’s headed.

Here is the transcript of that interview.

Krishan Bheenick, Senior programme coordinator knowledge management at CTA (Credits - FARA)

Krishan Bheenick, Senior programme coordinator knowledge management at CTA (Credits – FARA)

What is your personal story with KM?

I am not an expert in KM. My background is in agricultural science and in simulation / modeling. I used to teach at the University of Mauritius. These experiences helped me, forced me to have a holistic approach. I left the world of academia and wanted to get closer to policy-makers to have more influence.

I landed in the field of conceptualizing information systems – following the systems approach which I’m now transposing to information science – at national level. I developed a proposal for a national information system in Mauritius, vetted by FAO’s Investment Centre, but which was never financed. After that I ended up working at SADC (the Southern African Development Community) where I was asked to facilitate capacity strengthening in information management at regional level. What is required at national and at regional level brings up this systems approach: What works at regional level can be adapted at national level. Technology itself is just a way to implement information flows across the scale.

That’s the baggage I came with at CTA. The focus of CTA is to build capacity in information, communication and knowledge management (ICKM). I feel comfortable with that but my position mentions ‘knowledge management’ while I have a lot of questions about KM. I don’t mind this challenge because it forces me to go beyond what I’ve worked with the last years and to differentiate what is KM as opposed to what we used to do in information and communication management.

How is KM conceptualized and implemented in CTA?

KM at CTA is about how ICKM is interrelated. We started using ‘ICKM’ in the SADC region when thinking about developing regional info systems. During one of our regional workshops, we compared what is a communication strategy, an information management (IM) strategy and a knowledge management strategy. We realized that they’re all interrelated and intertwined and there are different entry points to ICKM.

I try and help people define that entry point to the process – even if they don’t know much about it – and to ensure they have some components to help improve the implementation of the communication strategy, strengthen information systems through an information management strategy and ultimately aim at developing a KM strategy focusing on these two elements.

At the same time, it’s important to get policy-makers to realize that even though they don’t call some procedures, processes, policies as KM they are practicing it. One of the motivating factors (and selling points to drive the process) is to get them to realize that they’re already putting KM into practice. That is currently more or less the CTA perspective.

In terms of interventions, our approach at CTA has been to tackle interventions in ICKM at whatever level the request is coming from e.g. groups of policy-makers who would like to have a web space for discussion, developing a simple website including some collaborative networking functions and forums (e.g. as simple as Dgroups). Whatever the request, we respond to it as it’s been put to us, in order to get engagement in the process. Then we follow up with sensitization to the whole spectrum of ICKM.

Some organisations would like to recognize the need to develop a strategy (whether on communication, information or knowledge management). CTA can help. We are running some pilots in ICM strategy development.

My colleague in KM at CTA, Chris Addison, has been working with farmer organisations who wanted platforms for collaboration. We’ve been working with communication officers to help communicate among sub-regional farmer organisations under the umbrella of one regional block.

Chris and I are addressing the needs for KM applying two different approaches, one from a mechanistic perspective back up and the other from the strategic perspective all the way down to technical. In the end we hope to come up with a framework that links strategic with technical aspects of KM. That’s the process we’re interested in and also discovering what KM is all about.

I don’t know enough about KM to say I’m an expert. I’m a learner, I understand some principles and I apply these principles in my job to respond to requests.

Where are your current interests and next steps with KM at CTA?

There’s a lot of talk about knowledge sharing (KS) and when people talk about KM a lot of illustrations come from KS. But is KS by itself sufficient to represent KM? I feel that the community is talking less and less about IM because we’ve started getting interested by the process. Has KS replaced IM?

Are we, while focusing on KS, distracting ourselves away from KM perspectives – where KM is left to a very intra-organisational approach? The very active promotion of KS approaches makes people think that it’s the same as KM.

It’s time to remind ourselves how KM is applied at a larger perspective than organizational e.g. community-wide. It’s my wish to explore that with colleagues in the KM field.

It’s my wish to explore that with colleagues in the KM field.

Where do you think the field of KM is headed and how do you look at it?

My wish would be to see that KM takes a step back for a better overview, revisits what’s been done in the field of KS where a lot of people are equating KS with KM. We should not lose the red thread. It’s important to show how KS is effective for KM but it’s not necessarily addressing management aspects. We’re not able to capture the essence of how KS is operating in KM.

What is the feedback that you get from KS: is that the whole of KM or KS in duplex? How is the duplex KS ending up becoming KM?

The principle of KM about documentation, reflection and sharing reflection and building upon previous reflection is to me a good KM practice. We can’t all keep sharing our thoughts and  we need sometimes to stop, take stock, learn and acknowledge what we’ve learnt and put those out as resources, which is where I appreciate what the KM4Dev community does with the KM4Dev wiki (although if I looked closely at that I might offer a critique of it).

Now that we have a KM scan ready to be applied. We’ll test it at small scale and if it works at that scale we’d like to share it with more people so that we get an instrument that is robust enough to take our snapshots of KM in the organization.

What networks, publications, resources would you recommend discovering to know more about what matters (to you) in KM?

Ark KM published a very expensive book last year ‘KM in organisations’. The Table of Contents was available and when I read that I realized that our thoughts about the state of KM in Agricultural & Rural Development, during a consultation last year, were very well reflected in that book. I would love to see whether CTA could approach publishing houses to come up with a book on KM in development that we could launch as part of their own series, maybe with the KM4Dev community or the agricultural and rural development community. If they see this as corporate social responsibility we’d be fine with it.

There was also an IDRC / SAGE publication (in India) about ‘transforming knowledge’ (2011). It’s a good reader in terms of how all the components fit together, from the perspective of how results of research are being translated out there. I would’ve liked to see something similar but looking at KM more broadly.

Finally, ‘Here comes everybody: the power of organising without organisations’ (by Clay Shirky): I like his analysis and with this you wonder how KM fits in the innovation systems. Personally I’ve followed systems thinking since I have been exposed to it and I’m applying it in my life.

Related blog posts:

With KM, life, it’s all in the attitude, so ‘JUST DO IT’ (Nike does it)


If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it (Mary Engelbreit)

I’ve been running for over three years now, taking part to my first ever Great Ethiopian Run this year this year, errr this month even! Now, I used to hate running. Even the idea, but more so the practice. I love it now, though! I’ve turned into one of these running freaks that Nike was warning me against in my not-so-healthy years.

Whether you like running or not, whether you like Nike or not is beyond the point. Nike’s point though, is on the point: JUST DO IT. And find your greatness doing it. That’s attitude. I’m almost tempted to say it’s actually more about ACTitude.

Be pro-active, find your greatness, inspire others. Just do it! (Credits: Nike)

Be pro-active, find your greatness, inspire others. Just do it! (Credits: Nike)

In KM, so much depends on your attitude – as a knowledge manager, but also as just anyone dealing with information, knowledge, learning etc. Your attitude dictates your actions, and your thinking about them.

No one else will find and filter the information you need.

No one else will share your knowledge with people that can do something with it.

No one else will learn for you and help others learn through you.

You’ve just gotta do it. All. By. Yourself. 

So on the negative side, stop the victim act: stop keeping confused, nagging in 2001 ways that you were not informed, that you were not involved, that you didn’t have the time, that you were not given the authority to do what needed to be done. Just move your @ss and bloody do it! Your wagging finger at all the wrongs of the world will not change them. Your sticking your head up and your lifting arms to change what can be will!

So, rather than wait for the shit to hit the fan, use your brain, your heart, your two feet (remember the law of the two feet, Open Space style?), get up, become a leader, and inspire others and happy-go-lucky do it! It may not be easy, but it’s 100% worth it!

And since there’s much shit to react to and do something about, I leave you with the inviting words of The Roots because “Somebody’s gotta do it”…

Related blog posts:

What are you waiting for? Become a knowledge manager NOW!


Suffering from email overload?

Spending too much time finding information you need?

Feeling isolated and need to meet new people?

Annoyed by the fact you may be reinventing the wheel a little all too often?

Stuck in old habits and interested in new ways of working?

Want to work more smartly and get more out of your time?

KM might make you happier and wiser (Credits: Happy Buddha by Doug Wheller / FlickR)

KM might make you happier and wiser (Credits: Happy Buddha by Doug Wheller / FlickR)

Pick yours, but there are many good reasons to become a knowledge manager. Here and now!

Indeed, as illustrated in various writings, including the recent ‘7 habits of successful knowledge managers‘, here are some of the direct and indirect benefits to becoming a knowledge manager:

Direct benefits:

Indirect benefits:

Well, enjoying all the above may not be that automatic, but really chances are you will reap a lot of these.

So the next question is: when will you become a knowledge manager?

And the question after that: Will you move away from the KM field after that? That’s what seems to happen to a lot of KM folks…

Related blog posts:

 

Open access; open facilitation: One week, two good ideas


Ewen Le Borgne:

Why facilitation and open access matter for ILRI, and for a great many other people, and what trends for ‘open facilitation’ and open KM are on the horizon…

Originally posted on Maarifa - Communications and Knowledge Management:

This week is ‘Open Access Week‘ with lots of activities happening worldwide. A good week to celebrate the freedom of information to circulate.

This week is also ‘International Facilitation Week‘; also a good opportunity to wonder how open facilitation helps knowledge circulate just as openly…

International Facilitation Week hosts chat events (credit: Martin Gilbraith / IAF)

The International Facilitation Week hosts various chat events (credit: Martin Gilbraith / IAF)

Open access – let information circulate

In a scientific organization such as ILRI, information is key. As it is the cornerstone of evidence that is generated by sound scientific research, and it is hopefully used to inform discourses, behaviours, policies, and further research.

Open (Access) is part and parcel of the communication and knowledge management work done by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), from providing access to open journals (and more recently welcoming the Knowledge Management for Development Journal back into Open Access), publishing open journal articles

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MY time for YOUR content? Make it short, or make it mine!


The effect of social media (and some other things) on us... Are we all going to suffer from ADHD? (Credits: AssistedLivingToday)

The effect of social media (and some other things) on us… Are we all going to suffer from ADHD? (Credits: AssistedLivingToday)

This has got to be one of the KM evergreens of the Big Data Deluge age: how to synthesise ideas in the best (quickest?) possible way – for others to find, absorb and enjoy them.

Because, let’s face it:

We’re all time-starved…

We’re all shortening our attention span by the day – hmmm, what are we talking about here? Sorry gotta move on to my next appointment…

We’re all ever more connected using social media, interactive devices, networked softwares, networking apps, and even good old fashioned face-to-face events etc…

So we’re all suffering from filter failure, ever more congested with information coming our way from all these online and offline (human) connections – even if social media (and particularly Twitter in my case) help us filter that information.

One side of that coin is thus how we filter information – that’s the demand side.

The supply side is about adopting a good information synthesis routine and transmission etiquette to make it easier for others to find, filter and factor information – that’s what I’m talking about here, in relation with making knowledge travel.

This ties in nicely with a recent post from ever-excellent Duncan Green’s ‘From Poverty to Power‘ blog, about ensuring people read research reports, where the author lists all sorts of research outputs that could nicely complement the release of any report that ought to be read and acted upon…

The issue: people have to find that information that you’ve come up with, but they’re also flooded in information processing armageddon, so what to do?

The antidote

Sort information processing out by acting on three different dimensions of information creation and sharing:

  1. The content itself (the data)
  2. The forms, channels and spaces you use to convey that content into information
  3. The environment in which you get people to find and use that information (the knowledge ecology around you)…

1. On the content itself:

  • Don’t compromise with quality, as it’s what builds your name and the long term interest others may have in what you’re saying, writing and doing…
  • Be genuine – it makes your content stand out as uniquely interesting. It’s like a good quality arthouse movie and its distinctly subjective touch vs. a bland Hollywood movie that is produced to relate to the lowest common denominator between people around the world…
  • Write concisely. Short sentences; with bullet points; no jargon;
  • Read and edit, read and edit, read and edit. Strip it bare, to the max;
  • Test your content on others, get your formula right, sharpen the angles;
  • Add illustrations and media that reinforce your point – it makes mental images and associations easier. Use smart infographics, creative visualisation and solid information architecture;
  • Write with an active tense, tell a story, reveal the promise and also the action that you ask of your audience;
  • Ask questions, invite people to come back with their experiences and their other questions; pursue a quest together…
  • Tag, meta-describe, curate that content, so you make it more accessible, findable, usable at all times.

And at the end of the day, bullet point #1 matters more than anything else: don’t compromise with quality!

…needless to say, I need to do more of that myself with this blog lol ;)

  1. On the channels & spaces to convey the content:
  • Systematically provide a summary of anything that is longer than two to three pages (we really have shortened our attention span, it’s a pity but it’s the case all the same);
  • Perhaps provide a tweet to link to your content and connect – still wondering why the hell you should be on Twitter?
  • Write a blog post with your personal slant to that content, where you can highlight the stuff that really matters in the content you release;
  • Spend more time formatting, packaging, repurposing content than you have spent producing it – consider creative ways of bringing that content about: whiteboard videos, theatre plays, flash mobs, presentations on a napkin, co-created prototyping etc. etc.
  • Use the channels that the people who should read your stuff use – be it obscure up and coming geeky social media, Twitter, blogs, an organisation’s intranet, emails, discussion lists, face-to-face events…
  • Try a new channel every time, to see how it works…

The point is: creative, purposeful content should be brought out through creative purposeful channels.

  1. On the environment – the knowledge ecology around it:
  • Build trust up, down and onwards… Develop a rapport with people that care about your work (engage, engage, engage, reply to posts, post yourself, reply to comments, make new connections, share resources with them, bring them in your work and conversations, welcome new people and questions, explore together, have fun, have fights, remember what it’s like to be humans together)…
  • The KS toolkit: a good example of making a resource easily findable for others - thanks to the power of the collective

    The KS toolkit: a good example of making a resource easily findable for others – thanks to the power of the collective

    Work the net: Involve ‘connectors’ and mavens (according to Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point), so they can spread the word, influence specific spaces and people and help create a real buzz… and get your network to show the importance of your work and grow the shadow of your jointly co-created content… This is why collective initiatives like the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit are valuable (and read a very interesting conversation about this and re-creating the wheel on Ian Thorpe’s blog and on Nancy White’s blog).

  • Test the speed of your network – not like an internet speed test, but rather to find out if most people that are in your knowledge ecology are rather slow-paced or high-octane. Perhaps they react better to long pieces read at leisure, perhaps they prefer staccato style communication, with elevator pitches and tweets only because they don’t want to spend time absorbing longer pieces.
  • Invite, gather, cherish, process the feedback you receive from the people and groups in your knowledge ecology, and mix it with your next batch of ideas… keep the conversation going like a snowball rolling, each time accumulating more and more matter around yet going faster and faster to the point…

That last bit – the knowledge ecology (oh 2011! Yes, this is another evergreen topic) – really is the crux: you don’t get the ecology right, you don’t get the (political) economy right and no one reads your content, let alone use it.

Taking a step back to look at the bigger picture, we could think of… the Highslow pyramid/hierarchy of information needs… But I’ll come back to this some other time…

So far, does this echo your gut feeling? The signals you’re getting around? Your aspirations? Your practice? Your lessons?

What is the next stage? Where do you strike a balance given the shortage of time you’re also suffering from? What do you see as trends on this horizon?

If you answer, make it quick please, I need to move on to my next task ;)

Related blog posts:

And then it struck me: MUSIC!!!


How could I not think of this one before? How come two overwhelming parts of my brain – learning process facilitation and music – did not connect earlier properly?

While relaxing from the last of three events in a row in Nairobi this week, I ended up chatting with our graphic facilitation duo (check their wonderful work at that event here), one of these artists confessed that of all the elements that make up a perfect event (missing the references for this here – do you know?), he enjoyed our event very much, but really missed one aspect: music!

Now, I’ve been an avid music collector for the past 25 to 30 years, amassing treasured beats, melodies and quirky noise experiments from around the world, across genres, for different moods, on different beats, for different purposes, in different languages, using different instruments. Or none… Over the equivalent of several terabytes of music scattered across various artifacts (CDs, cassettes, mini-discs, MP3s, LPs and EPs etc.)… Such a treasure chest at my hand and I never used it.

Music, the one and only energy and passion driver (Credits: Michael Spencer / FlickR - Friendly Fires @ Future Music Festival 2012 Perth, Arena Joondalup)

Music, the one and only energy and passion driver (Credits: Michael Spencer / FlickR)

Music drives energy and feelings – pretty much just like no other thing. It can dampen the atmosphere and sober everyone out, it can inspire and spark off movement, it can relax and soothe, it can open up hearts. It’s such a powerful current of energy that can be tapped into at all times – among other energy drivers

So it’s also a naturally great knowledge management enabler:

  • It can bring people together – regardless of language and background – and help create trust as it also connects people from their inner self, not just their professional profile;
  • It can create an atmosphere that helps people reflect deeply;
  • It can liberate the energy to drive real action, with a purpose, transcending individuals and appealing to a collective aspiration;
  • It uses our creative facets, rather than relying solely on the intellect…

And these are just some of the many possible uses of music…

On the other hand, using the power of music raises issues of ‘facipulation‘, but on the other hand it’s such a pity not to use this potential. When the graphic facilitator shared his impression, all of a sudden I felt deep down how un-melodious and sadly un-musical that event, and many other events I’ve designed in the past, had been.

Now, some questions to sharpen our sensitivity to music in KM and music in events:

  • What examples do you have of a good use of music to drive action, reflection or otherwise?
  • Where did music actually feel over-intrusive or over-powerful?
  • Where does ‘creating an atmosphere stop’ and when does ‘facipulation’ start?
  • Should music be restricted to multi-participant events or would you recommend using it for normal and small meetings, discussions, work etc.?
  • Should it be limited to the breaks or be the a theme tune in the actual sessions?
  • Do you rely on someone organising the music selection, would you run it as part of facilitation?
  • To what extent do cultural differences play a role in selecting music and to what extent should you use the music you know best, to be authentically true to yourself?
  • What have been interesting tunes or genres that might have proven particularly helpful with knowledge management – if any?

One sure thing is I’ll be using music in my next event(s) and see how it flies… I hope it will work out, because when the music’s over…

Related blog posts:

How social can you be?


Where are human beings in the 'social revolution'? (Credits: intersectionconsulting / FlickR)

Where are human beings in the ‘social revolution’? (Credits: intersectionconsulting / FlickR)

Let me keep this short, and in question style…

Is the internet all about being social? Doesn’t it wear us out? Doesn’t it keep brilliant introverts away from the action? Doesn’t it turn us into online social animals but offline antisocial beasts? Are we not living and going through life increasingly alone?

Also, does ‘going social’ mean we can never be purposeful any more because we always react epidermically, superficially? Like having difficulty finding a balance between thinking and acting?

Is ‘getting social’ our collective goal? Is that the only guarantee that people will share, learn and improve, or are there propositions on the table?

Is the ‘spacing of social moments’ not a useful alternative? Like organising special social happenings, and letting people be the rest of the time? Or can we not resist getting connected but shunning real conversations?

What is better: ever social or ‘intensively social at times’ like the difference between my organisation’s campus in Addis and its ever-social cafe/bar vs. the ‘Last Friday of the month dance bonanza’ of my organisation’s headquarters in Nairobi?

Or is it actually better to keep social at all times to keep sharpening our social sense, one of many aptitudes to develop for the future?

Is the creation of extra, informal ‘social spaces’ (link subject to log in credentials) what it takes for meaningful interactions? Like designing coffee break spaces and other ways of unwinding outside formal event sessions for instance?

Or is the solution not to create safe social spaces for different types of social animals? To encourage dialogue – and sometimes creative conflict – including people that may not otherwise get to speak?

Do we not have different aptitudes to face the ‘social wave’? And if so, do we want to all become more social, or do we want to encourage that difference and the complementarity of minds and souls (like introverts and extroverts) that it might bring about?

Is ‘Social’ the real path to empowerment? Or the golden prison that we’ve been forced to love? Who decides the rules of this game? Who sets the limits?

What are the limits of the social revolution?

How social do we want to be? 

How social can you be?

And really: to do what?

Time to think carefully about this, before we treat ‘getting social’ just like the next email management challenge… with a much bigger hangover upon awakening… You reckon?

Related blog posts:

What an unforgettable KM boss does


Leadership creates leaders, not followers, taking them by the hand (Credits: Growwear / FlickR)

Leadership creates leaders, not followers, taking them by the hand (Credits: Growwear / FlickR)

I am just coming back from Arusha, Tanzania where I was with a colleague who recently shared an article about what unforgettable bosses do. A very useful article, though quite general…

…so a good opportunity to examine what an unforgettable KM boss does.

Much of the rationale for bosses in general (in the linked article above) still applies, of course, to KM bosses. Yet there are specific traits that KM bosses should also be doing to lead by example. All these have to do with the basics of KM of course: conversation, documentation and learning. Oh, and that little something extra…

Social leadership for KM bosses (Credits: Intersection Consulting / FlickR)

Social leadership for KM bosses (Credits: Intersection Consulting / FlickR)

Conversation: Be ultra-social with a purpose

Unforgettable KM bosses should always be approachable and keep their door open. They should always be the first to share information with relevant people, to be active on social media, to ‘be there’, not to be shown, but to be useful.

Their trademark is to connect people and ideas together to create opportunities for improved action etc. and to make it happen, with creativity, engagement, fun and passion. To be ultra-social, but with a purpose…

Leadership and organising one's information for learning needs (Credits: Anselm23 / FlickR)

Leadership and organising one’s information for learning needs (Credits: Anselm23 / FlickR)

Documentation: Let information flow, simply, and for the people

Unforgettable KM bosses are processing information at all times. Strategic and operational. They let it flow and try to simplify it as much as possible.

In order to do this, they organise information management for their team appropriately and consistently, they create routines for themselves and for others, they encourage everyone to get into personal knowledge management to also (among others) get on top of their own information management routines.

In doing this, they have a keen eye for every detail of that info-structure, but they keep people at the centre of it. Information never supersedes people. Because it’s people that get jobs done, not information…

Learning: Increase the ripples of reflection

Unforgettable KM bosses put all their greatest efforts into learning, because that is what makes them and people around them more effective and also happier. So they do some or all of the following:

  • Review actions on a very regular basis with their staff. From simple after action reviews to larger evaluations;
  • Coach their staff to get the best of them, and to facilitate their own learning – as in the apprentice model;
  • Recognise their own mistakes and draw useful lessons from them – and similarly invite their staff to recognise their own mistakes to distill important lessons from them;
  • Organise regular touch-base chats to get additional feedback loops, without dragging on (one could re-engineer the famous Einstein quote to say: “everything should be shared but not everywhere all the time”)…

And that little something extra…

Transformational Leadership (Credits: GeorgeCouros / FlickR)

Transformational Leadership (Credits: GeorgeCouros / FlickR)

In order to be truly memorable, much like other bosses, KM leaders should be able to inspire collective action. This happens if you do the following:

  • Create an informal atmosphere, which is all the more important since KM feeds off trust;
  • Seek perfection but know when to settle with the 80% (or the quick & dirty) is good enough, again keeping people at the centre of attention;
  • Seek the next challenge, always, and motivate your staff by drawing them onto the collective vision, and bringing KM right into that bigger picture. Stimulate your staff to see that bigger picture and that next challenge at all times;

No doubt, quite an ambitious program, including for me as a newly promoted manager… Well that’s my next challenge then ;)

As for employees, we know what the portrait of the modern knowledge worker looks like already…

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