A new way to share “old” knowledge & the launch of Expertise Discovery 2018

Its been a busy start to 2018 professionally and domestically. My mother turned 90 a few weeks back and we celebrated with a surprise event that involved her extended family age range 2-92 who braved the snow in the north to assemble in Eastbourne on the 20th.  Why you might understandably ask is that relevant. Here’s why:

Gatherings such as Mother’s 90th are usually characterised (like weddings) with people from both sides of a family / friends occupying different sides of the room with chance encounters at the food table or bar area.  So I used a technique I often employ to kick off events followed by a new way to share “old” knowledge.:

  1. Introductions: I invited people to assemble at the back of the hall and to go and stand next to someone they didn’t know.  At that point I then invited them to introduce themselves and say how they knew Mother. We did a couple of rounds and by the time Mother made her entrance there was a good feeling in the room and the 40 guests felt they knew more people than when they arrived.
  2. Paul reading out a question while Mother (and great grandchildren look on)

    Post dinner (which was an Iranian Buffet – quite an adventure for the over 70’s) I ran a quiz on Mother’s life. I’ve wanted to try this with someone who is leaving or retiring from a business so this was a dry run. Comprising of 5 rounds of 6 questions the quiz focused on: events; places; dates; likes; and true or false.

  3. I encouraged Mother to give the answers and where she felt comfortable to do so to tell a few stories that amplified the answer.
  4. It worked perfectly: everyone learned something about Mother’s life and we also got her take on some of the events we had only heard others speak about.
  5. Does it have a relevance for Knowledge Capture and Sharing? You bet. Imagine “An audience with…” session with someone who isn’t naturally voluble. A quiz based on a set of grouped questions is a fun yet insightful way of getting an insight into events, decisions or history.

and finally

I am delighted to be able to announce I will be participating in Masterclasses in Lisboa and London (x2) with Martin White and Eric Hunter in the coming months. The first of these “Expertise Discovery 2018” will be in the week of April 23rd and is expected to cost £395.

Here’s a few details:

Expertise Discovery 2018 – optimizing access to corporate knowledge

One of the major challenges for organisations is being able to find out who knows what. This is important when assembling client-facing teams, when facing a new challenge, when revisiting previous decisions, when acquiring or merging with another organisation.
Self-completed personal profiles are recognized as having relatively little value. Potentially the range of expertise discovery applications that are now available should solve the problem.
But do these IT solutions deliver?
This workshop will bring together consultants and practitioners to help you develop an expertise management strategy.
Attendance at Expertise Discovery 2018 will enable you to:

  • Build a business case for investment in expertise discovery applications
  • Assess the claims made by solution vendors
  • Understand the respective roles of IT, HR and KM managers in expertise discovery
  • Share experiences of specifying, testing and implementing these applications
  • Appreciate the potential impact of AI and machine learning on expertise finding

The workshop will be led by Paul Corney and Martin White. Paul started working with expertise discovery applications in the 1990s and is a leading authority on knowledge management good practice. Martin White specializes in enterprise search implementation and has written a recent report on People and Expertise Search. Both have published acclaimed works.

Martin and I are excited about how this is shaping up – we already have reservations despite not yet naming the venue or making it available on line for bookings.

More on the other events in my next posting.

A ‘newbie’s guide to Tweet Chat hosting (on Knowledge Capture & Retention)

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I first worked in the City in 1972 as a summer intern in the cheque processing arm of Lloyds Bank Ltd.  We used machines that looked something like this. No typing, just machine minding!

15 years later I was sitting in the machine room of the Marriott Hotel in Jeddah faxing, over an encryted line, a confidential trip memo for my secretary to type up and distribute to selected directors.  Laptops were only just appearing on the market and as for typing, Managers in those days didn’t. If you wanted to communicate confidential information quickly it was the fax.

Fast forward to this afternoon and I am about to host my first TweetChat some 44 years on from my first immersion in technology.

Think about it: I can’t see who I’m talking to; I don’t know who’s ‘listening’; I have little idea whether what I am going to ‘say’ will resonate with the audience: and I have to type at lightening speed. It feels like ‘drinking from the fire hydrant’ to boot!

But there are huge advantages: I can reach a global audience without leaving my Home Office; what I say will have a very long ‘tail’; and it forces me to articulate my thoughts in a very concise way to an audience who may not speak English as their 1st language.

I know from many conversations I’ve had recently that everyone is expected to be up to speed with new technologies and few get trained adequately to do so.

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Here, with grateful thanks to Luis Suarez (@elsua), Ana Neves (@SocialNowEvent) and Ana Aguilar-Corney (@aguilarinteriors) who provided the wise words and tips I show below, is how I went about it.

Set up

  • Use http://www.tchat.io/ to handle the chat. Load that on the browser and forget about everything else.
  • Focus on the tweet chat for the entire time, even if it looks like things may be a bit slow with tweets coming through, don’t go elsewhere. That way you are free of interruptions and focused on the chat.
  • Have a look into the questions of the tweet chat ahead of time, and write some potential answers ahead of time that would fit in tweets, within the 140 character limit. That way when the answers come in you just have to copy and paste and focus on what people tweet for potential responses, faves, RTs. etc. etc.
  • As you see tweets coming through, don’t think about responding to them all. Think about peppering out the interactions: some responses, some RTs, some faves, to balance your interactions without demanding you to type too much, so you can focus on the conversations themselves.
  • Enjoy the tweet chat under the notion you won’t be able to read and respond to everything while the chat lasts and that’s just fine! You can always come back at a later time if you feel you’d need to. Enjoy the flow as if you were reading a fast paced news tracker skimming through and stopping where you feel you can and want to contribute.
  • If you are going to refer people to blog posts or articles make sure you condense the URL’s as you ‘cut and paste’ into your Tweets.
  • Establish a live back channel with the facilitator while you are conducting the chat.
  • Be clear about who is performing what role and ensure someone is producing a Storify of the event that can be circulated later.
  • Don’t be afraid to let the virtual ‘silence’ hang.

Conduct

So armed with the above and a set of thoughts for three questions off I went.

And if you are up for reading an account of how it went go to the Storify Account of the discussion which is here

And finally

The hour (the optimum time) flew by. Armed with the checklist above it was plain sailing.  It did however reinforce the veracity of the ratio I use for physical workshops namely 3-4 x times preparation vs. the length of the event. I spent 3 hours on potential answers and it paid off.

Would I do it again? Yes tomorrow provided there is a clear mandate and set of questions to be addressed.

 

“Bringing the brain of the company to the field”: behind the scenes look at the production of our book

If ever there is a great justification for starting a Knowledge Management (KM) programme then the title quote from an interview with John McQuary encapsulates it. KM works when client proposals or solutions draw on the collective wisdom of an organisation.

It’s one of many superb quotes and stories, from the series of research interviews conducted with global practitioners: from Colombia to Australia by way of USA, Canada, UK, France, Belgium, Malaysia and Singapore, for the forthcoming book Patricia Eng and I are co-authoring. In all 18 interviews and more than 40 hours of audio material on KM in Energy, Shipping, Nuclear, Financial Services, Military, Engineering Services, Aviation, Health, Consulting, Manufacturing, Education, Food and Regulatory.

Patricia, who was previously Head of Knowledge Management at US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and my task is now to turn the material collected into, in her words:

” The book I wish I’d had when I started”

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Which is why she and I spent time in Henley-on-Thames last week analysing what we’d heard in the interviews.

Let me take a step back.

It all began when:

I met Patricia in 2014 while I was chairing KMUK and she was a guest speaker describing the KM programme she’d set up and run for the organisation that oversees the US Nuclear industry.  Learning from near misses and from good practices while improving the way ‘newbies’ are inducted into the business had saved her organisation an estimated US$37 million while she was at the helm of the programme.

About the same time I was running Masterclasses on Effective Knowledge Capture and Retention and seeing real interest from organisations who’d recognised the potential risk of knowledge loss from merging, downsizing and retirements or as a result of having specialist skills resident in a small number of individuals only.

After exchanging ideas post conference we felt we had sufficient synergy to begin collaborating on a book focused on “Proven Knowledge Capture & Retention: Between Theory & Practice.”

Though our combined experience is approaching 80 years of business with a significant slug in KM and related activities we wanted to draw on the experiences of great practitioners.

Establishing criteria / identifying interviewees:

We agreed it was important to approach people who’d actually done it and got their hands dirty: who experienced highs and lows and maybe also seen their programmes wither on the vine after they or their sponsor left.

We knew many global practitioners, from chairing and speaking at/ attending KM related events but we wanted to spread the net wider than our own sphere of influence so in effect conducted a virtual “Peer Assist’ with senior global KM’ers and these are the criteria we set for selecting interviewees:

  •  A KM professional that actually built a KM program for an organization they worked in, as opposed to a consultant who was brought in to work on a KM program and then left.
  •  Have spent at least 2 years on the programme.
  •  Primary person responsible for the KM programme – interfaces with executives
  •  Can point to a clear ROI, e.g., productivity or monetary
  •  A KM professional who can speak to what constituted the ROI:

Our thanks go to Patrick Lambe, David Gurteen, David Williams, Karuna Ramanathan, Shawn Callahan and Chris Collison for their recommendations.

Setting up the interviews, thinking about the questions:

In my Masterclasses I always stress how important the interview set up is.  Apart from thinking about the where its always vital to give the prospective interviewee time to think about the answers and to tell them what the process is. Here’s the questions we asked:

  • Tell me about the circumstances and the drivers behind the original knowledge retention programme and who was involved?
  • How did you go about determining what knowledge to try and capture/retain?
  • Give me a brief snapshot of how you went about capturing it.
  • What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
  • How did you convince your management to go for it? ‘Business Case?’
  • What difference do you think it made to your organisation?  What was the actual return on investment?
  • Is there a particular highlight you remember?
  • Having done this if you had to do this over again what would you do differently?
  • And finally what would you tell someone about to set out on a programme to capture and retain knowledge?

We also added:

  • If there is one book you felt helped or inspired you what would it be?

Conducting and recording the interviews:

We had a list which grew from 12 to 18. Patricia volunteered to do the interviews (she is good at it) as we felt continuity in style was important.

We thought about using technology to help with the cataloguing and analysis. Instead we agreed not to transcribe verbatim but to each listen to the interview and make our own notes / key points which we’d discuss face to face in January 2016.

We learned a lot (remembered a lot) about the importance of having technology back ups and also that many corporates don’t allow Skype.  We found that taping the conversation proved good enough for us to listen to and that DropBox was an effective and secure storage vehicle for the tapes.

Analysing & Sensemaking:

And so last week we found ourselves awash with flip charts, postit note, and marker pens. By Friday evening we had a structure for the chapters of the book and a pretty good idea of the examples, stories and quotes that would fill them. Here’s a snapshot of how we went about organising the material:

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What I found interesting, the varying drivers for starting KM across the interview base. Most were due to Risk, a lot were down to Innovation & Process Improvement, some were as a result of the CEO’s Vision and a couple because of Regulatory or Audit findings and a call to action.

And finally:

With an outline (and publisher) in place we can now set about writing to meet the deadline of having a good manuscript that does justice to the insights provided by the interviewees (e.g. KM Bonus Points, ‘Knowvember’ Award, Rock Lite, Adaptive Case Management,  XpressoX, ‘Pick a Problem’, SME Protoge Program…) ready before the summer.

 

 

The elephant fable: a Chinese reflection on KM, innovation and knowledge capture techniques

Introduction

To set the following discussion into context, my name is ‘Jonny’ Jiang, I am a PhD candidate on service design and service innovation at a design school in London.Jonny I am working part time with Paul at a start-up charity Plan Zheroes to deliver services to make better use of surplus food and help people in food poverty.

Thanks to Paul, I have been given opportunities to learn from his expertise in knowledge management and practice some of his methods to capture knowledge and insights in that charity.

As result, I am able to reflect upon my journey of knowledge management at the charity and my research in service design.

Interestingly, by comparing these two distinctive fields of practices, it gives me some thoughts around the importance of how we can generate new knowledge and insight around innovation.

KM tools for learning during and after

Let’s talk about some of the knowledge management methods I learnt in this process. Before jumping into these practices, I should tell you I had very little understanding of knowledge management apart from my general reading around business journals.

Paul sat down and demonstrated to me one of the previous knowledge capture sessions he ran with one of employees at the charity. He explained the rationale of capturing and sharing knowledge among staff through interviews with employees before their leaving and during their life cycle with us.

As I understood, it is very important to understand each individual’s experience and perspectives on his or her journey here and on specific events in particular in order to spot and improve the internal and external operation.

One of the other rationales I understood very well at the end is Paul’s point on the element of constructively building a better relationship with interviewees even after their leaving to help them reflect upon the personal growth and learning during the period of working inside the organisation, which I realise is very important to each party and helps nurture Alumni Networks.

Later on, I have been given an exercise to listen to Paul’s recording on his interview and using his knowledge management toolset (e.g. brief, time map, experience circle, questions) and conclude my findings based on those.

Then a few days after, we sat down again to compare our capture of knowledge based on the same interview and reflected together on some of my questions and learning’s. This was an incredibly effective session with Paul because I am able to learn by practice from Paul’s expertise to help equip a newbie in knowledge management with knowledge, practical tools and confidence.

I took the lessons and tools from this exercise and conducted an interview with employee who was about move to another city and leave the charity. Once the interview has done, I sat down with Paul again to reflect on my interview and report of this knowledge capturing practice.

Most of Paul’s methods have been already described and explained very well in this blog, so if you want to figure out what tools and methods I have used, please click on this post ‘Going not forgotten: knowledge capture in a hurry’.

Check out the timeline tool as a way to effectively reflect the knowledge and insights accumulated along the journey. It is a powerful tool because

  • It gives a common language that visually displays our thinking’s and provokes thoughts around the highlights and lowlights of the journey. In my interview it helped us to reflect on interviewee’s expectations at the start of job, which gives us lots of insights on how we manage the expectation during staff induction.
  • Mutually, it also gives an opportunity to help the interviewee consolidate the learning from the job that can be transferred to future careers.

My elephant and the correlation between design and knowledge management

As Paul invited me to write down my reflections after this exercise, I was fascinated by how similar and powerful the practices around knowledge management and design as a source for organisational innovation can be. As many of us  interpret the word ‘knowledge’ with a connection to ‘science’ ‘scientific’ and ‘objective’, there seems to be a misunderstanding of the value in ‘subjectivity’ and ‘social artefacts’.

As we all come from different experiences in life and become who we are because of those experiences, we all develop very distinctive perspective on the world based on the things we learnt and have done in the past.

It is like one of fables I learnt as a child which described four blind people who gave a very different description of the elephant by touching it from their own positions.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/climateinteractive/13944682478Each seems to be fully convinced by their ‘objective’ interpretation and deny others’ views of what the elephant ‘truly’ is. It is obvious, in the fable, that each of them only ‘sees’ their part of reality.

The elephant and social facts. source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/climateinteractive/13944682478

In real life, this fable maintains a sense of inspiration too. We all experience a building differently from where we look at it. It can look small from a bird’s eye view or intimidating if standing alongside it.

In organisational management nowadays, particularly large organisations, operations can be highly siloed and lacks ways of detecting those subtleties in perspectives. It means each department may have their very own budget and competing agenda and develop their very own ways of understanding and doing things under the cover of ‘specialisation’.

Those silo operations based on ‘the only one way’ present danger of neglecting the values in perceiving or doing something differently that is at the core of innovation.

As such, knowledge management is becoming increasingly critical to recognise subtlety in each individual’s interpretation and map them in order to spot opportunities in the gap of our personal knowledge and experience.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 14.46.57In service design, this idea of interpretation has been very important in user research.

By mapping extensively, designers can understand better the users’ perceptions and behaviours and gather deep insights on where the opportunities can be for designing better customer experience and services.

One example of customer journey mapping. Source: (https://www.flickr.com/photos/97823772@N02/15410073995)

In Knowledge Management these interpretations can often reveal opportunities and strengths as well as failures and weaknesses.

And finally

The advice I can give to someone who is about to do the same exercise and interview a colleague who is about to leave is to take the default position of ‘he-or-she-knows-much-more-than-me’ rather than being judgemental on what you believe as the ‘truth’ or ‘reality’.

As many as we are coming from this global village, there is a great value in the diversity of perspectives and this is where I believe is the infinite source of innovation.

And of course, definitely check out those knowledge management tools on Paul’s shelf. They are really effective and surprisingly practical.

A comment from Paul

I have had the pleasure of mentoring ‘Jonny’ for the last couple of years during which time he has participated in board meetings, helped select a project management tool to act as store for the knowledge and documents on the various projects we’ve undertaken and conducted knowledge capture sessions. He is also the curator of our digital library.

I invted Jonny to be a guest contributor as I felt his experiences might be of value to others. Indeed his comments about the ‘give, get’ component of a knowledge capture process is particularly perceptive as often the drivers for such programmes are downsizing and layoffs where there is little positive feeling.

I am delighted he has contributed and would encourage you to join in with your comments.

In recognition of my Dad “a lovely man”: when knowledge capture becomes personal

John Corney, my Dad, died in August a month shy of his 87th birthday. Though not unexpected the timing of it was.  I was lucky in the sense I got to say goodbye and to reflect while he was still with us on his amazing contribution to and guidance for my own life.

Dad was a ‘lovely man’ a phrase / tribute we oft heard from those who knew him and a private man. I realised as he neared the end of his life that though we were close there were so many aspects of his background that were opaque to me.

He was of the ‘old school’ a meticulous senior banker involved in international trade who passionately believed ‘my word is my bond’ and that debt is a commitment to be honoured.  He was not loquacious or a natural storyteller; instead he eschewed the limelight though he was well read, capable of deep insight and eager to debate topics he found stimulating.

For him ‘social’ was a word associated with a gathering of people not an online activity.  Though he recognised the value of the internet, Apps, Smartphones and Tablets were alien concepts to him.

What you might ask has this personal story got to do with business? Here’s how:

  • As Executor of his estate charged with carrying out his wishes I wanted to understand the thinking behind his approach to investment.
  • I also wanted to understand more about his early life and how he made decisions.
  • Dad was similar to many senior executives who are often reluctant to acknowledge that their contribution has been significant.

Perhaps subliminally I drew on many of the techniques I encourage others to adopt when trying to capture critical knowledge from people about to retire or relocate:

  • I used a timeline to look at significant milestones in his life with photos as a prompt.
  • We talked about books he had read that had helped shaped his thinking.
  • We talked about people he most admired.
  • We went through his ‘blue book’: a transactional history and ledger of all assets.
  • We sat and watched something and used that as a neutral space for a conversation.
  • I spent days ploughing through his archives.

A big regret is that I didn’t record any of these discussions but the stories and artefacts remain and I am now their custodian with a duty to pass them onto his great grandchildren so that they too can appreciate John’s legacy.

And finally

When people leave organisations after a long period legacy is a word often cited as the justification for a knowledge capture interview. What many overlook is the step of thinking up front what is the critical knowledge they are looking to surface during the process.

This mirrors many of the stories emerging from the interviews my co-author Patricia Eng is undertaking for “Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion” book which we are aiming to publish next year. Often the driver for these initiatives has been a reorganisation, takeover or downsizing; in effect a firefighting exercise.

Setting up a programme to consciously capture knowledge is expensive and time consuming: it needs a clear rationale/driver and a set of measurements to track its efficacy and value.

Knowledge Capture EventI am looking forward to evolving my own thinking when I am in Lisboa next month running this masterclass with Ana Neves. It aims to raise awareness of the importance of critical knowledge: how to identify it, how to go about capturing it and how to go about making it available for reuse.