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:
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.
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:
‘…an86 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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been a very hectic period since I returned (just in time before quarantine was reimposed) from Portugal. Since face to face communication is at a premium and Zoom / Team dominates working conversations I thought I’d reflect (#workingoutloud) on ‘stuff’.
KM Cookbook: Virtual Mezze Masterclasses
In the last few weeks, Chris Collison and I have run “behind the firewall” virtual masterclasses for the South African Knowledge Management Community (KMSA) and a prominent law firm. Well attended in each case they were held on Zoom / Mural and Teams / Miro. Both were exceptionally well received- no technical glitches to report – and the brekaout sessions around the KM Chef’s Canvas stimulated much discussion and “to do” lists.
The Walford Award & Presentation
In a couple of weeks time I will be giving the annual Walford keynote address to CILIP’s K&IM Community and presenting this year’s award to the hugely deserving Naomi Korn.
The 2019 event was followed by an enjoyable dinner with other award winners: 2020 is going to be held en famille. I like that the organisers have given me free reign to choose a topic the title of which will be: “Who needs knowledge professionals?” It’s not too late to sign up, see here.
The Knowledge Management Officer
A month ago Professor Eric Tsui asked me (and a number of others in the KM community) if I’d be willing to create a short video clip for his Hong Kong students about what it takes to be a Knowledge Management Officer. It made me reflect on how much or how little the role has changed since I first came across the term back in 1994.
Certifying the certifier: ISO KM Standards
My good friend and coauthor Patricia Eng has been hard at it these past few months preparing for the December launch of Dr Ron McKinley (previously Chair of the ISO Technical Committee that helped develop 30401) and her program for aspiring ISO KM Assessors.
The topic of who certifies the ISO KM assessor has generated much space on KM chat groups with claims and counter claims about who is and is not authorised to undertake an ISO KM Assessment against ISO 30401.
Patricia has always passionately advocated the separation of the consultant and auditor role. Of late there is a danger, with the slew of announcements from The Gulf claiming to be the first program to be certified, that the line is becoming increasingly blurred so the sooner she and Ron can begin accrediting would be assessors the better.
Ron’s Linkedin post ISO 30401 Certification Authority of a few weeks back is worth skimming through. I am looking forward to seeing them differentiate between and knowledge audit and a Km systems audit.
Cobra meetings and Kruger report
I continue to serve on my town’s ‘Cobra Committee’. Comprising Eastbourne’s civic leaders, business heads, health professionals, volunteer groups, enforcement officers, tourism chiefs and our MP, it meets virtually to ensure a coordinated response to issues presented by Covid-19 and that lessons get translated into policy responses.
It’s been tough for the local authorities to interpret guidelines from above while managing social cohesion and with half term holidays approaching the community is bracing itself powerless to prevent an influx of visitors from areas where the incidence of Covid cases per 100k is four times that of our town.
One of the topics I raised at this week’s meeting was the recent report “Levelling up our communities: proposals for a new social covenant“. Attempting to build on the community spirit that has emerged during the Coivd-19 pandemic, the report from Danny Kruger MP, sets out a vision for a more local, more human, less bureaucratic, less centralised society in which people are supported and empowered to play an active role in their neighbourhoods.
The importance of digital inclusion, digital literacy and collaborative public spaces, are topics that, as President Elect of CILIP, I care passionately about. Libraries Connected suggests:
“Libraries are at the heart of communities, reflecting and responding to local needs. They get more visits each year than any other cultural service, with a reach that extends right across income brackets, ages and ethnicities. They play an important role in promoting well-being and community cohesion by producing a range of cultural activities with their local communities, and providing many with access to vital online services.”
In 2013, when I was one of the founding trustees of the Zero Food Waste Charity Plan Zheroes seeking to redistribute edible surplus food to those who needed it, I hoped the issue of free meals during school holidays for those struggling to feed their family might be off the agenda by 2020. Alas it is not. Our MP Caroline Ansell showed her mettle this week, resigning her government post having voted with the opposition on the provision of school meals during the holidays.
The moral maze!
Interestingly and unrelated to the above, CILIP CEO Nick Poole tweeted this:
“When you strip it down, when you get right past politics and the law, the bedrock is morality. Each of us is at liberty to make a moral choice about how we treat the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. We ought to judge our politicians on the morality of their choices.”
To which I replied:
“@NickPoole1 Eastbourne’s current MP @Caroline_Ansell made her moral choice yesterday and resigned from HMG. @StephenLloydEBN the previous MP resigned the LibDem whip a few years back, also over a matter of conscience. Must be the sea air!!!”
And he responded:
“Thanks Paul! I honestly think we should fete politicians who vote with their moral conscience to the rooftops – anyone who remains in Government is morally complicit in its actions.”
November is shaping up to be very busy. I was due to start it in Lisbon but the twin demands of work and threat of enforced quarantine on my return caused a postponement. Instead I’ve 5 speeches / events to run from the confines of my Home Office or that of Bees Homes Country Office and views to die for!
#Distributedworking is now becoming the norm. The housing market is awash with urban buyers looking for country idylls in which to combine home and work as a result of Covid and firms relocating and changing their working patterns. Here’s just one example from Reuters of 19th October:
“Deloitte said Saturday it would close four of its 50 offices in the UK — but staff will remain at the big four firm on work-from-home contracts.“
An updated report from thinktank New Financial notes 332 financial services firms have already moved jobs out of London because of Brexit, up from 60 last time they looked in March. It makes sobering reading but presents a huge opportunity for the agile, tenacious and knowledgeable professional.
As I will suggest in a forthcoming presentation awareness of the importance of the role of knowledge professionals is growing as firms struggle with knowledge loss due to downsizing, finding ‘stuff’ in opaque systems, collaborating effectively and facilitating virutal conversations.
It promises to be an interesting 3 months: the US Election; further global lockdowns; UK’s severing of ties with Europe; and yours truly taking on the role of CILIP President at a time of great change!