My practice with presentations is to talk for a short while and then pose a question to the audience to discuss in small groups, giving them the time to connect what I’ve been talking about to their own knowledge. I then continue the presentation, adding a few more ideas and again provide a question. The average attention span for an adult is 20 minutes. Anything a presenter says after that is lost to memory unless the presenter provides an opportunity for listeners to process the information. Using the talk-then-discuss format, members of the audience retain what they’ve heard because they’ve had the opportunity to put it into their own words in the discussion segments. (See We Learn When We Talk) They also share their own knowledge with others in the audience in a way that coffee breaks just can match. A typical talk with the discussion sections takes about an hour and a half.
Since the term “knowledge management” came into popular usage, there have been three significant changes in how organizations have thought about their knowledge. Each successive era has expanded the type of knowledge that organizations considered important without eliminating the need for and use of the previous type of knowledge. This presentation helps organizations frame where they are and what is coming up for them in their knowledge management journey.
There is a way that most organizations start up their KM efforts and then a next step they usually take, and so on. This presentation lays out that trajectory but most importantly looks at how leading edge organizations are thinking about knowledge management – “where we are going.” I first made this presentation at the Army KM Conference and then revised it for KM Asia and then again for other smaller venues. It's a helpful way for an organization to think about where they currently are and what next steps they want to take.
This presentation focuses on different ways for enterprises to address knowledge sharing, including building relationships, designing spaces (physical and virtual) that encourage conversation, developing and practicing conversation skills, building knowledge sharing into the workflow, and leadership support of the knowledge sharing message. I first made this presentation at a KM World conference, and it has become my most asked for presentation. You can see some of the ideas at Five Actions Organizations Can Take to Increase Knowledge Sharing.
KM has a new responsibility, using the knowledge of the organization to create new knowledge and understanding. KM can do more than move existing knowledge around the organization, it can address strategy, policy and change – all issues that are based in knowledge. Organizations increasingly face complex issues because of globalization, the speed of change, and technological advances. The issues that arise from this complexity are too ambiguous for any one leader or even a team of executives to comprehend. Such issues require a diversity of thought that is dispersed across the whole in order to make sense of the complexity.
Knowledge workers now comprise 40% of the American workforce. According to Morgan Stanley economist, Stephen Roach, knowledge workers are the most rapidly growing segment of white-collar employment. Within the last seven years knowledge worker employment growth has averaged 3.5% per year making their productivity vital to the competiveness of both organizations and the country.
Drucker who first used the term “knowledge worker” provides this simple but profound definition, “A knowledge worker knows more about how to do the task he has responsibility for than does his boss.” That fact alone changes how knowledge workers are managed.
What a distributed workforce needs, in order to work effectively, is a regularly scheduled oscillation between virtual work and collective sensemaking. Collective Sensemaking is an organized conversation, intentionally held to make sense of the circumstances in which organizational members collectively find themselves. Through collective sensemaking all perspectives on a topic are given voice so that an understanding of the whole emerges as well as clarity about the relationship between the parts. In such conversations organizational members often discover assets of which they were unaware.