Taking the thought to court

The combined effects of lockdown, helping my town respond to the pandemic, managing a growing business, while having to be in too many (virtual) places at the same time has taken its toll.  About 6 weeks ago I was advised to take my foot of the pedal and join a group of 20 on a 5-week virtual “Living Well with Stress” programme run by the NHS.

I mention this not to evoke sympathy more to raise awareness of the increasing incidence of mental health issues. “My” Zoom group was one of 3 being run concurrently in Sussex. Participants, ranging in age from 18 to 70, were encouraged to be on camera and contribute via the chat.  Admitting you have an issue is a challenge; facing a screen full of people with moving stories is harder still.

We finished the programme a week ago. What did I take away from it?

The value of images and metaphors to help describe feelings: As I’d previously described my situation as being like a sponge that was full to overflowing and needing squeezing dry, I found the metaphor of a stress bucket compelling and apposite.

Everyone has their demons: many on the programme spoke of a lack of confidence in dealing with others exacerbated by the lack of personal contact these past 18 months.

“Taking the thought to court”: when we are down and thinking negative thoughts its vital to examine whether those thoughts are valid or distorted and exaggerated. 

Being able to recognise the symptoms and triggers: this is key to employing some of the coping strategies above.

The importance of ‘me’ time and physical exercise: walking helps as does Yoga.

By the time you read this I hope to have concluded my ‘time out’ with a visit to family and friends in Lisbon and Cascais where as you can see I managed to switch off for a few days and catch up on some great books.

I am eagerly looking forward to returning refreshed and resuming the “in conversation with…” sessions from October and resuming my presidential duties representing CILIP on the global stage.

Presidential “Debate” & Presidential Musings

The 3rd in the series is only a few weeks away (on 29th September).  It’s a stellar line up and the topic very timely.  To whet your appetite, this edition’s Presidential Musings column features the three speakers, Luis Suarez, Neil Usher and Rob Cottrill.  Here’s a snapshot of what to expect from Luis quoting from a recent study on distributed working:

     “…remote work is a win-win, because the employee can move to a location of choice and save money in cost of living, and the employer will see higher productivity and lower attrition and save on real estate costs People will gravitate to a location where they want to live, rather than where they have to live”.

And finally: in search of tolerance

These past 18 months have exposed significant divisions in our society and exacerbated the gap between the haves and have nots.  Those dealing with the public have witnessed new lows in behaviours. Many of you are in the front line and I marvel at your ability to dust yourselves down and come back fighting when abused.

As autumn approaches, schools return and people grapple with the challenge of returning (or not) to their place of work, my sincere hope is that all of us take a moment to reflect before condemning another and if you get good service, tell that person or their boss.  We all need a lift!

Thank you for reading this.

Dad are you really a spy?

Undertaking international assignments

Many years ago Nicola, my daughter, asked this question. I spent at least 3 months of the year going to places that would not feature on any list of recommended travel destinations. And when I came back much of what I would discuss was somehow from another world. She was mystified (and probably still is) which is one reason I started recording my adventures and writing books.

I’ve learned much about people, places and culture to the point where I have more friends outside of the UK than in it. Someone asked me how many countires I’d visited – while not yet in three figures the number is not far off.

During a 40+ career I’ve managed countless assignments while pursuing a portfolio of activities and dealt with many clients while I was a banker plying my trade in the Middle East.

So, I was delighted when, on assuming office as CILIP President, I received a request from one of their special interest groups, International Libraries & Information Group, to give a talk to them about working internationally.

They very kindly recorded the event for posterity and here it is:

When the light flickers

It’s been a tough 12 months as we’ve all come to terms with isolated living. For many it’s seen personal relationships flourish while more have witnessed them collapse.

Help yourself in order to help others

A few weeks back on LinkedIn I put up a post “Put your oxygen mask on before helping others...” which attracted a lot of comment. I’d written it after a conversation with a friend who is a very perceptive relationship therapist. She and I had talked about the effect of Lockdown Fatigue and I was drawn to a comment she made:

“…we’re missing out on the life-affirming impact of seeing our value reflected back at us through the eyes of our friends, family, work colleagues and clients.”

What followed via LinkedIn chat was a very thought provoking discussion about #distributedworking and the need to develop some form of virtual peripheral vision.

Luis Suarez who many of you will know commented:

Yes, there is no substitute for the F2F interactions. We would always need them. After all, we are social creatures who crave for a strong sense of belonging and bonding, but through ESNs we’ve definitely being able to augment a different kind of interaction, just as powerful: conversations.

eating scraps from bins in Austria

These conversations came back to me as I heard the sad news this week of the passing of Lotti Henley one the people I featured in the ‘most admired’ section of my site. Here’s what the Mayor of London said about her a few years back:

‘…an 86 year old war hero; an Austrian aristocrat who was forced to eat scraps of food from bins to survive during the Second World War...She says her lasting memory of hunger is the motivation behind her new campaign, Plan Zheroes, which aims to link up hundreds of shops, supermarkets and other food outlets across the capital with local charities in need of free food.’

Lotti was a person who made it difficult to say no to, a truly unique person.

Here’s a moving montage of her life in pictures put together by her grandson.

Inspiring stories

I’ve spent much of the last couple of months balancing commitments. People often talk about work / life balances; for me the boundaries have become so fuzzy over the last few years as I’ve got older and have the ability to make a choice of where to spend my time.

I regularly get asked at dinners (when we were able to attend) haven’t you retired yet? What this year has taught me at least is to devote time and energy to those who don’t drain you of it!

Which is why I’ve found the “in conversation with…” sessions I’ve been conducting each week with a member of CILIP so rewarding. I hope to do some of the stories justice in a couple of month’s time when I host the 2nd Presidential Debate alongside award winning journalist and best selling author Kate Thompson.

And finally

I was delighted to have been invited to be the launch ‘act’ for the KM Lobby a program of Pioneer Knowledge Services hosted by Ginetta Gueli, Monica Danese-Perrin, and Edwin K. Morris M.S. We spoke at length about the importance of KM Chartership and Standards. It was a fun 45 minutes which is available here

Don’t “reinvent the flat tyre”

By the skin of our teeth

Phew! Having arrived in Lisbon on December 20th concurrent with the announcement that estrangeiros were being banned, my wife and I headed for the Covid-19 testing centre so we could spend Christmas and New Year looking after my poorly Mother in Law. Imagine our relief as we caught the last flight back to the UK (and a period of self isolation) on January 4th before the cancellation of all flights.

While there I’d prepared my first Presidential message to the 10k+ members of the Chartered Institute of Libraries & Information Professionals (CILIP). In it I’d set out a few objectives and I’m delighted to note that a couple are underway.

The first of my “Presidential Musings” is about to be published in CILIP’s flagship publication Information Professional. “To certify or not – the value of an ISO standard?” features a couple of highly respected senior managers who give their thoughts on how organisations might seek assessment against ISO 30401. Patricia Eng was an obvious choice, being the first globally accredited ISO KM Auditor and the former head of KM for a national regulatory body, as was Carol Aldridge, one of the few KM professionals I know of who has introduced ISO standards into her organisation. Carol’s summary comment is very apposite:

“Demand may come if and when organisations see this standard as a convenient means for evaluating suppliers’ KM performance as well as a framework for assessing their own.”

And the good news is that subscribers (CILIP members) can now view this via a downloadable app.

“Don’t know how to be poor”

A very busy month followed: 4 days of masterclasses, a couple of board meetings, numerous Zoom calls, a webinar on search, plus 2 Cobra meetings in my home town Eastbourne to discuss the ongoing pandemic.

From relative obscurity and a very low rate of Covid-19 cases per 100k Eastbourne entered the top 10 of most affected areas in the UK with an average of nearly 1k cases per 100k. Civic leaders and health professionals attributed it to:

  • An influx of day trippers driving to the South Downs National Park to meet friends
  • A large proportion of blue collar manual workers unable to work from home
  • An influx of homeless people from outside the borough being housed in local hotels

A campaign to change behaviours around the use of masks while shopping and fuelling the car is being put in place since 30% of cases were attributable to those activities.

Perhaps most worrying is the dramatic rise in demand from working class families seeking assistance to feed their children and too proud to visit food banks. As one of the volunteer group leaders put it, “they don’t know how to be poor” and need a lot of assistance and direction from volunteer groups to signpost them to the help that’s available.

The good news is our local vaccination programme is ahead of schedule (my 93 year old mother had the jab in December) and collaboration, between everyone involved in the supporting the local community, remains excellent.

Osmotic learning

One of my Zoom catch up chats was with the engaging Ian Rodwell of Linklaters. We talked about how in a virtual environment you might recreate the serendipitous encounters that are often the source of new ideas and connections. Ian is working on something he describes as “Scheduled randomness” – watch this space for more, and as Head of Client Knowledge & Learning his focus is on Osmotic Learning. “Lockdown Learning” and “Return to the Office Toolkit” are recent outputs.

Ian’s challenges are I imagine mirrored by many: how to maintain lockdown momentum, motivation and focus in a virtual environment; how to build on the extended reach that tools such as Zoom and Teams provide; and how to keep the contributions (top tips) coming from officers.

I heard similar concerns about keeping up momentum expressed in a subsequent conversation with another global Knowledge Manager. We talked about the difficulties of managing across continents and time zones, of maintaing peripheral vision while facilitating virtually and encouraging contributions from junior members of staff. She noted one downside of Teams is that it can create silos.

Being remotely human

Having introduced Dr Bonnie Cheuk to the members of CILIP’s K&IM SIG I wanted to be sure to attend the webinar she ran a few weeks back entiled: “Digital transformation, learning and development and knowledge management: is the line blurring“. I was glad I did.

Bonnie’s title is is Senior Business and Digital Transformation Leader, AstraZeneca. So much of what she does is around facilitation and creating an environment for knowledge sharing to occur. I had the pleasure of working with her and members of her team a couple of years ago during the transformation of the business and know how important a number of the initiatives she put in place were in accelarating changing ways of working. The unprecedented discovery and production of the AZ/Oxford Covid-19 vaccination is a great example of more agile working and effective use of tools such as “Pause & Reflect”, “Working out Loud” and “Paying it Forward”.

I was particulalry drawn to her example of creating a regular online hangout around the virtual global watercooler as an attempt to redefine learning and unlearning and create a human space in a remote environment. More on that in the future, below is a sneak preview!

Agile KM

While on the subject of Agile working, Chris Collison and I had the great pleasure of running a “behind the firewall” KM Cookbook Masterclass over a couple of days for the Agile Business Consortium’s senior leadership team and board. Using a combination of Zoom and Mural we used the KM Canvas to address issues that will arise as they develop their KM capacity.

What stood out to me, apart from how smart they all were, was the ease with which they navigated the canvas and how rapidly and candidly they were able to identify gaps and needs.

Professionalising KM

Much work has been going on in the health sector. Apart from Chris Collison and my masterclasses with Public Health England, Health Education England (HEE)’s Library & Knowledge Services, who have been doing an amazing job providing evidence based knowledge to front line workers, recently launched a five year strategic framework Knowledge for Healthcare Mobilising evidence; sharing knowledge; improving outcomes. Led by Sue Lacey Bryant, a CILIP Trustee and the 2018 winner of the Walford Award, it is very much at the core of a drive to professionalise Knowledge and Library Services across the health industry. Who can argue with this:

Knowledge and evidence are business critical because the quality of care, patient safety and service transformation is underpinned by informed decision-making.

In fact, HEE helped fund the enhancement and rewrite of CILIP’s Professional Skills and Knowledge Base (PKSB) which is due to be launched to the profession in Q2 this year. HEE use it as a core tool for helping to develop its professional staff. Mapped to ISO KM Standards 30401, it is a major development and goes a long way to providing a set of core competences against which to benchmark a knowledge professional’s development.

“In conversation with…”

l’ve begun the initiative of direct engagement with CILIP’s members I flagged in my presidential message. These chats have been both enjoyable and heartwarming; hearing the stories of people coping and thriving in a pandemic will hopefully inspire others. I will be summarising these conversations in my regular column in Information Professional.

And finally

Ahead of the recent round of Virtual Mezze Masterclasses we asked participants to imagine they were at dinner with a partner.

The responses from many KM ‘newbies’ were hugely insightful. Here’s a selection:

Knowledge Management is about leveraging information, knowledge, experience and connectivity, it can speed up processes and learning allowing you to start off on the best foot and be creative.

How to ensure that knowledge and experience of every individual in a community is shared in such a way that 1+1=3

Bringing together knowledge and evidence from across a range of sources and synthesising this to enable easy interpretation.

Knowledge management is really important to everyone because it helps us all to do our jobs and keep our organisation running. Imagine if there hadn’t been any guidance or procedures, when you first began your job. How would you know how to do it? Capturing the knowledge and experience of others that have come before is important for this. But equally important is that you know where to find it – even starting with knowing that it exists. So, having a structure and knowing how to use both the structure and the information is very important!

Without it I guess we’d keep re-inventing the wheel or the flat tyre. Time consuming!

This, from Aku Sorainen senior partner of one of the most successful European law firms, and a reviewer (a “restaurateur”) of The KM Cookbook, neatly sums up the value of KM to knowledge based institutions.

“Old people must die!”

It’s New Year’s Day and I’m in Lisbon. I arrived Sunday 20th, the day the British were declared persona non grata by most of the world as a consequence of the rapid spread of the “English strain” of the Coronovirus. Our easyJet flight from Gatwick was one of the last permitted ahead of an exclusion for travellers from the UK for non Portuguese or non residents.

On arrival that night we arranged Covid tests at the drive through centre that sprung up close to the airport. Some 12 hours later we are in a queue (this will become a familiar theme over the next 10 days) and a further 12 hours later our negative results are confirmed. We can now begin looking after my mother in law who is currently in remission from an ongoing condition.

It’s fitting I should be in Lisbon the day the UK formally assumes it’s stand alone status as I was here (giving a keynote address) the day the Brexit vote result was announced. Then, most Portuguese were bemused by the decision and today, as Portugal assumes the presidency of the EU for the next 6 months, the desire to leave is still greeted with a shrug of the shoulders. Reassuringly, as the UK’s oldest ally, Portugal has gone the furthest to reassure UK expatriates of their right to remain as residents under the previous pre Brexit terms.

Christmas (Natal) is a big deal in Portugal which is unsurprising for a country described by Barry Hayton in his acclaimed tome The Portuguese: A Modern History as follows:

With an easygoing and seductive lifestyle expressed most fully in their love of food, the Portuguese also have an anarchical streak evident in many facets of contemporary life.

That 39% of disposable income is spent on food confirms it’s importance in daily life and rituals which are very much to the fore this time of the year. Food is not merely fuel, its a healthy obsession that provides a backdrop for most conversations. Whereas few in the UK would wait in line (unless to panic buy in the pandemic) here it is obligatory if you wish to get the best cut of meat, the freshest vegetables, or the right cake on the right day!

The food and wine are delicious, ridiculously cheap and though as yet I am unable to determine which “Kings Cake” one has on which day over Christmas and the New Year the inevitable wait is worth it.

Perhaps the single biggest difference with the UK is that being in service is not viewed negatively and most of the established coffee shops / pastelerias are staffed by indigenous catering veterans.

2021: CILIP Presidency

It is ironic /sad that, concurrent with the commencement of my term of office as CILIP President, my good friend Karen McFarlane should be stepping back from involvement as a Trustee having completed her term of office. Karen was the instigator of my appointment as well as reviewer on the first book I co-authored Navigating the Minefield… Her contribution to the Knowledge & Information Management profession has been immense and I will be proud to continue to serve alongside her on the BSI KM Standards Committee as well as CILIP’s Knowledge Management Chartership & Fellowship Accreditation Project board.

I did not know my predecessor Judy Broady-Preston prior to my nomination a year ago. In the intervening period I have come to respect both her humanity and intellect and thoroughly enjoyed the many virtual conversations (and occasional dinner) despite Covid restrictions. I am delighted Judy will continue to be involved as part of the Presidential team. More on that in due course in CILIP’s flagship publication, Information Professional.

A few weeks back Judy, Nick Poole and I had a long discussion about the Presidential role. I’d previously suggested that where possible the theme for a Presidential year should map back to the aims and objectives of CILIP and dovetail with previous and future incumbents. I am delighted to report that Kate Robinson (President Elect) is onboard with this approach and that my year will overlap with both Judy’s and Kate’s in terms of objectives. Professionalising the profession (at home and internationally) will be at the core and I will seek to build on what Judy has acheived.

I’ve previously spoken and written about:

  • the absence of a home / body that Knowledge Management professionals can coalesce around;
  • the need for a universally recognised professional qualification; and
  • the importance of a set of international standards that organisations engaged in Knowledge Management might adhere to and benchmark against.

“Striving down the path to corporate legitimacy” is a phrase I’ve used before and it will be at the heart of my efforts to position CILIP at the centre of this move.

And finally

Inevitably discussions and the news over the festive season were dominated by the depressing statistics on the spread of the pandemic emerging aound the globe. As I write this Portugal is in a 3 day curfew with movement of unauthorised vehicles prohibited from 1pm to 5am daily. Our town Eastbourne recently entered Tier 4 so on our return this weekend we will be in quaratine though fortunately we can work virtually.

In case you are wondering, the phrase shown in the title was spoken by a friend at a socially distanced and compliant family dinner a few nights back. Her 88 year old father had recently passed, her husband was hospitalised for 5 days and another good friend had died as a result of not attending hospital due to a fear of contracting Covid. Her point (and this is where translating from one language to another can be imperfect) was that the mortality rate of Covid is very low. By focusing exclusively on that, the impact on other conditions will be adversly affected not to mention the lives of the rest of the population.

I asked everyone at dinner how they would rate the performance of the government. 7/10 was the consensus. Though mistakes have been made, Prime Minister Antonio Costa has acknowledged them. This has engendered a feeling of trust I sense absent in the UK.

2021 has the potential to be a bounce back year but it will require a shift in mindset and the state of political rhetoric. I am looking forward to kicking it off with more KM Cookbook virtual Masterclasses this month with Chris Collison and future collaboration with the likes of Lee Bryant, Martin White and Luis Suarez.

I wish you and your family “Feliz Ano Novo”.