“You have the wrong passport”: KM in Khartoum

I’ve been in Khartoum. I was there as President Trump announced the ban on travellers from 7 countries which included Sudan. The impact on morale (a week after the outgoing Obama administration had eased sanctions on the country) was palpable. Bans don’t hit the powerful they hit ordinary people with families overseas or like many I spoke to who visit the US for work or research.

a week on “Managing Knowledge in a Connected World”

So it was a poignant backdrop to the week long visit as part of the series of events “Managing Knowledge in a Connected World” I’d organised with the Sudanese Knowledge Society.

Those of you who follow the work I do might recall a change of approach this year. Included in a paragraph on my values and approach for 2017 I said:

I am counting my blessings and getting on with doing ‘stuff’ I think will make a difference in different parts of the globe and where less is definitely more.

This was the first opportunity where I felt my presence might act as a catalyst to advancing KM practice while providing encouragement and support. Sponsored by some of Sudan’s leading companies and universities and also the World Bank Group Sudan it comprised four main events:

  • Workshop on Sudanese Internet Content — 28 – 29 January
  • Forum on Knowledge Sharing — 30 January
  • Masterclass on Knowledge Audits — 31 January
  • Reverse Brainstorm Session on Virtual Work — 1 February

Khartoum International Airport

As with any visit where you are reliant on others to make arrangements there is an amount of trepidation as you step off the plane and enter the customs hall: will the person who is going to help me get a visa be there; will the authorities let me in?

After a short delay, while I negotiated with the immigration authorities over paying my ‘entry fee’ in Euros (which I had and they don’t accept) vs Dollars (which I didn’t have and they do accept), my welcoming party arrived to settle the entry fee and ease me through.

Corinthia Hotel Khartoum

I was excited by the prospect of returning to a country I first visited in 2010 and to a hotel (Corinthia) that remains an iconic structure in a prime position overlooking the Nile. My initial impression is Khartoum has changed little since I was there in 2013. It has a feel of Jeddah in the mid 80’s but with a few iconic structures.

The absence of cranes in sharp contrast to Dubai where I stopped en route suggests a country that is struggling economically due to the loss of oil revenues from the secession of South Sudan.

enriching Sudanese intranet content

Day One/Two: Early morning in Khartoum is magical when you overlook the Nile and the view from my suite is amazing.

The call to prayer evokes a fond memory of decades of travel to the Middle East (and Arabic speaking Africa) and the mid to high 20’s temperature a welcome change from the grey cold that is the England I left behind.

I was asked to give the opening Keynote at this event and to set the following two day’s of activities into context.

My laptop is not compatible with the projector despite having the adapter. As always I have backed up my work on DropBox and given secure access to Professor Gada Kadoda the driving force and inspiration behind the Sudanese Knowledge Society.

The two day event is predicated on the assumption that content is key to the success of a country and business. These points emerged:

  • Information and Digital Literacy Skills are in short supply;
  • Slow line speeds make uploading of content in a web based environment difficult;
  • There is limited use of the internet in Sudan but everyone uses mobiles to connect with such as Facebook which is widely embraced;
  • People don’t trust “Facebook News” (or any other) and there is limited content or data. But what there is people don’t know about;
  • There is no recognised and agreed Arabic Natural Language Directory (the base on which software such as Artificial Intelligence might build); and
  • There isn’t a culture of sharing (and storing) content in organisations.

creating a knowledge sharing environment: the role of HR professionals

DAM HR Forum

Day Three and the program shifts from strategic to operational. I am ‘booked’ for an evening with leading HR professionals. I begin by moving everyone around and asking them to make introductions. I repeat the instruction a couple of times. The third time I just ask them to move and the attendees naturally engage and answer the question, “what does KM mean to you?”

In plenary reflection they note how a neutral object (me) created an environment that broke down barriers enabling them to engage in a way they would have not done before.

Three hours fly by. The group has identified barriers to knowledge sharing and come up with a number of ways to overcome them. They leave engaged and animated at 10pm in the evening after I close with a few illustrations of what a Cheif People Officer who looks after the KM function does.  Grateful thanks here to Penny Newman who answered a few questions from me prior to my visit to Sudan.

masterclass on Knowledge Audits: a practical guide

‘Room 1’ Proposed Masterclass venue

Day Four and I am up early to check whether the room we are going to spend a full day in is fit for purpose. As expected there are a few ‘niggles’ to be resolved but its so much better than the room originally allocated.

Theoretically Room 1 may have seated 20 but with no natural light and little space to move around it would have sucked all the energy out of the room.

14 turn up and all really engage as the feedback confirmed.

Actual Masterclass venue

“It was a wonderful opportunity to have participated in a such an informative session, I hope we could get more such opportunities.
I found your Talk and Master Class about KM and KA very interesting and informative.

Was delighted to be among the participants, thanks to Paul to be able to cover all this important material without us losing interest and enthusiasm. It is a novel and rewarding start that we will hopefully plan and implement at our different organizations.”

reverse brainstorm on working virtually

Graduate group in a reverse brainstorm session

Day Five was spent with the future leaders of Sudan and another 3 hour session with graduates and members of Education without Borders Sudan. After showing a few videos and slides about working virtually I asked the 65 people present to get into 6 groups of 10 and discuss what they could do to make virtual working fail. Though not much room to move about everyone jumped at the chance of getting into a practical exercise.

A couple of observations on the facilitation technique I used:

  • Getting everyone’s attention is a challenge. This time if people didn’t ‘come to order’ quickly I made a point of asking the recalcitrant one’s what they were discussing pointing out to the room that often people carry on conversations because they are enthused.
  • It’s good to share. The act of going round the room in a circular fashion to see what the other teams have done creates momentum and illustrates that its not just about your ideas. Some teams ended up using ideas from other teams in their final submissions.
  • Voting (everyone has a sticky dot to place on the issue they think is most important) is a great hit and provides a visual image of how the room thinks

and finally

As is often the case you learn so much about a country and its people from its stories and proverbs. Having read a number before I left Gatwick I kept this in mind for all my sessions:

Our wasted days are the days we never laugh

After a week there and seeing how my visit served to pull many people together this one struck me as being apposite:

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito.

And so to the title: if there is one abiding memory I took away its the resilience of the population and the young who have had so many doors slammed in their faces yet come back for more. I recall one moving story from a very bright and well qualified woman who was repeatedly told by big western institutions: “You are the perfect fit for the job and we’d hire you tomorrow if we could, we can’t, you have the wrong passport!” She is marooned in Khartoum unable to get a local job that fits her expertise and unable to leave!

Now onto the next ‘mission’ which is to Kuala Lumpur and a Masterclass on “Working smarter in a knowledge world: why space matters for collaboration, innovation and knowledge transfer” in conjunction with the International Islamice University of Malaysia. Much more on that next time.

A new way of working at The Edge, the world’s smartest (and greenest) building

the_edge-gallery04

Last Tuesday I spent the afternoon at the world’s smartest and greenest building as the guest of Miriam Tops of Deloitte and Erik Ubels of OVG Real Estate (and formerly CIO of Deloitte).

Imagine arriving at your place of work and being directed to an area or office suitable for that day’s work; where the lighting and heating adjust automatically to suit your preferences; where the coffee you like is dispensed from one of the best coffee machines available; and where if you need anything a concierge service is on hand to get it for you.

That’s the start of a day in the life of a knowledge worker at Deloitte Amsterdam.

The Edge is a contemporary new building located in an emerging business district close to Schipol Airport, the motorway and railway, yet a 15 minute drive to the centre of the city. It is home to 2,700 workers with desks allocated on arrival each day to accommodate approximately 50% reflecting changing work patterns.

a fusion of Data Analytics and great contemporary design

Conceived by the largest real estate technology company in Holland OVG it is an astonishing example of how to use natural light, the sun, the earth and other natural materials to power a building, provide a sustainable infrastructure while creating an innovative environment in which to work. A helicopter view of the roof would reveal little expensive equipment apart from solar panelling which is also built into the external facade.

The EdgeIt is the forerunner of many such buildings and OVG are not resting on their laurels. Erik and his colleagues have far reaching plans to change the way buildings and those who inhabit them work.

IMG_5877_1024

The ‘smarts’ lie in the way data analytics sourced in part from the lighting and delivered by a smart app are used to stimulate a new way of working.  These were developed by the project team which Erik headed and which drew up countless simulations of working practices based on a set of personae.

The Knowledge Management component is interesting. Erik and Miriam (who heads Deloitte’s Dutch KM activity) were part of a Knowledge Council which also included Talent / People Management (HR), Facilities Management and various other practice groups.  The council’s input was valuable in determining how the building might be used,

Deloitte RobotThe building never sleeps: at night a robot patrols the ground floor obviating the need for on site security and maintenance.

 

Return on Investment

Innovation comes at a cost. Many of the components were more expensive but will deliver a payback. Already the company has seen:

  • Lower energy and service costs due to investment in climate ceilings and new sustainable technology (LoE)
  • Acquisition of new business (clients love the building and all it says about Deloitte)

I am sure there are many ‘hidden’ benefits around productivity, staff acquisition, engagement and retention which are not in the public domain but integral to making the building such a success.

and finally

If anyone is looking for a great example of the idea of ‘Orchestrated Serendipity’ The Edge is the building to go see. Don’t just take my word for it, take a look at great (shortish) videos shot by Bloomberg and CNN Tech and an excellent piece by the BBC’s Technology Team.

A huge thanks then to Miriam, Erik and Andrea Stevenson who heads Deloitte’s Global Outreach KM team and who connected me to Miriam.

 

 

Challenges and Opportunities facing Legal KM: interview for KM Legal Europe

A few weeks back I wrote a  post Future of the Internet and Legal KIM in an artificial world ahead of an interview I was giving to the organisors of January’s KM Legal Europe Amsterdam.  Here’s that interview which includes a snapshot of the sessions I will be facilitating.

“Anytime, anywhere, any device”: Working smarter in a knowledge world

Last week was fun. A couple of enjoyable dinners, an interesting day at the BSI KM Standards Committee helping to shape the UK’s response to the latest draft of the  emerging ISO KM Standards and a thought provoking day at Quora Consulting’s flagship Smartworking Summit. I will focus on the latter as it impacts the former.

Why are you here?

As I said in answer to that direct question posed to me by one of the speakers during his address:

Because John invited me for which I thank him.  I am also here as the discipline I focus much of my time on (Knowledge Management) relies heavily on the right environment to facilitate the sharing of knowledge. Also as a member of the BSI KM Standards Committee which is looking at ISO standards for KM I am keen to seen something in there that reflects the move towards smarter working.

I coud have added that, following the lead of Professor Clive Holtham and Victoria Ward, I have been banging on for a long while about the importance to Knowledge Management of an effective physical environment, it’s one of the indicators I look for when performing a Knowledge Audit or Assessment at any organisation.

The event:

The very well attended senior level event (of the near 200, 75% were C-Suite Directors) was held near St Paul’s and had as it’s focus in the morning “unlocking the full potential of women at work”.

quora-summit-pmThe afternoon comprised a series of breakout sessions. I went for the “Creating productive workplaces” session facilitated by John Blackwell, Quora’s founder and CEO.

As an aside it was nice to see Euan Semple again who was cofacilitating a round table session that draws on an interesting piece of work he is doing and was entitled “Building Bridges, dismantling siloes”.

Interesting fact of the day from Wednesday’s Smartworking Summit – collectively, the registered delegates interact with over 80 million employees on a daily basis – impressive!

Smartworking in context:

Statistics released by the Department of Work and Pensions and The Office of National Statistics are terrifying for the future of the UK economy which has already seen productivity fall by 17% over the last 10 years. These stuck out:

  • The UK will need to fill 13.5 million job vacancies in the next ten years but only 7 million people will be leaving schools and universities during that same period. And further, 70% of those graduates will be female.

The Summit’s premise was:

“…there are only two realistic ways of plugging this 6.5 million job vacancy shortfall – encourage people to remain in work beyond the conventional retirement age and crucially, attract far more women into the workplace.”

The morning speakers drawn from some of the UK’s largest employers shared their stories.

I liked:

  • The ‘Come Back’ returnee programme for a 12 week period which helps Mums rejoin the organsation after pregnancy leave.
  • The carers work programme wherein flexible working hours (often in chunks of 30-60 minutes) are offered to remote workers who look after those incapable of doing so themselves.
  • The bottom up shadowing programme wherein senior staff are mentored by young employess on the use of Social Media.
  • Anytime, anywhere, any device. The strapline of a programme at a financial services firm who are faciliting a blend of working practices and estimate that 40% of their work will be done flexibly.
  • That Cabinet Office and BSI recently launched a Smart Working Code of Practice.  PAS 3000 gives recommendations for establishing good practice for the implementation of Smart Working, against which organizations can be benchmarked. It covers changes to working practices, culture, working environments and associated technology.
  • The following quotes:

On expecting staff to focus for 8 hours a day: “You can’t leave your life at the door”

On the imposition of a dress code for the office: “How about we trust you to do the right thing?  If you look in the mirror and ask whether you can get away with wearing this it’s probably wrong”

On the need to change mindsets: “What the boss does gets copied”; “It’s great to talk, its better to listen”; and “Climbing the greasy pole to reach the corner office”.

I was surprised by:

The results of Quora’s recent survey.  Here’s what they said:

We have just released our latest research publication titled “Creating today’s workplaces for tomorrow’s talent”. This study engaged with just short of 3,000 people to explore the correlations between productivity, employee engagement and retention, and amongst its stunning findings are;

  • In 1990, 10% of the workforce was over 55.  By 2010 that had risen to 26% and, by 2030 the proportion of workforce over 55 will exceed 50%,
  • Just 21% stated that the impact of changes at their organisation are tracked and measured.
  • Only 33% regard their workplace as optimised for productivity,
  • Less than half trusted their manager to do the ‘right thing’ by them,
  • 66% stated the main reason for leaving their job was because they ‘found their managers dull and boring’.

Among the conclusions are that workplace design needs considerable fresh scrutiny into the productivity impacts of light intensity and spectrum, daylight, sound amplitude and direction, air quality, air temperature, odour, and occupant location and activity, and provision of quiet space.

Lastly, given that the brain takes 30% of all energy input into the body, the provision of nutrition needs a complete rethink.   Considerable attention needs to be given to eating frequent, portion controlled small meals focused on nutritional value.

I am concerned about:

  • The rate of commercial redevelopment that is taking place in London. If the workplace of the future is so uncertain and large organisations are consolidating their sites, making workspace more collaborative and shared, who is going to occupy the offices being developed now?
  • The scarcity of skilled British workers to fill the impending void at a time when the authorities seem to be making it harder for overseas workers to come to the UK.
  • A survey that found only 1:5 believed their leaders would do the right thing.

I took away:

  • The notion that the future cv will evolve from being a list of employers to a list of interesting projects and that 75% of new graduates today are predicted to leave within 2 years due to dull management and an unproductive environment.
  • The revelation that we now have 4 generations working at the same time so personalisation of approach is really important. Generation Rent employees have vastly different value sets from the Baby Boomer employees.
  • The suggestion that the leaders of the future will be Influencers with a focus on outcomes and that some organisations are using Social Network Analysis to identify who they might be.
  • The need to manage nutrition as well as the physical and virtual environment of the workforce. Better nutrition and conditioning = better performance in physical activity so why not in the workplace?the-edge
  • A desire to visit The Edge the greenest most efficient ‘smart’ building in the world when I am in Amsterdam in January. The Edge has proved a big attraction to prospective employees of the building’s tenants who include Deloitte’s.
  • The importance of effective knowledge capture and retention to ensure that, whatever technique is used, knowledge from skilled elders gets passed on.

And finally:

Fast forward two days and I am at Chiswick for the BSI Meeting.  The first person I meet is someone I heard speak a few years back in Amsterdam at SocialNow.

Dana Leeson is a Digital Workplace Architect at BSI helping to transform bsi-spacetheir working practices and environment.  One metric they are using: reduce occupancy levels (from 100% usage of the office by their staff to the mid 70’s).

Theirs reflects similar initiatives across UK government who are reducing the number of buildings they occupy and introducing co-working hubs for many departments.

 

 

Improvising in Oxford: techniques to change mindsets

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Keble College

I was back in Oxford last week staying at Keble College while attending the inaugural UK Improv for humanity event held at the Quaker Meeting House in St Giles.

Nancy White (of the KM4Dev community who’d collaborated with Mary Tyszkiewicz one of the Improv for humanity team) said it might be interesting. Trusting Nancy’s judgement, and always being on the lookout for ways to get out of my comfort zone while finding new ways to engage, I signed up.

The idea of using Improvisation in Humanitarian work is a couple of years old drawing on Applied Improvisation techniques described as:

Acting and responding in the moment without a script.

Applied improvisation uses the principles, tools, practices, skills and mind-sets developed in comedy, jazz and theatre and utilises them for non-theatrical or performance purposes.

With 62 delegates from over 20 countries it was well attended by Improvisation practitioners, many of whom were staying on for the annual meeting of the Applied Improvisation Network which followed, and humanitarian workers.  Falling into neither camp I was there to learn and assess its applicability for pro bono and consulting work.

Here’s a snapshot of the event and some of the techniques I found interesting.

opening & closing techniques

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Pablo Suarez leading a session

Most events of this type involve disruptive movement so people circulate and make early connections.  As an interesting twist: we all stood in small circles and said our own names as we pointed to another who then did the same. After a minute the process was reversed and we had to point at a person and say their name.  Was it useful? Yes, a different way of doing introductions.

“I am glad you are here” followed. This involved a lot of circulating, smiling and hand shaking as we all spoke those words to everyone we bumped into. This morphed into “Why I am here / What I bring to the event”; self explanatory phrases which required us to reflect and share with the person standing next to us.

Day Two saw us singing in a circle prompted by Gabe Mercado a typically engaging and enthusiastic Filipino from Manila: Gabe like everyone I’ve met in the Philippines has a great voice so “Bazimba” (the title of the chant) was delivered pitch perfect and we all joined in with both the song and accompanying body movement. Though great for an offsite event I don’t think it would suit a conference of finance professionals or lawyers.

The event closed with “I like, I wonder, I wish”. We all were gathered into a circle and asked to reflect on our takeaways. One person said, “I like working with such a diverse group” and took a step forward when doing so. Those that shared that view also moved forward. Following that we did one more “I am really glad you were here”.

facilitation techniques

Those who facilitate events are often challenged bringing the group to order and regaining the initiative. Some use a bell or tap the microphone (if there is one). When neither is available “one hand up all hands up” is particularly useful because it applies peer pressure and brings the room to order in a collaborative manner.

Keeping to time is an art. I did like Gobe’s idea of “The Time Hugger”, his description of one of his roles at the event. Every time someone overran the Time Hugger would intervene.

Debriefing

Debriefing

1>2>4>All describes a process wherein a question or topic is posed to the group. Each person reflects and then shares their thoughts with their neighbour. They then share with another pair and the 4 select the ‘best’ idea to share with all.

In a working group I attended we discussed how to enthuse and train a group of volunteers to then go and collect data and stories from the field. I was reminded of something I learned many years back (and don’t use enough) that for most impact in workshops the facilitator should break sessions into 20 minute segments. So some theory followed by practice and then reflections.

A couple of weeks back I commented on how Patrick Lambe and his colleagues at Straits Knowledge had used a case study show, tell and invite technique at their event in Singapore. Here’s the approach they used:

  1. Case outline to a common format in advance, in the conference programme
  2. Each case has a 6 min plenary pitch
  3. Three cycles of 25 min discussions on the cases at tables, in k-cafe style

A similar approach was used in Oxford based more on the Ignite Format. Each presenter had 4 minutes for 5 slides to showcase their case study.  Each participant was then free to wander and join the group they were most interested in. I lean towards Patrick’s approach with defined cycles rather than “Go where you want when you want”.

engagement techniques

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Yes And – the Pros

One of the techniques I previously used with my colleagues at Sparknow was Yes And. It was showcased in Oxford as a great way of shifting mindset. What I did like was the discussion around the danger of it becoming a self reinforcing scenario. If people don’t challenge constructively then its easy to go into a warm but negative spiral which in a humanitarian context can be fatal.

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Heroic Improvisation Model being shown by Gabe

Mary’s case study focused on the Heroic Improvisation Model she’d developed following a humanitarian crisis in the Philippines.  Heroic Improv recognises that most people are heroes and that communities follow these patterns of behaviour – it’s where community resilience occurs.

I see its potential business application in Disaster Recovery.

 

Pablo's throwing a frisbee in The White House

Pablo’s throwing a Frisbee in The White House

Everyone warmed to the Frisbees in the White House story provided by Pablo Suarez, from Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Change Centre, who has championed the use of Improvisation games in Humanitarian situations.

Participatory games are emerging as one approach that can facilitate linking knowledge with action in the Climate Change arena.

Perhaps my favourite exercise was Story from a Word. Working in groups of 4-6 we were asked to create a story one word at a time. We were given a topic (Haunted House). If I said “dark” then my neighbour might answer “cobwebs” and her neighbour, “deserted”. And so on. The twist: each word could be ‘challenged’ by the rest of the group and the person who said it required to tell a true story about that word.   A variation on It’s all in a Word it is a great way of getting a team to come together and learn more about each other.

listening & noticing techniques

Of the many techniques used during the two days 1-13 soft or loud provided a fascinating insight into how we align ourselves with people of a like disposition. Dr Barbara Tint asked us to pick a number between 1-13 and then having chosen it (and not told anyone else) to behave in the manner of that number.  1= quiet and submissive. 13= noisy and assertive. Obviously the 11-13’s tended to dominate the open space (we circled and spoke to each person we met) while the 1-4’s headed for the corners.

In a longer session outside I was allocated a score of 4 and asked to give a report to my boss who was a 12. His behaviour was very assertive and mine became defensive and submissive with a failure to challenge wrong statements.  We flipped roles but kept our personas so my subordinate presented his report in a very dominant manner.  Further examples served to illustrate the importance of having a balanced team making decisions and the ease with which we assume hierarchical stereotypes.

and finally

At the end of two fun days I was struck by 3 principles that underpin Improv interventions:

  • Foundation & Safety – ensure you know what the downsides are if the intervention doesn’t work out as planned. 
  • Explanation -participants should know why they are doing or have done the intervention.
  • Debrief – should be conducted after every intervention and ask these questions:
    • What? (Happened)
    • So What? (What impact did it have?)
    • Now What? (What happens as a result?)

Having recently coached a virtual group on the use of various KM techniques and knowing what a challenge that proved I was left wondering if Improv techniques which rely so much on physical movement are capable of being transferred into a virtual environment.