Monday, December 24, 2007

Barriers to Knowledge Exchange

A recent post on Jack Vinson's blog pointed to a very interesting article titled Why We do Dumb or Irrational Things: 10 Brilliant Social Psychology Studies.

Psyblog also recently featured a post titled When We Are Fools To Ourselves.

I've grown somewhat infatuated with subjects like social psychology, social anthropology, cultural anthropology etc. in the context of enabling personal and organizational change, and facilitating knowledge creation and knowledge/information exchange.

I think Psyblog is one to watch. It seems to present complex psychological topics in simple language.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Meeting Rules

David Meiser, author of numerous books (my favourites being the Trusted Advisor and First Among Equals), started a conversation on Meeting Rules. Funny how making meetings more productive seems to be a recurring theme and common problem in organizations, despite the volumes of information and proven practices available out there.

In the blog entry, David asks: "What meeting rules would you propose?"

In my comments, I suggested that the MOST IMPORTANT RULE, maybe the only one is "We will respect each other and ourselves."

Meeting organizers should respect participants by creating an environment that maximizes participation and contributions, and minimizes unnecessary negative impact on workloads - by being clear and explicit about outcomes, objectives, roles, responsibilities, preparation required, meeting structure and underlying process.

All meeting participants should respect each other by:

  • "being there" - being cognitively present in the meeting and focused on contributing to outcomes, and yes, that means turning off cell phones and Blackberry's .. perhaps every meeting room / meeting organizer needs one of these -
  • tabling all relevant information to enable everyone to make fully informed choices and decisions
    listing to others' opinions and ideas for value, and not just criticism - balancing advocacy with inquiry
  • being productively candid, and discussing the "undiscussable"

These are a blend of a few principles found in Roger Schwartz' "Using the Facilitative Leader Approach to Create an Organizational Culture of Collaboration." and some of the principles in that video FISH! that you may have seen a few years back.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Another Reason Why KM is more than just IM

On the Anectode blog, Daryl referenced an interesting Star Article by Louise Brown titled The fine art of (not) lecturing. In it Brown references criticisms of the typical lecture model used in post-secondary education by Nobel laureate Carl Wieman, leader of the $2 million-a-year Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative for improving science learning.

The article references some interesting points:

  • people don't remember what they don't pay attention to
  • short-term memory can only process four ideas at a time - reduce the load and stimulate the brain
  • vigorous interaction – the guessing, answering and arguing and persuading – stimulates protein in the brain, which in turn helps anchor ideas into long-term memory
  • we remember only those things we think have meaning at the time, and ignore everything else (Ever re-read something months or years from the original read only to take away a whole new understanding? I certainly have.)
  • we can remember only seven items at a time and can process only four ideas at once

Given the relative truth in these statements, and the old axiom in the facilitation world that "the brain falls asleep 2.8 seconds after your posterior does," I wonder why lecture based "training," with a typical talking head at the front of the room, is still often equated with effective learning. Why so many corporate communication, or "change management" programs focus on pushing information, presuming that once communicated, it will be consumed, understood, accepted and duly acted upon. And why groups often resist efforts to facilitate the interactivity necessary to generate mutual learning in support of problem solving and decision making into meetings and workshops.

If you at least notionally agree that knowledge is created through active learning in context, supported by quality, relevant content, then it is critical for the exchange / transfer of knowledge to be highly interactive, with active engagement by the learner in the process. Passivity is counter productive.

Sounds a bit like adult learning 101, doesn't it? At least it seems to be the common ground for collaboration between human resource management and knowledge management.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another Spin on Management Innnovation

Interestingly, The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits (a Fast Company excerpt from the book Forces for Good by authors Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant) contains remarkable similarities to the new management principles suggested in Gary Hamel's book The Future of Management.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Community of Practice Leadership

In my previous post, I mentioned new management principles suggested in Gary Hamel's book The Future of Management:

  • variety, diversity, experimentation, depoliticizing / depolarization of decision making
  • resource allocation flexibility through a market model
  • enabling activism through democracy (devolution of accountability, distributed leadership, unalienable dissention rights)
  • engagement and mobilization through meaning and common cause
  • increasing the odds, and successful contribution, of serendipity
These are in stark contrast to the principles of "modern management," generally comprised of standardization, specialization of tasks and functions, goal alignment, hierarchy, planning and control, and extrinsic rewards. (Well summarized in Gary's book, page 151)

I'm currently working with the leadership team of a project management community of practice to enable them to grow the community and enrichen knowledge conversations and member learning and development. Many of the ideas and concepts in Gary's book have me thinking about what leadership really is in the context of a community of practice, and in turn, their relavence to the specific community I'm working with.

Much has been written about communities of practice (what they are & how they differ from task teams, how they work, value propositions, what the challenges are, nascent vs. seeded, etc.). Much of the writing talks about a variety of roles and responsibilities in the context of communities (e.g. facilitator, coordinator, information manager/librarian), and talks generally community leadership and its importance.

Gary has a very intreaguing reference in The Future of Management to some points from Mary Parker Follett's book, Creative Experience, first published in 1924:
  • leadership is the capaticy to increase the sense of power amonng those being led, in essence to create more leaders
  • difficult problems are best solved by creating "higher-order solutions" through the integration of diverse perspectives of all relavent stakeholders
  • growth of organizations is maximized when the local communities within are effectively self-governed
Certainly visionary thinking for the time.

I'm not sure anyone has specifically, and with any great degree of depth, succintly explored the leadership dimension in communities as it has been explored more broadly in the context of business. At least, I haven't found it yet.

The questions that form in my mind are:
  • What core principles (should) guide community leadership?
  • What should effective community leaders do/act/practice to align with the core principles?
  • What is community leadership and what makes it different than other forms or contexts of leadership?
  • What are the key leadership processes in communities and how are/should they be shared across a leadership team?
  • How can visibility, horizontality, transparency, inclusivity be woven into community leadership, while maintaining or increasing leadership effectiveness?
  • How should community leadership be rewarded/recognized in the context of organizational hierarchy?
As I explore some of these questions with the help of colleagues and experts, I'll share emerging ideas here.