Wailers, whiners, waiters and winners… Mind your attitude for the knowledge ecosystem!


No revolutionary KM thought today, just some mundane observation, with deep implications for knowledge work and its broader knowledge ecosystem though…

We react differently in front of challenges: we can be silent or vocal about them, and we can do something about them, or we don’t. For agile knowledge management, attitude is certainly one of the key factors that makes or breaks initiatives and feeds the knowledge tree and ecosystem (see graph below and related post) or not.

The knowledge tree & ecosystem (credits; CIAT/CTA?)

The knowledge tree & ecosystem (Credits: CTA)

If we were to imagine a four quadrant graph where the x axis would be about being active or passive about the challenges faced and the y axis would plot complaining about challenges (being vocal about them) vs. keeping silent (and focusing on what needs to be done), one ends up with four possible quadrants:

  • Wailers, who are neither active nor particularly silent about what is going wrong;
  • Whiners, who are not silent but are doing something;
  • Waiters, who are not complaining but are also not doing much;
  • Winners, who are not complaining but are actually doing something.
Wailers, whiners, waiters and winners

Wailers, whiners, waiters and winners

Wailing is of course the worst situation, but is probably a temporary situation or predicament, not a constant… At least I hope so. It could also be a stage that is necessary before bouncing back. But there’s no immediate benefit here!

Whining is just complaining about what is going on. And sometimes it really feels good to complain (just see my series of rants on this blog for instance, ha!). But the problem of whining is that, as I’m learning through my meditation work with Headspace, we tend to add thoughts to the feelings we have and just make the whole situation worse. And whining creates waves of negativity that can have a deep impact. The same whiners are typically the people that want you to change. And yes, you can also be a passive whiner, but then in my typology you’d just be a wailer – and not the musical type, Jah!

Waiting can be a good strategy sometimes, sitting it all out, letting things simmer to see some crucial signs emerge, and at least it’s not a situation where frustration is vocalized, but it also means little action emerges. Again, good for a time, but mostly to meditate (which about being actively conscious) but limited after a while. And if nothing happens, it means it’s probably time for action.

Winning is the combination of attitude and action and is what a knowledge ecosystem requires to change more deeply or rapidly. It’s that attitude that inspires change. Bouncing back, rebounding up all the time, taking adversity as an opportunity to change and improve – even though it’s difficult – and neither boasting about it nor complaining about the problems. Easier said than done, for sure, but worth remembering.

Think about it when you’re struggling in your next agile KM move. It takes just a bit of silence, a lot of action and some role modelling. And yes, meditation helps 🙂

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One thought on “Wailers, whiners, waiters and winners… Mind your attitude for the knowledge ecosystem!

  1. Hi Ewen, the KM ecosystem is totally from CTA. We use the model for the KM scan of the Pan-African Bean Alliance PABRA. We have slighlty adapted a survey that encompasses the aspects of KM that the “ecosystem” suggests. Country reps of the network completed the survey. In an upcoming network workshop we will analyze the results and use a ToC for planning.

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