Collaborative Knowledge Space: Asian reflections & beyond

International Islamic University of Malaysia Kuala Lumpur

I’ve been back a couple of weeks since the Masterclass I ran at the International Islamic University of Kuala Lumpur.

Today I received some of the photos of the event so figured now is a good time to reflect and provide an update on the survey analysis and the timing of the report I promised to write.

It’s also a good time to remind Eileen Tan from Asia and Ciaran Joyce from Europe that they have not yet given me their addresses so I can send them “Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion” which is being printed as I write this.

survey report:

Last week I met with Professor Clive Holtham and Ningy (Jonny) Jiang at Cass Business School to review some of the responses.  We are now working on a report and paper to appear in May when I will share some of the findings at the 10th Anniversary Celebrations of NetIKX.

survey analysis in KL

Among a number of practical exercises the KL masterclass group undertook throughout the day was to look at the questions and 120 responses and decide which they thought most compelling.

One group chose Question 7: “What do you understand by the term digital workspace?”

They were asked to share their findings with the rest of the group which made for a very interesting discussion. Alongside is what they chose.

This one also stood out:

My office has all the things I need to work, computer (obviously), tools, my old notebooks, reference documents, books, address book/name card
case, telephone, toys, post it notes with reminders. Scrunch that all up and make it available anywhere and anytime via the internet and an interface.

What I found interesting: there were more definitions than you could throw a stick at!

What was also revealing from Question 2 Where do you have your most interesting work conversations: informal space is really important but there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach that will work since people are people and have different styles and ways of working.

masterclass takeaways:

The takeaway session

I was particularly delighted by the delegates response when I asked them to list 3 things / learning’s they would take away from the Masterclass.

Here’s what they said:

A conducive collaboration workspace can encourage innovation

Increase collaborative hub / breakout spaces

(I must) Go out of my room and meet more people

Technology is critical for virtual collaboration

(An understanding of) The digital space success factors

Mind shift is important to make change work in an organisation

Ask specific questions to area experts

Issues on establishing digital space including the importance of establishing it in promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing

The kind of approaches to establishing digital space.

How to create effective virtual team space and collaborative space

(An understanding of) The drivers for knowledge space

Understanding on the concept of an effective knowledge space design for collaboration and innovation

Space matters, either physical, digital or neutral and we are dealing with people.

Methods of sharing:

·       Postcards to the future

·       “let’s go for a walk”

·       Memory page to explain experience

How to make collaborative space work:

·       Conducive space (online/face to face)

·       The hybrid of both is important

Know the culture to avoid culture barriers and communication breakdown.

Virtual collaboration can only be effective if it is properly planned, everyone provided full training risks clearly identified.

A conducive collaborative workspace can encourage innovation.

Technology is critical for virtual collaboration.

Knowledge sharing can improve productivity.

It is important to know how to create the environment to encourage knowledge sharing.

Knowledge sharing and collaboration can happen anywhere, any time, any device.

It felt like everyone went away having had a great day. I certainly enjoyed it and am already looking forward to returning in November while I am in Asia for KM Asia.

Paul and the Masterclass delegates

“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.



‘…it can be quite lonely at times’ I reflections from Henley KM’ers

‘Dear John, I never imagined 10 years ago the true impact of knowledge. The bureaucracies of the paper world are gone and communities are what deliver value at a local and a global level.  All my knowledge of technology was of only passing value. The networking skills are what are helping me thrive.’

Just one of the many postcards sent back from the future (2020) to today by the delegates at Henley Business School’s 12th meeting of their KM Forum. Putting learning at the heart of the organisation was the theme of the annual two day retreat and I was there running a Sparknow timeline exhibit that featured highlights of the evolving role of the ‘knowledge manager’ research we’ve carried out.  More of that in a future post.

This post is about the exhibit and how postcards were used as a technique to develop a delegate view on the changing environment and role of a ‘knowledge manager’.

why a postcard?

In many ways the postcard serves a powerful metaphoric role for key dimensions of knowledge management and of time:

  • It is personal/private but at the same time both shareable and publishable via a noticeboard.
  • It maintains its quality of having been individually authored, so the link to the originator stays explicit.
  • It is light, compact, and highly portable.
  • It is asynchronous, but interactive and annotatable
  • It is an ideal vehicle for messaging
  • It is time saving for the author.
  • It is an early form of multimedia, allowing an almost infinite range of attached images

Sparknow’s research into the use of postcards goes back over a decade. Victoria Ward and Professor Clive Holtham of Cass Business School and others from Sparknow wrote about the uses of the postcard in re-forming organisational time, place and meaning” for the ‘In search of time’ conference, held in Palermo in 2003. A copy of that paper and one presented in 2010 on slow knowledge can be found here.

why a timeline?

Our experience suggests people respond best when they are asked to situate comments against a time and place (and often an object or event) as a backdrop.

postcards and time lines as a combination.

The visual impact of a series of postcards on a timeline is visually compelling.


materials for the timeline

By putting up background material for the three focus points on the timeline (2002 > 2012 > 2020) we were able to provide context for the postcards people were writing; to get them thinking back from 2020 to today and then from today to 2002. We were particularly grateful to Andrew Curry and The Futures Company for letting us reference their work. Andrew wrote an interesting and thought provoking blog to accompany The World in 2020 publication we drew on to design the exhibit.


looking back from 2020

the questions posed were:

Imagine you are writing back to someone in 2012 from 2020 (or to 2002 from 2012). Tell them:

  • about your daily life
  • what’s changed about your job as a ‘knowledge manager’ and the environment in which you work
  • what kit and tools are different now from then.


looking back to 2002

and the outcomes

More than 25% of the delegates completed a postcard.  Each revealed something about the writer and their vision of the world.

A couple of revealing postcards from today back to 2002

You’re still in KM.  And for a while it’s even in your job title.  You do a lot of technology.  You spend a lot of time in “programmes” and service development, development in general, is project-based rather than continuous.  The KIM profession is government recognised, but frequently struggles to find direction and leadership.

Hello, we’ve almost forgotten how to pick up the phone or walk over to speak to people.  We spend a lot of time sending “texts” from our phones and reading about our friends’ activities from their “electronic” Facebook page.  It can be quite lonely at times.

Many felt strongly that being networked will be one of the key differentiators in 2020; that technological advances will continue to enhance our ability to work wherever and whenever we want to but that time savings (to enjoy more leisure) is a forlorn aspiration.

Few saw the ‘knowledge manager’ title as being around in 2020, it being best illustrated by this:

The Knowledge Manager is extinct. Culture and behaviors of the knowledge manager are embedded into all employees as the modus operandi.

though another said in 2020:

I am working as an advisor, consultant, advocate, counselor, co-creator. I work to Board level leadership but I roam The Organization, working to improve colleagues’ personal and group knowledge management.

Technology has simply become the channel, its just the ‘thing’.

a great piece of advice:

Try to write letters as much as possible because otherwise your handwriting will get even worse.

what would I do differently next time?

Actually not too much though I’d probably have more people versed in the material, able to explain the significance of the dates to ‘visitors’ to the exhibit. And I’d make sure I had enough people around to help put up an 18 foot poster when I arrived at the venue.