Ban info-dumping and think carefully how much information you can handle


The paradox of the knowledge age is that we feel ever more lost with information and our capacity to filter it, and yet…

We always want more, more and more of it.

How much information can you eat, really? (Credits: Internet Business Mastery)

How much information can you eat, really? (Credits: Internet Business Mastery)

But as much as slow-food and eco-citizen trends are teaching us (again and again), the best can be the enemy of the good and looking at our real situation is just common sense.

I’ve been involved in a few work assignments and projects where I (or other people) were asked to submit a lot of information. In fact, so much so that it seemed absurd how much of that information was going to be absorbed by the receiving end.

Information greed is the ugly relative of information glut, like a monstrous yin and yang that keeps feeding off each other.

But think carefully, if you are asking to get all that information, how much information can you really handle? What are you going to do with that information? I know it’s tempting to gather information ‘just in case’, and generally to learn, but the central question is and remains: learning to do what? Why? Why? Nine whys!

Image result for information greed

 

 

Or perhaps you’re just trying to hoard it and keep sole access to it? In any case you’re indulging in unhealthy and unnecessary ‘info dumping‘.

If you are sure you won’t be doing something concrete about each piece of information you’re asking for, don’t bother asking for that information, whether you’re setting up a survey, organising a call for proposal or giving an assignment to someone. If you insist on receiving all kinds of extra information, you run the risk of a) being drowned in information yourself as you add a lot of ‘noise’ around what you actually really need b) losing your credibility as a person/team/institution that knows what they are doing and c) turning off the people you are asking to get that information and ensuring there won’t be more work with you in the future.

I’ve seen teams prepare baseline survey questionnaires including over 200, sometimes 300 questions, basically requesting many individual farmers (who are hard working on their plot of land) to spend three, four or more hours on a questionnaire that doesn’t gratify them with any instant result. This is utterly absurd, and disrespectful.

Information is precious, so keep it this way and don’t indulge in ‘info dumping’ please…

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Nothing new under the sun? Here’s what’s new: your dying thirst for learning


It’s a natural tendency of skeptics, experts, people who’ve been in a field for a while: they’ve seen it all, nothing is new, why bother?

This is happening currently on KM4Dev in relation with a conversation on what is different about communities of practice now and then. Some people have the tendency to say that indeed nothing is genuinely new.

Every rediscovery of an old topic is like a kaleidoscopic reflection on the same 'ingredients'. Let's keep being amazed! (Credits: EllenM1 / FlickR)

Every rediscovery of an old topic is like a kaleidoscopic reflection on the same ‘ingredients’. Let’s keep being amazed! (Credits: EllenM1 / FlickR)

 

How can that be? That people ask similar questions then and now is not so surprising: it takes much more time to answer questions than to raise them. But then, there’s always new aspects to identify, examine and appreciate. New layers of subtlety, new and recombined ways of looking at things, new perspectives on old topics.

That’s why there’s values in the phoenix conversations (such as M&E of KM), and in reinventing the wheel.

Not recognising the subtleties of change is simply renouncing our curiosity and our -at least as specialised knowledge workers- sacro-sanct thirst for learning. That’s a risky trade-off for appearing to have ‘been there, done that’.

Let’s not fall in that trap, shall we?

Meanwhile, that conversation on communities of practice, and the upcoming issue of the KM for development journal will provide excellent opportunities to blog further about this topic on this blog in the coming months… So keep watching this space 🙂

Dedication and determination, in the name of CoP’s


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

Determination (Credits: Dana Lookadoo / FlickR)

Determination (Credits: Dana Lookadoo / FlickR)

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

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

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

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

Because let’s face it, if:

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

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

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

It’s all about determination…

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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:

Technology and community: don’t get mistaken about the real deal


Most people who are approaching knowledge management -for the first time- from the standpoint of building a community end up focusing on technology.

Technology just enhances communities. It expands the opportunities that communities bring but it doesn’t create communities, and it can also worsen communities if the technology is not user-friendly or if the community faciltator(s) does not know how to use it properly.

Community and technology (Credits: Nancy White)

A bit of history on community and technology (Credits: Nancy White)

So why this focus on technology?

Because it’s hard to build a system, to have a functional tool, to provide ‘office-approved’ technology. A rutilating toy coming out of the shelves.

The technology feels to most of these people building KM community systems like the 80% of the work. And yet the 20% that remains – community building and development – is what really takes 80% of the time.

Technology creating platforms for communities to flourish (Credits: OCLC.org)

Technology creating platforms for communities to flourish (Credits: OCLC.org)

This is why it is very important to invest in cultivating healthy human systems before anything else…

That’s why soft skills are more important than hard systems; that’s why facilitation matters more than engineering (for these communities); that’s why listening is more important than programming; that’s why patience beats quick development…

Technology is and may always be only a proxy, an enabler, not the actual deal.

Funny, I drafted this 2 weeks ago, and this topic is what Bevery Trayner just wrote about on her blog. Go check it, it’s quality! Funny serendipity at work… technology enabling a community of ideas…

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‘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:

Killing my darlings: the workshop


Last week I facilitated a really hectic workshop on the fascinating topic of ‘community-based adaptation (to climate change) and resilience in the East and Southern African Drylands‘. A number of us (in the organising team) wondered at a point or another if the workshop was the best venue to create new meaning around this complex topic.

Workshops... are they still any good to express ourselves and create new meaning? (Credits: UNAMID / FlickR)

Workshops… are they still any good to express ourselves and create new meaning? (Credits: UNAMID / FlickR)

Simultaneously – aaah serendipity… – my friend Amanda Harding posted about ‘Reinventing the workshop‘, giving the example of an event (that suspiciously looked like a writeshop, if you ask me though).

Perhaps ‘workshops’ are indeed past their prime?

And since change is here to stay and we have to facilitate it, one of the things we’ll have to do on a regular basis is to kill our darlings, our pet ideas and approaches, our professional hobby horses.

At least review them critically. To see if they still strike a chord in our changing environment.

 

So one of my darlings is about to be killed right here: THE WORKSHOP

Particularly if the objective of ‘THE workshop’ is to carve out new grounds…

The problem of wishy-woshy workshops… Idealistic without a focus…

Amanda points in her post (co-written with Red Plough‘s Terry Clayton) that the workshop has become a ‘meme’. And indeed a number of things are wrong with workshops: They can be terribly designed and end up like orchestrated death-by-Powerpoint anti-learning operas; they may tend to solve everyone’s problems without any clear focus (see meme here); badly facilitated, they can actually contribute to worsening understanding AND relations between people.

But what I’m thinking about here, together with another mate who attended the same workshop last week is this:

Even if well designed, even if well facilitated, have workshops not become a standard solution that we revert back to, in a standard mode and in our comfort zone?

Where is the triple-loop learning here?

It’s not the first time that I have my doubts about workshops and what they can achieve… And one of my conclusions is that despite the best intentions probably the single most important aspect remains building and strengthening connections and relations: the social weaving. But that doesn’t stop me from looking at possible options.

Isn’t there an alternative?

Should we not follow the example of the World Bank’s John Heath (see 12th minute onwards in this excellent videotaped discussion of how The Bank learns) and focus on making time for learning by not jumping on what it is we want to achieve with events or happenings.

 Should we not follow the recommendation to bring diversity and argument at the centre of our deliberations (recommending again this great BBC article about the fallacy of the wisdom of the crowds on this topic) and rather focus on bringing very small groups of very diverse people together, outside their normal work environment, in a sort-of retreat, to explore promising new avenues and explore old topics with fresh pairs of eyes and complementary brains?

Should we not leave our voice and our pens/computers outside to let our other senses guide us in exploring the edges of our consciousness? Creative drawing, using metaphors, miming, observing (e.g. animals), using our body to solicit other avenues of our resourcefulness… ?

Should we not encourage more walking about, more journeys together to reflect on work, more cooking and eating together to explore new surfaces – indeed perhaps a cookshop might be as ground-breaking as a workshop for that matter?

Should we not refuse to bring people together physically and rather bring together virtually a group of people who practice Personal Knowledge Management to explore each other’s questions and musings and build upon that? Could a duo’s journey be not innovative than an entire room full of people?

Hmmm… lots of options hanging up and I’m not sure any of these would bring us further?

And what if the answer is in the workshop itself?

If un-conferences and workshops are sticking around, can we not think of a set of alternatives – which are already tested anyway:

    • Pure Open Space Technology workshops?
    • Other events without a preconceived agenda where perhaps organisers get participants to think about hard/complex questions they want to explore and filter out the most complex/interesting questions in a crowdsourced manner, to go more deeply in the fields concerned?
    • Happenings with staged ‘conversations and interactions for change’ such as this useful idea below…

The bottom line is also that we should clearly understand and distinguish when we want to have a workshop, a workstop (where we would stop working and explore relationships), a talkshop (where people have the entire liberty to explore anything in conversations), a writeshop where the point is to write some outputs etc.

One of the most important questions (from the BOSSY HERALD) to ponder when thinking about organising an event is whether we want to level knowledge or deepen it, and whether we want some output or some interaction. Totally different dynamics are at play in either case…

And all that said, I am still pondering the following, perhaps you have some answers:

  • Can we genuinely ‘explore new grounds’ with a group beyond 40-50 participants?
  • If so, what have been the ingredients, principles or heuristics that worked in your experience and that you would suggest following?
  • If not, what have been the best alternatives to workshops to bring up a totally different experience, that you think could be reproduced in other settings?
  • What have been your best examples of events or happenings that led people to change, not just to learn new ideas and share much? How did IT work?

Phew! Sounds like this reflection might go on for a while still…

Related blog posts:

 

What are we waiting for to walk our talk (on KM and comms)?


Back on the blog after a three-week pause related to important developments in my personal life. Still floating a bit and my blogging practice needs to be oiled up again, but I have some ideas of stuff to blog about, starting with: Why don’t more KM and comms specialists actually walk their own talk?

The past few weeks at ILRI have been about appraisals, 360 degree feedback – so a lot of retrospective thinking and sense-making – and also among others an important demonstration of what we do in comms/KM.

All good fodder for thought (yes, I am influenced by the livestock agenda of my organisation ;)) What strikes me in this first week back is that despite knowing that it really can be difficult to ‘sell’ KM and comms, many specialists of that field don’t seem to walk their talk – and I’m not specifically talking about my direct colleagues here, but about a lot of more distant colleagues who ‘should be out there’ and just don’t seem to.

  • How many of these specialists are really sharing what their doing on a regular basis – both online and face-to-face – to inform others about their work, to work out loud as John Stepper is convincingly inviting us to work?
  • How many of these specialists are really applying the principles of personal knowledge management (or ‘personal knowledge mastery‘ PKM, as Harold Jarche would have it) to manage their information and sharpen their expertise, knowledge and tap into that of others around them?
  • How many of them (of us!!) not spending adequate time performing a simple ‘after action review‘ (AAR) to ensure we keep learning and adapting?
  • How many of us are really curating our own content and ongoing work to ensure that every signal we come across, as much as possible (since obviously it’s impossible to achieve 100% there), finds its way to appropriate sharing channels and storing repositories, with our own added value to it?
  • And how come so many of us are still struggling with assessing and measuring KM when the field has been around… with the possible exception of Nick Milton’s excellent set of quantified KM stories on Knoco stories?

Many gaps in our own practices, it seems, so how can we expect others, who are not dedicated knowledge workers, to buy into KM and comms and use it for their own benefit? Being an effective knowledge worker requires discipline and dedication, all for the purpose of improving one’s and others’ practices and lives (I share because I care!). It is tiring at times, even exhausting occasionally, but it also continually gives a lot of energy.

This relates to another thought triggered by this first week back at work: a colleague gave a very comprehensive presentation about ILRI comms work. It was quite a complicated job, because the presentation was very broad and covered an incredible amount of items, so this is certainly no criticism on my part – there would have been things to improve anyways, but one thing that struck me was that the presentation seemed to miss an essential element: WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

What's in it for me? If we don't start there, how can we expect others to get interested? (Credits: Gino Zahnd / FlickR)

What’s in it for me? If we don’t start there, how can we expect others to get interested? (Credits: Gino Zahnd / FlickR)

Isn’t the trick, in our field of comms/KM, to start from either the concrete and devilish problems that our colleagues, partners, clients are facing or the opportunities to work more smartly? And then to demonstrate how we do this?

It seemed to me that despite the incredible richness of the presentation, there was a bit too much ‘this is what we do’, ‘this is how it works’, not enough ‘this is why it is going to solve your problems like no other solution’ or ‘this is going to strengthen your excellent work in area xyz’… And ultimately, ‘these are a few steps you might take in that direction…’ Remember Spitfire Communications’ ‘Smart Chart’ and its due emphasis on the ‘ask’?

We know (personal) change is slow, everyone wants others to start it rather than themselves, and it has a lot to do with psychology. So while there’s no need in criticising people for being slow at change, we equally cannot afford to rest on our laurels and not practice what we preach as comms and KM folks.

So, WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP to sharpen your practice? Mine will start with more systematic AARs. Next week. Tomorrow. Now! Still a lot of progress for all of us, me certainly included, to get better at explaining, showing and embodying the power of KM and comms 😉 Indeed we need to look at ourselves first, because as Leo Tolstoy excellently put it:

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” (Leo Tolstoy)

What other areas of not walking our talk do you commonly observe in the field of comms/KM? Do you know of similar watchdogs in that field as Shit Facilitators Say (@ShitFacilitator) on Twitter for facilitation heads?

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Leaders, innovate please!


Leadership vs management (Credits - ocd007 / FlickR)

Leadership vs management (Credits – ocd007 / FlickR)

Enough!

Enough ‘do what I say, not what I do’!

Enough ‘we aspire to be a centre of excellence’ bla bla bla but we don’t put our heart and money to it!

Enough old potions in new bottles!

Enough 20th century management in 21st century networked leaders’ age!

LEADERS, IT’S TIME TO INNOVATE!

I realise starting this year with a rant may not be the most appropriate debut in a new year full of exciting opportunities.

But somehow I’ve just had enough of…

Leaders, if you want to innovate, do it properly! Start with your staff’s ideas; consider their connections and their networks; see them as the DNA of the company – one that keeps reforming and offering opportunities; allow people to try things out / reflect / report / reframe and reinforce their initiatives; open your circle, heart, mind and soul; and: lead the way, pave the way for all the leaders-to-be that you say your company holds but that your actions implicitly deny…

There are various examples out there. This is just one more way to open up:

The ball is in your court, and the clock is ticking. Dinosaurs go extinct, so in front of that swimming pool of change, risk, unfamiliarity and innovation, your precious company has to just dive or die. The choice is yours, and a lot of people are ready to help!

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Social media: why bother? A French misunderstanding


I spent last Chrismas holiday in France, my birthplace, my homeland, a place that I am so estranged from in many respects. A people for which social media sound so strange too – apart from a few isolated voices and some interesting articles. Among others, Jay Cross also found out about the chasm between France and the rest of the world in terms of  learning, social media, agile KM and so on.

Social media face skeptics, in France and elsewhere (credits - Spiral16)

Social media face skeptics, in France and elsewhere (credits – Spiral16)

This post is addressing some criticism I heard in my own country about social media, more as an illustration of how they miss the point about it rather than about bashing France at that.

In Voltaire’s craddle, social media are portrayed – particularly by traditional media – like futile media where ego-maniacs describe every second of their mundane habits (all the way down to toilet matters) and spurt out the dirt and stupidity of the narcissistic divas and divos that form the ranks of the French social media fans.

Why do the media miss the point so entirely about social media and why do I believe in them?

I find the gems of the world on the social web

Clay Shirky got it right, in this age of knowledge, we don’t have problems with information overload but with filter failure. Social media are extremely precious to make out the wheat from the chaff and to find the gems of the web brought forward by my online friends. Mind that gardening your social network is key to make it work though. A lot of the key information in my field (knowledge management, learning, communication etc.) I  actually find through Twitter and Yammer. The system of retweets and likes does wonders to single out great stuff passing by.

Others can find the gems of the world thanks to social media through me

If I come across great stuff, others can benefit from it too, since everything is transparent and easily accessible. A lot of us can simultaneously benefit from social media, including (and particularly) Twitter… Be around, engage and you will also come across wonderful finds. The online content curation trend means that it’s super easy for others to find stuff that we have all been finding, collecting, saving, collating, tagging, documenting, commenting etc.

I reflect and get better thanks to the social media

I hear and read a lot that social media are fastening the pace of information sharing and consumption, and therefore reducing our space and time for genuine engagement and reflection. That is true. For some social media. Blogs are part of social media, however, and they really stimulate our reflection and sense of deeper connection with matters that indeed matter to us. Paradoxically, even micro-blogging platforms force us to reflect and synthesise information so they help reflect too.

In addition to reflecting on our own, the social nature of social media means that we get more feedback more often. That is a true foundation for reflection and improvement.

Social media help me strive ever more for excellence and relevance

As I explained in a previous post about knowledge ego-logy, the very fact that we are attracted by social feedback is a key factor to make us want to get better. If we want comments, ratings, retweets and the likes, we need to deliver good content. On the contrary, every egomaniac ego-logist will harvest the scorn that their narcissism sowed.

I keep track of my assets much more explicitly

This is the benefit of information management. By saving information in social repositories such as del.icio.us, Pinterest, YouTube, wikis, Slideshare etc. I can always find back information that matters to me. It’s much easier to build upon it and reuse it ad infinitum, than reinventing the wheel.

And my assets are not just the information I have, they’re also my expertise (LinkedIn), my network (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) and my personal outputs (Mendeley, Zotero, del.icio.us)… What is the alternative?

What about the skeptics?

Granted, the egocentric nature of social media is plaguing some parts of that sphere and too many people probably use social media for very futile purposes. But perhaps it’s part of their trajectory of development in using social media (remember: don’t be too quick to judge).

To let the French (and other skeptics) understand how social media can work, here are some of my guiding principles:

  • Care for your network. relentlessly – prune it and expand it where you see pockets of (ir)relevance and energy (sucking) pop up;
  • Use social networks professionally before you judge them personally;
  • Take some time to explore and accept it’s not perfect straight away. Social media (and any new activity for that matter) always take a bit of time to get the hang of. Networks also take time to grow and reach relevant proportions and depth;
  • Accept that there’s no blue print for us all. Social media don’t work for everyone. We all need to give different social media a try, see what works or not for us and adapt our practice accordingly – and certainly to do that before we feel free to judge if theyr work or not;
  • Reflect and improve: As for pretty much anything, ongoing reflection about social media is what makes the difference between good and bad practice…

History shows that every great empire that started to shut its interest and borders to external influence lost its edge (medieval Japan, feudal China, The United States of America in the 1920’s). This holds wider lessons – something that many of my fellow countrymen would be well advised to remember, in a phase when France clearly shows all the signs of decline and over-anxiousness and might be about to miss out on the biggest (r)evolution since Gutenberg’s press.

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