Here are the ones I shared, and some others that I had planned to use (but didn’t get round to):
“What the heck did you mean”? Write coloured cards, flipcharts and other public writings with capital letters and full sentences. That will be a business skill useful for your future conferencing, and it will help the recording of the works.
“The public stage fear not, young jedi”. If you fear public speaking, get to know the room/stage where you will have to perform. And get to know the audience by meeting as many people as…
10 years (and a day) ago I drafted my very first post. It’s been a long and fascinating journey for me. And even though for personal reasons this year I’ve really let down my blogging, I intend to keep on blogging on Agile KM and AgileFacil(itation).
Here’s my selection of one top blog post for me from every year of blogging, and why these posts are emblematic of those years when I blogged them.
2007-2008: The one true KM challenge. This is a clumsy attempt at exploring what’s been the biggest KM question for me: what is the sweet spot of documenting experiences for the benefit of others (who are not in the room)?
2008-2009: Where to start with chaos and order? Where I’m reviewing one of Margaret Wheatley’s books on complexity. And that spawned a lot of thinking about complexity thinking for me, from that point on.
2010-2011: Communication, strategy and revolution. This was related to my most successful Powerpoint presentation ever (a comms strategy development checklist) and it was at a moment when I was trying to bring some real spirit of critical questioning (borderline subversion) in my work.
2013-2014: We need more / better communication! But not from me…I find it incredible that people are still guilty of this. Everyone wants more and better communication but it has to be adapted to all their specific preferences without investing any drop of sweat in it. I mean, grow up!
2014-2015: I share because I care! When people wonder what social media are good for and why bother about them. This is my response. And it seems popular.
I’ve recently witnessed some event design processes that went really badly, where the ‘client’ and the ‘facilitator’ ended up at complete odds with each other. With as result a seemingly permanently damaged relationship, and the serious risk of derailing even the event they were planning together.
This incident offers me a good opportunity to restate what the role of a facilitator is at process design stage. And not only the role, but also the overall attitude. But first here’s for roles and responsibilities:
Process design is a complex map (Credits: The Value Web)
Listening (and asking questions)
First and foremost, you don’t jump on process design, you listen. Carefully. You read if you’re being given background literature. You make sure you have enough context to understand the context in which you’ll be operating. You prepare your questions to clarify that context…
…as I recently re-visited my former (physical) home and office in Ethiopia for the first time since I moved back to the Netherlands. Among the things that flashed back in my memory is how my former boss (the person who inspired this post) played his role as KM champion and leader, and how that helped or not in the wider organisation.
Now I’m not here to illustrate the qualities and shortcomings of my former boss – though I’m certainly hoping to organise an interview with him some time to cover at least some of his legacy – but instead to reflect on the great characteristics of a great KM champion.
I already blogged earlier about what a truly unforgettable KM boss does. But without being truly unforgettable there is a number of characteristics that any KM boss should possess – and these are:
Understand what KM is
That is obviously the first step – an ‘expect to see’ Outcome Mapping progress marker if anything. Any KM boss, whether focusing on KM only or on KM combined with comms should have a broad and deep understanding of what KM is – at the very least a working definition that goes beyond information management.
Engage, inform and influence (management and others)
Based on a sound understanding of what KM is, a KM leader and champion should be able to:
Inform others about what KM is and how it supports the overall objectives (of the organisation, project, initiative etc.)
Engage with an organisation’s management/leadership generally to understand their needs and identify ways to leverage the potential of KM
Influence management, partners etc. to create opportunities for KM to leverage its potential benefits
Develop and share vision (and foresight)
A KM leader should be able to articulate the vision of how KM will be deployed and how it is responding to the latest upcoming trends, whether about software options, ways of collaboration and learning or otherwise. This is particularly important in the sense that KM is about using knowledge assets to become more and more adaptive and proactive so KM work should be at all times future-oriented, based on the latest knowledge (and information) available.
That vision is contributing to the next trait.
A KM champion really should be walking their talk, of all people. They should be able to inspire others to become like them, or follow their lead. That inspiration is thus also based on the vision and foresight developed (as mentioned above).
But the job is not done by just telling people what to do but by showing it others so they can see the benefits for themselves. And demonstrating is not even enough: they should get others to ‘do KM’ and do it well, so that in turn they become great KM champions too.
So the obvious next step is for a KM leader to empower others. And here it’s easier said then done, and it requires more than ‘just do what I say’. It’s about developing and nurturing a fragile ecosystem that requires a healthy dose of courage and initiative, and liberty to let others make mistakes and learn from them, and get stronger and stronger.
So the last function of a great KM champion and leader is to be the coach of everyone else on their own KM practice. And to be the reflector that KM is supposedly bringing in. Adjusting here and there, nudging now and then, protecting as and when, challenging when things have to be.
That’s what a great KM champion leader does. And that’s how you realise when you don’t have one what the implications are.
Cultivate your own leadership and that of others, and help the whole KM ecosystem grow. One seed of advice at a time, one drop of challenge after another. Just like any other knowledge gardener, only with a lot more responsibility… But that’s what it takes to save the world (lol).
A short while ago, I gave a small brown bag seminar on the connections between knowledge management (KM) on the one hand and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) on the other hand, for a group of people from the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), both located in Wageningen in the green heart of the Netherlands (the country where I now live).
It was somewhat intimidating to give this seminar in front of a really savvy audience, particularly for the M&E part, since I haven’t directly worked much on M&E since I joined ILRI in late 2011.
(Just as an aside: It was done using ‘Prezi Next’ which is related to the classic Prezi everyone knows but has new features. A new learning curve to adapt to the latest design options and it’s clear that since their heyday a few years ago Prezi have gone some way to reduce the motion sickness effect that was the biggest drawback of their otherwise great application. Unfortunately, at this stage, it’s not possible to embed a PreziNext into WordPress, though this might be fixed some time in the near future).
In any case, what was interesting, as with every piece of information that is being presented, is how people reacted to it, and what they reacted on.
The key points we discussed in the interaction revolved around:
How KM is perceived as dead or not
The notion that ‘KM is dead’ was perhaps difficult to digest for some of the KM heads around the table, though in the conversation it became clear that as much as the field is disappearing, the lessons and principles and approaches of KM live on. And in certain areas, sectors and organisations KM is still very much vivid as a field in and of its own.
We agreed that the importance was to shape collective norms about what is KM (or whatever a group calls it) and that a label (such as KM) should only be adopted if it helps clarify matters for a given group. But the conversation about what it is called is useful too.
Archetypes of KM and M&E heads
Another interesting aspect we touched upon was the stereotypes of people working in KM and in M&E. I made a very rough caricature to introduce some of the KM archetypes and the M&E archetype (of the cold-blooded scientist) which luckily has changed over the years. Particularly the M&E community is really transforming, with booming activity as I can judge on the aliveness of the Pelican Initiative. And so it’s only encouraging to expect that there will be more and more alignment between KM and M&E in the future as many individuals that I know are trespassing the borders of either field and are working across the disciplines.
How KM adds value, what makes it special or different? Why bother?
This was one of the challenges posed by the director of one of the host institutes I was presenting to. “Why should we do KM if it’s so similar to M&E, and what are the trends and the approaches we need to embrace from that field”. That’s where we came back to the bottom line of KM=CDL and the fact that KM is a useful lens looking at knowledge and learning, ensuring we leverage knowledge at all stages. It was interesting also to hear that some people assumed KM to be systematically about learning (but what about the ‘KM portals‘?). But the conversation showed that the connection between KM and M&E is not automatically grasped – and perhaps that my presentation didn’t hit home base 😉
What is the real connection between KM and M&E?
Indeed the big question is: what really is the difference or the overlap between KM and M&E. And it has to be learning, though we recognized, as a group, that not all KM and not all M&E are learning-focused, but both hold that promise and can make it happen. How to bring them together and how to make them benefit from each other is the question. Perhaps this is really worth blogging more about, just as it might be useful to blog about iterative and upscaling cycles of CDL that take KM from a very individual to a societal level with social learning – one of the thoughts that played around my head during this rich learning day…
…which leads me to the bottomline of all of this though is that I can sense how much intellectual effusion there is around Wageningen and the development society of the Netherlands at large and I sense that this might fuel another burst of blogging for me. Which can only be good for the short and longer run for me (and hopefully for you then ;)…
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!
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…
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.
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.
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 🙂
This Friday – 2 June 2017 – I will be leaving Ethiopia as a resident for good.
I will still be working with ILRI but based in The Hague, the Netherlands. Personal matters have taken precedence over professional ones and we have to be back in Europe. It’s a pity in some way, but it’s also a great opportunity, as every change is. I personally like change. However uncomfortable it is. However difficult it is. However unavoidable it is.
The past – nearly – six years have been extremely rich, as testified in this post about personal changes, just from last year to this one. I haven’t been able to keep up my blogging practice over the past few months because of the personal reasons forcing us to move back to Holland and because ever since I’ve been back in Ethiopia, in late April, I’ve been super busy winding things down here and turning the page of our Ethiopian life chapter. But I thought it might be worth a shot to look back at the ‘Ethiopian (habesha) years’ in six posts that marked the most prolific blogging phase of my professional life.
Here they are, I hope you enjoy them (again, perhaps) and please share your reactions and ideas about these and possible future posts!
I wrote this post very soon after leaving IRC and joining ILRI. And those first few months were actually very prolific and qualitatively strong for my blogging. Perhaps stronger than any other blogging period for me. Hence my anticipation about this new period of change. In any case, this post has been referred to by various people and institutions as an inspiring one. I’m not sure about that but I had fun writing it. It is all about ‘engagement’ which became my ‘bread-and-butter’ at ILRI in various shapes and forms. KM=CDL, on the journey to universal sense-making
This is the post that finally helped me nail down my own definition of what knowledge management is and I keep referring to it for that reason. In an environment where there was no KM or comms strategy (for ILRI) and no unified understanding of what knowledge or KM is, writing this post proved very helpful to me. I hope it is somewhat to you too.
A lot of my ILRI work is about role-modelling behaviours that I hope others will take up to some extent. And when it comes to knowledge sharing, this was the post that helped put in writing what I felt intuitively all along. It’s been my gospel at ILRI and beyond ever since.
I hope you care to read it and to share your own spark too!
We are in the knowledge age, and knowledge workers are everywhere. This is probably the reason why this post was picked up by the World Bank and was thus promoted quite vividly for a while. I offer some characteristics and traits of a typical knowledge worker. I’d love to hear your views on what that entails.
This is the post that got most popular on my blog ever, with a (humble) peak of nearly 350 views on one day, when the Yammer team found out about it. Yammer has also been an interesting experience for me with ILRI as we’ve promoted it as the social network that our colleagues should use to access information they want to pull. With measured success. Bottom line for me: I don’t care about the tool – I do care about the result (sharing is caring).
The post is an interview with two people that radically changed my personal work life, with their ideas, practice, reflections, and an ongoing conversation about our collaboration. Sam Kaner is one of the inventors of the field of facilitation, and together with his partner Nelli Noakes they share here their very generous overview of why they try to get people to collaborate.
Ok, and because 7 is a magical number, here is my #7 pick:
This is one of the most personal posts I’ve published on my blog, as it explains what I see as my calling in (the professional) life. I hope you find and share your own contribution. And I look forward to engaging a lot more with all of you from my future new home, The Hague 🙂
Bonus info: this happens to be my 300th post on this blog 😉
Tadaa! Now job done. And done after googling for these videos, since I only knew a handful of videos about KM.
So hereby I have selected a few vids that in my -totally subjective- view are more worth your while than others. I’ve also added in a second list the contenders that were easy to find when googling ‘KM video’. Both lists are ordered from shortest to longest video length, so you can decide how much time you have. I’ve provided a quick description, pros and cons and my biased rating about them. I hope you enjoy this selection, and please let me know what videos about ‘what is/why KM’ you personally like that are missing here, so I can review and perhaps add them here 🙂
This animated video emphasises particularly the knowledge retention aspect of KM for commercial companies which then face either hiring inexperienced staff or expensive experienced staff.
Pros: Good visuals, good introduction to the knowledge retention issue. Short thus easy-to-absorb video. Provides some examples.
Cons: Too narrow a scope. Very corporate-focused. Not a good introduction to ‘KM’ in general.
It’s a neat and well done little video but very narrow in terms of the scope of KM. It seems to be part of a series covering other KM challenges/opportunities (e.g. see this video on communities of practice) which is a good thing – but the title here remains misleading.
Chris Collison (co-author of ‘learning to fly’ – one of the bibles of this discipline) is one of the KM pundits among the people who shot such videos. His definition looks at the family of fields related to KM, e.g. learning, network, social media, the culture of an organisation etc.
Pros: Collison touches upon some of the fundamental aspects of KM and has a very learning-centric approach to it which resonates strongly with me. I enjoyed hearing the excitement he feels about KM.
Cons: The audio quality is not great.
The subjective quality of this video and the good contents covered make it a good intro video to KM, despite the fact it’s visually quite ‘bare’.
This Deloitte video about KM introduces the Deloitte approach to KM in 6 elements and zooms in on some specific tools that help deploy it in an organisation.
Pros: Useful look at 6 areas important to any KM initiative (content, processes, strategy etc.); very good audio quality.
Cons: The tour of all the areas starts with the tools and zooms in on those, giving a false importance to what appears to be perhaps the easiest aspect of KM (do I sense tool obsession here?). Very much based on ‘organisations’ not KM in networks or across multi-stakeholder processes.
Overall, the video is ok but the key message’s over-emphasis on tools is risky, especially for people who are discovering KM for the first time and are bound to fall in that trap already.
David Griffiths is a regular KM blogger with his K3Cubed website. This video emphasises the complexity of the environment and dealing with the signals that come from this complex environment as well as how KM helps respond to these signals and develop a resilient organisation.
Pros: The natural emphasis on resilience and complexity is great, it shows the very dynamic nature of KM and its relation to innovation.
Cons: There is in this video not a great deal of details about what KM looks like in practice. The audio quality is not great.
The messages of the video are in subtle ways quite distinct from other KM videos of this lot and touch upon the difficult side of KM. I like this approach, even though it may not be the most straightforward introduction to KM here (compared with other videos in the selection).
This whiteboard video (from the UK’s National Health System) tracks back the history, the purpose and nature of KM, what people can do with it and what can one expect out of it – whether with large or scarce resources.
Pros: By far the most visually appealing video in this selection – as is the nature of most whiteboard videos – and it touches upon many of the key features of KM. It also offers questions, effectively ‘walking the talk’ about KM. Importantly it stresses the fact that ‘KM already happens anyway‘.
Cons: The language is still referring to knowledge as a commodity. And of course, there could be other elements brought into this (e.g. apprenticeship, knowledge retention etc.) but that applies to all other videos here.
This is one of the best videos in this selection (in my view) – a great starting point if you want to have a comprehensive overview of KM.
Nick Milton is probably THE most prolific writer about KM. He posts on a daily basis on his Knoco blog. Unlike most selected videos here, this one is not with the author’s voice-over. It’s a dynamic photo-presentation with backgroung music.
Pros: The presentation touches upon all key challenges of KM in a very clear way and it’s debunking a few KM myths (e.g. it’s all about ICT tools and data); It offers some examples of real return on investment. The author focuses on 5 KM benefit areas: innovation, collaboration, learning from experience, knowledge retention, rapid on-boarding.
Cons: The animations are a little annoying, as is the music. And while the video focuses on the human aspect, this video could have had a more human feeling to it.
All in all, though, a great clear video to introduce KM!
This video is one of a series by KnowledgeMT and it offers a broad understanding of what KM is, in its various aspects.
Pros: The welcome focus on values and intuition, and the emphasis on the fact that expert knowledge cannot be ‘dumped’ into a repository etc., the agreement that failures are ok; the clear difference between KM and information management; the summary at the end and its emphasis on capitalising upon knowledge assets.
Cons: The language used is still about ‘knowledge transfer’; there is no mention about some of the incentives for people (and management); visuals used are not really great. The audio quality could be sharper.
Overall quite a good video, which could have been even stronger on either the narrative or the visual side, but the content is straight and delivered clearly.
This video gives a narrative tour of all the issues that KM tackles directly or indirectly, particularly in development cooperation. It is a more recent video than most in this selection.
Pros: A very good tour of the different aspects of KM, narrated in an interesting way, and with particular emphasis on the ‘fluid’ elements of KM ie. learning, innovation etc. without seeming to fall into the SECI model trap that most other videos have gone by; it encourages starting from what is there already; and focusing on the culture of sharing and learning, joining the dots etc.
Cons: It’s a development cooperation-focused approach so may not resonate with corporate KM folks.
Overall, one of the strongest videos from this lot and a very good, thorough understanding of where KM is at in 2017. A great introduction and in my top 3 here along with the whiteboard video and the Milton one.
A personal (read: not corporate) video, this one focuses, like many of these selected videos, much on tacit/explicit knowledge and the SECI model.
Pros: Introduces the difference between tacit and explicit knowledge, as well as the SECI model very well. The author’s voice is clear.
Cons: Not much liberty away from the SECI model. Very focused on the corporate sector only. The text slides are rather poorly designed. Not much critical thinking about the challenges of KM.
This video is not bad, it says a lot of things that make sense. It is just a bit too narrowly associated with SECI, which arguably is not the be-all-end-all on KM. On the plus side, this video is also available in French.
My rating: 6.5/10
Other contenders (ahem what is there to be found)
These videos didn’t quite make it to my selection – and some of them are downright awful – but you’ll find them nonetheless if you Google ‘KM video’, so you might as well be prepared 🙂
…is in fact a promotional video for Intoto Knowledge. Very organisation-centric, and like many videos focusing on knowledge retention. Nice little animation video though. My rating: 4/10 because it’s not a real introduction. Visuals deserve a higher scoring, they’re fresh (and yet from 2013!).
A short animated video without sound. Introduces KM, tacit/explicit knowledge, the SECI model, why we need KM, knowledge systems. The only benefit I see of this otherwise nice little video is to illustrate the SECI model in a visually more entertaining manner. But I’m not taken by the content. My rating: 5/10.
Like Milton’s a dynamic photo presentation touching upon definitions of knowledge and how to manage it. Some good ideas and focus on innovation, adaptation, learning here. On the other head, this is another video with annoying music and visuals. And again too much focus on data, information, knowledge. Also no real red thread or framework on which this seems to be based. And what is this countdown at the beginning? This video seems to me mostly useful for people who already know about KM. But then again, because they know about KM it may not be useful. With some rearranging and some clearer frame – as well as different media choices – it could be a useful video. Right now, it isn’t really.
Much emphasis on the SECI model. This video actually goes through the whole model. It has the merit of giving some concrete examples of each of the SECI stages; and also introduces some of the biases of that model; adds quite a few references at the end. On the other hand, the use of corny pixelised animations and horrendous commercial music in the background, and the insufficient information on every slide make it a weak video that is also wrongly themed. It should have been about SECI. My rating: 4/10.
A video with extremely annoying music – to the point that it almost distracted me from its contents. The latter revolve around ‘what is knowledge’ (though 1 minute into the video that is still now known/shown). “Knowledge needs to be managed, processed, shared” Duh! Why? How? Two and a half minutes into the video you realise it’s not meant to tell you anything about KM but rather entertain you in a really odd way with mottos like ‘gain the brain’. 3/10 (and 7/10 for the entertainment value).
This funny video looks at the problem of intercultural communication and preserving endangered languages. The story mixes this background with the case of knowledge retention and using a KM software to help on that front. The combination is clumsy and the final slide reveals the confusion: “KM is useful, is about people and can be used everywhere for anything”. This is such a broad sweep statement that it’s more likely to put people off KM than attract them to try it out. My rating: 3/10. There seems to be a number of these videos developed through the same animation maker program.
The most mythical of all videos from this selection – and one video that glorifies ‘tacit knowledge’ as the force that can help us unite and combine our efforts. Other than the quirky nature of this video, there is hardly any connection with KM. Don’t bother – or see it as infotainment and enjoy! My rating: 2/10 (8/10 for entertainment).
Stems from the perspective of ‘right knowledge to the right person at the right time’. This is not so much about defining what KM is as defining what the different elements associated with it mean. A bit long for such a video. Not a topper here by any means. On the plus side, it does attempt at providing clarity on terms such as data, information, knowledge. On the minus side, it focuses too much on information and data and places itself over-emphatically in the risky tradition and definitions of DIKW. My rating: 5.5/10.
A good strong and clear beginning of an introduction to KM. Also offers an outlook to the future of KM. But after the good introduction, the video continues onwards to a mixture of statements, questions, overviews, in a rather uncoordinated way. The background clashes with the text (makes it difficult to read). The choice of background picture (here above a.o.) clashes with the message about human collaboration. The language again (knowledge transfer) is not great. It could have been so much stronger. My rating: 5/10
This video seems like a student project. It comprises various peoples’ voices and covers some typical elements of early KM (best practices, databases etc.), and moves on to tacit knowledge (the ‘know-how’). Though the animation is lovely, it is at times distracting from the narrator. Considering it’s a student project, it’s not that bad. But I wouldn’t start there unless you work in engineering – the sector in which the authors of the video are working. My rating:5.5/10.
This video is seemingly a(nother) student presentation. In fact it’s a monologue 😦 with an interesting twist about the learning/sharing culture backlash… Certainly not a top priority video to watch though. And the narrator’s voice is not clear. My rating: 4/10.
Some reflections about these videos
Many of these videos are focusing on tacit vs. explicit knowledge – and relate to the SECI model – which seems to indicate there is no other recognised background for KM. I personally prefer to see knowledge as essentially tacit anyhow.
Quite a few reflect on the importance of the enabling environment, including management buy-in etc. The more recent videos pay more emphasis on innovation, learning and all dynamic processes. They seem to have moved away from ‘knowledge capture’ both as a concept and a practice.
In any case, technology features in nearly all videos but is mostly rightly put to where it belongs: as an important – but not THE essential – element of any KM initiative. A few of these videos are talking about the future of KM, particularly around artificial intelligence etc. Not so much about the future of face-to-face learning and related processes.
Hopefully more videos will come up on the topic.
Meanwhile, a final gem for you: David Gurteen undertook a really nice series of short interviews with many people asking them all the same simple one question: ‘What is knowledge management?’. Go have a look on Google, it’s great stuff!
And as mentioned earlier, please share with me other videos about knowledge management that you think should feature here 🙂