Great illustrations: valuing Knowledge, Orchestrated Serendipity & Immunity Management

I’ve been in Iran and Dubai. And as often happens when working collaboratively great ideas emerge.

Valuing Knowledge

Firstly to Tehran and an issue which so many organisations struggle with: how to describe the true value of Knowledge to an organisation?  We are good at valuing fixed assets but poor at applying similar criteria to intangible Knowledge Assets or Intellectual Capital.


This story, the keyboard and the patent, might change perceptions:

A few weeks back a new keyboard costing $20 was delivered to the Director. After a couple of days a lady from premises appeared to place a sticker on it to denote it was an asset of the company and henceforth will appear on the company’s register of assets. The asset is managed!

Coincidentally the same day as the premises lady appears the Director gets notification of the award of a US patent which costs in excess of $20,000 to acquire.

US Patent

US Patent Certificate

The patent will need to be protected and if necessary enforced yet in most organisations that patent is not shown as an asset of the company on its balance sheet even though its value (in terms of future revenues) is very significant.

By way of a further example, if I lose my Macbook I can replace the hardware (at a cost) but the value of the intangible ‘Knowledge’ stored on it (documents, emails, presentations, videos, contacts) can’t be replaced instantly unless I’ve taken steps to back it up on an external hard drive or in the cloud in which case I have managed my Knowledge!

Orchestrated Serendipity -creating a physical Knowledge Sharing environment

On my way back from Tehran I stopped in Dubai to catch up with a number of old friends which is why on Wednesday I spent a couple of hours at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) located in Dubai Academic City who:

… is responsible for the growth and quality of private education in Dubai. We support schools, universities, parents, students, educators, investors and government partners to create a high quality education sector focused on happiness and wellbeing.

Having arrived at my hotel in the early hours I was not at my best when some 5 hours later the cab dropped me outside KHDA’s offices.  I was early for my meeting with Luke Naismith Director of Research so thought I might see if I could find a coffee shop.


KHDA’s Reception

I was warmly greeted by two very affable Emirati who ushered me to a seat whereupon coffee was served. Over the next 15 minutes my whole demeanour changed.


Luke demonstrating the presentation ‘lectern’ in the boardroom.

‘Abdullah’ one of the Excellence Team responsible for ensuring adherence to the  Dubai Government’s Excellence Program showed me around as Luke was in a meeting.

I saw senior people conducting meetings in very transparent meeting areas; the Head’s PA was arranging appointments from the lobby. There was a relaxed yet professional atmosphere despite the presence of budgerigars flying around.

What caught my eye (apart from the boardroom) was the merging of the old and the new.


The Clipping Service

Each day KHDA compiles a clipping service of relevant news that it sends to all employees.

In addition it houses them in its downstairs work area so that all visitors and employees who choose to work in the communal area can keep up to speed.



Luke emerged and showed me around. I noted the layout promoted an environment of transparency so that people share and can find others.

The boardroom was an eye opener. Everyone can see what’s going on and the strategy appears as a set of diagrams as the picture shows.

PowerPoint presentations do take place and Video Conferencing but the emphasis is on brevity, agile working and rapid empowered decision making.

Paper is absent from most areas, people are treated like adults and act like them.  And staff turnover is low though if people leave the collaborative team working nature of KHDA means their loss is covered.


Upper floor: Collaboration and Training Area

Interestingly Enterprise Social Networking Tools such as Yammer have not yet had the impact I thought they might even though the whole physical environment is geared up for collaboration.

Immunity (Risk) Management

The most visible illustration of KHDA’s positive approach shows in how the board manages risk (often the driver for KM initiatives).  One of the team coined the term Immunity Management as a way of anticipating future ‘bumps in the road’. So they have an Immunity Register not a Risk Register that is reviewed regularly by the board. The simple act of taking a positive view has resulted in very innovative ideas.

And finally

In Dubai the imposition of quality standards permeates organisational thinking and sets a blueprint for organisations to follow. At its best (Emirates Airline) service is exceptional; at its worst strict adherence to standards can stifle creativity. KHDA is an illustration of how the pursuit of customer service excellence can change the way an organisation delivers it.

Where the above examples meet is in the need for identification and maintenance of Knowledge Assets or Intellectual Capital. More on that in future postings.

How to become smarter: turning knowledge into an asset

Last week my 86 year old mother fell over an uneven paving slab on her way back from the library. Southfields Road PavementsThe swelling and bruising came out immediately and fortunately her wrist which took the impact of the fall wasn’t broken. Hand

She was badly shaken up by the event and took to her bed as a result.

Living in a location where a good number of the 100k residents are past retirement age according to a 2013 article Seaside town first place in country with average age of more than 70 and with many suffering impaired vision I decided to report the incident in the hope that the pavement might be fixed qucikly.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover a facility built on a Google Maps platform for reporting damaged pavements on the local government website (in 8 languages) and a twitter feed for instant access. So far so good.

The automatic response to my filing (and picture) was likewise encouraging and included the phrase ‘we will investigate’ along with a reference so I could track the progress.

I wondered whether in the light of mother’s predicament what the process is for making a claim – she wasn’t going to, that’s not the way her generation are wired! On the face of it everything seems well managed (except the walkway) This paragraph (also from ESCC’s website) stood out:

Thinking of making a claim

Please consider the following points before you submit a claim. Making a claim can be a lengthy process and may not result in a pay-out. Any compensation is paid from public money so we will always be robust in our investigation of claims. The decision on liability will be based on the facts of each case and the law. Because of the legal defence available, on average, 70% of claims are unsuccessful.

The last sentence (my underlining) is instructive and made me ponder whether the use of the technology is for offensive or defensive purpose? Have we become such a litigious society that every corporate body feels compelled to get their retaliation in first and use  social media as a broadcast and defensive mechanism not a collaborative platform?

I digress. Let’s be charitable and assume good intentions and applaud this as an example of good knowledge capture and retention.  What we don’t as yet know is whether this will become a good example of how knowledge can be put to good effect and improve a process (or in this case fix something that isn’t working).

The concept of Knowledge Capture & Retention seems to be much in demand: I will have run 3 Masterclasses on the subject this year alone (next London event 18th November). And having just completed a 7th visit in 12 months with Ron Young of Knowledge Associates to an industrial/engineering client in the Middle East where small changes in processes can have a material impact on performance I know how important it is to have a process that turns what you have collected into valuable Knowledge that changes the way you work or the new product development processes you follow. If not you have a set of ‘lessons identified not lessons learned’.
So what’s the secret?

When Knowledge becomes an asset

Most organisations go down the Knowledge Capture route – they create buckets (increasingly in SharePoint) to store what they have captured to make sure that the best knowledge is available when a bid, a presentation or a decision is to be made.  And that’s fine as far as it goes. Rarely do organisations add on the Knowledge Harvesting step. Here’s what that entails (drawn from Knowledge Associates’ 9 Step KM Process that acknowledges and builds on the original BP model of learning before, during & after):

  • Conduct a learning or After Action Review
  • At the end of that process ask the question does what we have discovered have the power to change/improve the way we (and those associated with us) work?
  • If the answer is yes then you have what is known as a Knowledge Nomination and these should be considered at a separate gathering.
  • Now convene, if you don’t have one as part of a Community of Practice, virtually or in person, a group of Subject Matter Experts with expertise on the process or way of working. Ask them to consider whether the Knowledge Nomination will improve our process and should be adopted.
  • If they agree then change the process. If they don’t then make sure you have captured the Knowledge Nomination and the reason for its rejection.

I have always believed that the purpose of Knowledge Management is to help organisations make better decisions and work more effectively. The simple steps I’ve outlined above should help in acheiving those objectives.

I wait now with interest to see the outcome of the saga of the loose paving slab. Will the outcome merely be a repaired section of pavement or will the team think about how this was caused and put in place measures to stop it happening next time?