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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Wailers, whiners, waiters and winners… Mind your attitude for the knowledge ecosystem!

No revolutionary KM thought today, just some mundane observation, with deep implications for knowledge work and its broader knowledge ecosystem though…

We react differently in front of challenges: we can be silent or vocal about them, and we can do something about them, or we don’t. For agile knowledge management, attitude is certainly one of the key factors that makes or breaks initiatives and feeds the knowledge tree and ecosystem (see graph below and related post) or not.

The knowledge tree & ecosystem (credits; CIAT/CTA?)

The knowledge tree & ecosystem (Credits: CTA)

If we were to imagine a four quadrant graph where the x axis would be about being active or passive about the challenges faced and the y axis would plot complaining about challenges (being vocal about them) vs. keeping silent (and focusing on what needs to be done), one ends up with four possible quadrants:

  • Wailers, who are neither active nor particularly silent about what is going wrong;
  • Whiners, who are not silent but are doing something;
  • Waiters, who are not complaining but are also not doing much;
  • Winners, who are not complaining but are actually doing something.
Wailers, whiners, waiters and winners

Wailers, whiners, waiters and winners

Wailing is of course the worst situation, but is probably a temporary situation or predicament, not a constant… At least I hope so. It could also be a stage that is necessary before bouncing back. But there’s no immediate benefit here!

Whining is just complaining about what is going on. And sometimes it really feels good to complain (just see my series of rants on this blog for instance, ha!). But the problem of whining is that, as I’m learning through my meditation work with Headspace, we tend to add thoughts to the feelings we have and just make the whole situation worse. And whining creates waves of negativity that can have a deep impact. The same whiners are typically the people that want you to change. And yes, you can also be a passive whiner, but then in my typology you’d just be a wailer – and not the musical type, Jah!

Waiting can be a good strategy sometimes, sitting it all out, letting things simmer to see some crucial signs emerge, and at least it’s not a situation where frustration is vocalized, but it also means little action emerges. Again, good for a time, but mostly to meditate (which about being actively conscious) but limited after a while. And if nothing happens, it means it’s probably time for action.

Winning is the combination of attitude and action and is what a knowledge ecosystem requires to change more deeply or rapidly. It’s that attitude that inspires change. Bouncing back, rebounding up all the time, taking adversity as an opportunity to change and improve – even though it’s difficult – and neither boasting about it nor complaining about the problems. Easier said than done, for sure, but worth remembering.

Think about it when you’re struggling in your next agile KM move. It takes just a bit of silence, a lot of action and some role modelling. And yes, meditation helps 🙂

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KM… the extra mile that saves (y)our time

What is it that makes knowledge management worthwhile? A lot of things I’m tempted to say as a knowledge manager, but there’s one important benefit that you cannot ignore: it saves time. And so it saves money.

KM... the Time Jumper? (Credits: Hartwig HKD / FlickR)

KM… the Time Jumper? (Credits: Hartwig HKD / FlickR)

Whether applied at an individual level (personal knowledge mastery), within an organization or in a network, KM is the extra mile that saves your time.

It saves time because it goes beyond the immediate needs of one person in one situation at one time in one place, to extract generic lessons that people can use, in other places or at other times.

In doing so, KM helps people identify relevant experiences, information, knowledge that they need to solve problems and it even helps them connect with the people that can help them fully understand or address the puzzle they’re facing.

But KM does require a little extra mile.

Spontaneously, a good KMer encountering a problem will not just try and fix it. S/he will record it, bring it to the attention of others concerned with it, and also document the way that problem was solved, or the gap in policies and processes that was revealed in the process. It would be much easier to just fix the problem and get on with it.

And that extra ‘KM’ mile may not always come in handy:

  • Looking back at what past information, experience or expertise you can find at hand to understand an issue is not something most of us like doing;
  • Sharing, alerting others about some specific information takes time;
  • Documenting the process needs tedious consistency;
  • Involving others in the work you do (because you ) adds a lot of complexity to ‘fixing an issue’;
  • Updating guidelines, good, bad or best practices requires discipline;
  • And you don’t even have a guarantee that others will find your information, understand it well enough, or use it…

So, at least initially, KM takes some time off you… but hey, if that extra mile helps others facing similar issues (or yourself the next time you are in that situation), what the heck, it’s worth it! If you believe in KM, you share because you care. Pay it forward!

Just make sure you use the most appropriate places to share, document, update that critical information. If you use the right arenas, then you’re sure to help others save time, in space or… time…

In addition, at some point you just develop the habit of routinely going that extra mile and hardly feel the time it takes anymore. You are entering the ‘effortless helping’ phase that blesses all good KMers.

So, even if KM takes that little extra mile, as it saves your time, keep your smile (and just do it)…

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With KM, life, it’s all in the attitude, so ‘JUST DO IT’ (Nike does it)

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it (Mary Engelbreit)

I’ve been running for over three years now, taking part to my first ever Great Ethiopian Run this year this year, errr this month even! Now, I used to hate running. Even the idea, but more so the practice. I love it now, though! I’ve turned into one of these running freaks that Nike was warning me against in my not-so-healthy years.

Whether you like running or not, whether you like Nike or not is beyond the point. Nike’s point though, is on the point: JUST DO IT. And find your greatness doing it. That’s attitude. I’m almost tempted to say it’s actually more about ACTitude.

Be pro-active, find your greatness, inspire others. Just do it! (Credits: Nike)

Be pro-active, find your greatness, inspire others. Just do it! (Credits: Nike)

In KM, so much depends on your attitude – as a knowledge manager, but also as just anyone dealing with information, knowledge, learning etc. Your attitude dictates your actions, and your thinking about them.

No one else will find and filter the information you need.

No one else will share your knowledge with people that can do something with it.

No one else will learn for you and help others learn through you.

You’ve just gotta do it. All. By. Yourself. 

So on the negative side, stop the victim act: stop keeping confused, nagging in 2001 ways that you were not informed, that you were not involved, that you didn’t have the time, that you were not given the authority to do what needed to be done. Just move your @ss and bloody do it! Your wagging finger at all the wrongs of the world will not change them. Your sticking your head up and your lifting arms to change what can be will!

So, rather than wait for the shit to hit the fan, use your brain, your heart, your two feet (remember the law of the two feet, Open Space style?), get up, become a leader, and inspire others and happy-go-lucky do it! It may not be easy, but it’s 100% worth it!

And since there’s much shit to react to and do something about, I leave you with the inviting words of The Roots because “Somebody’s gotta do it”…

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Radical ideals and fluffy bunnies

(Disclaimer: this post has been referred to in an excellent presentation about complexity thinking. The presentation reacts to the un-scientific nature of fluffy bunnies. Here, on the other hand, I borrowed Dave Snowden’s expression to refer to the optimistic nature of some fluffy bunnies, not to the process followed by fluffy bunnies to source knowledge – I value optimism, not the lack of professionalism or unscientific methods of working of fluffy bunnies as the presentation might lead to believe).

A rant-like reflection about attitude to life, this week: I have been sometimes criticised for being overly optimistic, for dreaming away, to the extent I would seem unrealistic. Perhaps I am among what Dave Snowden sometimes colourfully calls “fluffy bunnies”.

Instead, I should – like any decent person – be realistically pessimistic about what’s happening.

Which half are you looking at? And why? (Photo credits: _Fidelio_ on FlickR)

Which half are you looking at? And why? (Photo credits: _Fidelio_ on FlickR)

Well I don’t think so!

And here’s why:

  • Optimism doesn’t mean unrealism – there are facts and there is what you make with them – it is the proverbial half-full half-empty glass perspective. I like to think mine is half full, still I know it’s at half;
  • Visioning (a practical extension of dreaming) is essential to go and grow further – without that we might follow a short-term, narrow-minded, mechanistic path leading to more efficient mediocrity;
  • Attachment to dreams is probably better than to plans: dreams drive us, plans constrain us if we stick to them at whatever cost (and one of these crucial costs is to miss the bigger picture);
  • Optimism gives me energy and that gives energy to others. Eventually it makes us all work better – and this is based on feedback I have been getting from colleagues and work partners around the world when I announced I was moving on from IRC to ILRI.
  • In the age of interconnection, social learning and complex interactions, I believe having ideals and being optimistic about realising them is the radical challenging stance rather than the established norm – and since this complex world commands us to challenge our norms, here is my happy contribution to it!
  • And at the end of it all, even if all the above were wrong, I still prefer to be wrongly optimistic than to be rightly pessimistic; at least it makes me happier.

So all in all, perhaps I’m a fluffy bunny but then I’m a happy and – so it seems – rather effective fluffy bunny at that.

And that inspired this haiku:

Useless sun I love

Distant silly dreams I chase

– you are sadly blind

And I’d be happy to help!

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