A knowledge management primer (2): DEFGHI


 

And the primer continues...

And the primer continues…

This is a new series of posts, an alphabet primer of agile knowledge management (KM), to touch upon some of the key concepts, approaches, methods, tools, insights. And because there could have been different alternatives for each letter I’m also introducing the words I had to let go of here.

 

Today, after covering the ABC of knowledge management I’m continuing with the next six letters of the alphabet primer: DEFGHI.


D for Documentation

Following my definition of what KM is, documentation is another leg of knowledge management, focusing on information management and curation. But documentation is also about taking it to a personal and behavioural level, in order to learn (e.g. blogging!). Where discipline reaps rewards and inspires others too. In this respect, documentation

D could also have been…

Data – I don’t believe all too much in the logical model of DIKW from data to wisdom but data is – or can be – definitely an important part of KM. Data are surrounding us and part of the information management is to organise that data and turn it into information that is available, affordable and accessible. Under ‘data’ you also find databases and ‘big data’. The former were the object of the first generation of KM, while the latter is what preoccupies a lot of new knowledge managers now…   

E for Engagement

Let it be said once and for all: KM is not just about the systems and tools, it’s crucially about people. Engaging people in KM is as important as -and I would argue even more important than- the information systems that hold the promises of big data… Engage for success! And there are many traditions of engagement to start from.

E could also have been…

EmpowermentEmpowering employees or the people generally involved in a KM initiative is not always an objective. But sure enough it helps engage them in your general KM approach and with the tools and systems that it relies on.

Enabling (environment) – Management, funding etc. are all part of an environment in which knowledge gardening can really thrive. The culture is also a big part of this enabling environment if it emphasises curiosity, learning, openness, acceptance of others and of failure, empathy, humility etc.

Exit interview – After action reviews are one well-known KM tool. In the older tradition of KM, exit interviews are another one. How to make sure that a person leaving is not leaving with all their knowledge, network and more. This has been the object of fascinating debates on KM4Dev and I already reflected on this in the past.

F for feedback

Feedback and its specific offshoot ‘feedback loops’ are central to any knowledge management approach that puts learning at its centre. Feedback is -on a personal level- an essential piece in improving one’s actions and questioning frames of reference and mindsets. And it’s all the more important to make feedback an important part of KM that it is difficult to give feedback, and even more so to give (and receive) good, useful feedback.

Feedback loops, are to knowledge management processes what feedback is to interpersonal relationships, a way to build in signals giving indication of what is going well or not along the way. Feedback loops are essential to any learning system or approach. And the earlier they kick in, the better!

F could also have been…

Failure – What with the fail fair, safe-fail approaches and more. Failures in KM are not the holy grail, but they’re one sure way to learn from important mistakes and improve (feedback loops again). Fail fast, fail often, stand up again. Quick & dirty KM to get to the real thing. That is also the history of development cooperation.

Facilitation – Nick Milton from Knoco said it: the first skill any KM team should learn is facilitation. Without it, how to get the best thinking from everyone to make a KM approach work? And with knowledge sharing and learning at the heart of KM, there is just no way around understanding how facilitation helps and applying it to all collective endeavours.

Folksonomy – Taxonomies are an important part of information management, to agree on the terms that will help curate a collection information items on a meta-level. Folksonomies are crowdsourced -or at least user-defined- taxonomies that help users find content related to what they’re searching, using their language (rather than language defined by a corporation).

G for Gardening

Knowledge is a garden, and knowledge management is the gardening of that knowledge. The knowledge ecology that KM feeds off of depends on the sowing (starting individual or collective initiatives), fertilising (capacity development, innovation, monitoring around these), pruning and trimming (curation) etc.

Knowledge gardening for collective sensemaking (credits: Jack Park)

Knowledge gardening for collective sensemaking (credits: Jack Park)

G could also have been…

Gamification – An increasingly important approach in various areas, but also in KM the use of games or gaming elements applied to serious initiatives is a way to create buy-in where simple databases and manuals failed miserably.

Gains – Since KM is so much about behaviour change, the idea of gains must be central to any KMer, Articulating the gains, the win-win, the ‘what’s in it for me’ is essential for KM buy-in.

H for humility

Learning (the third and in my view most crucial element of KM) is an eternal quest towards recognising the limits of your knowledge and building our (understanding of our) world upon the shoulders of giants. As such it makes us humble about the wealth of uncharted knowledge that we still have to get familiar with. But humility is also about managing expectations about KM. Since knowledge management has so much to do with behaviours, it takes time to effect change and being humble rather than over-promising is a useful stance when you have to roll out a KM program. I mentioned in the past how the path to wisdom is paved with effectiveness, focus, humility and empathy.

H could also have been…
Honesty – This was the only other H-word I found useful in the realm of KM, though there must be more of these out there. In any case honesty is, for very similar reasons to humility, a useful quality to have in KM particularly when it comes to managing expectations, and making yourself and your work more acceptable by building trust (and trust is the truth.

 
I for Infomation (management, systems)

After the letter C, I is another one of the KM heavyweight letters in this alphabet primer. The choice here is large, as you can see from the other options below. But of course information should be sitting on the I-throne. Information is at the core of KM, both in the documentation side of things, on the personal learning side through absorbing that documentation, and generally because it is about codifying other peoples’ know-how and knowledge in ways that benefit a much wider group of others than would be possible through human mediation. Under information come also information management and information systems.
I could also have been…

Innovation – More than KM, innovation has really become the centre stage of knowledge work and some would even mention that of all KM generations, the new one is all geared towards innovation. For sure getting people to share knowledge and learn together brings them to innovate. If a culture of curiosity, safe failing, encouragement, daring is there, then the ground is extremely fertile for ongoing innovation capacity.

Institutional memory – Another of the classic entry points to knowledge management: how to make sure an organisation remembers what happened in the past and prevents reinventing the wheel all over again. This goes together with exit interviews but goes much beyond that to the collective records of an organisation or network.

Intention – The last I-word I would add to this list – more could have made it – but an important one: the sense of purpose, and the intention that is at the heart of the rituals of learning. Intention helps us get better and that is why it features highly in agile KM initiatives…

And let thy feet milleniums hence be set in midst of knowledge - Tennyson (Credits: Joanna Penn)

And let thy feet milleniums hence be set in midst of knowledge – Tennyson (Credits: Joanna Penn)

 

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A good idea for today and everyday: paraphrasing


Paraphrasing always had a negative connotation for my French ears. Like beating around the bush or repeating things without value.

I know a much better meaning now: it’s a cornerstone of listening and learning.

I’ve been in this wonderful course from Sam Kaner about facilitation and participatory decision making. Quality stuff! And one of the first skills we learnt was paraphrasing.

Paraphrase, mirror, mimic each other, create a connection and have fun! (Credits: Arnold Newman / Getty Images)

Paraphrase, mirror, mimic each other, create a connection and have fun! (Credits: Arnold Newman / Getty Images)

This technique is useful for events and any piece of work involving people conversing, in fact even for personal life.

Essentially it’s about interpreting what someone said to check we understood. Sometimes it’s just mirroring (repeating), sometimes drawing the person to say more, or even ask others t osay more about the same topic. Obvious you would think! All the more so as facilitators. Yes, I do it often,  but not systematically. And as Sam would say, you have to commit to it.

And yet how often have I really understood everyone’s point? How often have I taken things for granted? Time to change that and practice.

Paraphrasing is my new diet. And I’ve just learned again how humbling but refreshing learning is…

Feeling thankful…

PS. And with this post I’m ending the series of short daily posts. Not sure about the whole experiment…

 

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 to put in a KM training, off the random top of my head


I was never trained on KM. I just learned it by doing. Errrr, I am learning it by doing.

But if I was trained in agile KM next week, what would I love to find in such a training? Some people are wondering about exactly that on KM4Dev right now. So, let me think about this a bit…

There’s many ways that one can think of elements to include in a KM training, so I’ll start with my favourite order: random – spur of the moment-like. A first brush to peel this onion, to unravel the little patterns that gild this golden question.

Here’s a series of (perhaps not so) random concepts and keywords that I think should make it into an agile KM training course – focused on development – these days…

Complexity

Networked organisations need to grasp how complex un-oder works (Credits - Verna Allee / Harold Jarche)

Networked organisations need to grasp how complex un-order works (Credits – Verna Allee / Harold Jarche)

That’s step 1. Understand we work with complex networks and agendas and have to realise where we find ourselves. The Cynefin approach that is at the heart of ‘The social imperative‘. Without that basis, no way agile KM can work, because it will become a world of hammers and nails.

Simplicity

Complexity doesn’t mean everything we do is complex or even complicated. It’s not simple either but…

Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler (attributed to Albert Einstein)

People don’t like change; complicated change, even less so… So agile KM might have to start with – or pass by – ‘Go organic, go civic! #KMalreadyHappensAnyways‘. Because a lot is already going on, and we can just build upon this rather than start from scratch. Oh, and don’t forget to forget the labels: Nobody should really care whether they ‘do agile KM’, they should just do it 😉

Taxonomy and folksonomy

However fancy fluff ‘big data‘ might end up being, the key lesson of it is to ensure content can easily be aggregated and processed, and that goes through tagging and meta-tagging. That’s where taxonomy (an ordered collection of tags, usually centrally) and folksonomy (the crowdsourced version of a taxonomy) come in handy. Invest in ways to help data-crunching at a large scale, but also at a human scale through social media keywords, tags and handles.

Facilitation

Facilitation, (a lot) more than just telling people what to do, it's about orchestrating energies and capacities (Credits - James Brauer/FlickR)

Facilitation, (a lot) more than just telling people what to do, it’s about orchestrating energies and capacities (Credits – James Brauer/FlickR)

Agile knowledge management has a lot to do with social processes (of social change) so a good understanding and command of how to facilitate such processes comes in order. That’s why a toolkit like the Knowledge sharing methods & tools: a facilitator’s guide (and the many more that exist out there just to think of a few here).

Learning

Perhaps that’s the essence of it all. How do we bring together all the elements above to conjure up the conversations that help us make sense of the world around us and to act in it? What is learning again? A whole area of work that brings together personal knowledge management, social learning, organisational learning etc. not least through the engagement families. Agile KM has to focus on added effectiveness through learning and other means.

Innovation

Agile KM is no longer about keeping information just in case, it’s about moving collectively towards agile groupings of people, who can proactively anticipate upcoming changes and react promptly to unanticipated changes. It’s about unlocking the potential to innovate, via feedback loops (see this recent ‘How Feedback Loops Can Improve Aid (and Maybe Governance)‘ on this). So how can KM unlock our individual and collective capacity to innovate?

Assessment

A KM training course surely hopes to equip trainees with means to implement (agile) KM in their own setting. But how do you know whether this works? Through assessment, monitoring, evaluation. All that stuff from social media metrics to impact assessment. That’s done through learning, and connecting dots, bringing reflection and analysis closer to action. Feedback loops again. But that’s the only way to get good. That and the proverbial 10,000-hour rule. And luckily, there’s plenty of good references about this – see this stock-taking selection.

Collective action and social change

Ok this one is for the development & cooperation knowledge workers, not necessarily those working for private businesses. But what point is there in agile KM if not to improve the world or prevent further damage to it. So that goes through understanding what makes up identity and the formation of collectives on that basis i.e. what brings people together, the kind of stuff that Dave Pollard recently blogged about in his excellent blog ‘How to save the world‘. At the heart of it, the concepts of empathy and trust become prerequisites to joint action and social change.

A model of identity (and community) formation (Credits: Williamson & Pollard)

A model of identity (and community) formation (Credits: Williamson & Pollard)

So as mentioned in prelude to this post, this is only one take about what to include in a KM training. I could also do it from the perspective of modules, of disciplines that come into play, of scales that matter, of approaches and tools that make this work… Perhaps a whole series of blog posts is just emerging here, shaping an ever-changing repurposing of training materials. That is also what Agile KM is all about: reuse past stuff, but do it in new and ever more meaningful ways.

More on the KM4Dev mailing list soon…

Related blog posts:

KM for Development Journal news, zooming in on the facilitation of multi-stakeholder processes


Some news about the Knowledge Management for Development Journal, for which I’m a senior editor: the upcoming issue (May 2013) is just about to be released and will be the first open access issue again after three years of commercial hosting by Taylor and Francis. This is a really welcome move – back to open knowledge – and the issue should be very interesting as it focuses on knowledge management in climate change work.

The September 2013 issue is dedicated to ‘Breaking the boundaries to knowledge integration: society meets science within knowledge management for development.’

Discussing innovation and multi-stakeholder platforms (Credits: WaterandFood / FlickR)

Discussing innovation and multi-stakeholder platforms (Credits: WaterandFood / FlickR)

But here I wanted to focus a bit on the December 2013 issue of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal which will be about ‘Facilitating multi-stakeholder processes: balancing internal dynamics and institutional politics‘.

Multi-stakeholder processes (MSPs) have been a long term interest of mine, as I really appreciate their contribution to dealing with wicked problems, their focus (conscious or not) on social learning, and the intricate aspects of learning, knowledge management, communication, monitoring and capacity development. Multi-stakeholder processes are a mini-world of agile KM and learning in the making – thus offering a fascinating laboratory while focusing on real-life issues and problems.

What is clearly coming out of experiences around MSPs is that facilitation is required to align or conjugate the divergent interests, competing agendas, differing world views, complimentary capacities and abilities, discourses and behaviours.

In particular I am personally interested to hear more about:

  • How homegrown innovation and facilitation can be stimulated and nurtured for more sustainable collective action movements, especially if the MSP was set up as part of a funded aid project.
  • How the adaptive capacity of a set of stakeholders is being stimulated beyond the direct issue at hand (be it education, competing agendas on natural resources, water and sanitation coverage etc.) or not and how it becomes a conscious objective of these processes.
  • What facilitation methods seem to have worked out and to what extent this was formalised or not.
  • How the facilitation of such complex multi-stakeholder processes was shared among various actors or borne by one actor and with what insights.
  • How individuals and institutions find their role to play and how their orchestration is organised in such complex processes (i.e. is there a place for individual players, how does this address or raise issues of capacities, turnover, ownership, energy, collective action, trust etc.).
  • To what extent – and how – was the facilitation of these processes formally or informally reflected upon as part of monitoring, learning and evaluation or as part of softer process documentation.

This special issue, which is very promising with almost 25 abstracts received in total, should explore these issues in more depth and bring up more fodder for this blog and for exciting work on using social learning to improve research / development. The issue will come out in December 2013 as mentioned. In the meantime, a couple of upcoming events in my work will also touch upon some specific forms of multi-stakeholder processes: innovation platforms.

What else is boiling around this blog? A lot!

Coming up soon: Another couple of KM interviews, some reflections on open knowledge and related topics and perhaps getting to a Prezi as I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of working with it after three years of interruption. Only even more is boiling outside this blog – as this turns out to be the most hectic season at the office these days. More when I get to it the week after next.

Read the December 2013 issue’s call for papers.

Related blog posts:

A journey through five years of blogging


On this day, exactly five years ago, I started blogging. On this very blog. My first time ever. Not a particularly great post actually. Nor many posts that followed that primal scream on the web.

Five years of blogging and much more coming (Credits: Stephen Mitchell)

Five years of blogging on KM & co. and much more coming (Credits: Stephen Mitchell)

But like for many others before (Leo Babauta, Harold Jarche, Irving Wladawsky-Berger and most recently Jeff Bullas in the corporate world), blogging has become a central part of my practice. A hobby. A habit. A drug. A source of comfort and peace. A source of intuition and emotions. A passion – shared… And many more useful things

So for this five-year anniversary I’d like to offer a journey through these five years of blogging, selecting some posts that may have gone unnoticed (or not) but really matter to me and characterise the various phases I went through in this blogging journey…

The genesis: confusion of a confusiast

That first post was by a confusiast, but it was also quite confused. I knew I wanted to blog about knowledge management (my main field [of interest]), about communication (my main activity), about monitoring and evaluation (my extended hobby, to focus on learning), about complexity (my main source of confusion and fascination) and other things that popped up in my brain along the way. And I did a bit of all that.

Perhaps the most important posts of that period were:

Back in that period, there was not much quality in my blogging generally (not to say I don’t have my bad blogging days now either): I hadn’t clarified my thoughts, sources of information (sites) and knowledge (people and networks) and had not yet found my writing style, I didn’t link, I didn’t have anyone to converse with… But most importantly I had started blogging and that hugely helped make sense of information over time…

Another asset was my connection with KM4Dev. It is perhaps the main reason that pushed me to blog, but also to tweet, to use Slideshare, Del.icio.us, FlickR, to facilitate workshops in a different way etc. So in a way that genesis period of blogging owes much to this great community which has always been an extraordinary source of inspiration.

The IRC period

My previous employer – the International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) is a marvellous organisation, full of learning, innovation, critical thinking, autonomy and fun… so much so that I almost worked for 10 years there. IRC’s cutting edge work really gave me lots of inspiration for blogging before I really moved on to focusing on my own ‘pet topics’. So back in those days I blogged a lot about multi-stakeholder processes (such as learning alliances), process documentation, resource centre networks, sector learning generally.

This is a period during which I focused a lot on monitoring and evaluation (M&E), as I got more and more involved in that type of work. At any rate, most of my posts from that period related to the work I was doing at IRC.

Some blog posts I enjoyed writing, from that period:

My learning take at IRC

Progressively I defined my own route on the blogging seas and took more and more liberty to use my IRC work to reflect on broader topics of discussion. In that period I started to be involved in various initiatives that went beyond IRC: SA-GE the francophone KM4Dev network, the IKM-Emergent research programme, my work in the core group of KM4Dev and as KM4Dev journal editor, my involvement in the KMers group of Tweeters (backed by a much more thorough and consistent use of Twitter) etc.

This is where I also put more and more emphasis on learning in all my KM, comms and M&E work – realising that knowledge management was meant to serve that learning objective to improve, more than anything else – and that comms with learning (and sharing) was in my eyes a lot more valuable than comms with messages.

The blog posts from that period reflect that shift:

An escapist route?

As working at IRC became more of a burden – or fatigue – towards the end, I also shifted my focus even more on other topics and external networks that mattered to me: IKM-Emergent once again, but also the AgShare Fair group (which eventually led me to work for ILRI). During that period I also had a long blogging holiday as I went through a difficult period… only to come back with a renewed and firm commitment to blogging regularly, as I also realised I really enjoyed and needed it.

During the last 15 months of my time at IRC I therefore moved on from focusing on the IRC work to look more broadly at e.g. development work more generally, education, conditions for effectiveness etc.

Some of the blog posts from that period:

Working for ILRI

And then in November last year I started working for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in a fantastic team of really dedicated and good knowledge and information professionals. The bulk of my work when I started off working at ILRI revolved around facilitation (as you can see on this overview of events we supported, there were many workshops since November 2011). So it’s only normal that quite a few of my posts in this new phase have been around event and meeting facilitation.

But there have also been a few posts about the connection between communication and knowledge work / learning. Although my workload increased, paradoxically I have never been as active on this blog as since I joined ILRI, posting up to 3-4 posts some weeks. The work environment in our team and around its projects is stimulating enough that I find lots of matter to think and blog about.

Some blog posts from this period:

The work at ILRI is changing little by little and this means I might end up blogging about different matters…

(Agile) KM for me... and you? as a word cloud

(Agile) KM for me… and you? as a word cloud

The next fork on the road?

Now I’m still working for ILRI (for almost a year day for day, as I started on November 1, 2011) but also broadening my scope to other areas that reflect some of the relevant topics for ILRI and for me: information management, monitoring of knowledge work (re-delving into the IKM work I did on that but with an emphasis on practical routine indicators and ways to assess the use of our ‘knowledge work’), training people on information and knowledge management, complexity theories in the field of agriculture innovation systems, change management, agile KM and the importance of mobilising all people towards ongoing change…

I can’t see further than that, but perhaps you have ideas as to where I should focus my blogging and our conversations next?

The chemistry of magical facilitation (2b) – And play more with the BOSSY HERALD!


Participants: Who are they? What are they coming for? (credits: ILRI)

Participants: Who are they? What are they coming for? (credits: ILRI)

In the second part of this second chapter on the chemistry of magical (event) facilitation, I will examine the attendance (the participants), the location and the dynamics of the event, the other three crucial elements to make the HERALD play for you, as well as the matter at hand: the content.

Attendance (the participants)

The people that participate to your event are perhaps the most important and delicate part behind the success (or failure) of your entire event because you can prepare and mould every other bit of the event, but not your participants.

So when looking at your attendance, think about: presence, profile and relation (both now and after the event).

Presence of participants
Presence relates both to their physical and to their emotional/intellectual presence.

First of all, you need the physical presence of your participants. How many are planning to come? How many are effectively coming? There are always last minute cancellations or problems… Knowing the approximate number at earliest will help you design the workshop and find most appropriate facilitation approaches, methods and tools – and a venue that can host them all.

Secondly, what really motivates them to attend the event? Did they come on their own volition or were they sent to ‘represent’ their organisation?  Were they sent ‘to be trained’ on something? You need participants that emotionally or intellectually connect with the agenda (or with other participants) so they are interested and willing to learn and do something during the event.

In addition, what might be their ‘secret agenda? Some consultants come to events to sell their services (which is fair enough but it helps knowing this upfront), others come just to find out who is in a network etc. Knowing what your participants are in it for is not easy but it makes your event easier to design and the dynamics you shape straightforward too.

Ideally you end up with active, motivated, curious, knowledgeable, keen on sharing, respectful, humble participants – the recipe for their learning and interaction. They have to play the game of the event and should be happy to do so.

The selection of participants – particularly for training courses – is crucial in this regard. The worst case scenario is if you end up with people sent to the event without any personal interest (n)or prior information about it: you then usually end up with a very difficult event (because participants are not motivated) or a rather ineffective event (because beyond the event, the persons are very likely not to bring anything back in their (net)work). If you can, help select the people that come over; if you can, include an exercise where the profile and the aspirations of your crowd becomes more obvious.

What is the profile of your participants?
Once you have participants, you need to understand who they really are:

  • What country do they come from? What country are they working in? Do you know about their cultural background and are there any specific things you need to keep in mind (in relation to ease or difficulty in public speaking, specific rituals, degree of formality etc.)?
  • Do they feel comfortable with the language(s) used in the event?
  • Are they self-employed? Do they represent an organisation – thus perhaps an organisational mandate?
  • Are they men or women (I recently ended up facilitating a workshop for 45 participants of which only 2 were women!!)?
  • Are they junior or senior? If the latter, can they actually move, see and hear well?
  • What decision-making power do they have? This might affect your potential to draw plans and assign responsibilities, if that is part of the plans.
  • How high are they in their hierarchy and how much should you pay attention to that hierarchy? I, for one, always try to bring down hierarchical barriers in the workshops I facilitate, but sometimes you cannot avoid the cultural sensitivities to prestige and seniority.
  • Crucially: how knowledgeable are they about the topic / focus of the event? How much do they know about it and how much do they have to say something about it because they are ‘experts’ (it always helps to find out who are the resource persons because they might take a lot of time to speak publicly)?
  • Are they introverts or extroverts? One doesn’t facilitate the same way for both groups – as suggested in this blog post.
  • Do they tend to agree or disagree? There are natural ‘devil’s advocates’ which can greatly help but can also disrupt the dynamics you set, recognise it upfront.
  • How big of an ego do they have – who might be the ‘difficult material’ to play with here?


Relations (before, during and after the event)

How much do participants know and engage with each other before, during and after the event?

  • How much do they already know each other?
  • Do they come from the same institutions or different ones? If from the same institution, do they come from the same (e.g. country) office?
  • Are they all working on the same initiative?
  • Do they have similar or different professional functions? In other words is this an audience of peers, which allows you to assume they share some jargon and approaches?
  • Do they all speak the same language?
  • How much of a common culture do they share?
  • Is there a hierarchy among them and should it matter in this workshop?
  • Are there tensions among them?
  • Do they need to develop strong relationships during the event because they will work together afterwards?
  • Can you build engagement before the event e.g. by means of online discussions, a phone conference, reactions to a blog, sharing their personal online profile etc.?
  • What follow-up activities might bring (some of) these people together again?
Once you know who you’re dealing with, it becomes much easier to know which approaches to use or to avoid.
Location (the venue)
Pick your venue carefully (credits: Dave Murr/FlickR)

Pick your venue carefully (credits: Dave Murr/FlickR)

This is an often overlooked aspect and yet it can have so much impact on an event positively (usually without participants noticing) or negatively (usually with participants noticeably complaining about it) .

From the participants’ perspective, it helps a lot when the venue is: quiet; open, with a lot of space (not confined, which drives claustrophobic participants crazy) and can anyway easily host the amount of attending participants; located in a beautiful area, particularly for a retreat where people need to find peace of mind and inspiration; possesses an outdoor space, even a forest or a beach, where you might want to organise some activities too; has enough natural light – or a great artificial lighting system – to not tire them too quickly.

From the facilitator’s perspective, all the above applies, but it’s also important that the venue: is modular, with tables and chairs that can be rearranged at will (unlike conference venues with translation facilities and fixed desks chained to one another – as we know that the administration of chairs matters a lot!), doesn’t have pillars blocking the sight; has walls that can easily be used to pin sheets and cards etc.; has extra space, possibly other rooms for break-out groups or spectrum exercises or energisers thtat require space – outside facilities are even better if the venue (and weather!) allows; has great acoustics (do you need a microphone?); has a good internet connection and all other facilities required: video projector and screen, laser pointer, flipchart and sheets, markers, colour cards, post-it notes, translating equipment if required, conference audio system or mini speakers, microphones etc.

Once that is checked, you can think about the final bit before – and influencing your choice of – facilitation approaches: the dynamics.

Dynamics (the conversation style)

You can decide to stimulate a certain conversation dynamics for your entire workshop (and for each session, related to a facilitation method) so what kind of conversation dynamics do you really want to encourage for your event?

  • Is it an exploratory event, where you want everyone to question openly, blue-sky, brainstorm and unearth new possibilities?
  • Is it an informational event, where you want participants to learn more about a given issue?
  • Is it a vocational event, where you want participants to learn new know-how for their work – i.e. is it a training event?
  • Is it a reactive event, where you want them all to give their opinions about, criticise or question a specific event, a document, a proposal, a law, an idea, a movement etc.?


In addition: Is it a meant to be a productive (co-creating) event, where you hope that participants will come up with a specific output at the end or does the conversation matter more than anything? Do you want participants to argue or to agree with each other? Arguing can really push boundaries further but can also cringe relationships, while agreeing builds relationships but might lead to stagnant thinking. Improvisation theatre’s ‘Yes and approach’ might be a good ‘in-between’ perhaps (see more about ‘Yes And’ in the video at the bottom of part 1 of this blog series)?

Of course, in practice an event tends to borrow to many or all of these dynamics, but overall your event itself probably has a major inclination towards one of these dynamics. Be aware of and perhaps even take control of it as it informs your flow (read more about the flow in part 2 of this blog series). And if you are not sure, just give it a try, go with the flow, let it be. You might fail but no great person in history ever just had successes and it is totally liberating to try out new approaches…

Now on to the matter of the event…

What are we talking about? The content!

What's your content then? Not all of it can be planned like this (Credits: ByronNewMedia/FlickR)

What's your content then? Not all of it can be planned like this (Credits: ByronNewMedia/FlickR)

Finally, assuming you have an overall focus for the event, how are you going to source content matter to chew on. Remember: process and content are the two wings of your event bird. Too much content and not enough process means potentially a terribly ineffective and boring event; but too much process and no content means everyone’s really wasting their time.

Where does content come from?
It can come from previous work (publications, reports, films, previous workshop) and ideally should include different formats (written, video, audio) to cater for different learning styles (see more on this in learning cycles basics and on ‘what is learning’). This is usually a key source for technical events – although again overloading too much content into your event usually means less time and space for interaction and leads to this

But a much more powerful source of content comes from event interactions themselves:

  • From questions that are raised by participants. Questions are particularly powerful as they do not close conversations but open them up to other areas. The art of powerful questions can be a great guide in this.
  • From conversations that take place inside the event – as part of the sessions – and outside (it can be useful to ask participants what their reflections are after a coffee break or at the beginning of the day). One of the key objectives of an interactive event is to precisely elicit that content from on-site conversations;
  • From the process documentation and social reporting taking place and unfolding conversations with the outside world: social reporters tweet or blog about their reflections or observations about the event, intriguing statements or strong quotes etc. They put the word from the event out to a wider arena. Both this content created on the side of the event and their interactions with outsiders can feed the event with interesting questions and comments that provide more, interesting content.


Your content will keep on morphing throughout the event. And it’s probably for the better. So long as you keep your objectives/outcomes in mind. With all these elements in mind, you are now ready to think about which facilitation methods will be useful – which is the object of the next post in this series.

The presentation below, ‘Organizing effective events and conversations‘ summarises a number of the aspects touched upon here.

Related blog posts:

The chemistry of magical facilitation (2) – Put the bossy herald to play for you


Facilitation is the art of seamlessly inviting all contributions to collective sense-making. As such it is an essential element of knowledge sharing, knowledge management and social learning.

So, in the previous chapter of this series, we’ve looked at the big picture of facilitation, how to handle the BOSSY HERALD, particularly in its bossy part. Let’s assume we’re there, we’ve dealt with the politics of the event. Now comes the moment to apply the design in practice i.e. to focus on the HERALD (part) in detail, and to put it to play for you. This moves the reflection from ‘what should be?’ to ‘what could be’. The herald determines the ballpark you play with. Each of its pointers helps you design the workshop in a more appropriate and operational way.

In this second chapter, I’m looking at the first three pointers of the HERALD: How-to/heuristics (facilitation tools and approaches) very briefly, Extent (duration) and Running the event (the facilitator/s).

Proces design and facilitation, a complex ballpark (credits: The Value Web/FlickR)

Proces design and facilitation, a complex ballpark (credits: The Value Web/FlickR)

How-to and heuristics (the tools)

As much as knowledge management is about tools – once, and only once everything else has been dealt with and thoughtful decisions have been taken – facilitation is all about facilitation methods and approaches, once the politics and design is by and large dealt with. In a way How-to and heuristics thus come as the final part of this puzzle – once all other blocks are covered. But it is a very powerful part of the puzzle and one on which you have a lot of control as organiser or facilitator. I will deal with the choice of tools and approaches in a subsequent post (chapter 3 of this series) so I won’t look in detail into this. Just want to highlight that the exact set of facilitation methods, tools and heuristics generally reflects and derives from the other elements from the HERALD:

  • Extent: The length of the event itself points to a specific set of facilitation methods or a specific way of applying a given method;
  • Running the event facilitation: How much can you and should you challenge your preferred facilitation style or push yourself to new limits?
  • Attendance: In line with the participants’ profile, how much can you and should you challenge the expectations of your participants regarding the overall facilitation approach at the event?
  • Location: How the venue itself lends itself to using the space and organising tables and group work;
  • Dynamics: How does the dynamics of the event affect the choice of specific facilitation methods?
Facilitation methods mapped for an event design (credits: me)

Facilitation method set-up mapped for an event design (credits: me)

Pay close attention to these elements before you come back choosing  facilitation tools and approaches.

Extent (the duration)

How long will your event last? How many events/episodes will you be having? Here, keeping the beat and the flow in check is all that matters. If you don’t, you risk losing your audience and it can be quite tricky to win it back. Look at your final destination and manage those poles.

The flow is the path that you are following during that event, which you can see as a voyage on which participants are embarking. You will have to clearly mark the beginning, the middle and the end of that voyage. Along the way, you have different standposts (the various workshops sessions), milestones (the achievements around significant blocks of your event) and stop-overs to break the voyage in manageable chunks. These standposts, milestones and stop-overs are essential for your participants to keep the beat. Here are a few considerations to make the journey as pleasant for your participants:

  • Mention where it is they are supposed to get at the end of your journey (the objectives and outcomes of your meeting) – that clarity relates to the focus of the event and you might even invite your participants to discuss the focus so as to surface additional ideas or concerns;
  • If you’re having an event that builds upon another one (and another one etc.), link the various events to one another to clearly to give that sense of the voyage to the participants: where you have been, what milestones you have achieved, what you’re focusing on now and where you will be in the next event – and how the different events are linked. And re-state how much of the overall voyage you intend to cover with this event – like a stage on a pilgrimage. This makes it easier for your participants to maximise their time however they please and to appease their potential anxiousness to achieve. If people worry too much about being productive and the time they have at hand, they are not in the ‘here and now’ the ‘mindfulness’ that is key to strong engagement.
  • Make sure that each stand post (session) also clearly follows the sequence ‘introduction – middle – end’. Event facilitation follows a fractal pattern where this sequence mirrors itself at various scales (workshop, day of workshop, session etc.). You have to link up these scales, show how one session builds into the day and into the workshop, give a sense of how the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts. It makes most participants happy with the achievement and the sense of ‘going forward’ and not just ‘talking’. You’re taking the anxiousness to achieve away from them.
  • Make it clear also when a milestone is achieved – a particular agreement, a write-up etc. Celebration builds the team dynamics and adds energy to everyone. If, in practice, you have not gone as far as planned but really need to achieve a particular milestone, either build space in your event to achieve it milestone or explain how it will be finalised and achieved after the event – there is much fear of seeing workshops turn into talk shops with no action among all of us event-goers.
  • Whether your workshop follows a straight path and there’s no going astray, or whether you are open to changing your path as you please and remain flexible, tell your participants how ‘set’ or flexible their journey is likely to be.
Sam Kaner's Diamond of participation (Credits: Chris Corrigan/FlickR)

Sam Kaner's Diamond of participation (Credits: Chris Corrigan/FlickR)

Another underground flow is running in parallel: that flow relates to the degree of clarity and agreement (or consensus) for the participants. thisa relates to Sam Kaner‘s famous “diamond of participation” diagram (see graph on the right). Be aware that it will almost undoubtedly happen, especially if your event runs for more than a day. In a week’s workshop, it will almost surely be at the middle of the week, when participants are too far away from the energy of the beginning and the final destination is not yet in sight…

The beat is the energy that you (and particularly your participants) have to run that pathway. There are a few things that help along that pathway to keep the beat:

  • The clarity on the final destination and on the main stop-overs on this voyage, as mentioned above;
  • Developing a sense of the group. Ice breakers are great in this sense, particularly those that explore some personal details, anything that gives more information about participants than their professional ‘function’ (there is a person behind that professional). Group work is also great as it brings people to get to know each other and effectively collaborate (thereby bringing much stronger bonding than just talking). Humour and informality help too, it breaks down barriers between people. As my boss – a very experienced facilitator himself – says: when a group starts having its own jokes and plays with it, it’s going very well;
  • Your personal energy as a facilitator – the more energised you are the more energy you give your participants. Speak clearly, enthusiastically if possible, add to the fun, move around, look at people in the eyes, engage, show them that you believe in this workshop and in achieving something)!
  • Keep the beat up by organizing energisers and occasional breaks when you see that participants need fresh air. Observe how the group energy is going and feel free to ask your participants how they feel about having a break or doing something different, like going away for a walk (why not even build some sessions around a walk or an interview in the park etc.?).

Running the event (the facilitator/s)

The next bit that matters in the design is: who will be running this event? Who will be facilitating it? If it’s you, that’s easier, because you know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses.

Still, how much ‘up to the task’ are you? How much does the design of the workshop reflect your way of working or not? A first balancing act here: between alignment and authenticity. How much have you played to your strengths and how much have you challenged your comfort zone? A delicate balance to strike here. Obviously, playing to your strengths means you are more likely to do things well. But you need to keep yourself sharp – and keep the events interesting for you as facilitator over time too – so how much are you stretching yourself to try out new things?

In practice I find that it’s worth doing something slightly different every time to keep the show interesting.

The facilitator: a multi-faceted, multi-skilled animator

The facilitator: a multi-faceted, multi-skilled animator

If someone else is facilitating – or perhaps if someone else helps you facilitate – what is their profile?

Here are a few things to review for yourself first, when selecting or hiring an external facilitator:

  • How high profile is your event going to be? How much will failures be tolerated?
  • How heavy on facilitation is your event going to be?
  • How intercultural is your event going to be?
  • How flexible should your event be?
  • How interactive is your event going to be?
  • How large is your group of participants going to be?
  • How tense is your event likely to be?

The more your event follows these characteristics, the more experienced a facilitator you will need.

Experienced facilitators usually have enough distance to manage tensions and readjustments with flair and fun – and they critically know WHEN to readjust, they hopefully are socially intelligent enough that they can pick up intercultural communication clues, they are used to interactive methods to the extent that they have no trouble explaining sub-group facilitators what their task is, they can handle large groups and they know how to manage tensions – whether appeasing them or precisely releasing and dealing with them rather than letting a ‘passive-agressive’ atmosphere develop. An instrumental skill that facilitators – experienced or not – should develop and nurture is the art of listening. It is their main tool to gather clues about the event climate and the need to readjust. Listening is not just auditory, it also means listening with your eyes: scanning the room around to see if people are engaging, deciphering body language to find out who is irritated, sad, tired, out of focus, stirring up trouble (rare but happens)… Another useful skill is that of synthesising and of paraphrasing, asking questions (even disarmingly simple ones) to address the concerns and issues that the participants are probably dealing with at the same time. Clarity of elocution is another essential skill: speaking clearly, loud enough, not too fast, paraphrasing what was said to synthesise it and asking the participants if everying is clear and if they have any question. And as mentioned above, openness and humour for fun, fun and fun are other must-haves. If your event is ‘facilitation-heavy‘ (demanding), It might even be a good idea to hire a couple of facilitators. Facilitation takes a lot of attention. Having a couple of facilitators is useful in many ways:

Two facilitators make the process stronger (credits: sreisaat/FlickR)

Two facilitators make the process stronger (credits: sreisaat/FlickR)

  • It helps prepare more quickly the materials and instructions (there is usually a number of flipchart sheets to prepare, posters, colour cards and the likes etc.);
  • It brings a variety of facilitation styles to the participants;
  • It helps facilitators facilitate well but also pay careful attention to the energy in the room, the body language of some participants, the signals that are emerging;
  • It keeps the energy of the facilitator up because they have time to charge up their batteries;
  • It makes it easier to organise sub-groups where there is usually a need for a sub-group facilitator (an/or chair, and/or timekeeper);
  • It helps to introduce exercises, make presentations, hold props, mime assignments etc. or even engage in on-the-spot jokes etc.;
  • It helps with the documentation of the event – as one of the facilitators can be documenting the discussions while the other one is indeed organising an exercise.
This sounds like a mountain of details, and truly there is much to the complex art of facilitating, but unveil the facilitation onion layer by layer. Embrace what you can now and leave the rest for later. A lot of it will become tacit knowledge in due time.

In the second part of this second chapter, I will examine the attendance (the participants), the location and the dynamics of the event, the other three crucial elements to make the HERALD play for you… and also the information that the herald governs, the content matter that is addressed in the event.

Related blog posts:

Alignment and authenticity


This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. I alluded to it in ‘Radical ideals and fluffy bunnies’ and in ‘Using dissent as a driver’ but not head-on. Here is a shoot that I hope will settle this matter for a while, for me at least, but I hope it also resonates with you (1).

In work, in any work that puts your personality on the line, and clearly in facilitation – where so much of your personality potentially affects the works – should we remain true to ourselves, or align with the wider agenda or other concerns?

You might think: “easy, just be yourself”. But the reality is more complicated, as we know we sometimes have to deal with another agenda – in facilitation that would be the bossy part of the BOSSY HERALD. We have to perform in different working cultures and we cannot be obsessed with doing things the way we like all the time. Or can we?

A practical example of this dilemma might be to respect hierarchy in e.g. a workshop. Will you challenge it or respect it? Tough call.

I absolutely don’t pretend to hold any truth here, just offering my views: On the alignment vs. authenticity spectrum, I place myself on the latter and try to bend towards the former. I start with being authentic with myself. The more I can be myself, the more I will be at ease and perform well, add humour (which is a great way to release tensions of this vein) and arguably the more I make others also comfortable because my behaviour does not display tensions.

Alignment or authenticity? Alignment with your authenticity it seems (Credits: PhotoBucket)

Alignment or authenticity? Alignment with your authenticity it seems (Credits: PhotoBucket)

In the process, I keep open to differences of views and practices and I have to remain astute to the specific issues where authenticity becomes awkward. Then I have to peddle back and adjust, (re-)align to reach out.

Perhaps the trick I have found here is to stretch authenticity as much as I can without upsetting anyone, following the proverbial French statement ‘Jusqu’où peut-on aller trop loin?‘ (until where can we get too far’)? In my philosophy, I’d rather let people be. A lot of respect, a bit of fun and you erase any risk of ‘your freedom infringing on mine’. So, alignment or authenticity? Judy Garland, among many others, reminds us:

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”

I’ve made up my mind. And there are two interesting parallels here:

  • One is with our work-life personalities: how much of yourself, of your real personality do you reveal at work? How much connection between these two poles of your life can you cope with (particularly if you are not self-employed)? I have found that being myself at work makes it all the more enjoyable, so while I try and preserve my personal and family life from too much travelling and over-work, I tend to not act so differently at the office or at home. I’ve found that in any occasion, thinking, feeling, talking and acting in the same perspective makes me happier and grounds me much more than entertaining split personaliities. But everyone has their own coping mechanisms…
  • The other is with intercultural communications: how much do you adapt to a culture and remain true to yours? This is a tricky one. Yet again, perhaps openness and humour are the best weapons against the tricks and traps of intercultural communication. I personally feel that since I cannot become someone with a totally different culture overnight, I’d rather stick to who I am, with all my sub-cultural backgrounds. I definitely try to understand, and I remain open to other cultures, but will not pretend I am someone else – while recognising that I am in a dynamic process of change where my culture(s) will be affected too.

How do YOU cope with alignment and authenticity?

Notes:

(1) Funny enough, someone just wrote another post a few days back, titled ‘alignment and authenticity’ – serendipity, that’s another topic worth blogging about…

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Reaping the seeds of change: how KM can open up conversations – the Except case, four months later


I was not really planning to write about this but after a chat with Eva Gladek from the company Except yesterday, it seemed a good idea to look at the seeds of change reaped three to four months after a workshop that brought us together.

In September 2011 I facilitated a workshop on the identity of Except and on various knowledge management initiatives that could support the development of this very modern, dynamic and slightly messy networked organisation (consciously or unconsciously following the complex approach of messy coherence).

Except integrated sustainability

Except integrated sustainability

The workshop consisted in a series of sessions aimed at collectively establishing the identity of Except and working on knowledge management: a speed dating exercise revealed some hidden talents of Except staff to one another; a Samoan Circle  session on the identity of Except; a mapping of Except’s clients, their impressions and their expectations vis-à-vis the organisation; crafting key messages for those clients, using the message box methodology from Spitfire’s Smart Chart tool; group work on four related activities to improve customer service; a short presentation on KM and working in groups on three tiers of KM activities:

  1. How to ensure a good induction and personal development of (new) staff
  2. How to update and sustainably manage the Except information database and
  3. How to hold quality conversations, online and offline.

So what happened, three months later?

A series of changes have tilted the organisation towards liberating knowledge flows and embracing (slightly) structured social learning:

  • Except is now a lot more aware of its need to communicate, internally – to identify and bridge the gaps of day-to-day work – as well as externally to articulate its identity and set of services in a more outspoken way. Among others, they have developed more strategic documents to explain what they are working on, for the Board of directors and strategic clients;
  • Staff members have also realised the importance of feedback – both to one another but also to and from customers. Gathering client feedback about the services rendered is now part and parcel of any new account;
  • There are regular after action reviews to assess how any account management process went and improve over time;
  • The management has set up an enterprise wiki to document many significant work processes. Although it initially took a while for people to embrace it, after some awareness-raising and training, most members are now using the wiki and saving a lot of time using project page templates, finding information about the questions they have etc.
  • Most staff members seem to work in much more transparent ways in sharing information and in documenting / recording their work. Except has also developed a file naming convention which helps find files much more easily;
  • Generally, staff members seem to be better able to find and apply the protocols that exist for a number of processes in house. Eva seemed to suggest that they are more conscious about their learning needs and activities.

All in all, the seeds of change are blatant and very rich. Not least, the organisation has unlocked conversations – people are talking to one another more and seem happy to transparently share their work, which is perhaps the greatest achievement as it relates to the slow and complex edge of culture and behaviour change…

Of course, it remains difficult to directly attribute any of these changes to the workshop itself but Eva seemed convinced that the latter did play a role in this series of change. That said, the workshop could have been even more effective if there had been a clearer and narrower problem statement at the onset of the workshop. But perhaps this was also a first broad brush stroke on Except’s knowledge work. It will need follow up.

Even for highly dynamic networked organisations like Except, which tend to anyway make intensive use of interrelated opportunities (the power of the network) and of knowledge flows across the branches and people in the organisation, a visioning workshop on identity and some work on knowledge management can reap critical seeds of change. Every subsequent iteration of this workshop – there is a plan to organise one such workshop every year – promises to sharpen the edge of knowledge of this extremely interesting and responsible organisation.

I wish for Except to keep reaping these seeds and turn them into the strong trees that echo its vision of sustainable organic and ecological development.

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