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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Killing my darlings: the workshop


Last week I facilitated a really hectic workshop on the fascinating topic of ‘community-based adaptation (to climate change) and resilience in the East and Southern African Drylands‘. A number of us (in the organising team) wondered at a point or another if the workshop was the best venue to create new meaning around this complex topic.

Workshops... are they still any good to express ourselves and create new meaning? (Credits: UNAMID / FlickR)

Workshops… are they still any good to express ourselves and create new meaning? (Credits: UNAMID / FlickR)

Simultaneously – aaah serendipity… – my friend Amanda Harding posted about ‘Reinventing the workshop‘, giving the example of an event (that suspiciously looked like a writeshop, if you ask me though).

Perhaps ‘workshops’ are indeed past their prime?

And since change is here to stay and we have to facilitate it, one of the things we’ll have to do on a regular basis is to kill our darlings, our pet ideas and approaches, our professional hobby horses.

At least review them critically. To see if they still strike a chord in our changing environment.

 

So one of my darlings is about to be killed right here: THE WORKSHOP

Particularly if the objective of ‘THE workshop’ is to carve out new grounds…

The problem of wishy-woshy workshops… Idealistic without a focus…

Amanda points in her post (co-written with Red Plough‘s Terry Clayton) that the workshop has become a ‘meme’. And indeed a number of things are wrong with workshops: They can be terribly designed and end up like orchestrated death-by-Powerpoint anti-learning operas; they may tend to solve everyone’s problems without any clear focus (see meme here); badly facilitated, they can actually contribute to worsening understanding AND relations between people.

But what I’m thinking about here, together with another mate who attended the same workshop last week is this:

Even if well designed, even if well facilitated, have workshops not become a standard solution that we revert back to, in a standard mode and in our comfort zone?

Where is the triple-loop learning here?

It’s not the first time that I have my doubts about workshops and what they can achieve… And one of my conclusions is that despite the best intentions probably the single most important aspect remains building and strengthening connections and relations: the social weaving. But that doesn’t stop me from looking at possible options.

Isn’t there an alternative?

Should we not follow the example of the World Bank’s John Heath (see 12th minute onwards in this excellent videotaped discussion of how The Bank learns) and focus on making time for learning by not jumping on what it is we want to achieve with events or happenings.

 Should we not follow the recommendation to bring diversity and argument at the centre of our deliberations (recommending again this great BBC article about the fallacy of the wisdom of the crowds on this topic) and rather focus on bringing very small groups of very diverse people together, outside their normal work environment, in a sort-of retreat, to explore promising new avenues and explore old topics with fresh pairs of eyes and complementary brains?

Should we not leave our voice and our pens/computers outside to let our other senses guide us in exploring the edges of our consciousness? Creative drawing, using metaphors, miming, observing (e.g. animals), using our body to solicit other avenues of our resourcefulness… ?

Should we not encourage more walking about, more journeys together to reflect on work, more cooking and eating together to explore new surfaces – indeed perhaps a cookshop might be as ground-breaking as a workshop for that matter?

Should we not refuse to bring people together physically and rather bring together virtually a group of people who practice Personal Knowledge Management to explore each other’s questions and musings and build upon that? Could a duo’s journey be not innovative than an entire room full of people?

Hmmm… lots of options hanging up and I’m not sure any of these would bring us further?

And what if the answer is in the workshop itself?

If un-conferences and workshops are sticking around, can we not think of a set of alternatives – which are already tested anyway:

    • Pure Open Space Technology workshops?
    • Other events without a preconceived agenda where perhaps organisers get participants to think about hard/complex questions they want to explore and filter out the most complex/interesting questions in a crowdsourced manner, to go more deeply in the fields concerned?
    • Happenings with staged ‘conversations and interactions for change’ such as this useful idea below…

The bottom line is also that we should clearly understand and distinguish when we want to have a workshop, a workstop (where we would stop working and explore relationships), a talkshop (where people have the entire liberty to explore anything in conversations), a writeshop where the point is to write some outputs etc.

One of the most important questions (from the BOSSY HERALD) to ponder when thinking about organising an event is whether we want to level knowledge or deepen it, and whether we want some output or some interaction. Totally different dynamics are at play in either case…

And all that said, I am still pondering the following, perhaps you have some answers:

  • Can we genuinely ‘explore new grounds’ with a group beyond 40-50 participants?
  • If so, what have been the ingredients, principles or heuristics that worked in your experience and that you would suggest following?
  • If not, what have been the best alternatives to workshops to bring up a totally different experience, that you think could be reproduced in other settings?
  • What have been your best examples of events or happenings that led people to change, not just to learn new ideas and share much? How did IT work?

Phew! Sounds like this reflection might go on for a while still…

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