Be concise, be memorable: why names, images and straplines matter

For the past 20 months, I’ve been wearing a few hats: author; consultant; advisor; and business owner.  Substitute years for months and it would also be an accurate account of how I’ve spent most of the last 20 years.

Describing that to people is often a challenge.

At an event in Dubai, not long after I’d left a full-time role (as a Vice President in a financial services group in the City of London) someone asked me what I did. Expecting the usual answer (Vice President… / Senior Manager….) he was surprised and I hope intrigued when I answered, “I have a portfolio of activities.”  It’s a phrase I’ve used ever since.

I’d thought long and hard about my response to his question. “Who are you with?” is almost a standard opening line at any meeting during a business event. Those that are interested in the reply will ask you to explain what that means.  The majority begin looking over your shoulder for someone else to talk to.

Say what you do, not what you are called

Often when working on a consulting assignment trying to understand how a business works I conduct interviews or run group sessions. I ask people to introduce themselves and describe what they do. The vast majority say, “My name is ….. I am the …” To which I respond, “That’s impressive, now please tell me what you do in a way that an outsider will understand.”

We all hide behind jargon and headlines which today’s 24 x 7 soundbite society promulgates.  How many times have you read a headline and formed an opinion based on that only to discover that the article that follows says something different?

Our challenge is to distil what we do into a phrase, image or name that is concise and memorable, one that makes you smile.

A few months back I ran a Masterclass in Stockholm for Senior Legal Knowledge Management professionals. I invited them to pair up and develop their own concise description of what they did. It proved to be an illuminating session.

Promoting Knowledge Management is much like I used to find selling Corporate Finance services – it’s intangible so harder to explain and hence easier to diss.

Making first impressions count

#FinanceNavigator – Intrigued?

Every couple of weeks I attend a business networking event of one type or another. Participants are encouraged to share their story in a minute or less. The vast majority waste the first 30 seconds describing when they were founded and where their offices are located. Very few put themselves in the shoes of the audience or leave a lasting image or impression. 10% might tell a story.

On Monday I spent a couple of hours with a marketing advisor. Part of the UK Govt’s “Let’s do business’ initiative wherein companies can access business advice we were discussing the messages a young business might use to describe what it does and who it is.

Adopting a persona approach, we mapped words on their online presence (website / Facebook / Google Business) with keywords we thought their target audience might use. We drew on great 5 star Google reviews to see what clients actually said. And we thought long and hard about navigation, images and metaphors.

A strapline, Shining a light on property finance with a lighthouse (we live within walking distance of Beach Head Lighthouse one of the UK’s famous landmarks) generated the idea of building on a navigation theme and the idea of using the Finance Navigator Hashtag.

#PropertyMatchmakers was a hashtag evolved for Bees Homes a companion business.

Supported by a smiling winking bee logo and a strapline,: “Taking the sting out of buying and selling property”, it features the concept of matching buyers and sellers rather than merely advertising a property on line and hoping buyers will come.

The bee logo is memorable and portable across gender, ethnicity and generations. The hashtag appears in every social media post. Both companies finish any presentation with, “Here when you need us, not when it suits us” to emphasise that ours is more than a 9-5 business.

Valuing and selling property is a subjective art. Ultimately the ‘right price’ is what someone is willing to pay not what the owner thinks it is.

The skill of the ‘Property Matchmaker’ (realtor or agent) is to find the right buyer, sell them a lifestyle or image they can relate / aspire to, negotiate a price both are happy with and manage the supply chain to completion. It’s often about making correlations.

In a previous post on Collaboration, Working out Loud and Knowledge matchmaking I described the concept of a Knowledge Matchmaker and suggested:

…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?

The idea of making and managing connections and networks came up time and time again albeit called something different during interviews for the KM Cookbook. Where it landed for me was in discussion with a prominent KM’er embarking on a relaunch / rebrand of her organisation’s KM program. They too were seeking a memorable image / strapline / hashtag that could underpin their internal and external communications.

And finally

Knowledge Management is a thread running through my many consultancy assignments, publications, masterclasses and pro bono activities. Underpinning this is the concept of how to describe or illustrate the value a person or team brings to the business.

To illustrate: As advisor to a large reinsurance group I would spend a day per month in their offices in the City coaching different people and teams. I recall a discussion with the compliance team who had a terse relationship with the business who saw them as blockers not enablers. By adopting a business consultancy mindset, it changed the dynamic: people went to ask compliance how best to meet regulations instead of doing it and being told they were wrong.

Here’s what I advise all businesses I work with when they try to present what they do:

  1. Make it concise
  2. Make it memorable
  3. Make it recognisable to those who are listening (or watching)

When I was Managing Partner at Sparknow LLP we ran an exercise for the front line staff of the UK’s Museums & Libraries group. We asked them to be “in the shoes’ of their customers, to imagine what it would be like to be on the other side of the desk. It was uncomfortable and required them to get out of their comfort zone to do so.

The best presenters are those who tell stories that live in the memory. If you can wrap the three must do’s into a story then you are on the way to creating an effective and enduring presence.

Thanks for reading this.

What Lisbon, Eastbourne, Neil Usher’s book and Knowledge Management have in common: Importance of environment.

Hands up, I wimped out and decamped to Lisboa to work and write when winter (Inverno in Portuguese) hit Eastbourne last week. I had a few people I needed to catch up with, some reading I’d promised I would do as well as prepping for forthcoming masterclasses.

Since my teens I’ve found a change of scenery / the right environment often acts as a catalyst for generating ideas. Indeed one of the questions I ask when trying to determine how knowledge flows in an organisation is “where do you have your best ideas or conversations?” The venue/space is important.

Which rather nicely brings me onto one of the books I vowed to read while I was by the Tejo.

The Elemental Workplace: Everyone deserves a fantastic workplace

I first heard Neil Usher at the SocialNow Event run by Ana Neves in Lisboa in 2017. He gave an entertaining presentation in which he presented his hypothesis that there are 12 essential Elements (design principles) all good workplace designs require. Coming hard on the heels of research I’d conducted earlier that year and a Masterclass I’d run in Asia on Collaborative Knowledge Spaces this was music to my ears. I’ve always believed in the importance of planning for “Orchestrated Serendipity” when designing spaces that encourage the sharing of knowledge. Neil’s presentation struck a chord and I vowed to go and see some of his projects.

I was delighted therefore when I learned Neil had ‘put pen to paper’ and written The Elemental Workplace” an easy to read tome that I imagine will become essential reading for people looking to create a stimulating enviroment in which to work.

Already my copy has plenty of dog ears and I found myself drawn to Part One – Why, and Part Four – What could possibly go wrong?

If you take nothing more away from the book than remembering these three quotes in Part One it will have been a good investment:

An effective workplace is one that is built on the principle of simplicity, an effective workplace is one that inspires and energises and an effective workplace is one that can facilitate learning and development.

Moving onto Part Four and this paragraph under the heading “Build it and they will come” stood out for me:

On your travels and in your research, you will discover amazing physical spaces that just do not work, because the creators believed that was enough. It is never enough. Change has to be nurtured, enabled, facilitated, continued. Build it and you will have just built it, nothing more.”

Perhaps my favourite sentence in the book is on on P36 under the heading “Ether”

A fantastic workplace can make a huge contribution to the customer advocacy of an organisation by creating a natural association with admirable values and looking after its people.

This is a book those involved in Knowledge & Information Management should read a few times. The checklists are great but you will have to work out who owns the collaborative knowledge space topic and where the idea fits in your own programme (if at all).

Murals changing society

And so to Lisboa where I spent a hectic Sunday morning out and about seeking examples of Street / Urban Art. Bear with me as I tell you why. Fortunate enough to live in Lisboa as well as Eastbourne I’ve been struck by the difference in the way some of the less salubrious parts of both cities have dealt with urban deprivation.

As the Head of GAU Lisboa  Urban Art Gallery (GAU) explained:

The Galeria de Arte Urbana of the Departamento de Património Cultural (Department of Cultural Heritage), from Câmara Municipal de Lisboa (Lisbon’s City Council) has as it’s main mission the promotion of graffiti and Street Art in Lisbon, in a official and authorized scope and in a pathway of respect for the patrimonial and landscaped values, in opposition with the illegal acts of vandalism that harm the City.

The district of Padre Cruz is the largest Urban Housing development in Europe with some 8,000 homes. Violence, poverty, drugs and deprivation were rife in 2016 before the Municipality introduced the concept of Urban Art with the active engagement of the local community.  The transformation has been amazing: residents now have a pride in their community and the incidence of crime has decreased dramatically.

I am not comparing today’s businesses with Padre Cruz but I am posing the hypothesis to those who are skeptical about the importance of creating the right environment for collaboration, knowledge sharing and human interactions – Orchestrated Serendipity!

Rua da Gloria Lisboa.

Back in Lisboa I found myself surrounded by numerous visitors all marvelling at the murals that have been painted in various parts of the city at the behest of GAU.

It’s not a coincidence that the resurgance of a vibrant artistic and technologically gifted workforce has at its fulcrum a decision taken by the Municipality to set up GAU at a time of deep austerity.

That they curate the work providing a legacy for future generations is also farsighted.

And finally

Why is this relevant? Because as part of our commitment to our community Bees Homes (the business we set up some 10 months ago) is working with the authorities in Eastbourne to try and transfer some of the knowledge gained in Lisboa and create a version of Urban Art here. We all know that a house ‘staged’ properly with good pictures will attract more buyers and achieve a better price than one that is not. The same surely applies to the environments in which we live and work?

Adapting Neil’s strapline: “Everybody deserves a fantastic environment that inspires and energises”

 

 

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.

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

 

 

How to avoid “drinking from the fire hydrant” at Arup

Taking a break can be therapeutic as well as challenging if the venue is so good it makes you reluctant to leave.

The world as viewed from within the walls of Portugal’s highest hill village Marvao seems different from the 24×7 connected envirnoment we all inhabit: Manners matter; avarice is not the driver for day to day life; food is to be savoured not devoured as a fuel between meetings; conversations are not superficial based on what each brings to the table and; the sky really is blue not pale blue impacted by pollution.

It was good to get away. These last few months have been hectic to say the least:

  • The launch of two new businesses Bees Homes and Bees Homes Financial Services
  • Arranging and planning an Asian Tour in November comprising Masterclasses, presentations and book launches – more soon!
  • Knee and dental surgery in Lisboa

As a portfolio worker you are often spinning plates and managing tight shifting schedules for clients. Yet every so often a ‘gig’ is both rewarding and stimulating as happened this week.

Knowledge in a Digital Age at Arup

A few months back the KM team at Arup asked if I’d kick off Day Two of their Global Skills Network get together. I was happy to accept. Arup get KM and do it as well as anyone being the recipient of a MAKE award. And yet working across generations and managing the risk of critical knowledge loss challenges them as it does everyone.

Like most businesses Arup has gone digital and is trying out many new technologies. It’s not a state secret, they want to be the best in the built environment. My remit was to act as a provocateur for the sessions that followed reflecting on what Knowledge in a Digital Age might look like and how they might respond to the opportunities it presents. I began as follows:

Some 20 years back Tesco Chairman Lord MacLaurin said when he saw the early results from analysis of the Clubcard holders spending patterns:

“What scares me about this is that you know more about my customers after 3 months that I know after 30 years”

Think of the modern digital economy as a massive extension of that Clubcard concept involving far more data points.

Recognising that today’s worker is deluged with ‘stuff’ and that few organisations have created an effective integrated dashboard that iincludes activities, skills, experiences, transactional data and social collaboration I addressed six basic questions:

  • Who or what should I trust? (Which sources, individual and team’s capacity to absorb and the need for trusted curated material)
  • What can I do? (To prevent Critical Knowledge loss)
  • Why should I? (Make better, more informed decisions)
  • Where do I find? (What ‘we’ know about a topic) nb Here I spoke about the recent judgement in the Trant vs Mott MacDonald case around a Common Data Environment (shared Knowledge Base)
  • When should I? (Incentivise / reward and in what format)
  • How do I go about it? (Engaging across generation and virtually)

My summary led into panel sessions whch it would be unfair to document in detail however I am sure Arup won’t mind if I paraphrase a bit since they are not uncommon:

  • People consume knowledge in different ways therefore its important to publish in a variety of forms across different platforms at different times.
  • There is a need to value team collaboration and authorship. Rewarding contributions in an environment where people believe knowledge is for everyone and not tradeable might be counterproductive.
  • There is a danger that in focusing on the digital environment and explosion of tools you lose sight of the importance of the person and networks. A way to prevent this is to develop an incubation lab to try out new technologies with beta users.
  • Knowledge bases and how to guides are important; new entrants rely on them for answers but often fail to ask “is it appropriate?”
  • Today’s youngster is comfortable with the search process having grown up immersed in technology. What can we do to bridge the gap, create effective knowledge transfer mechanisms with experienced Skill Network Leaders who struggle to articulate the question they are trying to ask of knowledge and information people and systems?
  • Knowledge informs research which drives client business.

And finally

Back to the title. It seems to me that although there are huge technological advances in the way individual, team, organisational and external knowledge, information and data is presented and we have access to, we are still struggling to absorb it all let alone keep up with the tools used. Despite technology giving us the ability to analyse data, information and knowledge to a higher level than ever before we are still hugely reliant on search to present the findings. Yet few seem to have cracked the ability to search across internal and external sources concurrently.

In a previous post I talked about the need for Assisted Search . My session this week reinforced that: A Knowledge Base is a form of curated assisted search where those responsible for it have assembled critical knowledge their organisation needs to sustain and grow its business.

The role of the knowledge professional in that remains vital and “curate” is one of the 8 ‘ates I describe in “Navigating the Minefield…” and will be going into more detail on when I visit Asia in November.