There often comes a point in the life of a community of practice when the group really benefits from creating tangible things designed to improve the members’ practice. This point occurs sometime after the early days of formation after the members have worked out their domain, and they know who’s participating, how people get on with one another, and how members communicate.
Following is a simple approach designed to coordinate action within a CoP. I first spoke about this approach in relation to setting up a Quickplace environment, which in retrospect might have been a mistake because many people couldn’t see how the ideas where relevant if they weren’t using Quickplace or when technology isn’t in the community’s sights.
There are three parts to this approach:
- discussion tables
- a list of possible projects
- small groups (ideally 3 people) working on things together
A discussion table is when community members come together to discuss a topic related to the community’s domain. The community coordinator might organise discussion tables on a regular basis. They can be done face to face or be a facilitated online discussion. I think there should be no more than about 12 people in the conversation to ensure everyone is present and active. If there are more than 12 people interested in the discussion table topic then run multiple discussion tables. During the conversation one of the participants keeps a note of ideas involving members taking action to improve the member practice. For example, if you were part of a business narrative community and the topic was ‘running effective anecdote circles’ someone might suggest, “we should develop a anecdote circle facilitator’s kit” or “we should develop a members training program”. These ideas would be noted and added to the list of possible projects. A summary of the discussion table conservation is also distributed to the entire community.
The list of possible projects is a simple list of all the suggested projects and activities arising in the discussion tables and other forums. You might put the list online and allow members to vote on each suggested project. Members are encouraged to take on a project from this list in groups of 3 and ideally with people you haven’t work with before. This simple rule helps the community create new social networks. These small project teams might use an online collaboration space. Once they’ve completed their project they communicate the results to the entire community and store the outputs where members can access them.
The community therefore makes progress by hosting discussion tables and encouraging active and robust conversation that leads people to suggesting things that would be good to do as a community. The list of projects grows and some are tackled based on the energy and enthusiasm of members. The process of undertaking these projects in small groups creates new relationships which in turn creates new conversations and new ideas for future discussion tables.
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Mark and I just returned from spending the last two days at the Cognitive Edge accreditation program run by Dave Snowden. Dave was in great form, and all fluffy bunny jokes aside, I found that Dave helped to bring theoretical focus and insight back into our ways of practice. One strong point I felt coming through was the appreciation of wicked problems (intractable problems).
A great quote I’ve come across on wicked problems is:
Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.
When it comes to considering problems around aspects like culture & culture change, organisational change, learning it is a common trap for people to think that getting more and more data, more and more analysis, will help to ‘solve’ the problem. Appreciating that such problems might in fact be wicked or intractable problems is the first step towards developing a whole new mindset for working towards what to do. The next step, in our opinion, and Dave’s is to then find ways to explore patterns and meaning. And there is no better way to get access to patterns and meaning then through story and narrative approaches. One great way which we have found helpful for organisations is to get started with Anecdote Circles.
A paradox which emerged for me earlier this year has been “Being happy with not knowing yet having the desire to know”. This paradox was reconfirmed for me over the last two days with Dave. It’s interesting that these approaches to ‘problems’ seem focussed on drawing out the time taken to action. Drawing out the time taken to decision making. Drawing out the time taken to gather stories of what’s going on. Drawing out the time taken for everyone to gain more perspectives on what’s going on.
How often do you find yourself rushing in to solve a problem? Maybe it’s time to take some time…Can you “be happy with not knowing yet maintain a desire to know” ?
Filed in Book reviews.
Last week I ordered Conversation: A History of a Declining Art by Stephen Miller from Amazon. I’d heard the author interviewed by Phillip Adams on Late Night Live and it sounded interesting. Today I read Steve Denning’s stinging review which I thoroughly enjoyed. Denning didn’t like Miller’s inability to clearly make the case for declining conversations; his arguments lacked evidence according to Denning.
Denning, presumably based on Miller’s book, makes a number of useful observations about good conversation which are worth remembering when we sit down next to our next friendly chat.
- an open-minded exploration of multiple viewpoints makes for a good conversation
- a single-minded attempt to destroy others’ ideas kills conversations
- good conversations include amusing banter
- conversation works best among equals
- conversations have been a rare phenomenon
This is a timely topic for me because in one hour I will be recording a podcast with Patrick Lambe, Nancy White, Matthew Moore and Kaye Vivian where we plan to have a series of informal conversations on knowledge management related topics. I’ll let you know how we go.
I would also say that I have noticed that people in organisation rarely seem to have (or make) the time for conversation. Most talking is done to achieve a task which must reduce the ability for people to explore new ideas, innovate and revitalise their thinking.
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We’ve spoken about anecdote circles a bit on this blog (here, here and here) and people have asked us how they can get started with using the technique. So, to help you start collecting your company stories we’ve created the following service:
Let me know what you think.
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Just found a excellent online service provided by the National Library of Australia which allows you to search all Australian library catalogues. It’s called Libraries Australia.
Filed in Expertise location.
Some of my favourite bloggers are talking about expertise location recently. Jack Vinson provides a good summary. Luis Suarez riffs off Dennis McDonald, who has a couple of posts on the topic (here and here). All these posts make good points about expertise location and each is written from the perspective that an organisation can enhance its expertise locating capabilities with the use of technology. I agree with their ideas but just for a moment I would like to explore an alternative perspective: what if we put effort in helping individuals find relevant expertise when they need it and without the use of technology? What would people need to learn? Imagine the increased effectiveness of an organisation if the individuals could do this well.
My first suggestion to an expertise hunter is let the expertise find you. It’s easy. Just talk about your need. Have you ever needed to find a new dentist? Did you go silently looking through the yellow pages and were confronted with hundreds of names and had no idea which one to choose? Or did you mention your need in passing at every opportunity; “actually I’m looking for a new dentist at the moment. It’s a killer to find a good one.” I’ll bet the latter strategy resulted in more useful recommendations—of course this technique assumes you are talking to people.
The next expertise locating skill I’d help people develop is what I call pre-emptive expertise location. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Yesterday the family and I took a ride into the countryside and visited Dromkeen, a children’s literature museum. It was illustrator day and Katie Byrne was talking to the kids about the illustrations she has done for a new set of books. I thought, “Wow, what a talent!” and asked for her contact details. I didn’t exactly know how I might need this talent in the future but knew it might be hard to find her again when I did. Gathering potential expertise around you is an effective technique.
We all know that social networks are important for locating expertise. The sense I get, however, from people writing on this topic is that effort in building the connection is only needed at the time when the expertise is sought. This couldn’t be further than the truth. To be good at finding expertise you need to be connected before you need the expertise. If you are not the social butterfly you need to get out your butterfly net and find yourself one (or a whole collection). Join communities, know the connectors (here are some ways to finding connectors) and get good at noticing expertise.
Hmmm, how do you notice expertise? Firstly we need an idea of what we think expertise is. Gary Klein says this of experts:
“Experts see the world differently. They see things the rest of us cannot. Often experts do not realise that the rest of us are unable to detect what seems obvious to them.”
This is one of the reasons why finding expertise can be tough and perhaps explains why the expertise location software industry has been less than stellar. That is, expertise is more than simply possessing a skill. Klein describes eight aspects of expertise which I’ve summarised but would recommend you read Klein.
- Patterns: with experience experts can discern patterns that are invisible to novices. They have a good sense of what’s typical and can therefore detect the extraordinary.
- Anomalies: experts are surprised when a key event is absent while novices don’t know what is supposed to happen and therefore don’t pick up on the anomaly.
- The way things work: experts have mental models of how things work—how teams are supposed to work, equipment is supposed to function, power and politics is normally wielded.
- Opportunities and improvisations: Experts can imagine possibilities that contradict the prevailing viewpoint and data. They can also apply patterns from one context to a new situation creating new approaches and techniques.
- Past and future: experts can predict what might happen in the future. Just ask a grade 5 teacher about what the kids will be like at the beginning and the end of the year.
- Fine discriminations: experts can see differences which remain invisible to novices. Just think of expert wine tasters.
- Self aware: experts are aware of their own thought processes.
- Decision makers: experts can make decisions under time pressure.
OK, so how do we notice all these characteristics? Gossip. Yes, gossip. Now it’s important to remember that gossip is simply when we talk about someone when they are not present at the conversation—that is, gossip is not always negative. So gossip is when people tell stories about others that retell what happened. Hearing stories about the performance of others is the second best way to notice expertise. The best way is to work with them. Consequently to become an expert in locating expertise you need a variety of experiences with a range of people. With an amount of self reflection and a preponderance for asking questions you can develop your expertise-locating capability.
OK, you probably can tell that these are very preliminary thoughts. I wonder what else you might do to help people develop their individual capability to find expertise.
Some related posts:
Klein, G. 1998. Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.
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Patrick Lambe and the folks at Straits Knowledge have setup a small narrative project to capture stories about the times when management buy-in for KM was obtained or denied. Please add your stories here.
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I’ve recently created a squidoo lens around the popular topic of Social Network Analysis and Sensemaking.
You can find my lens here: Social Network Analysis and Sensemaking.
I hope you find it useful. I’d love to hear any feedback or thoughts you have.
Maybe you might be interested in coming along to our free seminars exploring this topic.
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Individuals and organisations have many ways of tackling problems. A paper ‘Describing 16 Habits of Mind’ describes the following perceptual orientations that one can take when engaged in problem-solving:
- Ego-centric: perceiving the problem from our personal point of view.
- Allo-centric: perceiving the problem through another persons’ perspective through empathy, predicting how others are feeling and anticipating potential misunderstandings.
- Macro-centric: taking a ‘big-picture’ or birds-eye view of the problem, applying our intuitive, holistic and conceptual abilities. This approach helps tackle problems despite incomplete information and engages our abilities to perceive patterns, to jump across gaps in our knowledge and to act even when some of the pieces are missing.
- Micro-centric: a ‘worms-eye’ view of the problem that examines the individual pieces that make up the whole, and upon which much of our science, technology and enterprises rely. This approach involves logical analytical computation, a search for causality and ‘correct answers’ and it requires attention to detail, precision and orderly progressions.
Effectiveness comes when these various orientations are applied as appropriate for each situation. Relating this to previous posts, I think the first and last bullet points describe ‘left brain’ problem solving and the second and third points reflect ‘sensemaking’ or ‘right brain’ approaches. Our work at Anecdote focusses on helping organisations with their sensemaking capabilities, building confidence in their intuition and helping them to be comfortable with not-knowing.
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Are you more likely to be punished for taking risks at work or will you receive accolades? According to the Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, your prediction depends on what you remember happening to others, regardless of what really happens in your organisation. If you remember lots of stories of people being punished for risk-taking, and you are unable to recall accolades, you will expect punishment. It’s why people buy lotto tickets because only the winners are reported, and for every winner there are thousands and sometimes millions of unreported losers. Here is an engaging talk Daniel gave recently on this topic: "How to Do Precisely the Right Thing at All Possible Times." 23MB MP3 Link (Thanks Boing Boing)
The City of Port Phillip is tackling a similar problem. Crime in Port Phillip has been dropping for years yet when people are surveyed about crime rates citizens believe crime is increasing. Why? Because crimes are reported while good stories go unnoticed. To remedy this imbalance the City of Port Phillip has launched (today) the Non Crime Hotline where the good citizens of Port Phillip can call in with their positive stories. These stories are then published on their website and in the local newspapers.
A similar intervention was recently designed by one of our business narrative clients on this very issue of risk taking. Their intervention was to find and publicise stories of where risk-taking paid off and was positively recognised.
Do you have situations in your organisation where the general perception is dictated by the squeaky wheel rather than what really happening? Love to hear your examples.
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Yesterday I posted a pyramid diagram purporting to be the learning retention rates for a range of information presentation approaches. Harold Jarche rightly ask the simple question: Any idea if this is based on sound science? I started to look and found a range of anomalies and then discovered this article describing the illustration and associated percentages as a hoax that’s been perpetuated since the ‘60s.
I apologise for passing this information on. I need to be more skeptical of the information I discover.
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Just thought you might be interested in what sensemaking and intervention design workshops look like so I’ve updated our Business Narrative Squidoo lens with some snaps for your viewing pleasure.
Originally uploaded by Eric Rice.
Looks like we need more opportunities to help others learn to enhance our own learning retention rates.
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With the current buzz around social network analysis, you might be interested in coming to one of our free seminars.
Our approach, is new and different, leveraging on the old approach of the analysis, and moving forward into a new way of meaning making and sensemaking around social networks.
We are holding the seminars in:
- Melbourne July 13th, 20th
- Sydney July 18th
- Brisbane August 15th
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Eric Tsui is a friend of Anecdote and he’s looking for a masters student in knowledge management. Contact Eric directly if you’re interested.
An opportunity exists for a master level research degree (with an option of converting into a doctoral degree) on Knowledge Management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). Focus of the research is socio-technical based with particular emphases on Personal and Peer-to-Peer KM. The following project titles are an indicative guide only:
- A personal knowledge management desktop for supporting collaborative work and social networking
- Knowledge fusion between enterprise, peer-to-peer and personal knowledge management
A monthly stipend will be paid to the successful candidate. This research is full time and requires the student to be based in Hong Kong. PolyU's KM Group conducts research into organizational learning and change, knowledge audit, taxonomies, and collaboration tools. The Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering operates Asia Pacific's only Master of Science in KM (via blended learning) and is home to several state-of-the-art centres including the Knowledge Solutions Laboratory, Business Automation Laboratory and the Logistics and Simulation Laboratory.
Commencement of project is anytime between July and October 2006. Interested parties please send your CV and contact
Professor Eric Tsui
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Phone: +852 2766 6609 or +61 2 8207 0138 (direct call from Sydney)
Joel Spolsky is a software developer who used to work for Microsoft as the Excel Program Manager in the early 90’s. One of his big tasks was to enhance Excel’s programming language. Here Joel relates the story of presenting his Visual Basic for Excel specification for review by Bill Gates. It would seem that Bill is a bit of a swearer because one person on the team is allocated the role or expletive counter—the lower the number, the better.
For the purposes of this post the crucial part of the story is when Bill is asking a series of questions about the software specification , each one a little more difficult than the last.
Finally the killer question.
“I don't know, you guys,” Bill said, “Is anyone really looking into all the details of how to do this? Like, all those date and time functions. Excel has so many date and time functions. Is Basic going to have the same functions? Will they all work the same way?”
“Yes,” I said, “except for January and February, 1900.”
The f*** counter and my boss exchanged astonished glances. How did I know that? January and February WHAT?
“OK. Well, good work,” said Bill. He took his marked up copy of the spec
...wait! I wanted that...
“Four,” announced the f*** counter, and everyone said, “wow, that’s the lowest I can remember. Bill is getting mellow in his old age.” He was, you know, 36.
Later I had it explained to me. “Bill doesn’t really want to review your spec, he just wants to make sure you’ve got it under control. His standard M.O. is to ask harder and harder questions until you admit that you don’t know, and then he can yell at you for being unprepared. Nobody was really sure what happens if you answer the hardest question he can come up with because it’s never happened before.”
Joel’s depth of knowledge was being tested here but I would also imagine that Joel’s demeanour on the day (level of comfort), the quality of the software spec and the stories already told to Bill about Joel were important factors in putting Bill’s mind at rest that the project was in good hands.
How is expertise judged in your organisation?
[via Seth Godin]
Following on from my post about how to identify and evaluate expertise, I discovered this list today in an interesting resource called How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School.
- Experts notice features and meaningful patterns of information that are not noticed by novices.
- Experts have acquired a great deal of content knowledge that is organized, and their organization of information reflects a deep understanding of the subject matter.
- Experts’ knowledge cannot be reduced to sets of isolated facts or propositions but, instead, reflects contexts of applicability, i.e., it is “conditionalized.”
- Experts are able to retrieve important aspects of their knowledge with little attentional effort.
- Though experts know their disciplines thoroughly, this does not guarantee that they are able to instruct others about the topic.
- Experts have varying levels of flexibility in their approaches to new situations.
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Over the last 2 years ago we’ve gained lots of practical experience in eliciting stories, helping people make sense of them and assisting people design interventions. Along they way we’ve been influenced a set of books which has guided our practice. I’ve just updated our Squidoo lens with the full list here.
Are you a business narrative practitioner? What books have influenced your practice?
PS: I would love to get your feedback on what you think of the Squidoo lens. Feel free to give it a star rating when you are there.
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One of my favourite quotes is:
“Where observation is concerned, chance favours only the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur (1900)
Sensemaking is about preparing one’s mind. It starts with noticing things which are only noticeable when you’re prepared to see them. Our minds are prepared by a combination of experience and reflection. Take a look at this list of accidental discoveries. In each case it seems like a minor shift in perspective occurs for the discovery to be made. It seems to me, reading between the lines, that the discoverers where people who first had the ability (permission) to explore, an insatiable curiosity and through years of effort and persistence made a breakthrough. These conditions seem to be rare in organisations yet many leaders extol the virtues of innovation without preparing the environment for discovery.
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Projects designed to improve things typically start by describing the desired result (behaviours, performance measures, work systems) closely followed by depicting the current situation. The change team then works out the steps to close the gap. This approach assumes things don’t change from the time you start and the time you finish AND you can predict what will happen when you start the change process. Sometimes this is true.
There are plenty of companies who use the above approach. We have an alternative. Imagine if you could engage your staff in designing small interventions that they could implement themselves without a massive corporate programme. The biggest challenge in helping people design interventions is to get them to think small. Here’s one example to illustrate what I mean.
This company practices hot-desking and they noticed there were very few conversations among people while they were at their desks. Staff morale was also low. On a typical day people would grab a seat automatically allocated to them resulting in many people siting next to strangers. The intervention involved providing each employee with a name plate (most interventions I’ve seen come with the exclamation, ‘no kidding!’) they could slide into their cubicle. The simple idea was that if people knew who they were sitting next to they might introduce themselves. After implementing the intervention it was noticed that adjacent colleagues started using the online staff directory to see what part of the organisation their neighbours were from and discovered things in common. Over time new connections were made and people started to self organise arranging for groups to sit together.
Mark described another example of an intervention here.
The process we use to design interventions is simple. We spend the first half a day with 10–100 people working with stories collected in the organisation to identify the themes contained in the narrative and the minds of the people assembled on the day. The second half of the day is devoted to designing interventions to address these themes. People then volunteer to implement the interventions, or find others who can implement them.
Over the next few weeks I will share the exact process we use and would love to hear your thoughts. Of course it’s changing all the time so if you are reading this post 6 months after I posted assume the principles remained intact and the rest changed.
Filed in Knowledge.
In 1996 I helped the Australian Antarctic Division discover and document its spatial (map-related) data. I remember walking down long corridors in their Hobart offices and being regaled by stories of brave (crazy?) scientists enduring successive winters. Each scientist had their own office and I notice most doors were kept shut. I popped in to see a seal scientist and asked about his spatial data. He was a giant, hairy man—reminded me of a seal-elephant. In two strides he was in front on his map cabinet, lifted the lid about 5cm and whipped out a single map. There was at least another 50 maps inside the cabinet and when I asked about the others he assured me that I needn’t worry.
The location of seal colonies and sitings were marked on his map. It turns out that lichen is important to seals so lichen locations were also marked.
My next visit was to the lichen scientist two doors down the corridor. He was more forthcoming with his data. The lichen guy had also made careful note of seal locations whenever he was in the field. “Do you collaborate with the seal guy down the hall?”, I asked. “Nup, we have little in common.”
I remembered this incident while reading Nancy White’s post about the exciting new trial Nature is conducting to test the usefulness of public peer review. If successful we might see articles published faster and in a more transparent fashion. Nancy makes the following observation:
One of the barriers I've noticed to knowledge sharing is "publish or perish." The practice of very carefully sharing (or not at all) early data prior to publication has some unintended consequences. It slows down collaboration and potentially, stifles innovation. It creates a competitive scientific market where sometimes we need a collaborative one. The journal peer review process is intended to create rigor and critical thinking so we aren't all shammed by a fakester. But it also create firewalls between information and the public.
I’m working with two scientific organisations at the moment and in both cases the ‘publish or perish’ mentality doesn’t stifle collaboration entirely, it just ensures scientists don’t collaborate with their colleagues because they compete with them for recognition and promotions. Collaborators come from other organisations, and better yet, overseas and far away.
It seems to me that the word ‘survey’ is often clumped together with other words like ‘mother-in law’,‘cane toad’, ‘pestilence’ and maybe even ‘microsoft’. For all that we hate surveys they are still a powerful way of getting things done. There is definitely a science and an art involved in producing a ‘good’ survey.
For anyone putting together a survey, one thing you will need to do is design your questions. The language that you use can have a big impact on the response rates which you get on your survey and also how ‘threatened’ people may feel answering your survey questions. Here is a humourous example (albeit adapted from "Asking questions") of some different ways to ask the question: “Did you kill your pet cat?”.
A. The casual approach:
“Did you happen to kill your pet cat?”
B. The numbered card/option approach:
“Please choose from the options below which correspond to what became of your pet cat”
(1) Natural death (2) I killed him (3) Other (what?)
C. The Everybody approach:
“As you know, many people have been killing their pet cats these days. Did you happen to kill yours?”
D. The “Other People” approach:
(1) “Do you know any people who have murdered their pet cats?”
(2) “How about yourself?”
Disclaimer: No pets were harmed in the making of this blog post.
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Squidoo lenses are great. In one page you can get a snapshot on a topic. I’ve made some updates to our business narrative squidoo lens today which I hope you will like. My aim is to highlight all the posts that will give you a good overview on this topic. I’m also adding a list of books we’ve found useful.
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Here is the 100 top most influential people in HR as voted by HR Magazine readers. Dave Ulrich is number 1.
[via Cathy Mosca]
One of our newsletter readers asks the following question in relation to our article on expertise location:
“do you have any comments or references on how to go about the evaluation of this expertise?”
Building a groups’ capability to assess the validity of advice, ideas and suggestions is an important skill. The first step is awareness. How often do you hear people, especially management gurus, saying “my research suggests …” then never actually referencing the research results. This happened this week in ActKM where a poster said:
Research indicates a 2/3 reduction of time from traditional face-to-face classroom approach and even a reduction in time from more traditional self-paced approaches, but with a 2 standard deviation improvement in learning outcomes.
So I asked for the reference and the poster said that he didn’t have access to the reports but thought it would be a good idea to cite references—and then omitted the citations!
I asked for the names of the reports, but no reply. Another member of the community supported my idea of citing references in these cases but after that, total silence. The community is tacitly giving permission to this behaviour.
This is an example of where the community is not building a capacity to recognise flawed advice. Following are some ideas on the skills communities could develop which would help the entire group be more discerning.
I remembered two useful references when I was asked about evaluating expertise: Chris Argyris’ book Flawed Advice, and Bob Sutton’s essay called Management Advice: Which 90% is Crap? But before I remind us of some of Chris and Bob’s suggestions on evaluating expertise let me describe some of the things I’ve learnt from experience (probably just common sense).
- Listen for stories. Without stories advice and expertise remains abstract and devoid of experience. Become aware of the richness of the story—how detailed are they? do they include facts?
- Are they ever wrong? I’m suspicious of people who purport to have all the answers and have never made a mistake in their life.
- Can they see what’s missing? Deep expertise is not just the ability to see what’s happening and make suggestions for improvement but the ability to see what’s missing and knowing what to leave out. This idea was introduced to me in Gary Klein’s book on Intuition.
- Simple, clear language. If you really understand what you are talking about you should be able to convey your ideas simply, clearly and concisely.
- Triangulate the expertise with your social networks. Jim tells me that Martha knows her stuff; Anne tells me that Martha is top notch; but Martha doesn’t keep telling me how wonderful she is. My confidence in Martha is high.
- An expert in one field doesn’t make them an expert in everything. There is a well known psychological pattern where if people believe a person is an expert in a field, such as corporate strategy, they are inclined to believe that person in also expert in other similar fields, such as mergers and acquisitions.
Chris Argyris suggestion is to listen for advice which is: “… illustrated, encourage inquiry, and are easily tested.” On the other hand be wary of advice “that include little or no illustration, inquiry, or testing” and where defensive reasoning dominates. The problem with this suggestion, as I see it, that much advice is not easily tested or takes considerable time to test it. For example, we have been saying that anecdote circles are an excellent method to elicit stories and they create a positive and trusting experience simply based on our experience. It is not until this year that we have put this to the test and had each participant who attended an anecdote circle provide an evaluation of the experience that we were able to test our assertion. BTW we are presenting our results at KM Asia.
I’ve written a post about Bob Sutton’s suggestions to test management advice here. I call his suggestions heuristics for bullshit detection (please excuse the vulgarity of this phrase. You should know that it is quite a common term in Australia and I believe Australians are great bullshit detectors).
Thanks to Nancy White for a conversation that helped me remember some useful ideas.
Filed in Strategic clarity.
Here is an interesting article which reports on a range of neuroscience research on how people respond to change. The article explores the following conclusions:
- Change is pain. Organizational change is unexpectedly difficult because it provokes sensations of physiological discomfort.
- Behaviorism doesn’t work. Change efforts based on incentive and threat (the carrot and the stick) rarely succeed in the long run.
- Humanism is overrated. In practice, the conventional empathic approach of connection and persuasion doesn’t sufficiently engage people.
- Focus is power. The act of paying attention creates chemical and physical changes in the brain.
- Expectation shapes reality. People’s preconceptions have a significant impact on what they perceive.
- Attention density shapes identity. Repeated, purposeful, and focused attention can lead to long-lasting personal evolution.
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Late last year I pulled together a few threads around the popular meme of unconferencing.
Unconferencing is back with this post on How to DIY Unconference.
Often the simplest things in life are the best.
Practically on the day I joined IBM in 1999 I was whisked off to Cambridge, MA, to be part of a global team to launch a new system that would help people discover hidden expertise in an organisation. On the way home I wrote a paper on the people issues I thought would hamper the implementation of this type of technology which I will share with you one day, but not today because I want to talk more generally about expertise location.
This trip was the moment I became interested in the problem of how you find people who know stuff that you need to know. Expertise is a slippery word because this stuff you need to know might not seem like rarefied knowledge; in fact, it rarely is. Most of the time you simply need to know how to get things done and the knowledge you need might be as simple as an introduction, a pointer to a web-site, a demonstration, or a conversation to get you thinking. So I got thinking: what are some simple ways to find the people you need to know? Interestingly, in many cases you already know these people but just don’t realise their breadth of knowledge.
I wrote this article a couple of years ago and found it again recently. I think it begins to answer my rhetorical question but it is far from complete. We published it in our last newsletter so I’ve popped it in the white papers section of our site. There is much more to be said on the topic, for example, on how people navigate through networks to find people, how do you validate expertise, what is expertise, and how do you create an environment where expertise finds you rather than the other way around?
My first blog post ever was around the improv principle of “Say Yes”. I suggested that:
“…it is often when we “Say Yes” that we find ourselves in the most interesting, unexplored and uncharted territory”.
There seems to be real tension between “saying no” and saying “yes and…”. Take for instance:
Jane, a young consultant had been working for 9 months in a new position in a consulting organisation. She had been working on developing her networks, leads and contacts. With the consulting firm gauging the success of consultants by the number of proposals they submit, Jane was focussing her efforts on delivering quality consulting proposals. One day, out of the blue, a client she had spent some time generating a relationship with contacted her, interested in a proposal for what Jane also considered an interesting and relevant piece of work. Thinking about how she might deliver quality, Jane decided she would go to one of the well respected senior leaders of the organisation and get his opinion. Jane reasoned that Dick, the senior leader, would surely have some good input for this proposal not to mention giving her a potential opportunity to have Dick as a mentor in the future. Early the next day, Jane met with Dick and explained the context and her thinking around the project proposal. To Jane’s surprise, Dicks response wasn’t “yes, and…” it was “are we doing this to make money or just for something to do?”. While Jane was trying to digest the first statement, Dick warmly added “it’s about what we say no to”.
How do we balance the common sensical and maybe disempowering “no” or “yes but…” with the enabling and more empowering response of “yes and…” ?
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Today is an auspicious day, for those who are superstitious 6–6–6 might have some particular meaning….
If you’re not superstitious, that’s ok, but today is your last chance to get in as an early bird for our marvellous Appreciative Inquiry course on July 5th and 6th.
Appreciative Inquiry is a technique to facilitate organisational change. It's different, and effective, because rather than focus on problems to be solved it starts by asking: “what’s working around here?”
Read more here.
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“I hate paper and would never recommend my organisation use it because so many people just write absolute drivel using paper.” Sounds ridiculous? Well substitute ‘blog’ for paper and that’s an opinion I’m hearing from senior executives.
Hey, here’s the secret: blogging is only a technology, just like paper is a technology. Both technologies enable people to write and distribute their ideas. If we can set aside the nonsense that all blogging is self-indulgent twaddle, we can then highlight what blogging technology can do that paper cannot. A couple of points I would make to senior executives:
- it’s easier to find things written on a blog
- you can subscribe to a blog and receive your subscription instantaneously
- blogs promote linking among people and therefore encourage new social networks (this seems to be an attractive meme for executives)
For a bit of fun I have created an Anecdote apparel shop on CafePress tonight. You can also buy an Anecdote coffee mug.
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Seth Godin put it nicely when he said that blogs are like watching a movie, if you are not there from the beginning it can be a bit hard to follow. As a result he invented Squidoo lenses that allow you to highlight important posts (among other things) based on a topic.
I’ve been playing with Squidoo for a while and we will gradually add a set of lenses on topics like business narrative, communities of practice, knowledge strategy and sensemaking so you can easily find the posts that matter with additional commentary to glue it together.
Our first attempt is on business narrative. Check it out and let me know what you think.
I’m on the hunt for stories about knowledge management activities that are happening in Melbourne. Why? Because I’m on the organising committee for Melbourne KM Leadership Forum (KMLF) and we have a blog where we are posting about KM things happening in this fine (but sometime wet, windy and cold) city.
I’ve just written a little description of what Department of Primary Industries are doing with collaboration. I would love to hear about what you are doing too and happy to come visit and write something up if you’re game :-)
An observation: knowledge management is rarely called knowledge management any more. Yet you find knowledge management being practised in a range of different projects like continuous improvement projects, culture change initiatives, leadership development, project management and practically anything else you can think of. In fact if you are systematically encouraging knowledge behaviours like the ones I posted about a couple of days ago, then you are doing knowledge management.
Patrick Lambe over at Green Chameleon has written an interesting post which is half critique and half reflection. After getting down about a paper he is reading that seems to have a ‘stick information in a database’ theory of knowledge sharing (I’ve written about the problem with this approach here) to how a close friend is dealing with being diagnosed with a serious illness Patrick offers these lessons about knowledge sharing:
- Not all sharing is created equal – people share as part of their jobs, for purely altruistic reasons, or for a blend of the two
- Much of our important sharing has formal, well developed conventions and rituals
- Social prejudice can get in the way of knowledge sharing, even if the relevant information is available and known (Mary Douglas has written about the irrational ways societies deal with disease)
- To understand knowledge sharing, we have to look beyond the event to the context: a knowledge sharing event rarely exists in a vacuum; it’s usually a part of an interlocking network of knowledge sharing events, each of which complements and informs the others
- Knowledge sharing is often highly influenced by urgency, affective and emotional influences, and visible practical needs
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Hexies sure are popular these days. We have just made shopping for Hexies easier. You can now buy ‘postage paid in Australia’ packs of hexies directly from our shop. They range from single packs of 12 hexies to a bulk pack of 5 x the pack of 12. They’re worth a look.
After all, Hexies are better than ordinary post-its…