Knowledge but not as we know it: “looking at business through a microscope and telescope”

Many moons ago before the introduction of GDPR I used to provide a semi annual update of my activities to people who said they were interested in what I was up to. With the requirement to get permissions from the recipients and a book to help complete those updates went to the back of the queue. Over the last few months though much has happened so here are a few reflections.

SmartWorking Summit

It’s Mid October and I’m back in Docklands to attend Quora’s Autumn Smart Working Summit. With attendees focused on work place environments and effective working practices (including genuine diversity) it picked up on a theme I’d heard recently at many Sussex business sessions namely how to manage mental health in the workplace.

It seems that many of us are not happy with our working environment (people get distracted every 3 minutes in an office apparantly) or indeed our managers.  And since the young are seemingly ill disposed to stay more than 2 years with any employer the traditional social contract between employer and employee is undergoing a massive shift.

Many of the speakers and contributors from the floor talked about “3rd place working” and the need to curate good environments both physical and virtual.  Many bemoaned the use of corporate safaris to see how others set out their space and over lunch a few of us debated the value of floor, meeting or community hosts to facilitate working in hub environments.

Does this matter? Yes!  Workplace productivity is down 9% in the last decade in the UK and compares unfavourably with the rest of the world. In a report released in January 2019 by employee engagement organisation Engaging Works the UK ranks 10th in the world for workplace happiness. They note:

“What is perhaps most striking is that eight of the countries which sit ahead of the UK in 10th place also sit above the UK for productivity, where the UK is a global laggard.

From a knowledge sharing perspective this is important. People are more likely to share if they feel engaged and supported yet few I spoke to involved in the design of office environments had knowledge sharing as a critical success factor when designing space. Neil Usher’s excellent Elemental Workplace came to mind at this point.

Selling your business

I had the great pleasure of attending a Masterclass run by BCMS at a rural location in Kent last week. A boutique M&A house they assembled a group of owner businesses to share tips on the process. It was slick and impressive.

A few stats stood out:

  • Few companies sell to competitors.
  • You need to talk to (interact) with at least 200 potential buyers.
  • Traditional valuation methods (DCF / NPV) are a thing of the past, sell based on a mulitple of future earnings as an acquired or merged business.

Underpinning their model is a dedicated research group who maintain what Founding Director Dave Rebbettes described as a massive M&A database. It took me back 25 years to my Corporate Finance days when using search I helped create a knowledge base to tell us what ‘we’ knew about a business, their people and the markets they operated in.

The word “Curate” was used a couple of times to describe how data is assembled but not in the context of managing knowledge. Once again I was left pondering why as I did last year when I wrote: “If so few Mergers & Acquisitions are successful why is Knowledge Management so often ignored?”.

Post coffee (and chocolate) we were treated to a presentation by Green & Black’s Co Founder Jo Fairley. Jo charted their journey from 1991 when they set the business up in their lounge, disposing of large stake to an investment group, being acquired by Cadbury’s, then Kraft and onto the current owners Mondalez.

Jo highlighted how post acquisition by Cadbury’s in 2005 the company suffered a loss of knowledge exacerbated by Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury’s.  Interestingly Arthur Shelley who was then CKO of Cadbury’s spoke about a similar issue when we interviewed him for “Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion”.

Recognising the importance of not losing the DNA of the brand, Mondalez have hired Jo as part of an induction process to illustrate the ethical (Fairtrade) historical legacy of the brand for new employees.

I ticked off some key points Jo made in response to a question about 3 things they got right. I was delighted these match Bees Homes top 3 aspirations:

  • Great product and branding
  • Great customer service
  • Capture the testimonials

To which I would add, “Create Brand (chocolate) Ambassadors” to ensure there is conscience in the brand.

Recognition & Awards

In a recent personal reflection the widely respected Euan Semple noted:

… the stress of working with different businesses all the time is getting to me…  So what to do? I don’t feel inclined to start marketing myself for the consulting and speaking. I never really did. I wrote stuff, people read it, and work came in. I am not even really sure why this has changed. But I am not sorry.

The outpouring of suportive comments on Facebook and LinkedIn must have been rewarding to Euan for ‘putting it out there”. Why does it take something like that though for people to acknowledge and recognise contributions made by others? As many of you will know since 2012 I’ve included a section on my site Who I admire (and why). In it I recognise people I’ve worked alongside who’ve shaped the way I think and act.

In August I wrote about Dr Gada Kadoda from Khartoum who helped found the Sudanese Knowledge Society.  I was delighted the BBC recently recognised her as one of the “top 100 women of 2019 for her work in rural communities.”

Continuing the recognition theme Bees Homes, one of the businesses I helped set up and run, has since inception led an annual Pride of Eastbourne” campaign at Christmas.

We encourage people to nominate those they feel deserve recognition for the good they’ve done for others. The winners, chosen by the Mayor and Chamber of Commerce members, each receive a Sussex Hamper which the nominator presents.

While on the subject of awards I was humbled to receive this email a few months back from the Walford Prize judging panel. The award is given each year to a person deemed to have made a significant contribution to the field of Knowledge & Information Management:

The judging panel were most impressed by your energy and enthusiasm and complete commitment to spreading the word about knowledge and information management not only in the UK but worldwide.

I pick up the award alongside KM luminaries Patrick Lambe and Nick Milton (winners of the best book for their Knowledge Manager’s Handbook) at a ceremony next week.

And finally

I wanted to share my response to Euan since it reflects where I am today after 20 years running a portfolio of activities:

Euan Semple you and I have talked before about having a portfolio of activities where a thin red line or thread connects everything you do. I know many people who’ve taken a jump from the security of a “day job” to being in what today is known as the gig economy. And in the majority of cases they are more fulfilled emotionally if less financially enriched. I’ve watched your journey from corporate to ‘consultant’ to ‘traveller’ with admiration. I’ve always believed that people are judged by the stories others tell about them. You’ve spawned many. Keep travelling!

On the subject of travelling I will end this update with something Jo Fairley said about how to run a successful business.

Look at the business through a microscope and a telescope!

Now off to do just that!

“When 60 seconds seems like an eternity”: making a memorable networking pitch

Today I had the opportunity to help the business community where I live. Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce (the largest town chamber in the South East) invited me to give a talk on how to make an effective 60 second pitch / presentation at a networking event.

Unbeknown to the 32 delegates who’d assembled at Bill’s it was to be a journey beyond their comfort zones. I decided to make it an experiential session rather than the usual 10 minute ‘show and tell’ after breakfast.

Here’s the agenda I worked to:

We began by getting everyone to mingle and meet people they’d not previously talked to.  I encouraged them to talk to each other about what they most enjoyed about their job: people open up when they are positive!

 

By the time they sat down (each one with someone new) conversational juices were flowing.

At this point I asked them to consider how they might respond to this question “who are you and what do you do?” Many say, “I am …. the owner / CEO of …. and I employ … people and I’ve been in the town for over 20 years.” 

I noted that it’s not about what you are called more about what you do!

“A Quivering Mess”

Here we talked about what we hated about standing up and telling people about our businesses.  Words and phrases that emerged during the ‘call out’ were: Fear; too quiet; can’t hear; can’t speak; content; not being heard.  We rounded this off with an eloquent description from Samantha Akehurst (“Sam from Audi not Aldi”) of how she used to feel giving a 60 second address.

Creating an impression

And so to the reason we were all there. I asked the Chamber members to put themselves “In the shoes” of the people who’d be listening to them. To focus on:

  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it memorable?
  • The one image or metaphor they wanted people to take away with them.

I shared two images and asked which one was the most powerful call to action:

The majority chose the top image reasoning that it was relevant and in the language of the recipient whereas the bottom image was more about the product and its functionality.

Each person was then invited to give their 60 seconds to their new ‘best friend’. I asked the listener to pay special attention to the key message. I was to discover later how people started by describing who they were and then stopped, remembering my earlier comments.

The moment of truth

All this had been taking place while breakfast was being served / consumed and while I was searching for a suitable ‘talking stick‘ for each presenter to hold and then pass on. I ended up using a pepper grinder.

Over the next 35 minutes we saw a variety of approaches.  Those considered the most memorable had movement, a story, a strapline to conclude and a statistic or quote. Standouts displayed emphasis on emotion, passion and an injection of humour.

Here’s an example of a 60 second story “They’ve done a lot to the property” Ana of Bees Homes told her partner:

Recently we sold a property that had been empty and on the market for 8 months. After a weekend of home staging, taking quality photos and providing a narrative description of the house, a buyer was found within 10 days and completed in 2 months.

Interestingly, the story was relayed back almost word for word illustrating the importance of framing it in words the listener can absorb.  Ana’s ‘partner’ proudly held up a Bees Homes postcard while he was talking and closed with: “And they exceeded the sellers expectations.”

Other memorable examples of opening and closing lines:

Have you ever saved half a billion for your clients? (bespoke software)

If you get locked out call the cavalry (Locksmiths)

Unlike his name you can call him anytime not just at Christmas (on Steve Christmas’ will writing service)

When you are stressed out think Calmer Self (well being)

And finally

I concluded by asking everyone whether they found the exercise of telling someone else’s story easier or harder.  The majority were in the easier camp. Stephen Holt in summing up noted that he had listened more to each story and witnessed some brilliant improvisations.

Hopefully this session will enthuse those who were there to spend a bit more time on the audience and the key message that they wish people to take away.

Stand up KM: reflections on Asian conferences, masterclasses & Chinese Bullfrogs

It’s been a while!  But as those who look at my postings elsewhere will know I’ve been fully occupied with the launch of The KM Cookbook which ‘hit the stands’ last Friday.

A few month’s back I was in Asia (KL and HK – before events took a turn for the worse) and asked to write my reflections for Information Professional.  What follows is the full version of the truncated article that appears in the July / August edition.

Flying, food and fun!

Bottom: the author at dinner with Rupert Lescott (Dubai), John Hovell (Washington) and Janice Record (Hong Kong); top left, Patrick Lambe in action; and top right, Stand Up KM.

Q) What do these photos have in common? A) They were all taken at places I’ve been in the last few months sharing stories from the KM Cookbook.

From London to Lisbon, Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong, people and organisations are actively engaged in knowledge management related activities.

And at each of the events there were a few stand out moments / presentations. Here’s a focus on Asia.

Asian adventures

In Kuala Lumpur for a Masterclass (my 4th) at the International Islamic University of Malaysia I was looking forward to teaming up with Straits Knowledge and Patrick Lambe. As organisers of the KM Exchange in KL they had assembled a large crowd from across South East Asia for a share and learn day which I had the pleasure of kicking off.

This Peer Assist technique stood out:

  • A session with a panel (I was a member) judging the most innovative solution to a set of “KM Challenges’ posed by pre-selected members of the audience (one was a regulatory organisation).

Some of the delegates working through the “before, during and after” of a KM Audit

The following day’s Masterclass on the KM Cookbook and ISO 30401 was a delight once I’d shifted location and rearranged the furniture to create the collaborative workspace environment an interactive event needs.

The “Are you audit ready?” session was lively with those delegates from a regulatory / quality background particularly prominent and willing to help the group come up with a set of ground rules to prepare for a potential future KM Standards audit.

So, to Hong Kong (officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) for another Masterclass (run jointly with Eric Hunter and hosted by Janice Record Director of Knowledge at DLA Piper) and two sessions at the KM Asia event.

KM Asia was less well attended than KM Exchange. At one point, I was wondering if there were going to be more speakers than delegates, reflecting an apparent disinterest in the term KM. There were few local presentations and limited audience interaction.

Its Day Two, I am leading a mid-morning session on ISO KM Standards 30401 following presentations by Patrick Lambe, Hank Malik and I. I invite the audience to stand up and then find someone they’ve not met. We all continue to stand up for the rest of the 30-minute session hence Patrick’s description of it as “Stand Up KM.”

I penned this tweet as I left Hong Kong for London:

“Great way to end what has been a fascinating couple of weeks in Asia: Breakfast with Larry Campbell. While Knowledge Management as a title is not de rigueur in HK it was nice to note the activity is still very much alive in the way organisations use data, precedent and knowledge of their people.”

The working out Loud dilemma

It was notable that though presenters talked about “Working out Loud”, very few shared their reflections publicly and even fewer used Twitter. I’ve written much on this in the past. It’s a challenge working cross borders and culture to find a mechanism that works for all.

In the flippant “Stand Up KM” paragraph I noted how it’s Day Two before the delegates are encouraged to fully participate.   And that only worked when I encouraged people to change seats and wandered around the audience with a microphone inviting them to pass it onto others.

And finally – moments of laughter (eventually)

For many years when travelling east I like to get away from it all. Often it’s at Silvermine Bay on Lantau Island Hong Kong. 30-minutes from the airport it’s a world away from the bustle of Central but 40 minutes by fast ferry.

I arrived from KL early Saturday evening, took an early snack to get a peaceful night ahead of a busy week. As darkness fell I switched of the AC and opened the windows to let the sea breeze in. A mistake!

Picture by https://www.flickr.com/people/63048706@N06

There was a deafening sound rather like whales calling each other outside the window.

My curiosity stirred, I dressed and went in search of the source. I traced the noise to the drains and water courses that run into the sea.

The culprit, Giant Chinese Bullfrogs seeking a mate! Note to self: don’t go to a beach hotel in Silvermine in April!

 

 

The power of positivity, of space and of images

A few weeks back I went to London for a celebratory luncheon with my fellow KM Cookbook coauthors, Chris Collison and Patricia Eng. I got the 09.24 from Eastbourne to London Victoria. As usual it was composed of just 4 coaches. At Lewes, boarding passengers were made to stand for the next 60 minutes despite an additional 4 coaches coupling up enroute at Haywards Heath. At Gatwick 1st class is decommissioned but still there is not a seat to be had.

It’s the same every day: the “On Board Supervisor” (OBS) apologises for overcrowding noting that 1st class passengers can claim a refund and the passengers fulminate about the half arsed way the railway is run.

However my 16th May journey was notable for a very different reason, the banter provided by “Driver Steve Copley“. From his welcome and throughout the 90 minute journey Steve kept up a regular litany of anecdotes, poetry and humour. At first my reaction was one of irritation. When I took a time out (and gave myself permission) to really listen I began to appreciate how clever and varied his oratory was. At Gatwick (where there was a delay) Steve greeted onboarding passengers in 5 languages and recited a poem as a way of apologising for the delay caused by a malfunctioning toilet.

Intending to change at East Croydon I felt compelled to stay aboard to see what he’d say about Britain’s busiest station, Clapham Junction, and how he’d mark the end of the journey.  Steve didn’t let me down: Clapham is the place where you change for all stations beginning with the letter S – he listed a number – and for those who want to avoid the hustle of the capital!  Victoria, named after a past Queen, is where you alight to see the home of the current one.

At Victoria I sought him out – there was a queue of people doing the same, thanking him for making their by now delayed journey such a pleasure.

It was notable that people had smiles on their faces, they talked to each other and in one case the young lad next to me made conversation with a lady across the aisle who had taught him for just one term some 3 years before. Steve’s rhetoric had created an environment where barriers were lowered and people felt comfortable conversing.

It took me back a few weeks to a couple of experiences in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.

Space

I was in Kuala Lumpur to run a Masterclass (my fourth) at the International Islamic University of Malaysia and to give the keynote address at the second KM Exchange held at the Securities Commission’s lovely offices.

Keynote in KL

Well attended, the KM exchange was very well run (as you’d expect from an event Straits Knowledge are involved in) with the tables arranged cocktail style with plenty of interactive time built into the agenda.

The speakers were part of and came from the audience. It encouraged the collaboration that occured.

Getting among the delegates

It contrasted to the KM Asia event in Hong Kong the week after which was less well attended and where the speakers occupied the front tables and the delegates the rear creating an “us and them” feel.  It meant the only way to get engagement in a society where deference trumps demonstrative was to leave the stage and be among them.

While in Asia I wrote a longer article for Business Information Review on collaborative knowledge spaces which will appear in the June edition. In it I will draw on my experiences to demonstrate the importance of set up to running any event. Keep a look out for it.

And finally: when you look at things differently, the things you look at change

I spent last Saturday morning helping Bees Homes Managing Partner, Ana to stage a property ahead of its listing for sale. Previously on the market with another agent and empty it had failed to attract sufficient interest.

Here’s the same room as seen through the lens of two different agents:

As presented by Agent 1

As presented by Bees Homes

 

 

 

 

 

And this is what a prospective buyer (who previously saw it online but did not pursue it further) said when he contacted us for a viewing:

“Have they had work done, it looks so different now and really nice?”

Each of the above examples illustrate the importance of presentation and empathy. You need to get in the shoes of people (buyers/delegates/passengers) if you are going to connect with them. And to do that you need to create the right enviroment.

 

Knowledge et al: view from 46K

I write this at Dubai airport. I left a very fractured and troubled nation that is the UK, torn apart by a futile attempt to sustain the unsustainable (maintain unity in the largest party in our parliament).
Without pinning my political colours to the mast I must confess I despair at the majority decision to abandon a group that has been in part responsible for peace in Europe these last 75 years. The rush towards right wing nationalism across the globe is in no one’s long term interest and terrifies me as does the bellicose rhetoric that passes for debate.
It’s a good time to reflect on what’s gone and what’s to come.

Knowledge Management: the future

I was interested to see James Robertson and his team at Step Two in Australia post this week that Knowledge management isn’t dead, it’s more important than ever!and describe a number of assignments they’ve done at the practical end of KM.  That they (an excellent Digital Workplace and Intranet focused group) should highlight the importance of their KM practice feels significant.

Knowledge Management (KM) has been around for over 20 years as a set of tools and methods for connecting, collecting and creating knowledge. Lots has been written, and there are tens of thousands of practitioners out there—in-company specialists and consultants. Unlike Lean, Agile and other business improvement methodologies, KM has never had a single agreed set of tools, or a commercial accreditation or standard.

ISO KM Standard

In many ways, the arrival of an internationally agreed standard and vocabulary, imbues fresh professional credibility to the field of Knowledge Management. It provides knowledge managers with a ‘brand-new kitchen’, and a moment during which they can pause for a moment and consider the service that they provide to their organisations. I sat on the UK’s BSI KM Standards Committee one of the international bodies that provided input to ISO as the KM Standards were developed and ultimately published in Q3 2018. I said at the start and still believe
“The arrival of the ISO KM Standards (albeit that adherence is voluntary) provides a framework against which KM Programs can be viewed. An independently assessed external accreditation is another key component of the KM practitioner’s path to corporate legitimacy.”

KM Cookbook

The KM Cookbook written by Chris Collison, Patricia Eng and I serves up a menu of success stories and strategies for organizations wanting to know more about Knowledge Management Standard ISO30401 – whether they intend to pursue certification, or simply seek to use it as a framework to review their existing programme and strategy.
In writing this book, we want to catch the excitement of the arrival of this ‘new kitchen’ and to demonstrate how the arrival of the ISO Knowledge Management System Standard (ISO 30401) provides so much more than a moment to certify a level of consistency in practice.
It provides a moment to re-evaluate, to return to first principles, and to learn from others. Imagine you had the opportunity, not just to enjoy a new, well-equipped and fully inspected kitchen – but also the chance to sit down with KM ‘chefs’ from around the world, across different industry sectors and listen to their stories.
That’s exactly what we have set out to do with the KM Cookbook.

Chartered Knowledge Manager Accreditation

Concurrently in my role as Knowledge & Information Management Ambassodor for CILIP I have been assisting them with the development of what we hope will become a globally recognised accreditation for Knowledge Managers. The first cohort of two dozen has being signed up and they are going through a process of submitting a KM portfolio of work for assessment in anticipation of the award of a Chartership in Knowledge Management.

Assignments, Masterclasses & Speeches

I am Asia bound to give the opening address at a Knowledge Exchange Roundtable event at Securities Commission in Kuala Lumpur and then to run a Masterclass (my 4th) at the International Islamic University of Malaysia
The next stop is then Hong Kong for another Masterclass this time with my good friend Eric Hunter followed by presentations / panel sessions at KM Asia 2019.with Patrick Lambe, Hank Malik on the ISO standard and Bruce Boyes, Rajesh Dhillon, John Hovell and Bill Kaplan on KM Accreditation.
At all these events I will be drawing on the soon to be published “KMCookbook: Stories and Strategies for organisations exploring Knowledge Management ISO Standard 30401” as well as the latest developments in the KM Chartership Accreditation.
Then it’s back to the UK for the Thomson Reuters Practical Law event where I will be running a session and speaking, then a co session with Victoria Ward (more of her in a minute) at the UK KM Summit followed by a trip to Lisbon for the launch of the KM Cookbook in Lisbon in early June at one of my favourite events, SocialNow.

2018: a varied and stimulating year

Looking back to 2018 I had the great pleasure of working alongside Victoria Ward (formerly of Spaknow) on a really interesting KM assignment for a global manufacturingl company. Involving the embedded of KM practices into an organisation undergoing rapid transformation it was challenging and stimulating in equal measure and the use of effective visualisation, personae and archetypes key to delivering on our mandate.

As if the above and researching, interviewing and coauthoring the KM Cookbook wasn’t enough I also managed to fit in a couple of Masterclasses in London and Stockholm around the soft skills (the critical 8 ‘ates) of the Knowledge Manager and deliver a few keynotes in Italy and Sweden.
Back in the UK it was the 2nd year of operations for the two businesses I helped establish and run, award winning Bees Homes  and Coastway Financial. Today is the end of both companies financial years so it’s great to report we are on target to where we wanted to be. 
Despite all the uncertainty, Brexit is proving less of a challenge as there is a move from vendors towards the type of quality service we are offering. A key statistic for us is “Property Views” online and it’s great to be able to report we are currently #1 in our region.
Transparency and trust are important values so we are running “How to sell your property in a post Brexit world” on April 16th at Eastbourne’s swankiest new boutique hotel to share some of the techniques we apply to dress a property to its optimum potential.

In the Community

Our initiative to help with the transformation of our town continues on a couple of fronts. The Urban Art idea has gathered momentum and support from the Municipalities CEO and I am helping him and the regeneration team to attract conferences to the town.

And finally

46k is my preferred seat on the Emirates A380 (and the Boeing 777). Check out Seat Guru.com to see why!