About Ewen Le Borgne

Relentless optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. 12 years of experience learning / KM, comms, innovation for change in cooperation & development. I cherish empowerment. Based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Videos: What is KM/Why KM? Taking stock


Knowledge... and knowledge management saw the light (Credits: Iqbal Osman / FlickR)

Knowledge… and knowledge management saw the light (Credits: Iqbal Osman / FlickR)

It was about time!

After a successful series of posts about ‘facilitation videos‘, a A visual tour of KM and illustrating common challenges and opportunities of Knowledge management in cartoons, I was meant to highlight some videos about ‘what is knowledge management’ and ‘why bother?’.

Tadaa! Now job done. And done after googling for these videos, since I only knew a handful of videos about KM.

So hereby I have selected a few vids that in my -totally subjective- view are more worth your while than others. I’ve also added in a second list the contenders that were easy to find when googling ‘KM video’. Both lists are ordered from shortest to longest video length, so you can decide how much time you have. I’ve provided a quick description, pros and cons and my biased rating about them. I hope you enjoy this selection, and please let me know what videos about ‘what is/why KM’ you personally like that are missing here, so I can review and perhaps add them here 🙂

The toppers’ selection

KM in brief (KMPlus Consulting, April 2015 – 1’39”)

This animated video emphasises particularly the knowledge retention aspect of KM for commercial companies which then face either hiring inexperienced staff or expensive experienced staff.

Pros: Good visuals, good introduction to the knowledge retention issue. Short thus easy-to-absorb video. Provides some examples.

Cons: Too narrow a scope. Very corporate-focused. Not a good introduction to ‘KM’ in general. 

It’s a neat and well done little video but very narrow in terms of the scope of KM. It seems to be part of a series covering other KM challenges/opportunities (e.g. see this video on communities of practice) which is a good thing – but the title here remains misleading.

My rating: 6/10

What is knowledge management (November 2010 – 2’40”)

Chris Collison (co-author of ‘learning to fly’ – one of the bibles of this discipline) is one of the KM pundits among the people who shot such videos. His definition looks at the family of fields related to KM, e.g. learning, network, social media, the culture of an organisation etc.

Pros: Collison touches upon some of the fundamental aspects of KM and has a very learning-centric approach to it which resonates strongly with me. I enjoyed hearing the excitement he feels about KM.

Cons: The audio quality is not great.

The subjective quality of this video and the good contents covered make it a good intro video to KM, despite the fact it’s visually quite ‘bare’.

My rating: 7/10

Knowledge management (Deloitte Belgium, December 2015 – 3’01”)

This Deloitte video about KM introduces the Deloitte approach to KM in 6 elements and zooms in on some specific tools that help deploy it in an organisation.

Pros: Useful look at 6 areas important to any KM initiative (content, processes, strategy etc.); very good audio quality.

Cons: The tour of all the areas starts with the tools and zooms in on those, giving a false importance to what appears to be perhaps the easiest aspect of KM (do I sense tool obsession here?). Very much based on ‘organisations’ not KM in networks or across multi-stakeholder processes.

Overall, the video is ok but the key message’s over-emphasis on tools is risky, especially for people who are discovering KM for the first time and are bound to fall in that trap already.

My rating: 5.5/10

Why should you be interested in Knowledge Management today? (K3Cubed, December 2012 – 3’06”)

David Griffiths is a regular KM blogger with his K3Cubed website. This video emphasises the complexity of the environment and dealing with the signals that come from this complex environment as well as how KM helps respond to these signals and develop a resilient organisation.

Pros: The natural emphasis on resilience and complexity is great, it shows the very dynamic nature of KM and its relation to innovation.

Cons: There is in this video not a great deal of details about what KM looks like in practice. The audio quality is not great. 

The messages of the video are in subtle ways quite distinct from other KM videos of this lot and touch upon the difficult side of KM. I like this approach, even though it may not be the most straightforward introduction to KM here (compared with other videos in the selection).

My rating: 7/10

BKBC animation introducing knowledge management (BKBC, August 2015 – 3’28”)

This whiteboard video (from the UK’s National Health System) tracks back the history, the purpose and nature of KM, what people can do with it and what can one expect out of it – whether with large or scarce resources.

Pros: By far the most visually appealing video in this selection – as is the nature of most whiteboard videos – and it touches upon many of the key features of KM. It also offers questions, effectively ‘walking the talk’ about KM. Importantly it stresses the fact that ‘KM already happens anyway‘.

Cons: The language is still referring to knowledge as a commodity. And of course, there could be other elements brought into this (e.g. apprenticeship, knowledge retention etc.) but that applies to all other videos here.

This is one of the best videos in this selection (in my view) – a great starting point if you want to have a comprehensive overview of KM.

My rating: 9/10

Knowledge management introduction (Nick Milton, August 2011 – 4’01”)

Nick Milton is probably THE most prolific writer about KM. He posts on a daily basis on his Knoco blog. Unlike most selected videos here, this one is not with the author’s voice-over. It’s a dynamic photo-presentation with backgroung music.

Pros: The presentation touches upon all key challenges of KM in a very clear way and it’s debunking a few KM myths (e.g. it’s all about ICT tools and data); It offers some examples of real return on investment. The author focuses on 5 KM benefit areas: innovation, collaboration, learning from experience, knowledge retention, rapid on-boarding.

Cons: The animations are a little annoying, as is the music. And while the video focuses on the human aspect, this video could have had a more human feeling to it.

All in all, though, a great clear video to introduce KM!

My rating: 8/10

Knowledge management – in 5 minutes or less (Knowledge MT, February 2017, 4’46”)

This video is one of a series by KnowledgeMT and it offers a broad understanding of what KM is, in its various aspects.

Pros: The welcome focus on values and intuition, and the emphasis on the fact that expert knowledge cannot be ‘dumped’ into a repository etc., the agreement that failures are ok; the clear difference between KM and information management; the summary at the end and its emphasis on capitalising upon knowledge assets.

Cons: The language used is still about ‘knowledge transfer’; there is no mention about some of the incentives for people (and management); visuals used are not really great. The audio quality could be sharper.

Overall quite a good video, which could have been even stronger on either the narrative or the visual side, but the content is straight and delivered clearly.

My rating: 7.5/10

Silvia Capezzuoli talks about KM (IMA, March 2017 – 5’03”)

This video gives a narrative tour of all the issues that KM tackles directly or indirectly, particularly in development cooperation. It is a more recent video than most in this selection.

ProsA very good tour of the different aspects of KM, narrated in an interesting way, and with particular emphasis on the ‘fluid’ elements of KM ie. learning, innovation etc. without seeming to fall into the SECI model trap that most other videos have gone by; it encourages starting from what is there already; and focusing on the culture of sharing and learning, joining the dots etc.

Cons: It’s a development cooperation-focused approach so may not resonate with corporate KM folks.

Overall, one of the strongest videos from this lot and a very good, thorough understanding of where KM is at in 2017. A great introduction and in my top 3 here along with the whiteboard video and the Milton one.

My rating: 8/10.

Why knowledge management (Antoine Tawa, January 2011 – 5’06”)

A personal (read: not corporate) video, this one focuses, like many of these selected videos, much on tacit/explicit knowledge and the SECI model.

Pros: Introduces the difference between tacit and explicit knowledge, as well as the SECI model very well. The author’s voice is clear.

Cons: Not much liberty away from the SECI model. Very focused on the corporate sector only. The text slides are rather poorly designed. Not much critical thinking about the challenges of KM.

This video is not bad, it says a lot of things that make sense. It is just a bit too narrowly associated with SECI, which arguably is not the be-all-end-all on KM. On the plus side, this video is also available in French.

My rating: 6.5/10

 

Other contenders (ahem what is there to be found)

These videos didn’t quite make it to my selection – and some of them are downright awful – but you’ll find them nonetheless if you Google ‘KM video’, so you might as well be prepared 🙂

Knowledge management in 87 seconds (InToTo, November 2013 – 1’27”)

…is in fact a promotional video for Intoto Knowledge. Very organisation-centric, and like many videos focusing on knowledge retention. Nice little animation video though. My rating: 4/10 because it’s not a real introduction. Visuals deserve a higher scoring, they’re fresh (and yet from 2013!).

Knowledge management (Rajiv Chakravarty – Nov. 2015 – 2’26”)

A short animated video without sound. Introduces KM, tacit/explicit knowledge, the SECI model, why we need KM, knowledge systems. The only benefit I see of this otherwise nice little video is to illustrate the SECI model in a visually more entertaining manner. But I’m not taken by the content. My rating: 5/10.

Knowledge management presentation (October 2012 – 3’50”)

Like Milton’s a dynamic photo presentation touching upon definitions of knowledge and how to manage it. Some good ideas and focus on innovation, adaptation, learning here. On the other head, this is another video with annoying music and visuals. And again too much focus on data, information, knowledge. Also no real red thread or framework on which this seems to be based. And what is this countdown at the beginning? This video seems to me mostly useful for people who already know about KM. But then again, because they know about KM it may not be useful. With some rearranging and some clearer frame – as well as different media choices – it could be a useful video. Right now, it isn’t really.

KM – Managing tacit and explicit knowledge (Cipher Ultra, May 2010 – 4’00”)

Much emphasis on the SECI model. This video actually goes through the whole model. It has the merit of giving some concrete examples of each of the SECI stages; and also introduces some of the biases of that model; adds quite a few references at the end. On the other hand, the use of corny pixelised animations and horrendous commercial music in the background, and the insufficient information on every slide make it a weak video that is also wrongly themed. It should have been about SECI. My rating: 4/10.

Knowledge management (CaReDe productions, September 2011 – 4’28”)

A video with extremely annoying music – to the point that it almost distracted me from its contents. The latter revolve around ‘what is knowledge’ (though 1 minute into the video that is still now known/shown). “Knowledge needs to be managed, processed, shared” Duh! Why? How? Two and a half minutes into the video you realise it’s not meant to tell you anything about KM but rather entertain you in a really odd way with mottos like ‘gain the brain’. 3/10 (and 7/10 for the entertainment value).

Knowledge management through the whole world (Marina Vugalter, November 2013- 4’47”)

This funny video looks at the problem of intercultural communication and preserving endangered languages. The story mixes this background with the case of knowledge retention and using a KM software to help on that front. The combination is clumsy and the final slide reveals the confusion: “KM is useful, is about people and can be used everywhere for anything”. This is such a broad sweep statement that it’s more likely to put people off KM than attract them to try it out. My rating: 3/10. There seems to be a number of these videos developed through the same animation maker program.

Knowledge management (Ryan Christman, November 2010 – 5’00)

The most mythical of all videos from this selection – and one video that glorifies ‘tacit knowledge’ as the force that can help us unite and combine our efforts. Other than the quirky nature of this video, there is hardly any connection with KM. Don’t bother – or see it as infotainment and enjoy! My rating: 2/10  (8/10 for entertainment).

KM basics – learn and gain (Lear[n]Gain, November 2015 – 5’04”)

Stems from the perspective of ‘right knowledge to the right person at the right time’. This is not so much about defining what KM is as defining what the different elements associated with it mean. A bit long for such a video. Not a topper here by any means. On the plus side, it does attempt at providing clarity on terms such as data, information, knowledge. On the minus side, it focuses too much on information and data and places itself over-emphatically in the risky tradition and definitions of DIKW. My rating: 5.5/10.

Knowledge management (William Owen Ponce, September 2011 – 5’09”)

A good strong and clear beginning of an introduction to KM. Also offers an outlook to the future of KM. But after the good introduction, the video continues onwards to a mixture of statements, questions, overviews, in a rather uncoordinated way. The background clashes with the text (makes it difficult to read). The choice of background picture (here above a.o.) clashes with the message about human collaboration. The language again (knowledge transfer) is not great. It could have been so much stronger. My rating: 5/10

Knowledge management (unclear, April 2016 – 5’16”)

This video seems like a student project. It comprises various peoples’ voices and covers some typical elements of early KM (best practices, databases etc.), and moves on to tacit knowledge (the ‘know-how’). Though the animation is lovely, it is at times distracting from the narrator. Considering it’s a student project, it’s not that bad. But I wouldn’t start there unless you work in engineering – the sector in which the authors of the video are working. My rating: 5.5/10.

Introduction to knowledge management tools and concepts (David Wiggins April 2012, 8’59”)

This video is seemingly a(nother) student presentation. In fact it’s a monologue 😦 with an interesting twist about the learning/sharing culture backlash… Certainly not a top priority video to watch though. And the narrator’s voice is not clear. My rating: 4/10.

Some reflections about these videos

Many of these videos are focusing on tacit vs. explicit knowledge – and relate to the SECI model – which seems to indicate there is no other recognised background for KM. I personally prefer to see knowledge as essentially tacit anyhow.

Quite a few reflect on the importance of the enabling environment, including management buy-in etc. The more recent videos pay more emphasis on innovation, learning and all dynamic processes. They seem to have moved away from ‘knowledge capture’ both as a concept and a practice.

In any case, technology features in nearly all videos but is mostly rightly put to where it belongs: as an important – but not THE essential – element of any KM initiative. A few of these videos are talking about the future of KM, particularly around artificial intelligence etc. Not so much about the future of face-to-face learning and related processes.

Hopefully more videos will come up on the topic.

Meanwhile, a final gem for you: David Gurteen undertook a really nice series of short interviews with many people asking them all the same simple one question: ‘What is knowledge management?’. Go have a look on Google, it’s great stuff!

And as mentioned earlier, please share with me other videos about knowledge management that you think should feature here 🙂

Thank you 🙂

Related posts:

 

 

Dedication and determination, in the name of CoP’s


Communities of practice are cool again in my corner of the world.

Determination (Credits: Dana Lookadoo / FlickR)

Determination (Credits: Dana Lookadoo / FlickR)

They were always around, but it seems they really are coming back in a big way. From the recent Knowledge Management for Development Journal issue on the topic of CoPs, to the couple of projects that are instating communities of practice in my ILRI work, to the different posts and topics are that are emerging here and there (it could be a bit of a serendipity glass effect though).

Thing is with communities of practice, as with KM and life, it’s all in the attitude. And that attitude, for whoever is championing or facilitating a community of practice, is one of utter dedication and determination.

There’s a lot of stuff that might happen to your CoP.

And so if you don’t even have the attitude that sets you up for success, you just have to pray that all the other elements in the cosmos are aligned with your plans – and you better be one lucky b@stard!

Because let’s face it, if:

  • You can’t see that conversations in a CoP can take you much further than the typical conversations inside your own organisation
  • You don’t care about what others in your CoP may have to say about the topic that brings you together…
  • You can’t imagine spending any time on a CoP if it’s not just in your working hours
  • You have no inkling towards making your community one of the coolest places there is because you have the latitude to shape it and co-create with other invested people
  • You don’t see the beauty of a nascent community of practice with people turning up as other champions and heroes

…then don’t wonder why your community of practice doesn’t work.

Just get to it, and see it as your personal and yet collective gardening initiative, and draw pleasure out of it as you do from seeing trees grow up, soil sing and flowers blossom…

It’s all about determination…

Related blog posts:

The uneasy step from conflict management to collaboration


We all aspire to collaboration. We all want it, we all heed it, we all crave it.

But as we know, in trust we must trust.

And sometimes trust just isn’t there. Even quite the contrary. Conflict might be looming about, whether insidiously or openly.

It is difficult to let go of our desired image of harmony. We are keen on ignoring the elephant in the room, on putting our heads in the sand and pretending we live in heaven.

When bravely we face the truth we realise that conflict is not all that easy to understand, to recognise, to apprehend – let alone to prevent.

For a recent gig I was supposed to co-facilitate, I put together the following presentation about conflict management, on the basis of many great presentations and documebts that I could find on the topic.

I hope it starts unraveling some of these hidden issues…

The idea is that conflict can also be leveraged to get us back on the more important quest of building trust and through collaboration building the castles born from our dreams.

How do you use conflict in your work? Do you talk about it openly? Do deal with it upfront or guerrilla-like? Why?

What is it about conflict that makes us so averse to it? And how can we really build on its generative potential without being strife seekers?

What is the place of conflict in modern, agile knowledge management? You tell me…

Related blog posts:

Blogging on hold – until soon?


Dear all,

This is just to inform you that this blog is currently not being updated for personal reasons that have nothing to do with blogging. As soon as possible I will resume my blogging practice. For now it’s a matter of…

Hereby a recent overview of top posts on this blog:

  1. Great and poor metaphors for knowledge, learning and change
  2. Knowledge management in cartoons – A selection
  3. Managing or facilitating change, not just a question of words
  4. Share Fair Addis: Fishbowl and fishbowl battle
  5. Settling the eternal semantic debate: what is knowledge, what is information…
  6. Enjoy the year of the’fire rooster’ and let’s toast old habits!
  7. KM=CDL, on the journey to universal sense-making
  8. Revisiting the links between communication and knowledge management
  9. A knowledge management primer (1): KM as simple as ABC
  10. Putting learning loops and cycles in practice

I hope we’ll be able to engage again very soon on this blog 🙂

Principles of life to live with good heart and intelligence


Big Ideas go beyond discrete facts or skills to focus on larger concepts, principles, or process" (Credits: Ken Whytock)

Big Ideas go beyond discrete facts or skills to focus on larger concepts, principles, or process” (Credits: Ken Whytock)

Over Christmas holidays I had an interesting exercise with my father to identify what would be the principles of life that guide our life and that we would like to leave as our philosophical legacy to our ‘next of kin’s’.

I am coming back to this because, just like a contribution statement helps you become an effective person, worker, leader, principles of life help ground you in life and -if you manage to really live by your principles- give you real pleasure and a sense of harmony.

Needless to say, principles in knowledge management and communication are just as important. But today this is more of a personal set of principles. Still, some of them are useful for collaboration, group communication and knowledge management.

Hereby the list from our conversation…

From my father…

  • Love yourself
  • Love the people around you
  • Remember there are other ways to look at things, out there
  • Show (illustrate), don’t just tell
  • Remember that how to do things comes before you let others know how things should be done
  • Always be serious (in your intentions) but never take yourself seriously

Which I subscribed to and to which I added…

    • Believe in the good of people
    • Be humble because you (we) don’t know very much
    • Be curious about others and about everything, get out of your comfort zone
    • Listen to others and the world with all your senses
    • Do not be afraid, trust yourself
    • Create and then give, don’t just criticise and destroy!
    • And finally: Believe in the goodness in others and draw it out.
Come Together (Credits: Hartwig HKD)

Come Together (Credits: Hartwig HKD)

And these are some principles that hopefully will give my life, and perhaps at intersections other lives, some sense and grounding too.

Do principles dictate your life? Your work? Which ones? Why?

Related blog posts:

 

Enjoy the year of the’fire rooster’ and let’s toast old habits!


The fire rooster is coming our way (Credits: PhotoStylist1 / FlickR)

The fire rooster is coming our way (Credits: PhotoStylist1 / FlickR)

This is a bit ahead of time since the Chinese new year doesn’t happen until February but hey I can’t resist to share the joy of soon entering the year or the fire rooster.

 

I’m delighted by it because firstly I’m French and the rooster -silly animal as it were- is our national totem animal, and secondly because I work on a project focusing on chickens). So something has got to happen around my world this year.
This also leaves me curious about what will happen generally and what I will generally do to make good things happen. Balancing ‘fortuna’ with ‘virtu’ as Macchiavelli would have it.

And when it comes to changing practices, last year will be difficult to beat!

Indeed in 2016 I expanded my set of practices to:

What will it be in 2017?

What would you advise me to do?

What have been your recent aha moments in terms of personal and collective development and improvement?
A few tracks lay open ahead of me for sure: focus on group development rather than (just) my own, and move from independence to interdependence; explore conflict management more openly (I’ll soon be giving a presentation on this topic); keep exploring the best ways I can fulfill my contribution statement; develop my listening skills much more profoundly…

The options are many, and the year has just begun  Let the fire unleash itself!

In any case  I also wish you a fiery year full of satisfaction of different orders!

Happy 2017!

Happy year of the fire rooster! (Credits: Dreamstime)

Happy year of the fire rooster! (Credits: Dreamstime)

 

The top 10 posts of 2016 on this blog


It’s that time of the year again. I’m going on leave right before Christmas and won’t (likely) resurface before January 2017.

So as usual with my ‘point in time’ blog posts, here’s the top 10 blog posts, but this time with the special emphasis on looking back at the whole year. 2016 has been a less prolific blogging year for me with about 21 posts published ‘only’, though on the other hand I’ve also made a real splash with ‘Agile facilitation‘ my other blog dedicated to facilitation for collective action.

In any case, here is the top 10 posts for 2016. Only a couple of blog posts published this year (marked in bold) made it to this top 10, which is a reflection of my less disciplined blogging this year, and perhaps also that the quality of my blogging is declining ha ha ha?

  1. Knowledge management in cartoons – A selection
  2. Managing or facilitating change, not just a question of words
  3. Share Fair Addis: Fishbowl and fishbowl battle
  4. A knowledge management primer (1): KM as simple as ABC
  5. Putting learning loops and cycles in practice
  6. Merry Christmas! (Credits: Nuwandalice / FlickR)

    Merry Christmas! (Credits: Nuwandalice / FlickR)

    Settling the eternal semantic debate: what is knowledge, what is information…

  7. Revisiting the links between communication and knowledge management
  8. Portrait of the modern knowledge worker
  9. Good bye acute meetingitis! Plan your day-to-day meetings as a true KMer…
  10. Learning cycle basics and more: Taking stock

With this post, that’s it for me in 2016.

See you in 2017 with hopefully renewed energy, ideas, enthusiasm, here and on Agile facilitation!

Have a merry Christmas!

 

Of ‘toxic micro cultures’


‘Culture is a hypothesis’, as a friend of mine would say.

Culture is a fuzzy concept (Credits: LPK 90901 / FlickR)

‘Culture’ is a fuzzy concept (Credits: LPK 90901 / FlickR)

And by that I mean national/regional/ethnic cultures. As for me, with that kind of culture it’s a case of ‘Mind your culture, and mind that I don’t mind it 😉 ‘

But in any human group, in addition to this overall layer of culture, there tend to be micro-cultures that are shaped by ongoing, recurring practices. Some of these micro cultures are really toxic, getting everyone further away from building and cultivating healthy human systems.

Here’s a gallery tour of some toxic ‘micro cultures’.

 

High flyers can be arrogant bastards (Credits: Jamie Thingelstad / FlickR)

High flyers can be arrogant bastards (Credits: Jamie Thingelstad / FlickR)

The empty-headed high flyers

This lot is made of people usually evolving in high circles – please note that it’s not the same as saying that all people in high circles are ‘high flyers’ – and now that they have made it to the elite, they are thinking that their end game is to renew their platinum card every year and -even better- achieve lifetime platinum status. And certainly fly as much as possible to prove to everyone that they are indeed very important (duh!).

Mind that it’s a great thing to have the frequent flyer gold and platinum cards. Nothing wrong with that – and travelling is not as glamorous as everyone might believe. What is not so great here is the tendency of these high flyers to find any excuse to travel around and pretend to be busy on ‘strategic matters’ only to find themselves bitching about the luxury hotels they might be frequenting.

But more importantly: they are missing the point of having an intentional (and incidentally ecological) approach to choosing the meetings and missions they attend. It costs money, time, sometimes even peoples’ jobs, and certainly ozone to travel nearly every week.

An idea to deal with them: Ask them when was the last time one of their trips or meetings really made a difference. Consider building a collective club to share/pool frequent flyer miles and have cheaper tickets for the rest of the company. Help them say Good bye acute meetingitis and plan their day-to-day meetings as true KMers.

 

Conference Goers, all melting in a blur (Credits: Dave Shear/FlickR)

Conference Goers, all melting in a blur (Credits: Dave Shea/FlickR)

The mindless ‘conference tourists’

A very similar group to the previous one is the ‘conference tourists’ – except here the traveling is the bonus and the conference is the purpose. These people are specialised in travelling to conferences and events ALL. THE. TIME. Just find any conference that’s remotely connected to their field of work and they will appear. I used to have a colleague like that, he was travelling 9 weeks out of 10. I mean how many conferences are really meaningful to what you do? How many times do you play an active role there?

This class of folks tend to be chronic name droppers and (useless) networking machines doubling as business cards collectors. They may even be ‘conference paper milkers’ ie. with one paper written they will try and present their paper to as many events as possible. No focus, no discernment. Shoot in the dark and hope for the best.

This wannabee culture is not only superfluous but it’s also costly and dangerous for the role model it offers to other people in the same organisation. Will someone tell them conference tourism just ISN’T ok?

An idea to deal with them: Pretty much the same strategy as the high flyers, but also ask them what role they are playing, make them get aware that they are more often than not only of peripheral interest to the events they’re attending. Work with them to make their participation meaningful.

The insipid ‘gossip broth’

Gossiper (Credits: Rui Fernandes / FlickR)

Gossiper (Credits: Rui Fernandes / FlickR)

This group sticks to the office, where they have the comfort of their little routine. So much so that whatever is not part of that routine becomes both suspicious and excitingly ‘gossip material’. They spend their time meeting each other at whatever coffee corner to just talk about all the stuff that really doesn’t matter (so much) in a workplace: who is possibly enamoured with whom? Who said what about who? How is this and that person dressed? What are the manners of the new person?

No remote sense of building anything meaningful here. Just pure waste. And toxic waste at that, as usually the gossip broth don’t really back their opinions with facts, but they are very keen on spreading rumours as quickly as possible. I mean, you know them right? It’s a soup of bad comments and bad intentions. BAD ATTITUDE. Difficult to redeem.

An idea to deal with them: Do not join in gossiping, bring back the conversation on constructive matters, or simply shun these people. They’re not worth that attention.

 

Not communicating, an ideal, really? (Credits: Evo Terra / FlickR)

Not communicating, an ideal, really? (Credits: Evo Terra / FlickR)

The annoying ‘communication agnostics’

Perhaps a bit of a pet peeve here as a communication specialist but I’m so so jaded about people that make it their pride to say “I just don’t like to communicate”. I mean: do you work in total isolation? Do you live in the Arctic? Or on Kerguelen Islands? Do you never need anyone? Are you trying to build something useful to no one else but yourself at all? Unless you say Yes to all these questions, how can you remain in your splendid isolation?

We are a system, you cannot I-solate yourself, so surf and co-create the wave of our collective grace

So rub it in and do your share on communication! Because ‘We need more / better communication! But not from me…‘ is no longer acceptable.

An idea to deal with them: Try and understand their lack of motivation for communication. Is it a question of not seeing the point, not knowing what to start with or what to communicate, not knowing how to communicate and use platforms, anything else? And also find out if they are any likely to move a notch in the direction of communication or not. Some people are desperate deep-divers…

 

Are you a whiner or winner? (Credits: tlm Milburn / FlickR)

Are you a whiner or winner? (Credits: tlm Milburn / FlickR)

The eternal whining victims

Ah, this is a difficult group. This group of folks are complacent with all the stuff that happens to them. They feel it’s all a plot from outside. Nothing that happens ‘to’ them is their fault. It’s others, the environment, it’s always outside. Poor victims you first think, until you realise this is an eternal spiral they are getting themselves caught into, and if you don’t pay attention they will swallow you into their depressive and deceptive reality.

Sometimes, these whiners are doubling up with natural born boasters who think that everything they do is great. That’s a dreadful combination because it means they live in delusion at both ends of the spectrum, in what good and what bad happens to them.

An idea to deal with them: I’m not particularly good at dealing with these so I can’t give you much advice, except that having other (non victim) people in the conversations with these folks helps objectify their dialogue.

 

SocioPath (Credits: OfficialGDC / FlickR)

SocioPath (Credits: OfficialGDC / FlickR)

The sharky ‘society capitalists’

A different breed. The terroristic sociopaths. All that matters to them is money, status – acquired in whichever way – and stamping on each other’s feet to establish their power. Did I hurt? Good, because I’m the boss and you’re a door mat meant to be stampeded by superior beings like me.

The capitalistic society inherited from Taylorism and Fordism has nurtured this type and though times are changing and it’s increasingly conspicuous to be a sharky society capitalist, they are still coming forward. And they don’t care even if they’re a dying breed because they know-it-all.

An idea to deal with them: Giving them some constructive feedback on how their behaviour impacted you or others might be very good to let them see the social picture that is their blind spot, though the feast of fools of feedback might be a step too far. And perhaps if all else fails motivate to change their behaviour out of their thirst to be more effective.

The destructive ‘serials cynics’

Skeptical cynics, cynical skeptics (Credits: Jonny Goldstein/FlickR)

Skeptical cynics, cynical skeptics (Credits: Jonny Goldstein/FlickR)

This is perhaps the worst group of this lot! They love to sit on the fence and make snarky comments. Want a selection of those?

“This is not how you do business here”

“This never works”

“It won’t work with our culture”

“Been there done that, proven wrong”

“Why bother?”

“Where’s the evidence in what you’re saying?” (this one can be a very helpful question btw).

“I don’t believe it”

“Prove your point, here and now”

… These people have made their life’s trademark to make smart comments that are basically preventing anyone from attempting anything. I’ve already blogged about ‘Radical ideals and fluffy bunnies‘ and this lot are the archenemies of fluffy bunnies and idealists. They are, on the other hand, the best friends of depression, fear, immobility, and they’re perhaps the open doorway to many of the other toxic cultures mentioned above.

An idea to deal with them: FIGHT OR FLEE THIS STUFF. Snarky cynicism has never built any civilisation. A healthy dose of criticism is a worthwhile approach, but get the balance wrong and you’ll end up swimming in a tank of acid that will corrode your heart, your soul, and even your body.

A general word about changing toxic micro cultures

In addition to the tips given here, there are a couple of things that work generally to fight toxic micro cultures: One is to lead by example (With KM, life, it’s all in the attitude, so ‘JUST DO IT’ (Nike does it)), i.e. incarnating the change you want to see in the culture around you. The other is to reveal the group norms that you observe and to consistently offer alternative group norms when the existing ones verge on the toxic side – which is what facilitators do in their groups when establishing ground rules and the likes. If you believe in healthy human systems, you can propose group norms for how to give feedback, for how to make decisions, for how to discuss things, for how to listen to each other etc. These participatory values really help.

In my case this is what I try to do by cultivating the process literacy of the people and groups I work with. It is part of my own ‘contribution statement’ (covered here).

What are the toxic micro cultures that evolve too close to you? How do you deal with them?

Related blog posts:

Use a precise language for precise results


Language is a challenging issue.

People have different relations to it and different abilities.

Language

From which it results that, we more often than not, not quite understand each other the way each person talking is hoping to get understood. Which is why, by the way, paraphrasing is a good idea for today and every day.

We aren’t all native English speakers (to take the example of English). I am not. We aren’t all paying attention to how detailed someone says something. We aren’t all ready to take the time to discuss ‘semantics’.

Yet having a precise language is really important! All the more when we give feedback to each other. Here is why:

  • Detailed language allows us to be very precise and focused about what we are talking about, thus it eliminates a lot of unnecessary vagueness and generalities around what we are discussing. “The table of contents of this document is missing a couple of key items, let’s get back to the author Michael M” is vastly better than “There’s something wrong with the table of contents” (of what by the way)?
  • Detailed language can give much more information than just the ‘what’ we are talking about, it gives information about the kind of statement or question, the intention, the focus, the scope, the kind of response it pitches for etc. “What I mean to say here is that it saddens me to see you struggle with putting together the pictures for that information brief because it’s not the first time I’ve noticed this and I would like to offer my help to avoid falling back into that trap” is again vastly better than “You’re not dealing with that job well”.
  • When giving feedback to each other, precise language zooms in on the one ‘technical’ area that we are focusing on, which means it’s easier to accept than receiving general feedback e.g. ” Your presentation was good” – erm what about it was? The technicality of the content, the pitching, the tone used, the delivery of the presentation, the length, the visuals, anything else from wow presentations?
  • More generally, while semantics can lead to tiresome conversations, a decent measure of it helps develop enough common ground for a ‘working definition’ that may not be perfect but should be good enough to work with for a given group for a given time. Putting semantics under the carpet is only inviting more and more and more questions, acrimony and waking the dead man from the carpet up again.

So it’s really useful to invest in sharpening our language. And here are some tips for both speakers and listeners.

Speakers:

  • When talking about someone, be considerate enough to be precise about WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE WHY and HOW. A statement like “He did that to him” is considerably less clear than “John Doe charged Bob Smith 200 USD extra”. Even if the statement is obvious to you, it may not be to your listener.
  • If you’re giving feedback, you might want to ask questions rather than give feedback as statements.
  • If you do give a statement of feedback, one of the best ways to do so is to say: “when you did(/said) xyz, the effect it had on me was abc”. That is basic hotel school training and a lifeskill to learn.

Listeners:

  • Even if you’re not yourself paying much attention to precise language, pay attention to whether the speaker is, and then pay attention to every word they say, and question (clarify) their use of this or that word.
  • Paraphrase again and again, to make sure you understood – and check that you got it right.
  • And both listeners and speakers could do worse than ask each other whether they like semantics discussions and pay attention to details in their language before they create misunderstandings with each other.

So much to improve on interpersonal communication at every level. So let’s get going and discover the trees in the forest of our minds!

Language is an old-growth forest of the mind #quotesRelated blog posts:

 

Be genuine and genuinely care for your neighbour’s pace on the way to change


A lot of conversations, in general and also on this blog, are exploring past reflections and previous conversations. I am in one of these iterations about Alignment and authenticity.

I’ve said before that -for me- authenticity is essential in what we do, when we engage with others, because that genuine approach shows the real us and helps others develop trust with us (and I’ve also stated elsewhere that ‘TRUST is the truth‘).

However there is one exception to this principle: the pace. Pace of language and of motion.

Courses on communication remind us to mimick the other person’s behaviour, tone, body language to subconsciously create a positive rapport with that other person. And that is very true (though I usually don’t pay conscious attention to this). And as much as that is true, the pace of how we talk, and the pace of what we think and do is really important to create a fertile ground.

I’ve learned in that recent management training course (where I discovered my contribution statement for what I bring to the world) that:

“One step by 100 men is greater than 100 steps by one man”

And so it derives that to achieve this one step taken by 100 men, we need to adapt to others. We may have our own personality and our original ideas, but if we are to achieve any stage of common sense-making and action, we need to slow down (or occasionally speed up) the way we talk, think and act to level with these other people we want to take on the journey with us.

We must care for the pace of our neighbours. Because ideas will not come really into fruition before their time…

Ideas don't blossom before their time anyway (Credits: QuoteAddicts)

Ideas don’t blossom before their time anyway (Credits: QuoteAddicts)

This means that while we can’t force things to happen (ish), we can prepare the ground for it by mirroring the pace of language, thought and action of the people around us.

I tend to be very quick in many things we do. I even talk fast. And I’ve had to come to terms with that, particularly when I’m facilitating. I still have much progress to make in terms of adapting to the pace of action of people around me, and adapting to their thought model. But the road to real change emerges from the combination of all our little trails together. When we converge and align we start taking a direction that is much firmer and stronger than the one we were on.

That is my very modest ‘shoot‘ for this week: remain genuine to your ideas and who you are, but connect to the pathways of others by adapting to their pace. That is an effort worth investing in.

Alignment (Credits: Aftab Uzzaman / FlickR)

Alignment (Credits: Aftab Uzzaman / FlickR)

What’s coming up for you?

Related blog posts: