Snapchat, the problem with Google Books and the rise of the Curator (Unicorn)

Indulge me a little. Earlier last week while prepping for a forthcoming trip to Asia I read a post The problem with snapchat from a US student Allie Link who described why she’d abandoned it. This phrase stood out:

Snapchat was not meant to take the place of picking up the phone and calling somebody when you want to have a deep conversation.

My research was prompted by a comment from a friend who following lunch with her grandchildren observed:

Facebook was invented by college students for college students, but today’s students don’t use FB.

She could have said, instead they use Instagram, Snapchat & WhatsApp. I would have added (as a result of experiences studying / researching in a University library) that they also have lost much of the art of human interaction of the sort needed for conversation.

I fear we are creating a Soundbite Society, one that is attracted by the headline but unwilling to read the article beneath. We take things at face value rather than ask the awkward supplementary question. Everything is reduced to concise phrases (or 140 characters in the case of Twitter), where celebrity is acquired from social media activity not earned thru expertise or deed.

the lure of technology

Which brings me to my core theme here: are we being seduced by the lure of technology to act as the guardian of our organisational knowledge and as a result oblivious to what’s happening behind the firewall?

I see the workforce struggling to keep pace with the array of gadgets and apps being thrown at them as we rush to provide a fully integrated Digital Workplace. Tags and taxonomies have never been sexy but are still vital to find ‘stuff’. Too often people are asking:

where did I have that conversation?

and unable to locate what was said.

From conversations I’ve had recently with Darron Chapman, David Gurteen and Martin White I am increasingly coming to the view that the shift to ape applications used in a social environment in the office is not going to meet the high expectation levels being set. While organisations try to give their workers access to organisational knowledge and information, ‘anytime, any place, any device’, I am still to be convinced that conversations captured on the likes of Workplace, Yammer, Slack, WhatsApp will end up assembled in a navigable and useful manner.

If organisations, with a policy of filling vacancies from within, have the talent they need in house and are able to find it via intelligent expertise systems then why retain external placement organisations? That they do suggests reality does not reflect the hype.

the challenge of asking the right question right!

Another area where the cracks are appearing is through the widespread use of the Virtual Assistant (VA). We are at a crossroads: to be really effective the VA needs to be able to interpret the question being asked (often not in the native language of the enquirer). But the enquirer does not know how to ask the question in a way that helps the machine to learn.

I see this when I use Google Translate (which with an improved algorithm in place is very good). It does not yet recognise the style I use when asking a question which I want translated into another language.

Here’s what I mean. Earlier this month I was in Lisbon. My Mother in Law offered to cook me dinner but as I was out for the evening with clients and left very early that morning I wrote her a note (imperfect as it turned out). I typed in “I am out for the day. No dinner tonight thank you.” The translation ended up as ‘sem jantar a noite obrigada” which in fact was interpreted as the reverse so a sumptuous meal of Carne de porco a alentejana was served. Imagine my shock at turning up at 11.15 to find a table of food and guests!

the problem with Google Books and CRM ‘lite’ operations

Back in Q1 I ran a survey and awarded prizes (of my co-authored book when available) to 3 lucky winners. One asked if I might send it electronically which I was happy to do.  So in July I bought a copy on Google Play Books. The recipient’s email was a Google one so a redemption code was sent to him.

Unfortunately after 3 attempts (in different countries)  he was unable to redeem the code and access the book. I use the chat facility and discover after an hour that an electronic book can only be downloaded in the country in which it was bought and moreover the purchaser cannot download it themselves. Here’s the issue: I had to go back and forth and each time I had to explain the situation again; the information I was originally given proved wrong.  If the most sophisticated search organisation can’t get it right with it’s CRM system what hope for the rest?

the rise of the organisational Curator in fragmented workplaces

Which leads me onto one of the disciplines I believe will grown in importance.

In a previous post I referred to the deluge of “Fake News” we are all subjected to in personal and professional situations. It’s not about the volume it’s more about the veracity of what people see that’s the issue now.

People in organisations want trusted content on their desk top. At issue is whether that can be provided automatically devoid of human intervention. I continue to argue that the curation of critical knowledge is an art form requiring an understanding of the DNA and way of working / rituals of an organisation. These are the nuances that I’ve yet to see any technology master.

So if my assumptions are right then far from becoming defunct the Knowledge & Information Professional’s role will become more important. To recap this is what I suggested #7 Curate of the 8 ‘ates would be:

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.

Am I right? I met Darron Chapman who runs a successful placement and recruitment business that focuses on this market. I asked him, “what skills and talents clients are looking for?” “Clients want Unicorns” he said. “They are increasingly looking to place them in global locations close to operational units. He cited places as diverse as Hong Kong, Lisbon, Madrid and Warsaw.  The skills have to be both technological as well as soft and there are very few people who meet those critieria. And if you want more on this it is a topic I will be discussing in much more detail during my trip to Asia next month and Martin White will be focusing on the challenges of expertise systems in Aarhus at Janus Boye’s event.

and finally

3 cities; 3 Masterclasses; 3 presentations and a closing facilitation session at KM Asia to look forward to from November 13th to 24th..

I’ve been experimenting with an interesting technology Biteable which proved really effective in creating a brief 1 minute video to advertise the 3 Masterclasses. Check out the results and let me know what you think.  Its a case of recognising that pictures with few words seem to get the interest of people overwhelmed by a deluge of offers.

I would like to give thanks to the following people who made the Asian “Adventure” happen:

Les Hales, President HKKMS

Zabeda Abdul Hamid, Asst. Prof. Deputy Director Graduate School of Management IIUM-CRESCENT International Islamic University Malaysia

Patrick Lambe, Author & Founder, Straits Knowledge, Singapore

Murni Shariff, Head Corporate Services, Malaysian Gas Association

Chung Yin Min, Knowledge Management Consultant, Innovation and Service Excellence PETRONAS, Malaysia

Janice Record, Head of International Knowledge & Insight DLA Piper, Hong Kong

 

 

Managing networks and Working Out Loud: Collaboration and Knowledge Matchmaking skills

The world is shrinking. At any given moment I know where many of my friends and colleagues are. Technological footprints are heavy and long lasting.

This week for example I see that Arthur Shelley is in Moscow with Ron Young at KM Russia, Donald Clark is in Belfast picking up an award, Phil Hill is getting fit (ter) in Thailand, Patrick Lambe is having breakfast in Lisboa. Gregga Baxter and his wife are supporters of WaterHealth in India.

Through cultivating personal networks I also know what’s happening this week in Khartoum, Tehran, Dubai and Harare. To many that may seem frivolous information; to others (including me) its valuable and if I don’t know then I know a man (or woman) who can. Let me illustrate the issue with a true story.

the art of network management

Many years ago I was charged with setting up the forerunner of a Knowledge Management function for a financial services business in the City of London. It struck me how badly senior officials shared diaries let alone knowledge about clients.

One day I was in the office of the Treasurer of the national oil company of a prosperous Middle East country. As I was about to leave he asked me to stay for the next meeting.

In came four suited bankers. My client took the lead introducing himself and me (as his Advisor). He then asked each one to introduce themselves. And to everyone’s surprise they were from different offices and areas of the same institution. They had all flown down on separate planes to see the same client.

The Treasurer said his diary was open to meetings with the institution but not multiple visits. They lost face not to mention the cost of the travel and opportunity cost.

So knowing what I did I came back to London and, with the support of the CEO, developed and introduced Visit Information Centre (VIC) which showed all visits to our organisation and all meetings outside of it.  Embedded in the day to day workflow the aim was to maximise the valuable time our organisation spent with a client and make sure those in any meeting were briefed on the latest activity. Today this is or should be standard practice; then it involved a shift in mindset.

So fast forward to 12th December 16; its 2pm and I am having an exchange on Facebook with Patrick Lambe about Lisboa where he is spending a week. Concurrently I see that Ana Neves (founder and organisor of SocialNow and “Mrs KM” in Portugal) is online on Skype. I know Ana lives a mere 15 minutes train ride from where Patrick is spending the afternoon. I also know both of them well and believe they would benefit from meeting each other.

Using Messenger I hook them both up and they meet later that afternoon to discuss inter alia an idea I thought both might profit from.

meeting-by-the-tejo

Tea by the Tejo

I coined the phrase “Orchestrated Serendipity” to describe occurences such as this. I have also used the term “making correlations between seemingly unrelated pieces of information”.

In this example I have nothing potential to gain other than knowing that two people I like and respect are now acquainted so my network grows stronger.

Here’s an example of how one thing can lead to another.

an example of ‘Working out Loud’

A few weeks back out of the blue Martin White of Intranet Focus shared a draft white paper on Digital Workplace Governance with myself, James Robertson, Jane McConnell, Sam Marshall and a couple of others. His invitation, which left it up to us as to how we might respond, read:

Colleagues
The attachment is me working out loud on digital workplace governance on a Friday afternoon
Regards
Martin

Our approaches were different. Some came back immediately. Others took their time. Some used comments in Word, others rewrote paragraphs. As Martin said, “the responses always challenge your own thinking.”

I am sure John Stepper (who is widely credited with kicking off the Working out Loud movement) and Ana Silva who is a great proponent of it would be enthused.

Knowledge Matchmaking?

These two exchanges got me thinking about the way I work, the organisations I’ve worked for, the clients I’ve worked with and the networks I am involved in. I have never acted as an introductions broker seeking reward so do organisations and people see value in it?

Previously as a Senior Manager charged with developing new business, my ability to match a need with a solution was prized and rewarded even though the correlation was opaque to my bosses. More often than not the intuition paid off. But does the same apply today in a Knowledge Management environment where logarithms and Artificial Intelligence are making the correlations I used to make?

Perhaps more importantly do people in Knowledge Management have the time, the confidence and the knowledge of the business to be able to put forward ideas and broker connections?

If they do then here’s a few tips:

  1. You have to be in it to win it: if you sit on the sidelines this will never happen.
  2. Be willing to take a risk: yes you might fall flat on your face! But experience tells me that if you go the extra mile people will come back for more.
  3. Be willing to do this without expectation of reward: it’s always difficult to measure the impact in a world of KPI’s. You have to play a long game but be willing to cut if you feel you are being taken for a ride.
  4. Be willing to acknowledge the contribution of others: from personal experience I’ve found there is nothing worse than someone taking what you’ve suggested and packaging it without attribution. A photo is a great way of saying thank you!
  5. Build trust so people are willing to confide in you and trust your judgement: unless you are willing to find out about people and what they do you will never be able to make these connections.
  6. Be clear about why you are making the introduction or sharing Knowledge: I used to be in the cc camp that so many inhabit believing that by informing everyone I was covering all bases. People are too busy and ignore ‘junk mail’.
  7. Develop your internal filtering mechanism: you have to know your business and identify who is going to be a taker vs. a reciprocator.
  8. Respect the contribution people make if you ask for advice: whatever you get back from people is important. They have committed scarce time and each time you ask for a response you are drawing on your reserve of credibility.
  9. Develop a skin as thick as a Rhino: you will be disappointed when others don’t follow your lead and use the contacts or information without acknowledgement. And remember 90% of people online are lurkers so will not go public with their thanks.

And finally

To prove that this is a reciprocal situation. In August I attended an Improvisation event in Oxford. It wasn’t on my radar but Nancy White had posted a comment about it so based on her recommendation I decided to attend: As a Quid pro Quo I wrote up my experiences for the greater KM4Dev community.

If you want good reading on collaboration, Martin and Luis Suarez have been exchanging comments on a fascinating blog post from Luis: “Stop blaming the tools when collaboration fails”.

Improvising in Oxford: techniques to change mindsets

Screenshot 2016-08-15 11.04.48

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

Screenshot 2016-08-15 11.13.18

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

Screenshot 2016-08-15 10.54.39

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.

Screenshot 2016-08-15 10.55.13

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.

“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”

IMG_4320

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:

IMG_4343

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.