Principles of life to live life with good heart and good 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:

 

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:

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


The past few days I was at a training course on management development.

A very interesting course, even though I still don’t believe much in training and even though the trainers admittedly mixed up management and leadership (though among many others Forbes reminded us this year that these two fields are quite different).

The training touched upon many things but among others the ‘Jungian types’ – based on Carl Jung‘s work which also led to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The training associates the types with colours e.g.

  • Cold blue (analytical type, introverted and thinking),
  • Fiery red (authoritarian type, extraverted and thinking),
  • Earth green (caring type, introverted and feeling)
  • And sunshine yellow (innovative type, extraverted and feeling).
The 8 personality types from Jungian's work (Credits: CapGemini)

The 8 personality types from Jungian’s work (Credits: CapGemini)

Turns out I’m a sunshine yellow. I kinda saw that one coming. But the analysis of my personality based on the two questionnaires I had to fill out and on the feedback I received from colleagues was bluffingly real.

And as we deepened the analysis of who we are (and as a result how we should manage ourselves and others) it also became clearer that my kind of role is really ‘motivator’ (on the central right hand side of the wheel here on the right).

The problem with personality typologies…

There’s some use in looking at peoples’ behaviours from such lenses (and again the analysis made about me was incredibly accurate). But there are also some issues with these personality types:

  • The risk of pigeonholing people into personality squares: Obviously the first issue is that if people believe too earnestly in this stuff, they start boxing themselves and other people in neat squares and expect them to behave just according to that lens. “Oh you’re a cold blue so of course you think this way”…
  • The single lens bias: Related to the above, there is a danger in using any lens as THE lens – whether it be psychology, astrology, Jungian types, gender, age or any other lens. Each of these framings contains some truth and taken all together they probably give a much more accurate picture of who we really are, but any one of them individually falls short of the complexity of our identity.
  • The relativity of our personas: Let’s even push aside the idea of using various lenses and assume that these Jungian types really work. The problem is that we behave differently in relation to different people. So for instance one person may be really creative when surrounded by not-so-creative people, but find themselves much less creative in the presence of other dynamic creatives. Ditto with introversion and extraversion etc. etc. We adapt to every context. We don’t stick to our box because the other people in the box define how we behave.
  • The danger of static analysis vs. dynamic personalities: Finally, and I’ve already made that point about not judging people because we change, we are not static people. We are dynamic, we evolve, we change, we challenge ourselves and others, we adapt, we anticipate. And that’s why the people-pigeonholing issue is indeed a problem.

Now that this is settled, it’s also fun to think about what this particular lens brings and certain behaviours that are inspired by certain personality types as in…

A (piss) take on Jungian types ha ha ha

A (piss) take on Jungian types ha ha ha

OK so now that leaves me with the final part of this post, a more introspective part about how I’ve myself evolved from where I come to where I’m going.

Finding my contribution, my gifts and how to share them

First of all let’s establish one fact: being an extravert is not necessarily a given. I’ve learned it myself. I was so introverted as a child that my mother was really worried for my (social) future. And the first time I had a real public encounter with a group of professionals coming from outside my organisation, I was so terrified by speaking to them in public that one of the group members came to me to relax me and tell me it was all ok. I had no idea then that working with and for people was going to be one of my utmost inner motivations.

But as I moved into the end of secondary school and into studies, I had started getting out of my shell and really engaging with people. And perhaps it’s something from my family (having an aunt in Mexico and a grand-uncle in Senegal) that predestined me and my modest origins to move out of my native Brittany. And actually being a Breton is a 50% chance that you end up travelling. We export ourselves exceptionally well (heliotropism might also explain part of this)…

When I started working I was not drawn into knowledge management directly. I started off working in marketing which is a field I really dislike now for all the layer of inauthenticity and unnecessary pushing to buy. But when I ended up working in cooperation development, by accident really, I started getting attracted to knowledge and learning.

And as I worked in the Netherlands, I was a victim of acute meetingitis – too many meetings all the time – and found myself more often than once irritated by the airspace that some people were taking without realising they were nibbling into it away from other people. That was a first revelation into process (il)literacy for me and a first calling to do anything in my power to redress this balance. Ever since I was a child I’ve had a strong sense of justice and respect for others. Coming to think of it I’m not even sure why.

I got opportunities to do a bit of time management and traffic management in small meetings and one of my colleagues and friends told me I really had a gift with it. Tadaa! The pathway was quietly shaping up ahead of me.

When I discovered KM4Dev it became one of the greatest sources of inspiration ever. And as I was getting into knowledge management I also started facilitating events and processes more and more, though quite rudimentarily still.

Me facilitating in 2011 (Credits: ILRI / A. Habtamu)

Me facilitating in 2011 (Credits: ILRI / A. Habtamu)

ILRI and my current boss Peter Ballantyne gave me another incredible shot at sharpening my own process literacy and my facilitation and KM skills. It’s been a great ride until now and one that made possible the next step… By now it seems difficult for most people to imagine that deep down I am or have been (also) an introvert.

The final event that set me off on my calling pathway to this very moment was the encounter with Sam Kaner and Nelli Noakes. They really touched me and inspired me like very few people do with their idea of healthy human systems and the process work that this takes. And in that process I became a trainer to give myself the ‘group facilitation skills’ training that their company Community at Work provides.

Where I am now and what inspires me is a result of all the above, and many more encounters, conversations, subtle events that have progressively shaped me to become who I am, with my gifts and with the contribution I can bring to this world.

And so this week, as we got trained in management development, one of the assignments was for us to develop a ‘contribution statement’ and I am working on it but so far the work in progress is:

I will coach/train/show/help and get people to realise their own value and to empower themselves to take better decisions by themselves (through questioning, reflection, feedback, joint work).

I will also coach/train/show/help and get people to realise the importance of togetherness regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, religion etc. and regardless of the personal affinity I have with them – because that is what unites us into a collective mind, heart and soul ‘grid’ that sublimates the sum of all of us.

I will do everything I can to get people to understand the value of communication, personal and collective improvement, knowledge management and learning so they realise that it starts with each and everyone of us and we all contribute to affecting the entire system we operate in – for the better if we build respectful, loving and generous relationships.

I will also very consciously aim at raising the ‘process literacy’ of people around me so they become better able to relate to others in synergistic ways and use learning, listening, love and fun to deal with the current and future ‘real challenges’ of our times (poverty, racism, climate change etc.).

Finally, I will try and foster a culture of listening and feedback where everyone is invited to share their thoughts and to contribute to smarter collective solutions to face the wicked problems we face.

I will do this with all the gifts that I am given and the realisation that I have many shortcomings myself and I am on the way to learn, to better connect, to better live life within myself, with others and with nature around me.

What is YOUR contribution? (Credits: KPieperPhotography/FlickR)

What is YOUR contribution? (Credits: KPieperPhotography/FlickR)

Sounds pretty text book ‘sunshine yellow/motivator’, don’t you think?

Related blog posts:

Great and poor metaphors for knowledge, learning and change


Metaphor (Credits: Daniel Hoherd / FlickR)

Metaphor (Credits: Daniel Hoherd / FlickR)

Metaphors are great.

They reach out to the artist in us.

They tell us stories – not just plain facts.

They are, like modelling tools, great props to visualise the future.

But, like modelling, they’re only helpful to an extent – and perhaps their ultimate motive is to be proven wrong. Like a stick that helps someone recover into walking properly, only to get rid of the stick then.

Let’s examine a few metaphors that work or don’t (for me, subjectively) around agile knowledge management…

The knowledge garden(ing) – works

The knowledge garden, and all its benefits (Credits: PictureQuotes)

The knowledge garden, and all its benefits (Credits: PictureQuotes)

I love this metaphor as it considers the process of attending to knowledge: planting it, cultivating it, watering it, fertilising it, trimming it, harvesting it… nearly all related actions to gardening and letting the knowledge garden blossom work for me. And not only is this metaphor plastic and elastic but it really puts the emphasis on the communion between nature and culture, on the balance between intention and intentional letting go, on caring…

I share because I care!

This is one of my favourite metaphors.

The organisation as a family – doesn’t work

We are so often compelled, in organisations we work in, to be ‘part of the family’, to be ‘welcome to the family’, to ‘stick to the family’, to become a functional family member. And yet few metaphors rub me in the wrong way this one does because:

  • I choose the organisation I work with, it’s not a given to me;
  • I don’t identify with a daddy and a mommy in organisations;
  • I don’t want to consider any organisation the space where I’ll have to spend the next 15 or so (or more) years in;
  • I just don’t see the point of forcing to make any organisation the place that I should care for above anything else, as I do for my true family;
  • And some might even say that the family is not the most ideal to aspire to…

So this organisation-family metaphor is a complete flop for me. I actually tweeted about this last week:

 

Networks, on the other hand, might be much closer, for me, to a family, as KM4Dev was for me, from the start.

Knowledge as water – works… to some extent

Knowledge is fluid, knowledge sharing is like a flow and there is definitely something akin to the liquid plasticity of water, it goes in all directions, it’s adaptable, it can become something else like ice or vapour… Knowledge has some watery qualities for sure.

Knowledge, water, wisdom... hmm... tricky words to connect (Credits: EmilysQuotes)

Knowledge, water, wisdom… hmm… tricky words to connect (Credits: EmilysQuotes)

But the main limitation of that metaphor is that it gives the wrong impression that it can be ‘captured’, ‘measured’, ‘transferred’, stocked, and that’s where I don’t agree, since my definition of KM=CDL.

Knowledge as love – works… to some extent

This is not even an oft-used metaphor, and of course there’s a limit to that metaphor because there is nothing really romantic or erotic about knowledge per se, but essentially the big link is that knowledge and love sow the seeds for more. They self-multiply. Through sharing them you increase them. And you don’t lose anything yourself, even quite the contrary.

So the generous qualities of love and knowledge are very similar – and it’s that angle of this metaphor that I find useful.

Organisations are not machines... (Credits: Stuart McMillen)

Organisations are not machines… (Credits: Stuart McMillen)

Organisations and people as machines – doesn’t work

I can’t find it on Twitter (I should have RT’d it) but someone ranted about this last week. And for good reasons! We are not cogs. We are not machines. We are capable of feelings, ideas, creativity, genius, inspiration, excitement.

Of course we can always become more efficient, more productive, and perform in an increasingly well-oiled manner… but that’s only part of the story and as Seth Godin (again) would tell you  it’s remote from what linchpins stand for, with all their passionate art, right into the economics of gift!

And if that ‘machine-metaphor’ becomes our primary lens for understanding human relationships in the knowledge age, we have lost it – deeply, perhaps completely.

Military metaphors – don’t work

What’s your target group? When will you shoot me an email? It’s time to go to battle. We hit the ground running, have to bite the bullet etc.

If anything, let’s fire away at these military metaphors. Although there clearly are belligerent approaches to life and a fair bit of warmongering among people, life is not a battlefield. It’s not meant to be.

I’m not alone on this path, the Wall Street Journal ran the same rant. The famous media showed the limitations of extending that kind of language: “Suppose that we turned this idiocy on its head and imagined a world where it was the military that used ludicrously inappropriate terminology from the business world.” and end up with something like…

“We tried to move the needle with Al Qaeda, but there was a sudden paradigm shift,” says a tank commander in Syria. “At the end of the day, the low-hanging fruit turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg.”

Metaphors shape our language, our vision, our actions, perhaps even our feelings if they are deeply enough entrenched. So let’s pick our words carefully, and sow the seeds of peace with all the other gardeners of this world, rather than go to war with the people that are against us… Don’t you think?

What metaphors work for you or not for knowledge, learning, change?

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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?

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Cultivating healthy human systems from the roots of the problem: fear and (lack of) self-confidence


Fear (Credits: Elina Baltina / FlickR)

Fear (Credits: Elina Baltina / FlickR)

Two drives prevent human systems from flourishing in healthy ways: Fear and lack of self-confidence. One of the ultimate ways to make a real difference – in whatever sense – in the short and long term is to cultivate the ability of people to conquer their fears and to gain self-confidence.

 

There lies the challenge. And only our intention to improve this in ourselves and to be generous with helping others do the same can help people co-create healthy human systems.

How to address these root issues?

Addressing fear

We all have fears. From the get-go as babies all the way to the dusk of our life. Some say it’s just a matter of ‘being aware’:

  1. A: Accept the anxiety. Don’t try to fight it.
  2. W: Watch the anxiety. Just watch it and when you notice it, scale your level of fear and start to breathe longer on the out-breath.
  3. A: Stands for ‘Act normally’. …
  4. R: Repeat the above steps in your mind if necessary.
  5. E: Expect the best.

And certainly one of the lessons of meditation is that being aware of what controls us is 50% of the solution. This other post puts awareness on top too.

This judicious post gives us some tips to tackle our fear: accept our vulnerability, lower expectations (right down to ‘expect nothing’), embrace the possibility of success, let go, be present in the moment, trust yourself.

In addition to that, and specifically for agile KM initiatives, I would add, at a collective scale:

  • Inspect our collective fears and vision a world without them
  • Keep enriching your grand visions, but take baby steps – breaking large challenges in tiny chunks is one way to outsmart your brain using the science of fear
  • Cultivate taking risks (safe-fail and all that) a.k.a. learning in the service of success

One important key to success is self-confidence. A key to self-confidence is preparation. – Arthur Ashe

Addressing self-confidence

Self-confidence can be related to fear, when it’s about the fear of not being up to standards, fear of failure etc.

For general self-confidence, the great website Zen Habits proposes 25 tips that surely can help you improve.

But from an agile KM perspective, here are some perspectives to help us gain self-confidence:

  • Seek, give and cultivate feedback – knowing how to provide and how to receive good feedback is essential for all of us and for our collective enterprises. Feedback is the learning loop that doesn’t require structured processes and can happen at any time. And when it comes to self-confidence we both need positive and constructive feedback.
  • Seek and provide opportunities for growth (slightly) outside the comfort zone: When we take risks and do things that seem like challenges, and when we succeed, we grow immensely. We need to be given these chances, and we need to give these chances to others when we can too.

“Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re hiding out in the comfortable zone. – Seth Godin, in ‘Linchpin’.

 

  • Abandon toxic attitudes that kill self-confidence: Kill cynicism, trade judging for trying to understand, stop making fun of peoples’ efforts to do good or better, stop mocking idealism. All these negative traits are keeping people down and unable to grow. The result of the lizard brain, and the contrary to what we should be doing… It’s all in the attitude.

This is potentially only the first post on this topic because working on these two levers of human systems has dawned upon me as being really essential to whatever we do.

Timothy Ferriss What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do (Credits: Pictoquotes / FlickR)

Timothy Ferriss What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do (Credits: Pictoquotes / FlickR)

And I’m now going back to my meditation practice, because all of the above is much easier said than done. But healthy human systems where love, happiness and peace find an easier way through are well worth the effort.

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‘Open’ as default, not the exception – oh, and please get over your self importance ;)


Open Up and embrace the universe (Credits: Allstair Nicol/FlickR)

Open Up and embrace the universe (Credits: Allstair Nicol/FlickR)

Openness is a scary thing indeed.

Opening yourself is really difficult, letting go all the more so (oh, read this beautiful testimony about it).

And even opening your information to others seems to intimidate people more than is necessary…

Many people I work with or come across have difficulties operating in ‘open spaces’ – and I’m not referring to Open Space Technology here but the virtual collaboration spaces where we can do things together (e.g. wikis, Google documents). They feel open is a hurdle for their sharing information and making use of the space.

 

I recently had such a conversation with a colleague in a project. He confessed in good faith that:

“It’s [the virtual space] supposed to be a ‘workspace’ but it is open to the public so there is not much dynamism & liberty in actually using it. It’s like the information that has to be posted needs some extra layers of censorship which then limits the frequency of use.”

So this might just be an interesting avatar of ‘knowledge is power’, or rather ‘closed knowledge is comfort’…?

In trying to answer that colleague I reflected on the many reasons why -until now unconsciously- I don’t share that point of view.

Hereby…

'Open' is getting traction everywhere (Credits: Ron Mader)

‘Open’ is getting traction everywhere (Credits: Ron Mader)

The world is opening to ‘Open’

Open is becoming the default, the rule rather than the exception. In global development, various funding organisations are actually making it a rule they enforce to have all outputs from initiatives they fund publicly accessible as ‘general public goods’. So there you have it. Open is the way the world is turning.

Resisting it is a challenging uphill pathway.

 

Get over yourself and the importance of your information

The information that we typically share in projects is for 99.99999999% of the population really not critical – so what is really the big deal about putting our informal information out there?

And on the other hand, aren’t there serious opportunity costs with having the teams involved in a given initiative not getting information that is potentially of use to them? Nothing new under the sun here. In any case – in the vast majority of cases let’s say – don’t expect your information to be so cutting-edge that it is information your potential competitors are dying to get.

Do people have the time to look for your information?

Unless you are based in China, North Korea, Eritrea or some other country that strictly controls information, it’s unlikely that anyone is actively crawling the web to find your content – let alone to do anything toxic with it. ‘Open’ doesn’t mean ‘reached’ 😉 People are just too busy with their lives. They will only find your content if they’re actively looking for something specific about it.

Trust the search engine algorithms to keep your work space rather intimate

So next, even if people had time to look specifically for your information, even if they were interested and actually looking for your information, the algorithms of search engines are based on mutual linkages first and foremost, on ‘referrals’. In other words the more a website is linked and pointed to from other sources the higher up it shows up. In the absence of many other websites pointing to your workspace, that workspace is more than likely to remain ‘undercover’ when it comes to search results. So you actually enjoy your privacy despite operating in an open environment and approach.

What is the likelihood that people do mean harm with your information?

And this is my biggest point here: Even despite all of the above, what is the chance that people accessing your information really want to do something harmful with it? What are the risks?

  • That they use and abuse your information without giving you credit for it? You can use Creative Commons licences to say what’s ok or not – and if you want to go down that road you can always hire a lawyer to sue whoever is breaching your agreement.
  • That they use your information to beat you on certain ‘market opportunities’? Perhaps true in the corporate sector, much less so in the global development one.
  • That they will ‘troll‘ your workspace? Well that’s a real risk, though of all the open groups I’ve been involved in in the past, I haven’t had one instance of this happening. What would you do against it?

If your fear is ‘half-baked thinking’, think again!

It could be that the legitimate concern of my colleague (who operates in the academic world where that fear is quite common) is of presenting ideas and thoughts that are not fully formed etc. But HEY that’s how innovation happens!

And more and more we find out examples that ‘quick and dirty’ is actually beautiful

Open is beautiful and it's everywhere (Credits: OpenSourceWay)

Open is beautiful and it’s everywhere (Credits: OpenSourceWay)

It’s not a 0/1 thing, you can find middle ways with open…

As a matter of reaching consensus, whether on wikis, on Google documents or websites or whatever, there’s all kinds of ways to make parts of a work space closed.

In the case I mentioned above, my colleague was reacting about a work space we are using as entirely open because we didn’t use the more expensive version with more privacy control… But that option is there and can be switched any time.

So in conclusion…

All the above makes me think that we can and should see Open really as default, and share most of our information publicly on our workspaces and other virtual platforms. Not least since ‘we share because we care‘.

That doesn’t mean ‘open knowledge’ cannot be even achieved in ever smarter ways…

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GET ON social media: get past the ‘push’ and ‘password’ hurdles


Social Media DynamicsSocial media, social networks are ubiquitous, as they have become an essential part of the knowledge worker‘s apparel and have proven their value in social learning (see this excellent – if long – video of Harold Jarche about this).

Yet there is still a lot of resistance – in France and elsewhere – against adopting social media.

For those who don’t resist viscerally to social media but just haven’t jumped on it, two hurdles often stand in the way:

  • The push: how to avoid getting all kinds of irrelevant information in your social networks – and actually understanding the fundamental change with social media -the ‘pull’ effect;
  • The password: managing this to physically (well, virtually really) enter the world of social media…

If you are one of those struggling to get into social media yet are willing to try, let’s hope this post helps you properly jump into social media and make the most of it.

The ‘push’ hurdle: Hey, it’s actually all about pull!

Brand push vs. content pull (Credits: Autoconversion.net)

Brand push vs. content pull (Credits: Autoconversion.net)

The fundamental difference with social media is that they don’t work towards us the people, they work from us. The direction has changed. And we are the ones setting it.

With traditional media, we used to have stuff ‘pushed’ at us: on TV, on the radio, the content – and as shown in the image above, the brand of companies – was invading our space whether we liked it or not – without control. But with social media, we are now in the controlling seat, and we pull content the way we want: we select, curate and develop our personal learning networks, opt-in may not have vanquished opt-out but it’s more of a standard, we are organising our RSS feeds so we get notified about the stuff that matters to us etc.

If you are not sure about social media, remember that in it you are the spider in the web and you select what information you will have for dinner. You can customise your choices indefinitely. You have the power.

The direct consequence is that you won’t get invaded by content, or at least you have every option to stop getting invaded by it.

Read this article for more information about the subtle yet powerful difference between push and pull. And to quote it:

Advocates of Enterprise Social Networks (and I count myself in their number) see the transition from push to pull as the “holy grail” of business communication. Indeed, this is a central tenet of the Business Communication Revolution, because it puts a knowledge worker back in control of how they consume information. However, an all-pull environment is not without its own problems.

Now: claim that power – decide what you post where, decide to read what you want to read when and where you want to read it. Make the world of information turn its head around you, and enjoy.

The ‘password’ hurdle: Manage your passwords effortlessly, once and for all

Now the first hurdle is passed, let’s look at the second hurdle for many people: managing their password(s). ‘Duh!” some of you might say, but hey! with more and more platforms appearing, dangers lure at both ends of the spectrum:

It's increasingly difficult to create a password! (Credits: WeKnowMemes)

It’s increasingly difficult to create a password! (Credits: WeKnowMemes)

  • Use one password a little too often and you become extremely vulnerable to hack attacks;
  • Use too many (and increasingly complicated passwords – see the ‘creating a password’ image ;)) and you run the risk of forgetting what your password is. Or more to the point: what your passwordS ARE.

And that is what is preventing a lot of people in my professional environment from using enterprise social networks and a lot of social media platforms that they would be happy to use or at least try out otherwise.

Here’s the good news: there are plenty of ‘password managers’ that help you get rid of goldfish memory trouble (like I have) and retain all passwords to all platforms you have an account with – provided you remember one master password. Here’s how it works:

 

So, go on then, no more excuse: Check this recent list of password managers, install one of them, get going and enjoy a whole new world of online experiences.

Oh, you may say: but even that ONE password may be hard to generate. Well here’s a tip:

Hard/easy to create/guess? (Credits: Reddit)

Hard/easy to create/guess? (Credits: Reddit)

You’re all set now – see you online, in the comments section this time 😉

What do you think? Are there other major barriers towards using social media for those ready to try it out?

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