‘Process literacy’ 101


Mild process (Credits: Wassily Kandinsky, 1928) Mild process (Credits: Wassily Kandinsky, 1928)

Today I just sat through two very good – erm let’s say ‘very typical’ – examples of moments lacking ‘process literacy’:

  • A seminar that I had to leave after 50 minutes and hadn’t yet started the questions and answers session (like a penetrating and Q&A is totally ‘rad’ from an engagement point of view, right?)
  • A cool networking moment with a group which subtly moved on to a presentation that we were promised would be “only 5 slides, only 5 minutes” and turned out to be a lecture of 30 minutes and nearly as many slides, to a group of us feeling completely trapped by this unwanted PowerPoint invitation.

And these are not just two isolated incidents. They happen all the time! To you, me and the rest of us all…

I mean: what is wrong with you people? You don’t even need to be the highest process literates in the world to understand there is a slight glitch there, right?

So, at the risk of repeating a couple of things I’ve said in the past, let me spell it out for you right there: get process literate please! You will benefit from it but certainly others will benefit from it too!

What is ‘process literacy’ though?

Process literacy’ is a new term for an old practice. And it revolves around understanding and maximising the dynamics between people and what connects them to what it is they’re supposed to do together – whether they already know it or not. It is the weaving pattern that nests purpose in conversations and vice versa. It’s what makes human connections richer than ‘just a nice chat about whatever’.

Process literacy is about connecting the dots, the circles of people and conversation together, the energies and interests, in a time pathway, and in full realisation of where this is happening. It’s the travel training kit that prepares you for the richest adventures. And somehow refusing to see this means you will keep stuck with not so rich, not so amazing, not so long-lasting, not so effective results in your interactions with the brave whole world (or with your direct neighbour) and/or in any of your work involving others, other times, other spaces…

Even commercial companies have understood something needs to be done about process to gain value…

…although I think it’s a reductionist view.

Peeling this onion off a little more, being process literate means…

  • You don’t just care about yourself but also about others, about their opinions and feelings, their motives and motivations;
  • You don’t just care about ideas and whatever you’re focusing on but also how that focus content relates to a wider context;
  • But you also know that the process is only one aspect of it and that you should not focus only about it all the time;
  • You don’t just care about what you’re doing or talking about now – even though you should fully be present there – but also about how it relates to a wider objective;
  • You actually know where you are in this journey and you pay attention to explain to others what they are doing in this spot with you, why and what’s coming up next;
  • If you have no clue why you are at that spot, you actually try to understand this to relate ideas and actions together and shape a way forward;
  • You really care for that collective adventure people are on and you strive for engagement, individual and collective betterment, and collective action and change;
  • You pay attention to time and to the capacity of the people around you to be able to undertake that higher level calling;
  • And because all this ‘process stuff’ matters to you as something eminently important, you try understand it better by continually reflecting on the little and big details that make the process fly…

So it’s very much about the practice SMARTS – and about our lifelong learning.

Lifelong Learning

What to do about it? Learn process facilitation perhaps? Groups like Community At Work, Liberating Structures and many others can offer great starting points (and training!).

But you don’t need to be an ace facilitator to work on and care for process literacy. Great leaders know this as it relates to their imperative of empathy, to their social leadership skills, in normal times or in times of change.

Want to find out more? Hey the good news is there will likely be a session on ‘process literacy 101’ – which may go in other directions than this post by the way – at the upcoming AgKnowledge Innovation Process Share Fair. So join us there (and register here).

Meanwhile, what is coming up for you, thinking about this process literacy?

Related blog posts:

Put your knowledge work on turbo mode: Ask for help!


In his seminal post Rendering knowledge, controversial and inspirational KM thinker Dave Snowden says that “in a context of real need, few people will withold their knowledge”.

From personal diaries to social diarrhea... but that's not what I'm talking about here (credits: 91 9 Sea FM)

From personal diaries to social diarrhea… but that’s not what I’m talking about here (credits: 91 9 Sea FM)

And it is true. Only few people will proactively, continuously care for others enough to share their knowledge regardless of circumstances. Well, of course the evidence seems to suggest otherwise…

…but that’s an egoistic act of sharing stuff related to you and your fabulous life. What I’m talking about here is the stuff that people can use in their life, work, ideas, knowledge ecosystem. And one of the surest ways to put the turbo on your knowledge work in that ecosystem is to ask for help.

This begs the question: How much will we help other people who are (or may be) trying to improve their knowledge work? It depends on several factors:

  • How much time do we have available?
  • Do we have what it takes -technically – to help them?
  • How much do we care about these people?
  • Have they even asked for help?
  • Have they insisted to get help?
  • Do they seem resolute about what they want to do/improve?
  • How much potential do we see in them?
  • Does our helping them impact us over a longer period of time too?
Asking for help from the sources of light (Credits: Keoni 101 / FlickR)

Asking for help from the sources of light (Credits: Keoni 101 / FlickR)

The bottom line, for the people to be helped, is to voice their need for help out loud. And preferably to tell those who helped them how their support actually helped or not.

What’s more: we should all ask for help, as it shows or vulnerability and highlights or need for connection – and that is part of our networked economy and ecology.

Proactive sharing and reactive help-seeking are two sides of the same coin and count among the currency of the social age.

So pay it forward and ask for help, it’s never too late!

Related blog posts:

Mind your culture, and mind that I don’t mind it ;)


‘Culture’ is one of the very complex, variables to face in any knowledge management initiative. It is also one of the difficult variables in Mathieu Weggeman’s ‘knowledge value chain‘. With good reason, considering what it really is. Everything that is closely related to change is difficult, and complex.

The excellent infographic below  relates to organisational change and unravels some of that complexity surrounding the evanescent concept of ‘culture’.

The iceberg of organisational change – where culture and other subtle drivers are *really* deciding the name of the game (Credits: Torbenrick)

Personally I pay a lot of attention to culture, and yet I’m never really sure what to make of it. So here are a couple of thoughts about culture in a KM context.

  • Yes culture exists, and can be a really important enabler or barrier to any KM initiative;
  • So yes, paying attention to it is not only good, it’s essential. It can become a way to harness change around local preferences (e.g. asking people what they consider appropriate or not for their culture);
  • But culture is not necessarily what people think it is, and the scale of culture changes a lot (across industries, ages, even places large or small) – so best gather a variety of viewpoints about it from e.g. high-placed people, women, youths, people of diverse ethnic and/or socio-economic backgrounds etc.;
  • Because culture is often much less (if at all !) something codified than e.g. strategies, procedures etc.
  • But culture should not become a shield behind which no change is possible. Change happens everywhere, all the time, which means no culture is carved in stone, only the levers and buttons to trigger change may work very differently in places where the people have not been exposed to a lot of diverse experiences ;
  • Realising for yourself what you put as your own cultural background vis-à-vis other people or groups is also really helpful to keep your own biases in check, and engage in more meaningful intercultural learning conversations ;
  • Culture is a good conversation trigger to loosen tongues and get people to reflect on the deeper trends that affect their lives, beyond what is formally written, or said ;
  • Using the card of your own culture in a completely different environment can also be a powerful way to trigger change by playing a neutral role – or the role of the not culturally-savvy person who can come up with provoking statements…
Culture, it keeps moving on (Credits: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)

Culture, it keeps moving on (Credits: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)

So in brief, culture can be a useful trigger to spawn deep conversations, and is not something any KM initiative should take lightly, but it should also not be considered a factor to wave as an excuse for change – or at least good, serious, deep conversations – not to happen.

So even more briefly : mind your culture, and mind that I don’t mind it… so much…

Related blog posts:

The process arts, in defence of sustainable development


Abstrait (Credits: Roger / FlickR)

Abstrait (Credits: Roger / FlickR)

First of this series of short posts.

Maybe this year we’l be organising some sort of share fair of the process arts,  looking at facilitation, graphic facilitation, social learning and some other process-oriented approaches and tools.

But why really? What is it that ‘process’ awareness, or process literacy has to bring?

Perhaps, just perhaps, process is:

  • What connects objectives, activities, outputs, outcomes etc. The glue that holds it together. But also and more importantly it is what creates conversations: budding conversations, sticky conversations, morphing conversations. Because it relates deeply to human connections.
  • What creates engagement, empowerment, alignment, thirst for betterment – a sense of collective action, which drives that action for arguably a much longer term.
  • What keeps track of micro and macro patterns by putting much emphasis on understanding and assessing – both before, during,  and after the action. M&E and all the rest of it…

So it both pays attention to, stimulates and reflects upon the subtle ingredients that make work ‘work’. Remember: “Look beyond what to do: why and how lead to who.”

The rest is just what’s supposed to happen. And everyone thinks it’s easy enough, but not quite when you put on your ‘process literate’ glasses…

You reckon?

And then it struck me: MUSIC!!!


How could I not think of this one before? How come two overwhelming parts of my brain – learning process facilitation and music – did not connect earlier properly?

While relaxing from the last of three events in a row in Nairobi this week, I ended up chatting with our graphic facilitation duo (check their wonderful work at that event here), one of these artists confessed that of all the elements that make up a perfect event (missing the references for this here – do you know?), he enjoyed our event very much, but really missed one aspect: music!

Now, I’ve been an avid music collector for the past 25 to 30 years, amassing treasured beats, melodies and quirky noise experiments from around the world, across genres, for different moods, on different beats, for different purposes, in different languages, using different instruments. Or none… Over the equivalent of several terabytes of music scattered across various artifacts (CDs, cassettes, mini-discs, MP3s, LPs and EPs etc.)… Such a treasure chest at my hand and I never used it.

Music, the one and only energy and passion driver (Credits: Michael Spencer / FlickR - Friendly Fires @ Future Music Festival 2012 Perth, Arena Joondalup)

Music, the one and only energy and passion driver (Credits: Michael Spencer / FlickR)

Music drives energy and feelings – pretty much just like no other thing. It can dampen the atmosphere and sober everyone out, it can inspire and spark off movement, it can relax and soothe, it can open up hearts. It’s such a powerful current of energy that can be tapped into at all times – among other energy drivers

So it’s also a naturally great knowledge management enabler:

  • It can bring people together – regardless of language and background – and help create trust as it also connects people from their inner self, not just their professional profile;
  • It can create an atmosphere that helps people reflect deeply;
  • It can liberate the energy to drive real action, with a purpose, transcending individuals and appealing to a collective aspiration;
  • It uses our creative facets, rather than relying solely on the intellect…

And these are just some of the many possible uses of music…

On the other hand, using the power of music raises issues of ‘facipulation‘, but on the other hand it’s such a pity not to use this potential. When the graphic facilitator shared his impression, all of a sudden I felt deep down how un-melodious and sadly un-musical that event, and many other events I’ve designed in the past, had been.

Now, some questions to sharpen our sensitivity to music in KM and music in events:

  • What examples do you have of a good use of music to drive action, reflection or otherwise?
  • Where did music actually feel over-intrusive or over-powerful?
  • Where does ‘creating an atmosphere stop’ and when does ‘facipulation’ start?
  • Should music be restricted to multi-participant events or would you recommend using it for normal and small meetings, discussions, work etc.?
  • Should it be limited to the breaks or be the a theme tune in the actual sessions?
  • Do you rely on someone organising the music selection, would you run it as part of facilitation?
  • To what extent do cultural differences play a role in selecting music and to what extent should you use the music you know best, to be authentically true to yourself?
  • What have been interesting tunes or genres that might have proven particularly helpful with knowledge management – if any?

One sure thing is I’ll be using music in my next event(s) and see how it flies… I hope it will work out, because when the music’s over…

Related blog posts:

How social can you be?


Where are human beings in the 'social revolution'? (Credits: intersectionconsulting / FlickR)

Where are human beings in the ‘social revolution’? (Credits: intersectionconsulting / FlickR)

Let me keep this short, and in question style…

Is the internet all about being social? Doesn’t it wear us out? Doesn’t it keep brilliant introverts away from the action? Doesn’t it turn us into online social animals but offline antisocial beasts? Are we not living and going through life increasingly alone?

Also, does ‘going social’ mean we can never be purposeful any more because we always react epidermically, superficially? Like having difficulty finding a balance between thinking and acting?

Is ‘getting social’ our collective goal? Is that the only guarantee that people will share, learn and improve, or are there propositions on the table?

Is the ‘spacing of social moments’ not a useful alternative? Like organising special social happenings, and letting people be the rest of the time? Or can we not resist getting connected but shunning real conversations?

What is better: ever social or ‘intensively social at times’ like the difference between my organisation’s campus in Addis and its ever-social cafe/bar vs. the ‘Last Friday of the month dance bonanza’ of my organisation’s headquarters in Nairobi?

Or is it actually better to keep social at all times to keep sharpening our social sense, one of many aptitudes to develop for the future?

Is the creation of extra, informal ‘social spaces’ (link subject to log in credentials) what it takes for meaningful interactions? Like designing coffee break spaces and other ways of unwinding outside formal event sessions for instance?

Or is the solution not to create safe social spaces for different types of social animals? To encourage dialogue – and sometimes creative conflict – including people that may not otherwise get to speak?

Do we not have different aptitudes to face the ‘social wave’? And if so, do we want to all become more social, or do we want to encourage that difference and the complementarity of minds and souls (like introverts and extroverts) that it might bring about?

Is ‘Social’ the real path to empowerment? Or the golden prison that we’ve been forced to love? Who decides the rules of this game? Who sets the limits?

What are the limits of the social revolution?

How social do we want to be? 

How social can you be?

And really: to do what?

Time to think carefully about this, before we treat ‘getting social’ just like the next email management challenge… with a much bigger hangover upon awakening… You reckon?

Related blog posts:

KM and politics… an agile ‘House of Cards’?


If you haven’t yet taken a peek at ‘House of Cards’, just do it! It’s a fabulous series! Non-compromising, eerily and scarily realistic, and as sharp as its main contender ‘Game of Thrones‘ is, bar the physical violence and fountains of hemoglobin… Just have a look:

Where’s the connection with agile knowledge management and learning? At some interesting junctions…

Information is not all that matters: KM is about change and change is about complex technical-political-emotional triggers

Andrea Bohn gave this really good presentation (below) at last year’s ‘ICT4Ag’ conference, cautioning ICT app developers that even in a relatively non-political arena like agricultural ICT applications, information is simply not enough. A lot of other items have to be factored in before change happens – in this case adoption of ICT applications.

Slide 10 sums it all up:

So, KM initiatives that focus solely on managing information (or even managing the knowledge environment), without looking at other factors of change, are doomed. Knowledge management is not sheer dissemination of information: that is also a key finding from one of the World Bank’s top posts in 2012 and an old verse in the gospel of the Overseas Development Institute, a UK think tank.

In House of Cards (HoC), the ‘technical experts’ are allegedly so few that they seem almost entirely not relevant for policy-making… Researchers, so much for our sacrosanct quest for evidence duh!

So now, step away from agricultural development (research) toward more political or personal arenas, and you can be sure that having relevant information is simply not enough to make people change their habits. It is the case with handwashing, with quitting cigarettes and, well, adopting useful KM policies, practices and behaviours…

The factors affecting policy decisions (credits: Strathclyde University)

The factors affecting policy decisions (credits: Strathclyde University)

Policy engagement specialists and think tanks know that they have to act on many other factors than good information: having the right people (capacities) target the right people, at the right time and in the right places (“location, location, location” as HoC’s main political contender Frank Underwood testifies in the video above), with the right props, information and emotional triggers.

And this is another lesson of House of Cards: emotional manipulation goes a long way. We certainly don’t have to go down the road of dirty tricks a la Frank Underwood] but being aware of them could help us get more effective.

KM-induced change can happen with consent or subconsciously; with blows and whistles or following a stealth agenda

Change sometimes needs to be upfront, and even the difficulties that come with it need to be shared early on. In HoC, would-be Governor Peter Russo manages to rally his local constituency (whom he earlier demised with the closing of a major shipyard) while being clear that the shipyard was going to be closed anyway and that the future lies in other opportunities, which demand work, dedication etc. This relates to the culture of understanding and embracing failure. In KM agendas, this is incredibly important. Similarly, if you notice problems that need to be fixed, changed, you can decide to be vocal about it, although that might induce risks for your career (if you follow one ;)).

Yet at other times it can be better to not deal with the problems upfront and to rather harness alliances that help you move your agenda forward. A lot of that kind of politicking happens in House of Cards. In KM agendas, I personally believe that while operationally it’s better to be upfront and open about the difficulties with the people directly involved, strategically it might be better to adopt a stealth approach, relying on local champions, managing expectations and winning people over by showing real progress, not just promises…

In environments when e.g. management or staff are not buying into the KM initiative(s), that sort of discreet alliance building is what can make the difference inside…

If old school politics doesn’t work, move on to out-of-the-box networking guerrilla tactics!

Zoe Barnes, the social media-savvy Washington Herald journalist that operates in House of Cards against the old-fashioned media business model (ruled by CEO Tom Hammerschmidt) eventually decides to move away from the Herald to recover her freedom. Before that happens, as an exasperated Tom tries to curb her will, she defiantly replies:

“when you talk to one person, you talk to thousands”

Politics extends beyond the old boys networks’ clubs nowadays. The Internet has invited itself to the table and networks can be mobilised in order to bring politics to the crowd and let it play a mitigating role (checks and balances). In the KM world, that kind of external network pressure can make the difference in crisis situations such as the one Zoe found herself in. But employees can also use that external network to exert a very positive influence on inside change by regularly referring to these outside network dynamics and inviting them into in-house conversations.

Trust (Credits: Joi Ito / FlickR)

Trust (Credits: Joi Ito / FlickR)

It’s all about trust!

As the HoC clip on top shows, in politics as in KM, trust is critical. Having personal connections with people you trust is of the essence, not least because…

“Friends make the worst enemies” (Frank Underwood in House of Cards)

But also because if…

Knowledge is power… so too (and even more so)…

Sharing knowledge is power. It can be used to leak plots and hidden agendas, killer ideas, but it can also be used to mobilise those networks of influence around… In this sense, perhaps KM differs very much from politics, at least on paper, in as far as knowledge sharing is a natural KM ideal, when in some cases it may be the absolute worst thing in politics!

When F. Underwood requires from Peter Russo “Your absolute, unquestioning loyalty”, it reminds us that the ‘personal’ factor, beyond the human factor in KM is a powerful driver of KM success. Time to get your hands dirty and connect deeply with the people around you, time to consider partners in a real, no-nonsense kind of way

In agile KM, the people are central, so don’t wait: target the game-changers! 

As information and evidence is of so little use in House of Cards, having the right candidates, allies etc. is what makes or breaks politics. Game-changers and natural connections are emphasising the influence of getting personal in KM. So, spend more of your time on the people, rather than the processes and (technology) programs – the people you do KM with and for. They’re your best guarantee for success, and that’s not politics, it’s just about being human and humane.

And since we’re talking about ‘House of Cards’, I leave you today with this beautiful song by Radiohead…

Related blog posts:

 

Women, youth, disabled, minorities… learning and sharing with all that we are


Yesterday was International Women’s Day (8 March) – with the theme ‘Inspiring change‘.

Two years ago, on that date, I celebrated the natural inclination of many women toward sharing and learning (as well as caring to share).

Dealing with minorities... (Credits - Snorkel/FlickR)

Dealing with minorities… (Credits – Snorkel/FlickR)

This year, I want to use this occasion to reflect on all the minorities (hey, gender usually comes with equity), recognised as such or not, whether rightly or wrongly – and their capacity to deeply enrich learning and sharing… We all bring to the table some baggage that has not always been positive, but can be used positively to learn, share and inspire…

My wife is collecting life stories of people that deeply affected or inspired her (to be publicly available soon). One of the common traits of all these people is the deep struggle they had in their life, often as members of minorities or during ‘minority moments’ – when they are going against the main current – something I’m sure we can find in the (visual) shape of stories generally. We bear these life wounds in ourselves.

In my case, although we are not talking of any trauma at all, far from it, I have often felt sidelined in my work, misunderstood (the ills of working in knowledge management ha ha). I felt out of place for a very long time, until I found my professional family in KM4Dev. And then of course I was a minority Breton in France, a minority Frenchman in the Netherlands and now in Ethiopia… We all have these feelings of ‘existing without’… out of the mainstream.

Yet, as much as the gay community has appropriated the insults ‘faggot’ and the likes to disarm the words, we can all use our minority identities, moments and pathways to work to our advantage.

Here is a tour of the benefits of these minority moments to learn, share, inspire:

  • Going through such ‘minority experiences’ is the best way to rebound, to find the guts to look at life the way it really is, to reflect deeply on who we are, how different we are from ‘the mainstream’, on where and how we live – according to what principles;
  • It’s also the best way to realise who we live around with and who really matters to us – so it’s a powerful way to deeply engage, make lifelong friendships and relationships of all kinds. So, paradoxically, our minority pathways make us more unique and simultaneously more together, perhaps;
  • Reflecting through our minority pathways helps us gain self-assurance and thus deliver the most of ourselves on our good moments… Richer sharing, stronger learning, better inspiration…
  • The complex environments in which we work require a diversity of perspectives, with generalists as well as specialists, with men as well as women, with youth as well as elderly, with disabled or not disabled people… the more minorities in the mix, the better;
  • All these groups and minorities tend to work in isolation from one another, with their network that is by and large equally disconnected from one another. Bringing up our networks into a social learning approach of sorts helps connect learning communities and conversations;
  • At the same time, it is not only about perspectives and networks but also about skills and capacities that everyone brings to the mix. We all have special powers – combined, we manage to work much more effectively and synergistically;
  • The state of seclusion of the minorities we belong to is a good indication of the progress still to make in a given space – if we want to achieve universal sense-making we have to genuinely include all minorities, all secluded groups.
  • If people with quite a difficult pathway in life manage to make it through life – as is the case in the life stories my wife tells me about – there is all the more case for inspiration, and in many cases these people have managed to make it by learning and sharing with others… so it is inspiration to follow their principles of life… 

And I’m sure many more reasons come into play… the point is: let’s not just celebrate women on 8 March, let’s celebrate diversity and minorities all the time, everywhere, for true transformational social learning is all about bringing people together to learn, share, inspire and kindle change…

I leave you with a quote from Louis CK about minority thinking… which shows there is much left to desire when it comes to thinking, sharing, learning along with all minorities and majorities…

Minority thinking via Louis CK (Credits I.Imgur)

Minority thinking via Louis CK (Credits I.Imgur)

Related blog posts:

My KM year’s insights, top posts… and a Merry Christmas!!!


What reflections and patterns come up in the KM world anno 2013 (Credits - Ekkaia / FlickR)

What reflections and patterns come up in the KM world anno 2013 (Credits – Ekkaia / FlickR)

That time of the year, when we are packing up for holiday and family celebrations. A good reflective time though the festivities can make it harder than summer holidays to find time to reflect.

As I’m just about to also take a few days off, here is what I’ve observed in my KM (for development [research]) world this year.

  • KM is not dead, it is more than alive! And more and more people are joining KM forums, discussion lists, communities of practice (3500 people on KM4Dev!!!). See some of these forums and networks here. It’s booming business.
  • Big data has been all over the place of course and is going to keep going strong as software applications are able to process increasingly fathomless data sets. However the question of who decides how to analyse that data remains most of the time unclear. A slightly similar development as the explosion of ICT applications in ag business which needs to be channelled and solicited by some demand… which is why, for the big data revolution to really offer its fruits…
  • Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is gaining ground (credits - Harold Jarche)

    Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is gaining ground (credits – Harold Jarche)

    …the recognition of knowledge workers is also gaining ground. We need capacity to analyse data, to make sense of it. So we need to be individually stronger at analysing our world. This means that on the one hand PKM (see this presentation by Stephen Dale on personal knowledge management) is gaining ground – with the idea that everyone in the organisation can contribute their energy, capacity, network to solve problems and that…

  • …On the other hand, more efforts in the KM world are coming up to federate, rally, convene minds and hearts to solve complex interrelated issues. These ‘change conversation’ spaces have to be facilitated – no longer managed. So KM is being stretched on its individual (PKM) and on its holistic frontier, when it used to focus mostly on organisational learning (see the presentation below)
  • Generally networked KM dynamics is taking central stage as everyone is wondering how those dynamics can stimulate innovation, ideation and (inter-) institutional change, including in rural development areas.
  • Assessing KM through e.g. social media metrics is slowly but surely coming of age as testified by this recent article and those reflections from the recent ICT4Ag conference. We are now talking beyond reach into engagement, use, learning, action… Still lots of progress to be made but we are going forward!
  • Closer to development work, the idea of ‘blurred boundaries’ between e.g. KM, communication, monitoring and learning etc. is making headway. Communication is no longer just a support cabinet that can be called upon to polish ‘messages’, it is part and parcel of operations and rebranded under a general ‘engagement’ approach. Because engagement leads communication, learning and action. See some excellent collective reflections about recent workshops I was involved in, on this.

This recent presentation by Nancy Dixon also gives us some additional views over KM in late 2013:

What this suggests is that KM is becoming the art and science of stimulating collective sense-making conversations and integrated actions, while relying on solid individual practices and skills. I expect more will happen at the junction of individual (networks, capacities, passions) and collective (ambitions, agendas and wicked problems) dynamics in 2014 and beyond. Perhaps I’ll even try some predictions early next year…

But back to 2013: Here were the most popular posts (including the ‘top 10 published in 2013’ in bold) on this blog this year:

  1. Managing or facilitating change, not just a question of words
  2. Tinkering with tools: What’s up with Yammer?
  3. Portrait of the modern knowledge worker
  4. Settling the eternal semantic debate: what is knowledge, what is information…
  5. The art of blogging: Taking stock
  6. What is common knowledge about knowledge? A visual tour…
  7. Learning cycle basics and more: Taking stock
  8. What the heck is knowledge anyway: from commodity to capacity and insights
  9. The feast of fools of feedback
  10. Why on earth would you want to be on Twitter?
  11. The lessons I learned about lessons learned
  12. What to put in a KM training, off the random top of my head
  13. We need more / better communication! But not from me…
  14. Assessing, measuring, monitoring knowledge (and KM): Taking stock
  15. Modern musings on a KM evergreen: institutional memory
  16. Engagement and deeper connection in social networks, a dialogue with Jaume Fortuny
  17. What’s really new about social learning?

Now I wish you all Merry Christmas and hope catch up soon, perhaps even before the new year! Thank you very much for all the good work around KM, learning, engagement, empowerment, for following this blog, for sharing thoughts and quality time with me and many.

Keep up the good work in 2014!

Merry Christmas (credits - Ceanandjen:FlickR)

Merry Christmas! (Credits – Ceanandjen:FlickR)

Why on earth would you want to be on Twitter?


Given the cutting-edge experience of my personal learning network (yes, you, who follow this blog and whom I’m following on various social media generally) this question seems strange, but there are many Twitter skeptics out there. It’s great! Long live the skeptics! Long live their ability to raise important questions… that is, so long as it leads to open-ended conversations… Because as much can be said in favour of Twitter as can be said against it.

So, for my skeptical friends, here’s what I have to say about Twitter:

Why you might be skeptical:

  • You haven’t tried Twitter for yourself yet – perhaps you’ve created a Twitter account but never really used it – so it doesn’t bring anything interesting in return (obviously)!
  • None of your friend or family is on it – so none of the people you trust seem to perceive any value from it, quite logically.
Twitter - sometimes unfiltered for the worst of all (credits: CarrotCreative / FlickR)

Twitter – sometimes unfiltered for the worst of all (credits: CarrotCreative / FlickR)

  • The only people you know who might be on it are the IT crew, communication specialists and a few other ‘looneys’ – people you don’t necessarily identify with.
  • You hear a lot of caution in the (traditional) media about Twitter and social media in general – this is common in France but I suspect in many other places too.
  • Most examples of Twitter use you hear about are from silly people tweeting about enjoying their tomato-mozzarella sandwich, half-brained adolescents sharing all details of their private life without any measure of decency, or celebrities glossing over their latest celeb-do’s…

Well… I can’t blame you for being skeptical. If that’s the picture you have, I share your despair for the human race.

Except that…

I personally know about the power of Twitter. I see it around me everyday (in my Twitter stream of news), I experience it every week, I’ve experienced it in various Twitter chats too. So let’s also have a look at this side of things, but first…

The basics: what you need to understand about Twitter

  • A lot of people don’t understand that social media can be used for your private life and/or your professional life. They are not one and the same, even though some half-brainers might mix the two – The Social Media Guide for Africa tried to inform readers about this.
  • Actually, I would argue that a medium like Twitter is much more adapted to professional uses (or at least to topics that might interest more than a small in-crowd), because it has a great ability to rally people around topics (as opposed to already formed social relationships).
  • The whole secret about Twitter is about following the RIGHT people. The right people to YOU. No strings attached with Twitter, no need to feel any sense of obligation towards anyone. It’s not your family email list, it’s not your University mates’ network. It’s your personal learning network. At least part of it, since other parts of your community might be in other social networks. And that personal learning network needs care, for engagement to genuinely happen.
Twitter vs. Facebook (credits: cambodia4kidsorg / FlickR)

Twitter vs. Facebook (credits: cambodia4kidsorg / FlickR)

  • So Twitter can be used to make contact with people that are interested in the similar topics as you are. It is actually described as the social network where you meet people online that you’d love to encounter face-to-face, while Facebook is the social network that allows you to get in touch face-to-face connections you’d rather have forgotten ;)
  • Like any social media, it takes time to get a handle on Twitter – and it takes practice, dedication, purpose. It’s not going to take a week, not a month but probably closer to a year of (some kind of) practice before you see REAL return on investment with more interaction, a highly relevant network, a good handle of all options, using some related Twitter tools. And in the meantime it will be a good ride still, because you’ll get a lot of relevant information.
  • You can be passive or you can be active. The latter is even better and will bring you even more benefits, but simply reading tweets can be immensely rewarding. As you can see below, a minority of Twitter users are active anyhow. It doesn’t mean they’re passive, they’re just choosing to listen.

The advantages: How can Twitter *really* help you

  • The main advantage of Twitter is that it’s a great overall filter – to sift through tons of information – because if your network is good, it brings up good, relevant stuff up to the top.

“It’s not about information overload, it’s about filter failure” (Clay Shirky)

  • Twitter is a great live reporting channel. News often breaks out more quickly there than it does on mainstream media – because it relies on mobile inputs from web-enabled knowledge workers using their phone, tablet, PC etc. to share what is happening.
  • It takes no time to go through your feed. Since every tweet is only 140 characters, every message is quickly digested. Even a flow of 100 tweets missed in the space of a few hours can be quickly scanned and ignored at will. And then it may also reveal some gems.
  • Because it’s all based on the network and it is a social network, you can really engage with the people you are following or who are following you; you can mention them, message them, have private conversations with them. You can strike partnerships, friendships or simply trusted relationships with people you have never met in real life.
  • As it has a very viral nature, it can be an excellent relay for information you come across, that you produce, that you curate etc. – so that more people can benefit from this information and experience too.
  • Against the problem of dealing with intense email flows, Twitter also allows diverting some of the traffic away from your inbox. A Twitter contact of mine shared this example of using Twitter to replace collective email lists.
  • It’s a personal record of interesting thoughts, links, information etc. which can be tracked again later (through Twitter tools like TwimeMachine and many others)… As a thought repository, it is also useful to help reflection and analysis.
  • And from my colleagues, here are a few other personal benefits:
    • “I can do a much better job of assembling high-quality people to listen to/stay in contact with (via social media such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, blogs, etc.) than can traditional media, who mediate that process for me”
    • “I continue to read article published in traditional media (e.g. Guardian, Atlantic, New Yorker, New York Times), but I increasingly find these great article NOT on those websites but rather by referral (aka curation) by those I follow on social media.”
    • “Serendipitous discovery in high-quality social media (where the quality is determined by the reader and who that reader follows) is infinitely higher in quality that similar discoveries available in traditional media. Where some editor is trying to put together materials for the masses. Just saying.”

And yet more from Twitter contacts:

Oh, and it must be serendipitous zeitgeist because Harold Jarche just beat me to this topic by blogging about ‘the value of Twitter‘.

The challenges: what are some of the possible limitations of Twitter

  • As any other social media, it can be overwhelming to work with Twitter at first – and it is a challenge to ‘trim’ your social network. But it’s essential because your Twitter news stream will be as good (or as bad) as your Twitter network’s relevance.
  • Finding the balance between what’s ‘tweetable’ and what’s not remains a bit of a learning exercise for all of us – and so is learning how to tweet, how to make use of the technical options of Twitter (to tweet, send direct messages etc.) – this is why it takes quite a few months to really benefit greatly from it.
  • And perhaps a question mark – I wonder if Twitter doesn’t work better for information and knowledge professionals simply because we are more likely to try it out and reach the critical mass that allows you to have good conversations. So it may be more difficult for some to use the potential of the no.2 social network.

Now what then?

Despite this post, I certainly don’t want to encourage you to use Twitter cost what cost. Really!

But on the other hand: can you afford to ignore Twitter just out of principle, without having tried it for yourself? Can you afford to ignore what could possibly be a much smarter way of working, of navigating this world of information we live in? Are you going to be the last skeptic on Earth about Twitter? Go on then, play around, reflect, inform your decision and contribute to the twittering choir about Twitter. Then, and only then are you allowed to remain skeptical – and to sharpen my mind with your challenging questions :)

PS. Twitter is only one of the social media channels that you might want to consider. See this presentation to give you an idea about the options with the social learning landscape anno 2013/2014…

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