29 September 2014

Knowledge Management is important because...

Today, Stephen Bounds of knowquestion asked the Australian KM community to complete the sentence "For me, Knowledge Management is important because..."

My answer:
For me, Knowledge Management is important because traditional management styles
have lead to short-sighted tactics and fractured decision making.
Organisations expand, but get stiffer and more arthritic as they grow.
Good Knowledge Management keeps the parts connected and flexible allowing
organisations to gain the strength of size without losing the flexibility and resiliencethey had during their infancy.  In a marketplace of exponential change, this abilityto sense and respond quickly is fast becoming the hallmark of success.

What do you think? Why is KM important to you?
Stuart French.

19 July 2014

The power of keeping a diary?

A few of my friends journal or keep diaries. I don't...yet...sort of.

Let me explain. For me, keeping a diary is about sitting down at the end of the day and jotting down your thoughts before switching off the light and going to sleep.  Well, 1) By the time I hit the sack my wife is usually already out and so are the lights, 2) Keeping a diary just seems like so much work for little benefit, and 3) When would I ever have time to review it and get an value out of it?

Maybe you feel the same way and struggle for quality thought time the way I do, or maybe you have been keeping a diary for years and know the benefits of it.

Last night while catching up with my KM mentor, Arthur Shelly, he talked to me about my mix of intellectual and creative thought modes and how I practice and combine them, cutting SQL code while gaining inspiration from a watercolour I had painted some weeks before.  He encouraged me to follow this combination further by watching a video of Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile about tracking your small wins.  Below is the video and a few notes about how (and why) to keep a diary.

Studying Creativity

The study Teresa conducted of hundreds of creative professionals during the course of one entire project captured not just their organisational results, but also their inner work life, thoughts, wins and concerns.

Two major insights

1) Our inner emotional state has a massive impact on our ability to perform complex tasks that have a significant creative component, and perhaps more importantly,
2) That small wins, (what she terms the "Progress Principle") have a large impact on our motivation pertaining to creative tasks.
So maybe glancing at my paintings puts my mind into a creative mode, or perhaps it is also the sense of accomplishment I feel looking at my paintings that helps stir the creative juices?

A few of Teresa's quick steps to keeping a diary

  1. Choose an easy to use diary solution
  2. Settle your mind at the end of the day
  3. Reflect on what was important to you during the day
  4. Then capture it.

But Capture what?

  • Your progress - Small wins, big wins.
  • Crystal moments - Things that are important to your inner work life but will probably be forgotten
  • Things you are grateful for
  • Hassles and problems
  • One thing you can do the next day that will catalyse your progress
  • Or anything at all that you want to keep track of.

A few diary options

  1. The 5-year diary has sections for five years on each page so as you write an entry, above is what you did this day a year, 2 years before.
  2. I Done This is an online tool that allows teams to diarise project progress together.  Definitely an interesting knowledge capture tool.
  3. Microsoft One Note is used by my friend Nicky Hayward-Wright, Knowledge Manager at GS1. She doesn't just write, but also draws and sketches in hers which interests me.
  4. I personally use Evernote, mainly because it works so well on the iPad Mini and the synching has never let me down.

Is journalling the same as keeping a diary?

By the way, I mentioned above that I "sort of" don't keep a diary.  I actually do journal almost every meeting, planning session, idea, interesting website, and academic paper that I come across using Evernote.
I also write this blog for the larger, philosophical issues, and I am writing a set of parables to help managers understand and remember basic principles of complexity.

I am also a prolific wiki user at work and like to share thoughts, ideas, change notes, progress reports, etc so the team (and people down the track) benefit from my thoughts during a project. Sort of a shared diary I suppose.

So maybe starting to record my little wins and problems at the end each day isn't such a big step after all?
What about you?  Do you keep a diary?  What type? Paper or electronic?  Do you review it?  If you don't, do you still get value out of just jotting down your thoughts on a regular basis? Let me know in the comments below.

09 April 2014

The power of a complex international network

Many of you know I have been evolving and presenting a talk on using the game of Go to introduce Complexity Theory and the Cynefin framework to business-people for the last ten years or so.

What you may not know is my search for a 1940's era article talking about how Japanese military strategies in WWII closely resembled Go strategy.  It included the picture of South East Asia with a Go Board overlaid on it that you see on your right.  I have been looking for this article for over 5 years now to use in my presentation with no success, so how did I finally get hold of it?  I had tried using my own Twitter and Facebook networks, although there aren't many Go players in those networks so no success.

For several years I have been subscribed to the American Go Associations excellent Newsletter.

Recently they have run a quiz, asking their readers what are the most recognised popular references to Go in the Western world.  One example is the movie "A Beautiful Mind" where Russell Crow plays a game against his friend in the university quadrangle shown below.

I thought one of their readers might have heard of or seen the Japanese WWII article so I emailed the editors and asked the question.

Just two days later, and three of their readers had responded with links to the article which actually occurred in LIFE magazine in 1942.
The link to the full article is here and it shows as much insight in to the American culture at the time as it does on the Japanese soldiers and generals trained in the game, but the lesson for me is clear:

Find the image by myself with the awesome power of Google and the internet?
 - 5 years, no result
Find the article via a network of interested experts?
 - Just 2 days with a link to the full article.


09 July 2013

Deciding to make (and remember) better decisions

In the ever more complex environments we work in today, the ability to make good decisions quickly is just as important as it was in yesteryear. Arguably the need to do it well may have increased simply because our competitors have more access to information, knowledge and expertise than ever before.

The specialisation of roles means that we can make much more informed decisions, but it also means that decision making mechanisms in companies need to be much more collaborative.  Techniques like Consensus Decision-Making are regularly used, not just to reach an optimal conclusion, but also to get buy-in from the various parties and stakeholders.  Knowledge Management has long sought to assist with methods to overcome cultural and organisational barriers to the knowledge sharing required for these sorts of decisions to work, and Dave Snowden goes so far as to define Knowledge Management's key goal as supporting improved decision making.

Dave Griffiths is always banging on about organisations needing to become more resilient and how KM can play a key role in making that happen.  He identifies decision making and the processes around it as one of the ways organisations can achieve greater resilience.

But there is more to KM's role than just making good decisions.  Sharing the process with others in different places, contexts, times and projects is key to building that resilience.

This post by Nick Milton talks about the interesting idea of Decision Logs.  Some government bodies use and publish these to keep their stakeholder abreast of why key decisions were made, both for transparency as well as assisting in future decisions.

Cloud based tools like Hexigo provide a way for you organisation to record the interactions, ideas, suggestions and refutations that go in to making a decision.  The reason I like Hexigo is because it isn't just an archive.  It's a decision making tool that provides a central space for decision-related activities that beats email hands down in terms of reducing confusion and keeping your people focused on the real issue being discussed.  But the real beauty of Hexigo is that it conforms with my long stated idea that the only successful way to capture knowledge in the long term is to do so in context and within the flow of doing the work itself. Unlike other tools where a log needs to be generated or emails need to be tagged and archived, simply using Hexigo creates a historical log of what the main issues behind the decision were, who the main players were, what aspects were problematic, what decision was eventually made, and perhaps more importantly if design is involved; what decisions were rejected and why.

When I give my 1-minute elevator speech about KM, I start by saying that it helps organisations stop reinventing the wheel. Of course that is important - chiselling a circle out of stone isn't easy work! - but just as important is to stop them rediscovering the wheel. That means they need to know the downsides of triangle wheels, square wheels, wheels made of cheese, etc.

Come to think of it, I can't think of any disadvantages to a cheese wheel so accidentally reinventing one every now and then must be a good thing, surely.

30 April 2013

The Real list of the worlds best business story practitioners

Today my friend Shawn Callahan posted a list of the worlds best business storytellers.  You can read it here.

I know of several of the people on it and think it's a pretty good list.  But it seems flawed to me because it doesn't include Shawn himself, who I think is definitely worthy of being mentioned in this company.

So, without further adieu I give you the REAL list of the worlds best business story practitioners :)

Mary Alice Arthur - New Zealand - http://www.getsoaring.com/
David Boje - USA http://peaceaware.com/vita/
Sean Buvala - USA - http://seantells.com/
Bob Dickman - USA - http://www.first-voice.com/
Eva Snijders - Spain - http://evasnijders.com/
Terrence Gargiulo - USA - http://www.makingstories.net/
One Thousand and One - Australia - http://www.onethousandandone.com.au/
Limor Shiponi - Israel - http://www.limorshiponi.com/limor/
Annette Simmons - USA - http://www.annettesimmons.com/
The Storytellers - UK - http://www.the-storytellers.com/
Story Worldwide - UK - Sarah Kelleher http://www.storyworldwide.com/profiles/sarah-kelleher/
Sheila Wee - Singapore - http://storywise.com.sg/storytelling/
Shawn Callahan - Melbourne, Australia - http://www.anecdote.com.au 

14 April 2013

Knowledge Management Influencers announced.

Most Influential in KM
I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when Keith de la Rue congratulated me on being recognised in the top 100 most influential people in #KM on Twitter.

Click on the logo to the right for more information.

It was an even bigger honor when I checked it out, to not only find that I was 17th, but more importantly surrounded by an amazing list of names in the industry.   
I don't feel in any way worthy to be listed with them and I am aware that the Top 100 list looks at Twitter only, where I have focus much of my sharing efforts, thus leaving out quite a few very highly regarded people.

People like We Know More, Dave Snowden and David Gurteen go without saying and it was most exciting to see so many Australians up in the list.  John Tropea, Arthur Shelly, Keith De La Rue, Nerida Hart, Matt Moore, Cory Banks, James Robertson, Michelle Lamb, Stephen Collins and James Dellow are all there, as well as Michael Sampson and a few of our New Zealand friends.  Also on the list is David Griffith (@kmskunkworks) from the University of Edinburgh who I think has one of the most enjoyable blogs in KM at the moment.

The thing that really stands out to me as an indication of the health of KM is the diversity of views and areas of expertise in the list. To me, Knowledge Management has always been the shoe-lace that holds the rest of the business together as it runs the race and turns the corners that management demands of it.  It pulls Finance, Learning & Development, IT, HR, Corporate Strategy, Sales and Operations together via the Knowledge Lens and encourages collaboration and cooperation across time, distance and people.  It does this encompassing both the formal and social interactions that make up the communications frameworks of our organisations, something that IT and previous iterations of KM failed to do.

It is long since KM was about technology & databases and while these things still play a part, a glance at this list shows that KM is really about people and they way they interact 1) with each other 2) with the resilience and goals of the organisation and 3) with the environment they coexist in.

But most of all, KM for me is about sharing. In this world of information overload and growing understanding of complexity, it is the way we learn to collaborate across teams, organisations and disciplines that is going to help us adapt to the needs of the future.  Today, a piece of information about a certain solution can help my business faster than a 4 year degree's worth of knowledge and I get those nuggets through my network of KM practitioners and professionals. They share with me, because I share my useful ideas and findings with them, for free, and often in response to them posting a problem or issue they are trying to overcome.  I guess that is what this list is identifying.  I hope, whatever your job title is, that you consider joining us.  Build a network of people in and around your life. Look for diversity in culture, trade, race, political opinion and expertise, then start helping people and you will see results. What you sow, you shall reap.

Thank you to Mindtouch for the recognition of the these fantastic people.

Finally, for those who don't understand the power of a professional social network, you are welcome to plug-in to a summary of mine and take advantage of my hard work setting it up.  Each week, Paper.li summarises the top posts from my network of over 450 KM professionals around the world.  You can subscribe to it here: http://paper.li/DeltaKnowledge/KM