Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A "News" Opportunity for Knowledge Elicitation

Outsell, in a recent Insight report,  were discussing the rapid and significant changes underway in the print media business on all continents including layoffs, printing plant closures, modifications to news paper formats, sizes and publication frequencies.All in favour of moving more digital.

Certainly a significant transformation for that industry (reminds me a bit of Charles Handy's Sigmoid Curve).  But in the context of knowledge management, in particular knowledge elicitation - helping people make explicit the "deep smarts" gained over years of experience and practice - who better than people in media, particularly reporters to tease out the knowledge gems.

Might the changes in the print media industry be an opportunity for organizations to improve the capture / sharing of knowledge?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Real Roots of Change Resistance

In the Psychology Today blog post The (Only) Five Basic Fears We All Live By Karl Albrecht very succinctly distills and outlines the root fears that drive all others. What I was struck by was how three of those core fears are directly related to change resistance.

  • Loss of Autonomy - fear of being immobilized, paralyzed, restricted, enveloped, overwhelmed, entrapped, imprisoned, smothered, or controlled by circumstances. In a physical form, it's sometimes known as claustrophobia, but it also extends to social interactions and relationships.
  • Separation - fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness - of becoming a non-person - not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else. The "silent treatment," when imposed by a group, can have a devastating psychological effect on the targeted person.
  • Ego-death - fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self; fear of the shattering or disintegration of one's constructed sense of lovability, capability, and worthiness.
A good changes strategy, therefore would deal not just with trying to change attitudes by throwing more information at people, but by truly understanding the fear that is driving the resistance and dealing effectively with it, whether proactively or after the fact. Change leaders should communicate clearly about when change does not affect autonomy, separation (or connectedness) and integrity of the individual.  The change leader should also be clear and transparent about instances where there is impact so people can make informed decisions, and offer some help when appropriate.

Friday, April 27, 2012

3 Questions That Kill Collaboration

What does he/she really mean?  What is she/he not saying? What are his/his real motives?

What these questions all have in common; the presumption of something hidden, the undercurrent of a lack of trust, and most importantly the time considering dealing with them take away from getting work done.

How many times have you been in conversations and got the sense that the listener(s) were running you through a mental MRI machine because they mis-trusted your words and/or body language, and were not taking what you were communicating at "face value?"  How often have you been in conversations and did the same to another speaker?  How often have you been involved in hallway conversation after a meeting where people were trying to "get to the bottom" of what was said in the meeting?

There is no shortage of literature / evidence about the role of trusting relationships has on performance / productivity in work / team / group settings.  Yet, as Larry Prusak, in The One Thing That Makes Collaboration Work points out, trustworthiness is rarely explicitly rewarded in most organizations. 

Of course, if you are thinking appreciatively, you could see these questions, if asked explicitly, as an opportunity to improve collaboration. Provided you can ask them in a non-threatening way and provide some positive reinforcement, and that they they are answered honestly.

Challenge yourself as well.  If you find you are asking these questions of others, consider why, and if they are warranted. Perhaps a bit of time invested in relationship building prior to critical meetings could improve the value of the interaction in them. 

Anyone who has taken a presentation skills course, or any good presenter, will know that varying how your speak - changing tempo, tone, pitch - and using movement - expressions, hand gestures, walking - are good strategies for improving the listener's experience. Ever wonder why? In this video, Daniel Levitin talks about the early origins of music - alterations in pitch and time - for communication that pre-dates language, the primitive parts of the brain affected by music, and the links between language and movement. So, increase the appeal of your presentations, and even your conversations, by incorporating some foundation elements of music. Daniel Levitin is a James McGill Professor of Psychology, Behavioural Neuroscience, and Music at McGill University (Montreal, Quebec), and author of "This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession" and "The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature." and has some serious music production "creds" with some noteworthy bands.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Art & Practice of Pronouncement & Prognostication

I hopped on a local city bus this morning and overheard two people talking about the weather and March heat wave that has blessed (or assaulted, depending on your winter pass-time) much of the northern US and southern Canada.

Like many of us do, the people talking about the weather were offering their own forecast. And like many of us do as well, they were expressing their opinions as definitive statements of certain fact as though they could foresee the future. They didn't preface any of their comments with "I guess," "I think or suspect," "I'm gambling," or even the venerable IMHO.

Yes, in context, we all acknowledge that personal weather prognostication is not based on scientific fact or professional judgment - "It is what it is."

It does make me wonder, though, how much confusion we create by stating option, judgments, or "best guesses" as fact in business (or even personal) contexts that are less clear, and having those words taken literally and acted upon by others.

Clarity on what we're expressing (and opinion vs. fact, or even a preliminary thought vs. a fully formed idea call to action) can go a long way towards ensuring that listeners have the right expectations, reducing confusion, making productive change, and building good relationships.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Psychological neoteny - Insights for Organizational Change?

Bruce Charlton, Professor of Theoretical Medicine, University of Buckingham, UK, hypothesizes that psychological neoteny, “retention of youthful attitudes and behaviors into later adulthood” - thanks to the impact of higher education and more time spent in school - equips people to deal more effectively with our ever changing world. Psychological neoteny would seem to put youthful characteristics of learning readiness and thinking flexibility at our disposal. According to Charlton, "A child-like flexibility of attitudes, behaviours and knowledge is probably adaptive in modern society because people need repeatedly to change jobs, learn new skills, move to new places and make new friends."

So, that perhaps points to value in nurturing youthful attitudes and behaviors in the context of organizational change to help those who are less change-adaptable to become a bit more so.

But, as we all know, youthfulness is a double edged sword, and Charlton points to an associated delay in maturation, particularly among academics, professionals and other groups with long educational cycles. Do you remember being young, unpredictable, quickly shifting priorities, being attached to the next "shiny new thing," maybe being overly superficial, fascinated with short lived fashion?  (I do - though I'll never admit it in public.)

Perhaps then, communications and marketing efforts that support organizational change need to adapt some techniques used to market products and services to youth - "Red Bull gives you wings!"

Bruce Charlton's Miscellany (One of his many blogs)

Psychological Neoteny, NY Times, By Clay Risen

Serious Study: Immaturity Levels Rising - Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Charlton BG. Psychological neoteny and higher education: Associations with delayed parenthood. Medical Hypotheses. 2007; 69: 237-40.

Charlton BG. The rise of the boy-genius: psychological neoteny, science and modern life. Medical Hypotheses. 2006; 67: 679-81

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Library Closures - a Trend? Madness I say! Madness!

Human Resources library closure part of troubling trend - I'll say! For years, much has been written about information overload, challenges with personal information management, finding the "right" needle in the information haystack, the gradual transition information on the Internet from free to "for a fee." And now it appears that organizations are dismantling the very groups that are in the BEST position to have a significant, positive impact on knowledge worker productivity and quality of knowledge work.

Like many of you I'm sure, my love affair with librarians began with my very first contact. Faced with what I thought the insurmountable challenge of writing my first essay in what was known then as "junior high school," I tentatively took my first steps into that sweet space of learning called the Library. There I met the most wonderful person. Welcoming, supportive, inquisitive, brilliant, empathetic, and soooo knowledgeable, my first librarian inquiried about my objective, my challenges, my existing thinking, and helped me navitage through the thousands and thousands of books, magazines, newspapers to the best few relevant to my quest. And she also helped pinpoint specific pages/paragraphs of greatest value, and helped frame up my thinking and approach to the essay. Heaven sent! My stress immediately shrank like a deflating baloon.

Thus began the love affair that has lasted years and years through various educational institutions, public and corporate settings. Definitely a long term relationship that is even richer and deeper today.

I find a lot of people get "juiced up" about how social media and associated technologies are changing how we work in amazing ways. No denying that.  But we're still a long way from - a la Star Trek - saying "computer.. " and having magic happen. Sure, we can more easily build social networks that we can tap into. Sure we can have RSS feeds that send us gobs of content based on some general criteria from sources we choose.  Sure there are lots of blogs and other content sources we can surf. And sure, we can share tags, ranks and comments about the content. OMG can you say "MEGA OVERLOAD!"  Can you say "Information Armageddon!"

Most of us are NOT in the information management business (unless it's your hobby on your personal time). Our job is to do our job, which we can't do if we're spending too much time rifling through / filtering, deciding exactly what to use and learn from - of all of the information from all of the information channels at our disposal - for a specific task.  And do we not often lament that we don't actually have the time to find, and often don't have the access rights for, what we really need? And are the networks of people that we are ever more reliant on filled with people facing the same challenges with little time to help US out?

Is there not very significant value in having highly trained professionals who can:
  • continuously identify, qualify, broker, provide access / point to highly relevant information sources ranging from high-cost subscriptions to leading discussion forums / blogs and even internal information sources?
  • do some preliminary research and analysis to get you off on the right foot?
  • help you connect and dialog with people who share common interests?
  • anticipate what you need and make necessary provisions so there is no lag time between when you need something and when you can access it?
  • participate in and serve the immediate and emerging information / learning needs of the communities you belong to?
  • do the above with quality and timeliness and enthusiasm because it's their primary role?
At its most basic, we consume information and talk with others to learn.  In the context of today's information challenges, let's shorten the learning curve, not lengthen it!  Though the mechanics of the work is changing, we need MORE librarians, not less!

And maybe, just maybe, we all need lessons on how to better leverage this valuable resource.