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.

Sample Topics Include:

The Three Eras of Knowledge Management

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.

Read More on The Three Eras of Knowledge Management on Nancy's Blog

KM: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

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.

Five Actions Organizations Can Take to Increase Knowledge Sharing

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.

Collective Sensemaking: Where KM is headed

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.

Managing in the Age of the Knowledge Worker

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.

The Oscillation Principle

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. 

The Latest From Nancy's Blog

What Clients Say

"Nancy provides strategic insights to ConocoPhillips. Her ideas spawned our knowledge sharing program (still flourishing today). She was instrumental in getting our execs onboard: a company that connects and operates like a global company would drive business value..."

Dan Ranta
Director, Knowledge Sharing, ConocoPhillips

Read More Testimonials

"I am impressed by Nancy’s work on knowledge transfer and sensemaking. Her recent work on collective sense making, harnessing collective wisdom to handle organizational complexity, is ground breaking and fascinating..."

Eric Tsui, Professor, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and
VP Hong Kong Knowledge Management Society

Read More Testimonials

“I know that Nancy understands better than anyone the difference between mere talking and real communication. She is expert at helping groups of people speak listen authentically and intelligently as an important step toward shared understanding, effective problem solving, and innovative thinking..."

Don Cohen
Managing Editor, NASA ASK Magazine

Read More Testimonials

"HEMA Academie is the largest online academy in the Netherlands, we made the course "Common Knowledge Organizational Learning" because of an interview with Nancy. She is gifted with a special kind of energy and has the power to analyze complex problems as an enthusiastic team player..."

Drs. Helma van den Berg,
Head of production, HEMA Academie

Read More Testimonials

"Working with Nancy, I've seen first-hand the power of collective sensemaking. Bringing analytic tools to bear provided new insights into interdependent activities, overall system functioning, and leverage points. Collective sensemaking helps teams work smarter."

Mike Silver
SVP of Corporate Operations, HealthInsight

Read More Testimonials

"Nancy pulled off a great feat at the US Army KM conference. She got the whole room talking, all 200 of them! It broke the mold of presentation after presentation. The feedback was overwhelmingly, "Let's do more of this at the next conference."

COL Charles Burnett
Deputy Director, Center for Army Lessons Learned, Fort Leavenworth, KS

Read More Testimonials

"Her approach to collective sensemaking drives how we teach knowledge management, facilitate communities of practice, and coach highly effective teams of leaders. There is no better way to create competitive advantage in the 21st Century knowledge environment."

Mike Hower
Chief Learning Officer, Strategic Knowledge Solutions, Inc.

Read More Testimonials

Recent Client Successes

The US Army KM conference had a very traditional format, three or four speakers in a row, with a few minutes of Q&A then on to the next speaker. Working with the conference design committee, we introduced interaction opportunities spread throughout the conference that made a huge difference for participants...
Read More

Ecopetrol, the largest company in Colombia, held a Technological Environment Forum to build a knowledge management strategy for the company through the work of more than 100 leaders. The Forum contacted Nancy and asked her to come to help them understand effective knowledge management strategy...
Read More

Huawei had twice attempted to implement KM without having achieved the results that had hoped for. When Huawei contacted Nancy, they knew they wanted to focus on the human side of KM, drawing on what people were learning through their on-the-job experience and how to spread that knowledge...
Read More

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement is a leading innovator in health and health care improvement worldwide. I have had the pleasure of consulting to IHI, particularly in the area of “spread” for over 10 years. But until recently IHI has not had a knowledge management program or staff...
Read More

We were able to help save the knowledge developed in the canceled NASA Constellation project. Working with NASA’s Dave Lengyel, we brought together engineers from all 10 NASA centers to develop a knowledge capture strategy...
Read More