Moving on after nearly 6 years in Ethiopia, in 6 epitomising posts of the ‘habesha phase’


This Friday – 2 June 2017 – I will be leaving Ethiopia as a resident for good.

I will still be working with ILRI but based in The Hague, the Netherlands. Personal matters have taken precedence over professional ones and we have to be back in Europe. It’s a pity in some way, but it’s also a great opportunity, as every change is. I personally like change. However uncomfortable it is. However difficult it is. However unavoidable it is.

So this change will mean probably adding different perspectives to this blog and to my other blog on agile facilitation.

Good bye Addis! (credits: Wardheernews)

Good bye Addis! (credits: Wardheernews)

The past – nearly – six years have been extremely rich, as testified in this post about personal changes, just from last year to this one. I haven’t been able to keep up my blogging practice over the past few months because of the personal reasons forcing us to move back to Holland and because ever since I’ve been back in Ethiopia, in late April, I’ve been super busy winding things down here and turning the page of our Ethiopian life chapter. But I thought it might be worth a shot to look back at the ‘Ethiopian (habesha) years’ in six posts that marked the most prolific blogging phase of my professional life.

Here they are, I hope you enjoy them (again, perhaps) and please share your reactions and ideas about these and possible future posts!

Communication, KM, monitoring, learning – The happy families of engagement 

I wrote this post very soon after leaving IRC and joining ILRI. And those first few months were actually very prolific and qualitatively strong for my blogging. Perhaps stronger than any other blogging period for me. Hence my anticipation about this new period of change. In any case, this post has been referred to by various people and institutions as an inspiring one. I’m not sure about that but I had fun writing it. It is all about ‘engagement’ which became my ‘bread-and-butter’ at ILRI in various shapes and forms.
KM=CDL, on the journey to universal sense-making

This is the post that finally helped me nail down my own definition of what knowledge management is and I keep referring to it for that reason. In an environment where there was no KM or comms strategy (for ILRI) and no unified understanding of what knowledge or KM is, writing this post proved very helpful to me. I hope it is somewhat to you too.

I share because I care!

A lot of my ILRI work is about role-modelling behaviours that I hope others will take up to some extent. And when it comes to knowledge sharing, this was the post that helped put in writing what I felt intuitively all along. It’s been my gospel at ILRI and beyond ever since.

I hope you care to read it and to share your own spark too!

Portrait of the modern knowledge worker 

We are in the knowledge age, and knowledge workers are everywhere. This is probably the reason why this post was picked up by the World Bank and was thus promoted quite vividly for a while. I offer some characteristics and traits of a typical knowledge worker. I’d love to hear your views on what that entails.

Tinkering with tools: what’s up with Yammer?

This is the post that got most popular on my blog ever, with a (humble) peak of nearly 350 views on one day, when the Yammer team found out about it. Yammer has also been an interesting experience for me with ILRI as we’ve promoted it as the social network that our colleagues should use to access information they want to pull. With measured success. Bottom line for me: I don’t care about the tool – I do care about the result (sharing is caring).

Of ‘healthy human systems’ beyond ‘the field’ and facilitating conversations that change the world: an interview with Sam Kaner and Nelli Noakes

The post is an interview with two people that radically changed my personal work life, with their ideas, practice, reflections, and an ongoing conversation about our collaboration. Sam Kaner is one of the inventors of the field of facilitation, and together with his partner Nelli Noakes they share here their very generous overview of why they try to get people to collaborate.

Ok, and because 7 is a magical number, here is my #7 pick:

Jungian types, personality pigeonholing and finding my pathway and ‘contribution’

 

This is one of the most personal posts I’ve published on my blog, as it explains what I see as my calling in (the professional) life. I hope you find and share your own contribution. And I look forward to engaging a lot more with all of you from my future new home, The Hague 🙂

Hello The Hague! (credits: unclear)

Hello The Hague! (credits: unclear)

Bonus info: this happens to be my 300th post on this blog 😉

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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:

The (social) economics of gift and burying “knowledge is power” once and for all


“Giving a gift makes you indispensable. Inventing a gift, creating art-that is what the market seeks out, and the givers are the ones who earn our respect and attention.” (Seth Godin,).

As I am continuing to listen to this excellent ‘Linchpin‘ book, at least one whole section of

Linchpin (Seth Godin)

Linchpin (Seth Godin)

the book is worth exploring from an agile KM perspective. Godin talks about the gift economy, or rather the gift and the social economics around it. This is a final opportunity to put to rest the idea of ‘knowledge is power’ (among other reasons for not sharing knowledge) and to focus on the knowledge ecology our world can and should replace it with.

Essentially Godin’s point is that we’ve lost the universal tradition of gifts – in most human societies gift had a place and the person sharing the gifts was the person that earned the respect. The commodity-focused capitalism has replaced gifts with economic transactions – paying for a good – and has turned the tradition of gifts to become a tribute. The person with power became the person getting gifts, not giving them away.

However the social economy we are in is now turning this on its head again and making space for the ‘linchpins’ – the indispensable positive deviants that are following their passion, developing their art (regardless of the reactions expected) and thus making themselves indispensable. And one of the things that linchpins do is to share their gifts again as they connect with people around them. All those behaviours are the key to success.

Every successful organization is built around people. Men and women who don’t merely shuffle money, but interest, give gifts, and connect. (Seth Godin)

The social economics of giving in the knowledge ecology

‘Knowledge is power’ states that there is more advantage in hoarding knowledge for one’s advantage than sharing it freely. And that might be true. For a while… A short while.

In the longer run, however, we thrive as we are connected to a vast network of people.

Knowledge ecology - from the archives of 'share fairs'

Knowledge ecology – from the archives of ‘share fairs’

And that’s where the social economics of giving reveals its true advantages:

1. ‘Selling’ knowledge is a zero sum game.

When someone is hoarding knowledge, no fertile work comes out. And when someone systematically and only charges for sharing their knowledge, that person is merely entering into a transaction. Commoditising knowledge, with all the problems that come with – one of them being that knowledge really isn’t a commodity. But if it is considered a commodity, knowledge becomes desacralised, stripped off of its power which is unique and close to only a few other importants things in life, like love. That power is its social nature.

In any case, when we are selling knowledge there is no transformation, there is no(t much) added value here.

When instead…

2. Sharing knowledge transforms our relationships

When art is created solely to be sold, it’s only a commodity. A key element for the artist is the act of giving the art to someone in the tribe. (Seth Godin)

Give gifts (Credits: Neil Cummings / FlickR)

Give gifts (Credits: Neil Cummings / FlickR)

Indeed, when we share our knowledge, not only do we make available that handy knowledge to others, for them to do something perhaps useless but perhaps useful, or even amazing. In addition, and whatever happens with that knowledge, something else happens: when we share gifts (of knowledge or otherwise) with specific people, we are also developing, changing, transforming our relationships with them. We expand our tribes, we bring people in them. We also reach out to the people in the tribes of our tribe members – and so we are connecting to all the nodes of our global collective brain.

Of course, for this social transformation to happen most completely, there needs to be some sense of appreciation from the person receiving the gift too. That’s where the gift of your attention becomes so precious. And perhaps why your engaging in conversations (because that’s the work) is essential too.

3. Sharing knowledge creates power

One of the final points of Godin is that the person giving the gifts is showing that they have plenty of potential to give more, plenty of creativity, plenty of art to share. They show their uniqueness, and that uniqueness is also power – not that I would encourage you to focus on this. But indeed ‘Knowledge sharing is (caring) power‘ – both collective and individual.

This goes to show that even in a knowledge ego-logy, where we are serving (also) our own interests, but out of the principle of sharing our gifts, we are cultivating the knowledge garden and we are cultivating our connections with each other in that whole ecology.

So what can we do now?

There are many lessons one can take from such a rich book as ‘Linchpin’:

  • Develop your art with passion – in the knowledge world this means developing learning approaches that have failed safely and keep on going higher because you drive them with all of yourself.
  • Stop hoarding knowledge – share it and pay it forward instead, as it’s the best way to get that knowledge to lead to grand work, art crafts, masterpieces!
  • Offer your respect in return: part of the ecology is to cultivate it too by paying respect to the artists around us who are sharing their art as gifts.
  • Trust that people are not so interested in buying products, but as Seth Godin points out, they are interested in “relationships, stories, magic“!
  • Turn to ‘Open’ and ‘Working out loud’
  • Read, listen to or watch Linchpin…

I’m on to seek my next Godin book now… Any recommendation?

Related blog posts:

A knowledge management primer (1): KM as simple as ABC


What to find in the ABC of the knowledge tree? (Credits: Lisa Roberts)

What to find in the ABC of the knowledge tree? (Credits: Lisa Roberts)

This is a new series of posts, an alphabet primer of knowledge management (KM), to touch upon some of the key concepts, approaches, methods, tools, insights. And because there could have been different alternatives for each letter I’m also introducing the words I had to let go of here.

Today I’m starting this primer on the first letters of the alphabet: ABC – not necessarily the easiest in the KM world though… 

 

A for After Action Review

After Action Reviews are one of the closest synonyms – in people’s minds – of what knowledge management is all about. And surely it is one of the sure fire methods to bring learning straight into knowledge management, where it is due. After action reviews help discover insights and – if carried out consistently – progressively instil a spirit of curiosity and openness to change, which is fundamental to KM.

A could also have been…

Agile – this whole blog is dedicated to agile knowledge management because agility refers not only to the business method of improving and rolling out softwares known as Agile Software Development but also, by extension, an approach of ‘safe failing’, failing fast, often and improving quickly, which again is the whole point of KM.

Authenticity – In your efforts to work on KM, authenticity is probably one of the best behavioural cards to play, because rolling out KM, whether a system or an approach or any combination thereof, is not easy and requires people to trust in you. Being authentic shows that you have nothing to hide and that people can believe in what you are saying and suggesting, that it is in their best interest.

B for Behaviour

If you take my definition of KM which is about conversations, documentation and learning, the first and third part have much to do with behaviour (change). Stimulating conversations and gearing them towards learning are both influenced by the current behaviour of the people involved, and are also influencing these same people to share, learn, document, engagement more… Behaviours are also what makes KM work so hard at times, because behaviours take time to change… But sometimes the seed of success is also in the interesting and different behaviours of positive deviants.

B could also have been…

Blogging – Blogs are seen as places of personal opinions, genuine, authentic sharing of thoughts and engagement. They have found their way in the typical arsenal of options for knowledge managers. And I personally totally see why.

Big data – The new holy grail of KM: since sharing knowledge is so hard and takes so much time, how about using data to getting insights that we need. If only it were so simple

C for Change

Deep down, KM is all about change and change processes, only from the knowledge side of change. It’s about behaviour change, change in how people think, talk and work alone and together, change in how organisations use their knowledge assets to organise themselves and get better and more relevant at what they do, social change that brings vast communities together. And as we know change is hard, so KM is up against a real challenge but also one that is worth it.

C is one of the heavyweights of this KM primer. So many C-words could be essential to KM… here’s a few.

C could also have been…

Conversations – This is the second leg of my definition of KM and one that is central to another definition of KM stating that KM is about ‘increasing the quality and frequency of conversations that get your job done’.

Communication – Despite many people misunderstanding and mistaking KM for information management, there is a lot of communication in KM and that’s the reason why they come together in my work.

Curation – Part of the documentation is to curate information around us to be able to retrieve it and make it accessible to others at any time.

Culture – The hidden part of the iceberg that KM attempts to change.

Community (of practice) [CoP] – One of the most spearheaded tools (or approaches) for getting conversations that get your job done. And CoPs are facing challenges.

Capitalisation – In the francophone world ‘capitalisation des expériences’ is the closest thing there is to KM.

Complexity – What we face in ever more facets of our work and life, and one characteristic that makes KM so relevant in its attempt to connect us all together to better appreciate the intricacy of this complexity.

Cycles – The learning cycles that help us look at what we do in different, novel lights.

How to find your ABC in the KM cycle (Credits: Valenok)

How to find your ABC in the KM cycle (Credits: Valenok)

Related blog posts:

Enough were mentioned already, don’t you think?

But in addition, here’s this 2005 document from the World Food Organization ‘the ABC of KM‘ (PDF) that I thought was worth referencing.

Moving conversations up the trust ladder… and scale of influence


The infinite recognition [R. Magritte, 1963]

The infinite recognition [R. Magritte, 1963]

At the end of the day, as some would say (‘KM is about increasing the quality and frequency of conversations that get your job done’), in KM it’s all about conversations.

Conversations of contact-making (contextual webs)

Conversations of meaning-making

Conversations of joint exploration

Conversations of co-creation (in events and otherwise)

Conversations of trust building

Conversations of network weaving

Conversations of influence

But: we’re not well-suited to have all these conversations with everyone any time. Because that trust is not there, because we don’t understand everyone else’s language, because we don’t know what motivates them, because…

So the trick is – for professional purposes – to converse as often, as deeply, as intentionally with as many people people that are interested or influential in the work you do, so you move away from a small opportunity to talk, towards a small chance to work together up to a major joint endeavour. bearing in mind:

  • What you hope to and what you realistically can achieve with or vis-à-vis the person you’re conversing with…
  • What degree of affinity you have with that/those person/s (remember the 50 shades of influence?);
  • Simply what pleasure you derive from conversing with that/those person/s;
  • And sometimes indeed just drifting by, letting yourself go gently together wherever the conversation takes you, without predefined end destination…

By doing so, you increasingly develop a rapport, trust (once again – and I really have to write a post entirely on this cornerstone of agile KM) so that you can move mountains.

Some ideas for conversing more effectively – if you want to influence things as you go forward:

Step out of your social comfort zone, speak with the people that are blatantly not part of your natural 'clique'!

Step out of your social comfort zone, speak with the people that are blatantly not part of your natural ‘clique’!

  • Converse with the non-converts – you can stick to your comfort zone but this world will change only when you start uniting fronts that are not directly bought to your cause. So go out there and engage!
  • Bring eclectic mixes of people – the way Theodore Zeldin tried it at his dinners – as it is the surest way to get an interesting collage that resembles more the bigger picture than you yourself or you and your friends would be able to paint otherwise;
  • Adopt unconventional standpoints to provoke reactions and additional layers to the conversation(s);
  • Use techniques that push you to take other peoples’ perspectives to understand and shift perspectives… DeBono’s six-thinking hats is only one of various such methods…

But remember that conversations – although they should be enjoyed in and of themselves, simply – are always opportunities to move up on the scale of getting the next big thing done, the next big movement marching on.

So go out and converse, don’t be shy, that’s the way humanity has been going on and growing up… And this way you avoid dotty communication and that’s not a bad starting point 😉

Related posts:

50 shades of influence


Influencing others may take many paths.

Exercices de style - a wonderful and inspirational read (also) for wannabe influencers

Exercices de style – a wonderful and inspirational read (also) for wannabe influencers

It usually is a mix of our own personality and preferred ‘convincing/negotiation’ style, but it should also relate to the preferred ‘listening/convincing’ style of the people that you want to influence. And it depends on values. Even though values change slowly, they do change.

So if you want to influence someone – e.g. to get them to adopt agile KM for instance – here are perhaps not 50 shades but a few options you can try. All attempting at telling the same story, the way Raymond Queneau proposed 99 ways of telling the same story in ‘Exercices de style‘.

Invoke the greater goal 

From the ‘supply side’ (your argument) I would always start with this: expose the big picture, make it clear that whatever initiative you are standing for is not just mirroring your mechanical involvement with the issue, but reflects the importance of the task at hand for more people in more places. Deep down us human beings, we aspire for immortality and contributing to grand achievements. Use this to your advantage, and for sincere reasons, and people will be convinced.

Promise armageddon

Usually a much less useful tactic than the previous one, but its alter-ego can still win people over sometimes: if opportunity doesn’t work for your audience, perhaps threats (not you threatening them but the environment threatening to impact them) and risks could be a motivator for them. Given the relative apathy in the face of climate change, this is again not a preferred option, more of a ‘just in case’ kind of recourse.

Invoke the values of people to influence

From the ‘demand side’ (the people you want to influence) it always starts there, with the values that people put in ideas, practices, people etc. So go figure soonest what is intrinsically motivating them. Remember the ‘SmartChart’ and its four quadrants, it will help you there. Greatly!

Speak the same language

Nothing is less likely to sway someone than jargon – especially jargon that is not theirs. On the other hand, using terms and mind frames that shape them create a strong yet subtle sense of commonality that can go a long way to influence decisions.

Pillars of influence (Credits:  David Armano / FlickR)

Pillars of influence (Credits: David Armano / FlickR)

Appeal to emotions and impressions

Emotions can swing people, very effectively. In fact more effectively than facts usually. It’s not the reality that really matters, but the impression that people have about it. Emotions influence these perceptions. And there is a wide range of emotions you can use: excitement, pride, compassion, happiness, sadness etc.

Be there at the right time

Sometimes influence just emerges from being the right person at the right place at the right time. You have a solution for a problem that presents itself. Now the timing for this is particularly tricky, but for that matter ongoing engagement (no matter what family of it) is surely a positive way forward. The more you engage the more likely you are to be where it matters at the right time.

Give the facts

The analytical minds among us don’t care about emotions and grand visions, they want hard, cold evidence. Even though it’s pretty clear that evidence-based decision-making is probably less common than decision-based evidence-making, it’s still useful to have some facts explaining everything from the goal to the deeds to the expected results and the mechanics of how to get there.

Show genuine calm and confidence in your idea

I recently managed to invite someone to an event he was not considering at all by simply stating why he would be missing the greatest event of this year. I don’t think the promise of the greatest event was the defining factor to push his decision, but the firmness of my opinion – I’m sure – played a greater role. This influencing tactic is especially easy if you appeal to a greater whole. And it doesn’t mean you don’t have any doubt about your approach, just that you believe you know where you’re going, generally…

Seek support from insiders and peers

What is best to influence someone? Not you talking them into it, but someone they trust doing it. So when and where will you start your ecosystem influencing strategy? Find the trusted advisors and friends and work with them. When there is no ‘advisor’ as such, the second best might just be peers, people that are akin to those you want to influence, so they can share ideas about your initiative and get that peer learning to work its best effects for you.

Expose, expose, expose

The golden rule of communication of saying the same things three times may hold a grain of truth. Perhaps it’s. After all that’s also what advertising and good policy engagement tell us: expose your audience to your messages and your presence as often and as widely as possible so you are high up in their mind. 

Ignore and let it simmer

A great tactic of the romantic realm, sometimes lack of attention is the trigger that intrigues the person you are trying to influence, especially after some intensive convincing efforts. We are beings baked in a mould of curiosity and that tickles us. We also probably all aspire to be loved and recognised. So that curtain of silence might just be the most effective way, at some (delicate) point, to win people over… when you suddenly take interest in them again…

Just prove your point

Sometimes it’s just actions that sway people over. In fact this is probably one of the most potent way of influencing others: showing people why they should believe you. This is how we have managed, in our ILRI comms/KM team, to invest a lot of programs with our events and thereby all our other comms and KM services. Just do it! This is what all positive deviants do.

 

So what now?

The big notion that is missing above but is at the heart of the above is TRUST, of course. The more the person you want to influence trusts you, the more likely you are of influencing them. If you’re familiar with this blog you will recall it from various posts.

All the above is not meant to be advice followed cynically for the pleasure of winning people over, but some ideas about how to influence people for ideas that you think really matter. And as ever the best trick is to probe, sense and respond. Learn and adapt based on short feedback loops… Luckily there are, as the little selection above shows, many influencing pathways…

What will be secret force to open the lock? (Credits: Wonderlane / FlickR)

What will be secret force to open the lock? (Credits: Wonderlane / FlickR)

The solution probably lies at the crossroads between various of these roads, not least because complex initiatives require the sign-off of various people, potentially all with a different listening/convincing bias.  

What are your stories of successfully convincing others to do something they were not thinking of? What did you do?

Share your influencing wisdom!

Related blog posts:

 

Every *little* step you take is magic (well, it can be if it’s purposeful)


Celebrate every little step you take (Credits: RamMorrison / FlickR)

Celebrate every little step you take (Credits: RamMorrison / FlickR)

 

In the series ‘Breaking Bad‘, lab chemist Gale Boetincher once talks about the purity of the crystal meth he can cook, guaranteeing his mafia boss 96% purity, a “hard-earned figure” he is proud of. The purity of his competitor (and future partner series hero Walter White)’s crystal meth is 99%. As Boetticher puts it:

That last 3%, it may not sound like a lot, but it is. It’s tremendous. It’s a tremendous gulf.

Relatedly, the Pareto principle (explained here) evokes that 80% of the value of a nation comes from 20% of the population. And business analysts would like us to think that the same applies to organisations and even ourselves.

The point here is two-fold:

  • Every step we take towards change is a hard-earned one;
  • Not every step we take is productive, however.

Focus on your leapfrogging steps

Change is hard, so we might want to focus on the changes we think will really be game changers. And as explained in the link above, you can actually consider your whole life from an 80-20 rule perspective, and find out where the value is.

So reflect daily, weekly, monthly, yearly on what creates value, what will allow you to work smarter. Thanks to a dialogue I had with an online mate, I have made it a weekly practice to reflect on what steps I’ve taken that allow me to be more effective, smarter.

Purpose (Credits: ??)

Purpose (Credits: Hustle-Grind)

Focus on outputs, and outcomes, not the activities and inputs you give. Focus on what creates effects, not what you are doing. Focus on others and how they become part of the effect, not just yourself.

Focus on your passion and on what makes you productive effortlessly. Find out where your purpose lies as the graph here shows.

And don’t compromise on reflection and on activities that also take your mind off the work. Sharpe your practice smarts toward the most essential and productive outcomes.

And earn every little step

And indeed remember that change is hard, even when you are willing to change.

But when it happens, it’s magical.

Whether it’s the fact that you are thinking differently about an issue and have basically evolved in your reflection.

Whether it’s that you are changing the language you are using, paying attention to very subtle distinctions that make a world of difference.

Whether it’s reflected in the way you act upon a situation differently.

Whether it’s connected to other people much more and your focus on change is actively embracing others.

Recognize, celebrate every one of these little steps. Dance to every step of the samba of change.

And on this musical note, finally, since the title of this post was inspired by two different tunes by The Police, have your shot at either/both of them.

Every breath you take…

Every little thing she does is magic…

Related blog posts:

Agile KM from ‘SMART goals’ to ‘practice SMARTS’


The game of knowledge management has changed.

Despite the definitions given to knowledge management (see this useful post by Stan Garfield – and my own definitions of knowledge and knowledge management), KM really is no longer about managing knowledge-related assets as a taxidermist. It certainly is no longer about databases and catch-all portals (despite some tendencies). It’s not even really about communities of practice anymore either (however great – and tricky – these are)…

Change from SMART goals to SMART practices (Credits: Simon Webster / FlickR)

Change from SMART goals to SMART practices (Credits: Simon Webster / FlickR)

Instead, KM now has to be agile – not like a prescribed Agile / Scrum / Kanban kind of way (though each methodology has useful ideas). No, it’s about being generally agile, a combination of resilient and innovative, ever-adaptive, embracing perpetual beta as Harold Jarche would put it.

It’s about being smart, individually, and smarter, collectively – or smartest as we develop healthy human systems.

But SMART here is not the same as the monitoring acronym standing for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

What I propose instead is to think of SMARTS as a practice code to turn useful habits into our behavioural identity and eventually let us all become a strong network node in our collective sense-making. The practices mentioned below can actually change our identity towards:

  • Speedy
  • Multi-purpose
  • Anticipating
  • Reflective
  • Trustworthy
  • Sharing and showing this approach together

Speedy is because we need to react quickly. Agile KM for collective SMARTS is about turning things around quickly, fast iterations, fast failure, fast improvement, reacting on the dot, not letting information go through the endless tunnels of polishing and editing to publishing perfection… It’s about quick & dirty for faster and stronger feedback loops and acting upon the opportunities right at the moment when they present themselves.

Multi-purpose because agile KM (and innovation) is not about reinventing the wheel – despite its occasional usefulness – but about applying and recombining existing bits. Reformatting for different channels (PC, mobile, tablets); versioning for different audiences based on the same raw information. And with multi-purpose comes multi-perspectives, the multiple knowledges that matter when dealing with complex problems as IKM-Emergent pointed out.

Anticipating change is the name of the game. Always being on the lookout for what is going to affect you next, what is going to create tradeoffs. Individually we must be aspirational in our decision to move somewhere, towards a certain direction and objective, and develop our pathway to get there. Collectively we must be inspirational for each other, modeling useful positive deviance and visioning a common future that looks brighter than the here and now. But remaining realistic as to where on our journey we are, and what obstacles lie ahead on the way. Anticipating is about visioning that pathway for a positive change, at all times.

Reflective is our modus operandi in the social age and the world of change. Not only to anticipate future changes, but also to absorb the maximum learning from what just happened, and generally to learn how to sail along pattern currents in the sea of change. Being reflective is about documenting the change affecting us personally and the ecosystem around us. And it moves to becoming increasingly reflexive, learning to reflect about our reflection, moving through learning loops

Being Trustworthy is an imperative in our individual quest to becoming ever better networked. Trust is the currency of the social age. How do you generate trust? Dave Pollard suggests it is developed at the junction of positive chemical/sensory signals, shared/appreciated world views and positive collaborative experiences. In the social SMARTS age, trust also happens through consistency, quality (of the stuff we develop or share) and authenticity.

Sharing and showing this approach with/to others is the final stage to make sure we are not just SMART ourselves, individually, but we develop our collective SMARTS as these human systems we hope to improve together – because we care. We are eminently social but that social nature still requires active, a sense of purposeconsistency and working on changing our habits and behaviour, so we don’t revel in the happy square of wishful thinkers – for others (I want YOU to change). And building habits together is easier, as every fitness starter knows. Our habits can start there.

As IBM would put it: let’s build a smarter planet together… also through agile KM practice SMARTS.

Let's build a smarter planet together (Credits: IBM)

Let’s build a smarter planet together (Credits: IBM)

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Enabling change: a manager’s choice (and a leader’s decision)


People don’t resist change. They resist being changed! – Peter Senge

I’ve covered individual change on this blog though various writings (on the willingness or difficulty to change, recognising that the process of changing is slow, wanting others to change), but hardly done justice to the management side of change. And management has a lot to do, and even more to say about change. Particularly about the kind of change that has negative consequences for people (reorganisations, redundancies)…

Are you going to do anything about that change? (Credits: Patrick Mayfield)

Are you going to do anything about that change? (Credits: Patrick Mayfield)

So what are the choices of managers to enable or disable change?
Before we start let’s distinguish two different situations – that often need to be balanced:

  • Change that is internally driven – i.e. decided by that management, or any other group internal to an organisation or an initiative.
  • Change that is externally induced – as a result of signals that were not created by the group themselves.

Recognising this context is essential because it has repercussions on the way other people feel about the change and who they perceive as major beneficiaries or victims of change. Dealing with this well means management can show true leadership. And we know for a fact that complex development work requires many factors to deal with change well.

Internally driven change

What can ‘management’ do here to enable change:

Bring their team on board about the change, as early as possible, to let them see the change as a whole, appreciate positive aspects of that change and how negative ones are really going to affect them – and crucially to let them voice their questions, concerns, feelings, ideas, suggestions.

If even possible, co-create that change and get their ideas on board to shape that change into something very positive that brings everyone’s ideas in the mix to understand the bigger picture – sometimes (often) it is only through this approach that a change can be gauged in its wholesomeness.

Understand that we all have to take consequences of the change and that ‘I WANT YOU TO CHANGE!‘ is not a viable way forward.

Brainstorm (and at the very least, if there is no manoeuvre possible, communicate) about what can be done next, and particularly for that team or group. And also communicate what is not known – but commit to finding out more.

Draw lessons about what happens with that change for the next time around, to be better prepared and to develop the collective capacity to adapt and recombine;

Later assess how the change influenced everyone and what new lessons or measures can be drawn from the whole experience several months after the deed.

The tao of change management (Credits: V. Kotelnikov)

The tao of change management (Credits: V. Kotelnikov)

Externally induced change

This type of change is a result of an external shock or circumstance, and can have either positive or negative consequences (or both – think tradeoffs). All of the above applies here too, but in addition management should:

Analyse with the help of all those who think they understand some of that big picture, what made this change happen, to better understand that whole change and determine with more accuracy how the change will affect everyone. Lead with patterns – and follow some ideas of this Cynefin framework adapted for management.

Management / Leadership in the Cynefin framework (Credits: Cognitive Edge)

Change Management / Leadership in the Cynefin framework (Credits: Cognitive Edge)

Help (and encourage) sharpening the foresight capability of the team to ensure everyone contributes to forecasting the next external changes.

In contrast, what can managers do to muddle everything up?

  • Not change anything (about themselves) – and ignore the famous quote “change leader, change thyself“. On the other hand, change brings wonderful opportunities for innovation (and innovative) leadership.
  • Not anticipate change or keep an old lens (used for previous changes) to forecasting. But even change changes and takes different shapes. “Yesterday’s thinking will not solve tomorrow’s problems”…
  • Not cultivate collective foresight. Not investing in foresight capabilities is signing an organisation’s death certificate. Not doing so with a wide group – ideally based on the entire collective’s capacity (strengthened by PKM and personal learning networks) is only postponing the delivery of that certificate…
  • Not communicate: nothing about the change, nothing about how it affects people, nothing about the measures taken admit this
  • Not learn: no drawing lessons about drivers, initiatives taken or results recorded, just being affected without any sense of agency… Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

    The process of transition and the feelings this inspires in us (Credits: JM Fisher)

    The process of transition and the feelings this inspires in us (Credits: JM Fisher)

  • Not involve: no taking into account the opinions, experiences, feelings (and there are many – see the picture below) and capacities of all those affected by the change – even in times when change is not happening. And down with your problems with empowerment, please, you don’t have a real choice.
  • Involve and consult but ignore anything coming out of that. In some ways this is even worse as it tokenises participation and instils longer term defiance viz. future attempts at engaging with the same people.

Taking these principles into account should become the ABC of today’s managers, and change management is the one specialised field they should focus on (and here are some quotes that will help them). Did I hear anyone say ‘process literacy’?

In summary there is much that managers can do to deal collectively with change, and it all has to do with the leadership rules for healthy human systems: involve, communicate, listen, encourage, mobilise, reflect, expand, multiply, respect…

Of course, at our individual level, we also have much to do in order to see change in its whole form. We may still not welcome this process but we can nevertheless always decide to seize the opportunities it brings to do something different, and better. But that is another story.

Related blog posts:

Sailing along ‘pattern currents’ in the sea of change


Test Pattern I (Credits: Sauerlender / FlickR) - How to jump over patterns?

Test Pattern I (Credits: Sauerlaender / FlickR) – How to jump over patterns?

 

Change is so ubiquitous and, as Torben Rick would say, “constant change is the new normal” to such an extent that for networked individuals, change is hardly surprising though it is still discomforting.

Where, then, are the spaces to catch your breath and find some kind of ‘structure’ or insights to make sense of change? 

There is no single or simple answer to that, but the best fragments of chance for some coping ability lie in patterns. Patterns are the islands that help us navigate the sea of change without sinking in it. And patterns are everywhere:

  • Patterns from the biggest to the smallest order, mimicking fractals of complexity, from the way a family organises itself to the way a multi-country agreement is reached (or not);
  • Patterns of conversations, like the phoenixes I sometimes refer to, reveal ideas that are – perhaps also like the ‘déjà vu’ experiences in the movie The Matrix reveal something bigger (and in that case, dangerous);
  • Patterns of colour, sound, shape, intensity, rhythm, that each hold a grain of truth about the universal order around us;
  • Patterns of behaviour from another area to the one we are in – how does xyz react in this environment?
  • Patterns of events from another place, or time, to another one – how did this happen again here and now?

Companies like Google (see below), or Except have understood early on that the seed of innovation and of the next step lies at the junction of individual ideas and collective sense-making, and it appears out of patterns of conversations…

We need to become highly trained at working with patterns:

  • Spot patterns
  • Match patterns
  • Mix patterns
  • Break, dim, develop or amplify patterns of behaviour

All the patterns we see around us are ways to make better sense of the world around us, and get us ahead of the challenges coming at us. I would put my bets on pattern-breakers as the most effective decision-makers of this era.

If learning is the grammar of the social age of change, patterns might just be (part of) the alphabet we need to apply that grammar…

How to surf with patterns?

Webtreats Free Tileable Tropical Abstract Patterns Part 1-4 (Credits: WebTreats / FlickR) - Where patterns help us ride the ripples

Webtreats Free Tileable Tropical Abstract Patterns Part 1-4 (Credits: WebTreats / FlickR) – Where patterns help us ride the ripples

 

The art of reading and using patterns is a bit of a gift and a bit of an acquired practice. But a few things certainly help everyone get better – and apparently humans are the best pattern-recognition machines so here’s hope for everybody 🙂

The door key to patternland is diversity. A diversity of experiences and perspectives allows to look at the world in a more lateral or oblique manner, giving us a new understanding of where similiarities and differences lie.

SO:

  • Do what you can to broaden your vision and walks of life;
  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes (use DeBono’s six thinking hats for this?);
  • Bring diverse, dissident or deviant voices to think along;
  • Move away from your typical position to look at an issue, look at it from above, from under, from aside, from across…
  • Use metaphors, analogies, ask yourself “what would it be if it was: an animal / a plant / a country / a dish” and those sort of questions that get you out of your thinking box;
  • Reflect regularly, note things down, and every time dive one level deeper;
  • Use different languages to approach an issue;
  • Borrow ideas and recombine them, to spot new patterns;
  • Make it a game to notice all kinds of patterns of everyday life, these superficial patterns still subtly sharpen your pattern-breaking capability;
  • And of course to notice the deeper patterns of thinking and action, as ITAD did with capacity development;
  • Put yourself in uncomfortable positions so that you have no other choice but to identify patterns;
  • Make patterns a central ‘pattern’ of your language, like the GroupWorks collective did with their card deck.
  • … add your many ways to spot patterns…
De Bono's 'six thinking hats' is one of many ways to help us see patterns

De Bono’s ‘six thinking hats’ is one of many ways to help us see patterns

Nothing is quite definite any longer, but patterns are a constant in the sea of change, they are islands – or perhaps more adequately currents – that allow us to navigate the ever fluctuating sea of change.

What are your secrets to find where these currents are?

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