Next wave is where KM is not even mentioned: a dive into KM Asia 17

The view from KM Asia 17

This was the first KM Asia event run by Ark Group I’ve attended in Hong Kong. Part of an Asian tour that also took in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and comprised Masterclasses and presentations, I was there to give a talk on Collaborative Knowledge Spaces and run the hour long closing session styled thus:

KM competencies: A day in the life of a knowledge manager in 2020 “This highly interactive practical session will use a timeline technique to draw on the emerging themes of the conference. Paul will look at the skills likely to be required of a Knowledge & Information Manager in 2020. He will then invite delegates to imagine the life of a knowledge manager in 2020″

No pressure then!

In prepping for the “future story” session I was indebted to Andrew Curry of Kantar Futures who I met to discuss one of the frameworks he uses to help clients imagine their future. Here’s how I used it in my presentation to paint a backdrop for the future.

The backdrop:

  • The world’s working age population (especially in the developed world) is shrinking
  • Big disruptive technology platforms emerge every 50-60 years or so. The current ICT (digital) wave is slowing down because the leading companies are no longer able to grow easily by adding more users; they need to find innovative ways to grow revenues per user, and this is challenging.
  • Global growth is slowing: its a combination of demographics (how many people are working) and productivity (how much they are producing). Fewer people of working age means fewer people to support an aging population.
  • Societal values are changing and the newest entrants to the workplace place less value on individual financial success and security, and more value on good work done for a good cause.
  • Climate scientists suggest that by 2050, the average global temperature will have increased by anything between 0.8 and 2.8 degrees above levels in 1990. The implications for the world’s resources are significant and will in the shift to nationalism precipitate conflict.

A good crowd at KM Asia on Day One

So, what emerged from 2 very full and well attended days at the Royal Pacific Hotel Hong Kong and my closing session?

what surprised me?

  • The group takeaways (3 highlights from each day) revealed how dfferently we see things and thru our own lenses.
  • How few people had focused on the idea of curation being a role that the “Knowledgeur” (Knowledge Manager of the future?) might be required to fullfill.
  • That one organisation who focuses on inspecting others did not have a process for feeding process enhancements and learnings back into their own.

what intrigued me?

  • That those who’ve offshored functions are looking to bring them back in house as they now recognise the danger of critical knowledge loss.
  • That the chat bots being used for basic ‘stuff’ cannot handle difficult complaints which are then passed over for human intervention.
  • The thirst for accreditation: people and organisations want recognition for their knowledge and a KIM career path.
  • That Hong Kong is still going through a massive building boom fuelled by demand from the mainland.

what delighted me?

  • Rudolf D’Souza’s opening exercise with ‘Knowledge’ money
  • Three of the best presentations I’ve seen at a KM event on morning of Day Two from Eric Chan, Vincent Ribiere and Rudolf D’Souza. Set the bar high for my closing session!
  • Meeting up with a former client and friend Olivier Serrat (formerly of ADB).
  • The response to the closing session. Forget the scoring (6.4/7) and the nice feedback comments, the big plus was the enthusiastic way the delegates engaged with the exercise and were willing to ‘grab the mike’ at the end to tell the story of why their team had won a 2020 KM Award. More on that below.

what frustrated me?

  • That few knowledge partnerships deliver according to Olivier Serrat. The majority of time is spent sharing news about the partnership.
  • Jet lag: despite getting to Hong Kong early I was still tired from lack of sleep 5 days into the triip.
  • That the ‘facilities’ were on another floor accessed by stairs and quite prescriptive in their use!

what was missing?

  • Representation from the 3rd sector many of whom practice Knowledge & Information Management on a shoestring yet have developed some of the most effective tools and techniques.

quotes I took away:

Km has gone thru peak of inflated expectations which AI is now going thru (Les Hales)

Every company should have an anti strategy (Dave Aron)

Explore, Learn, Share, Ask, Incubate! (Ricky Tsui)

Technology should support not lead, it can’t understand rituals of people (Rudolf D’Souza)

and finally: what the delegates took away?

As part of the closing session I asked delegates to get into groups of 5-6 with people they had not met during the event.  I invited them to then reflect as individuals on the 3 “takeaways” they had from the morning and afternoon on both days.

Though simple it none the less brought to the surface ‘stuff’ or presentations that had made an impact. I further invited them as a group to consolidate their own findings.

And when that was complete to circle the room and see what others had noticed.

One group’s highlights from each session

It proved to be an entertaining as well as an insightful session.

Looking forward to 2020 was the last exercise of the event. Having drawn on Kantar Futures research and brought to life my thoughts on the future role of the “Knowledgeur” (KIM’er of 2020) I asked the groups to imagine they were the recipients of an award and to describe what they had done to win it!

The ‘stories’ were brilliant and this (with grateful thanks to Nick Stone who captured the recording) was one of the best: KM Asia 17: KM in 2020 Future Story

If you want more on the event I was among a number who provided regular tweets and those can be found here: KM Asia 17 Twitter Stream


Sophia, AI and the importance of curation: KIM is safe (for the time being)!

I’m lucky. I get to travel to some of the most interesting places on the planet and experience different cultures. These last few weeks for example I’ve been on a book / Masterclass / conference trip to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and SIngapore.

Book launch hosted by Petronas KL

More on the issues that arose around KIM accreditation and the outcomes from KM Asia in separate blogs.

Over dinner in Hong Kong I got to talk about “Sophia” the locally based Hanson Robotics model that controversially has been given citizenship of Saudi Arabia. While hugely impressive and a major advance in sensory technology two quotes about Sophia stuck with me:

Why are we humans obsessed with creating life forms in our own image?” and

“Dogs are able to sense what their master’s mood is. Imagine if we could replicate that in Sophia?”

“Km has gone thru peak of inflated expectations which AI is now going thru”

This was one of KM Asia’s Day Two Chair Les Hales opening remarks.

It’s a good backdrop to focus on the ever increasing clamour I sense around the use of AI / machine learning technology to improve effiiciency and outcomes, reduce headcount +/or free up time for more added value work. In the Masterclasses and presentations I suggested AI is addressing 3 questions on expertise, transactions / news and process:

I noted there has been a lot more in the way of measurable progress on transactions / news and process enhancement than on expertise. In his presentation at KM Asia, Eric Chan of Hutchinson Global Communications showed examples of a couple of regionally based organisations who now used Chat Bots

His examples above which focused on the process question confirmed the widely held assumption that many industries are ripe for disintermediation by AI technology. I noted a couple of his comments:

“Replacing customer service agents by chatbots powered by AI. Achieves 9/10 satisfaction and not subject to selective memory and

1/3rd of work can be done by machines = disruptive stress”

What was really interesting about the Chatbot example? How the difficult customers (the ones who shout) get routed thru to a human!

So where does this leave Knowledge & Information Management? Actually not badly if Eric Hunter’s comment is to be believed:

“The rise of newer forms of technology is challenging the way codified knowledge is managed leading to the need for KM professionals to work with new types of colleagues such as business process improvement specialists and AI providers.”

Note the use of the phrase to work with not be replaced by. Here’s why I believe this to be the case.

The importance of Curation (…ate #7)

One of many positives to emerge from every stop on my Asian adventure was a reaffirmation of the importance of curation, a term Patricia Eng and I described in our book thus:

#7 Curate: So much of what passes for Knowledge Management is about creating and storing content and making it available for reuse. It’s more than the role formerly undertaken by Information Professionals and Librarians, here we are talking about being a custodian of organisational knowledge and organisational knowledge bases.

Technology has for some time been knocking at this door.  Indeed companies like Profinda have made significant strides so it was fascinating to read this very well written piece on Microsoft’s evolving Yammer strategy by Antony Cousins, Director of Customer Success which reflects my ongoing concern that Technology is not Knowledge Management:

Lost knowledge. With the same room structure as Yammer, there will be popular generic rooms where far too much is shared, too little is relevant to users and, should they ever want to find that document or that chat thread which was relevant to them, good luck. It’s lost in the never ending deluge of chat never to be seen again. If we can’t easily find previous answers and solutions or reference points, we’ll be as doomed on Microsoft Teams, as we were on Yammer, to ask the same questions over and over or worse, repeat the same mistakes…. So, in general, well done Microsoft for making things that were quite easy about 6% easier. Now can we please focus on the really big problems still faced by those of us trying to resolve the collaboration problem for big business?

I continue to argue that one of the key aspects of the role of KIM’ers is acting as Curators of organisational knowledge as well as signposts / navigators. In fact this was the premise behind my Masterclasses in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and the need for those skills:

KIM’ers have to be good at understanding technology and its implications for the business. But they are one of the few groups organisationally who see across silos and should be able to analyse business needs!

And finally

My concern is that organisations increeasingly see technology in its new guise as KM and are jumpiing on the bandwagon to put social tools behind the firewall expecting staff to find the expertise / historical knowledge automatically. In previous pieces I’ve argued that assisted search is still important.

I can also see a shift towards HR / Talent Management as the logical resting place for the discipline where the driver is one of mitigating the risk of knowledge loss when people leave.

But I still see in the short to medium term at least a need for what good KIM’ers do.