What are we waiting for to walk our talk (on KM and comms)?


Back on the blog after a three-week pause related to important developments in my personal life. Still floating a bit and my blogging practice needs to be oiled up again, but I have some ideas of stuff to blog about, starting with: Why don’t more KM and comms specialists actually walk their own talk?

The past few weeks at ILRI have been about appraisals, 360 degree feedback – so a lot of retrospective thinking and sense-making – and also among others an important demonstration of what we do in comms/KM.

All good fodder for thought (yes, I am influenced by the livestock agenda of my organisation ;)) What strikes me in this first week back is that despite knowing that it really can be difficult to ‘sell’ KM and comms, many specialists of that field don’t seem to walk their talk – and I’m not specifically talking about my direct colleagues here, but about a lot of more distant colleagues who ‘should be out there’ and just don’t seem to.

  • How many of these specialists are really sharing what their doing on a regular basis – both online and face-to-face – to inform others about their work, to work out loud as John Stepper is convincingly inviting us to work?
  • How many of these specialists are really applying the principles of personal knowledge management (or ‘personal knowledge mastery‘ PKM, as Harold Jarche would have it) to manage their information and sharpen their expertise, knowledge and tap into that of others around them?
  • How many of them (of us!!) not spending adequate time performing a simple ‘after action review‘ (AAR) to ensure we keep learning and adapting?
  • How many of us are really curating our own content and ongoing work to ensure that every signal we come across, as much as possible (since obviously it’s impossible to achieve 100% there), finds its way to appropriate sharing channels and storing repositories, with our own added value to it?
  • And how come so many of us are still struggling with assessing and measuring KM when the field has been around… with the possible exception of Nick Milton’s excellent set of quantified KM stories on Knoco stories?

Many gaps in our own practices, it seems, so how can we expect others, who are not dedicated knowledge workers, to buy into KM and comms and use it for their own benefit? Being an effective knowledge worker requires discipline and dedication, all for the purpose of improving one’s and others’ practices and lives (I share because I care!). It is tiring at times, even exhausting occasionally, but it also continually gives a lot of energy.

This relates to another thought triggered by this first week back at work: a colleague gave a very comprehensive presentation about ILRI comms work. It was quite a complicated job, because the presentation was very broad and covered an incredible amount of items, so this is certainly no criticism on my part – there would have been things to improve anyways, but one thing that struck me was that the presentation seemed to miss an essential element: WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

What's in it for me? If we don't start there, how can we expect others to get interested? (Credits: Gino Zahnd / FlickR)

What’s in it for me? If we don’t start there, how can we expect others to get interested? (Credits: Gino Zahnd / FlickR)

Isn’t the trick, in our field of comms/KM, to start from either the concrete and devilish problems that our colleagues, partners, clients are facing or the opportunities to work more smartly? And then to demonstrate how we do this?

It seemed to me that despite the incredible richness of the presentation, there was a bit too much ‘this is what we do’, ‘this is how it works’, not enough ‘this is why it is going to solve your problems like no other solution’ or ‘this is going to strengthen your excellent work in area xyz’… And ultimately, ‘these are a few steps you might take in that direction…’ Remember Spitfire Communications’ ‘Smart Chart’ and its due emphasis on the ‘ask’?

We know (personal) change is slow, everyone wants others to start it rather than themselves, and it has a lot to do with psychology. So while there’s no need in criticising people for being slow at change, we equally cannot afford to rest on our laurels and not practice what we preach as comms and KM folks.

So, WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP to sharpen your practice? Mine will start with more systematic AARs. Next week. Tomorrow. Now! Still a lot of progress for all of us, me certainly included, to get better at explaining, showing and embodying the power of KM and comms ;) Indeed we need to look at ourselves first, because as Leo Tolstoy excellently put it:

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” (Leo Tolstoy)

What other areas of not walking our talk do you commonly observe in the field of comms/KM? Do you know of similar watchdogs in that field as Shit Facilitators Say (@ShitFacilitator) on Twitter for facilitation heads?

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6 thoughts on “What are we waiting for to walk our talk (on KM and comms)?

  1. Benoit it is. 🙂
    Yes, Julian has very interesting ideas, and I just had the chance to meet him this past week in New York, at one of his workshops on Social Leadership. I do have a blog, that I try to maintain: benoitdavid.wordpress.com. Others I like are listed on the left panel of my blog, which includes yours! Let me know what you think! 🙂

  2. Hey Fanos,

    Thanks for chipping in, and please don’t take the post in a bad way: I really meant to look beyond ILRI, though as much for ILRI as a whole as for you or me, there are many areas for improvement and doing more of a personal AAR is a good thing for each and everyone of us🙂

  3. Thanks for this Ewen! Your post made me reflect on how I do KM/comm and obviously how i am very much one of those specialists who are not walking their talk😦 Will try to do better and do more of AAR my self.

  4. Dear Benoit (David?),

    Thank you for your comment! Yes I agree and there’s a lot of ideas I share with Julian Stodd even though we’ve never met. I have been following his excellent blog for a while now and his work is inspiring. If I was still living in the Netherlands I would have loved to meet him.
    Do you have a blog yourself? Or are there other blogs you follow you would recommend?

    Many thanks again for engaging here and have a nice day!

    Ewen

  5. Quite true. I am unfamiliar with what you guys do, in KM/Comms, but the thread here is very familiar. We all grow better through sharing, it’s clear. It’s about give and take (Adam Grant)… It’s about fostering that sharing. May or may not be interesting to all, but this makes me think of what Julian Stodd has been talking about for some time: community, social leadership, collaboration, learning, formal and informal spaces, etc. Take a look, who knows… http://julianstodd.wordpress.com.

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