Nov 12 2015

Weaving Networks in Melbourne – ISS Fellowship Day 2

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This is the second in a series of post of my ISS Fellowship. For context check out part 1.

As I mentioned from part 1, Arthur Shelley and I found a zillion things to talk about, so much that when we got on the train to go into Melbourne Tuesday morning we forgot to validate our train fares and had to jump out at the first station, tap our passes and jump back on the train.

I was fascinated to learn about Arthur’s process of designing his classes and training offerings. He uses a lot of storytelling prompts and little vignettes to help us NOTICE our practices. This was put into action right on the train. We sat down in facing benches with one other person sitting next to me. We dove right back into our conversation about how we teach and a million other things.

Arthur started asking me a series of questions to demonstrate an activity he did. One of the questions was, “how many people are in this conversation.” Well, I said “it may be a bit improper to say this out loud, but really, there are three of us as I think the woman next to me has been interested and listening.” She immediately admitted she had picked up a thing or two and from that moment on, she was actively a part of our conversation. A musician, she teaches people how to sing and Arthur passed over his card and invited her to coffee to tell her about the Creativity Conference he is planning next year. Instant network augmentation on the train. Instead of staring at your phone, see what can happen?

NickHerftBetterEvaluationRMITOnce in town, and after an amazing slice of toasted and buttered fruit bread at Druid’s Cafe (I’ll be back), I headed off to another cafe to meet Nick Herft of the Better Evaluation team. We’ve talked on Skype, but never met. I was curious to learn about Nick’s key insights after his time working on the project. We met up at my second cafe of the day, Pearson and Murphy’s. Flat black coffee and a friand. mmmm….

Nick has seen the revision of parts of the site and tracked user behavior. I was interested in his observations about the challenges of a front page of a site that is SO rich in information and serves very diverse users. Most people arrive via a Google search for a particular topic, with fewer working their way methodically through the site. But without that “walk through” it is easy to miss all the goodies that Better Evaluation has to offer.  I asked Nick if I could do a quick video interview about some of his key learnings and he’s thinking about it – stay tuned!

IMG_20151110_135236528On to cafe #3, Mr. Tulk at the beautiful public library to meet up with old friend Joyce Seitzinger of Academic Tribe.  Hopefully you have picked up by now the threads of my first days on the fellowship – connecting and eating. :-) I particularly wanted to catch up with Joyce not only to just catch up, but to probe her deep knowledge about elearning to inform not only my week working here with educators, but also some work I’m doing on elearning in Africa and in the agricultural finance sector. You see, with a great network, you can improve your research right off the bat by eating and conversing together. In fact, as I look across the days here, conversation and dialog has been one of the centerpieces of everything I’ve done.

IMG_20151110_130141338_HDRAfter a bite to eat we wandered the streets and ended up in yet another cafe. This time I did not get the name, but it was a nice quiet place along the river. Those who know me well will be reassured that I had switched to herbal tea at this point, as we finished our conversations.

I circled back to Druid’s to meet up with Arthur and we took a quick visit into the Victorian Library with its fabulous dome. I was impressed with how full and busy the library was, with nary a spare seat to be found.

The second to last event of the day and the first formal “event” of my fellowship was to facilitate a session of the Melbourne Knowledge Management Leaders Forum, or the venerable, 16-year old KMLF as it is known. This is my third visit to the group and this time I wanted to share what I’ve been learning and practicing with Liberating Structures.

I love how the KMLF meetups start with two traditions: making a social network map of who is in the room, and a bit of wine, cheese and informal networking. I shared a few stories, and then we did a few of the structures, followed by a debrief with What, So What, What Next, one of my favorite quick debrief methods.  Slides are here and a photo collage at the bottom.

Stewart French volunteered to drive Arthur and I home, and again, the ride was a fast paced lively conversation, this time on the role of visuals and graphic facilitation, and creativity in general. After a shared bite, then my friend Brad Beach and my overall fellowship host picked me up for the hour ride to Korumburra in Gippsland. Long day, full of friends, colleagues and yes, CONVERSATION. We  learn, live and really enjoy ourselves through conversation!





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Nov 10 2015

Beginning my ISS Fellowship in Australia

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Life is always full of surprises and just under two months ago my old pal and colleague, Brad Beach rang me up to wonder if I’d be game to come down under as part of an International Specialised Skills Institute Fellowship, and be hosted by his new working home, Chisholm Institute TAFE. You know, it is not only easy to say yes to Brad, but I always know it will be a fun adventure. So for the next few blog posts I’ll be documenting what I’m doing, where I’m going, who I’m hanging out with, and most importantly, what I’m eating. No, only kidding. What I’m LEARNING!

This first entry is mostly for context setting!IMG_20151109_074826975

After facilitating for the Language Learning Flagship in Honolulu last week I hopped on two planes and headed to Melbourne arriving Sunday night at 10:30 pm to be graciously picked up by Patricia Rogers, my evaluation guru, founder of BetterEvaluation and friend from RMIT. Patricia had just returned from one trip and was about to head out Monday morning, but we were able to have a conversation about our lives and Better Evaluation over a dram of whiskey in the late evening and over coffee in the morning before she was off to the AEA conference in Chicago. I neglected to get a shot of Patricia, but I was quite taken by her counter balancing cat. I think there was a metaphor to start off the trip – keep balancing! (And keep eating, it seems.)

You know, friendship networks are amazing. Patricia’s son kindly drove me into Melbourne center. I parked my bags with Arthur Shelley of Organizational Zoo fame. Arthur and his wife Joy was hosting me at their home and Arthur organized a chance for me to do a Liberating Structures session for theKMLF (knowledge Management Leadership Forum)  community on Tuesday. More on that in a separate post.

NancyWISSTeamMy first stop was lunch with Bella Irlicht, AM, of the ISS. I got to meet the dynamic staff trio of Bella, Ken Greenhill and Paul Sumner.  As we discussed what kind of report they wanted, I mentioned I was thinking about blogging the trip, including pictures and videos. So we took a selfie right on the spot.

I did not know a lot about the ISS prior to my arrival, and over a delicious lunch of a fig and ricotta salad (see, I am obsessed with food) we had a chance to get to know each other (both grandmothers) and Bella filled me in on the history and work of the Institute. Being half Italian, it was really interesting to learn that the start of the Institute (1990 by Sir James Gobbo, AC, CVO), which is hosted by the Italian Cultural Center, came from the wave of Italian craftspeople who came to Australia post World War 2 and how Australians could learn from these centuries deep communities overseas, fellowshipinfobuilding internal skills here in Australia.

I was brought in on the “reverse” program where fellows come in to share knowledge in Australia. My particular fellowship is the HESG Industry Leaders Fellowship Program sponsored by the Victoria Department of Educating and Training and hosted, as I noted, by Chisholm. The plan was for me to work with teachers across the various Chisholm campuses, along with folks from Community Learning and eWorks. Of course, I wove in a few more opportunities as you will see.

After lunch and a quick gelato, because Melbourne’s Italian section is superb, I headed back to the business school at RMIT to meet up with Arthur. We had met on my previous trips down under, but this was the first time we’d have time to really chat and learn from each other.

arthuratkmlfI was able to sit in and observe Arthur at work teaching at the Business school on organizational leadership to leaders from Vietnam. It was really useful to see the more subtle parts of his work with the Organizational Zoo cards, and how he negotiated meaning of the archetypes across cultures. I’ve been thinking a lot about how different methods work across diversity (particularly Liberating Structures) and this gave me a bit more insight about how to lightly raise the issues without letting the cultural lessons overshadow the intent of the exercise or process.  I also continue to be interested in the use of cards for learning and other processes. I like the kinesthetic and visual aspects.

In the evening Arthur and I chatted nonstop. Like, as they say here down under, a house on fire. I have arrived at the conclusion that we are very kindred spirits. One thought I had right off is to introduce Arthur to some of the Chisholm folks as there is a strong element of leadership in teaching and learning.

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Sep 17 2015

Empherality, KM, Inner Reform and Social Impact

IMGP3464Blogs are ephemeral. Today someone referenced a broken link on my blog back from 2005. I cruised across the page and alas, found many dead links. There was one quote on knowledge management that is still resonant to me… and the blog is gone. (Some of the posts are still visible via the amazing Wayback machine. For example here and here.)

Olaf’s Notebook: What is the relation between KM and inner reform?This post from Olaf’s Notebook speaks for itself: What is the relation between KM and inner reform?Knowledge management as social system change requires an inner reform of people involved. Where KM projects are usually ‘sold’ on the basis of business cases, they should be sold on the basis of ‘humanity and consciousness cases’ to be effective drivers for social system change.What can we do if we cannot cope with some aspects of our lives, if we fail in our relationships with other people, if we destroy our opportunities for the future, if we become ill because of work stress? Good chance that we will be advised to start psychotherapy.What happens if our organizations destroy societal trust relationships, opportunities for future generations, if they make workers ill because of work stress, or exploit workers and children in low-wages countries? Good chance organizational leadership receives shareholders’ praise, bonuses, and fame as a captain of industry. No psychotherapy there, and one could only wonder about this double standard.Corporations and governments debate endlessly on corporate social responsibility, draw up sustainability reporting schemes, codes of conduct etc. I do not deny these agreements can represent steps forward toward sustainable corporate policies. However, what is right or wrong for companies and company leaders to do is not so hard to imagine”

Source: Full Circle Online Interaction Blog: 11/01/2005 – 12/01/2005

In a bit of kismet, the Straits Knowledge newsletter arrived today with a link to a paper from my friend Patrick Lambe on Knowledge Organization and Social Impact. There is resonance from Olaf’s writing in 2005.

KM as an inner practice. Knowledge (in all its forms and practices) as a core for social impact. Lots of good stuff. Only need time and presence to weave the ideas and make sense. Or to lose things and to find them anew with fresh eyes. To destroy to create.

Ah, I dream.

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Sep 16 2015

Sharing Practices from Project Community 15

flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I’m hip deep into this year’s Project Community course with the Hague University of Applied Sciences. Again, one of my fabulous partners is Alan Levine, aka Cogdog. I love working with Alan because we together we identify a need, throw ideas back and forth, then experiment and iterate. Alan is, among MANY things,  a tech steward, so not only can he experiment with present external tools, but he can tinker with our core technology, WordPress, and hack even more functionality out of it. (Want to learn more about Alan and his tech stewardship? Watch this.)

I’m a great resource finder/sharer. We have tried a variety of ways to share these resources with our students and to encourage their own resource sharing. We’ve tried curating a library of links in a Google doc, putting them on a WordPress page, dumping them in the program’s Facebook page, Tagboard (for resources shared via Twitter)  and Storify. But we have not been satisfied. So here is this year’s hack from Alan:

Nancy and I are exploring ways for the #ProjComm15 to generate a community built resource. There are many ways to group curate content yet most involve asking you to Sign Up For Another Tool And Go There All The Time. We want to try something easier that works into the flow we are already asking you to do– use your team blog.

When you find a resource really worth sharing, most typically people push it to a social media stream, our facebook group, maybe even twitter with our hashtag more or less saying “here is something neat”. That works if you happen to see it, but it just rushes on by.  We still encourage you to do this as a stream of raw information resource just include a #projcomm15 tag in it; it will flow into our tagboard.

But go one step farther. If the resource is really useful, write a short blog post on your blog. Make sure you add a tag (a box for tags is on the side of your composer and add the tag coolstuff (one word, no space), and any othe useful descriptor tags. When published, all of these post will show up on our site via . Automatically. Without using another new tool.

Posts on Projcomm Faculty blog  written by Nancy White

ProjComm always stimulates me to pay attention to the flow of ideas and resources that come across my screen, so I’m enjoying blogging them. Sometimes I tweet or Facebook the posts right after I put them up to do a little more amplification/cross pollination. If you have anything cool to share, let me know!

Source: coolstuff | From the Project Community Faculty

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Sep 09 2015

What art can teach us about knowledge work

painting4How Art Reveals the Limits of Neuroscience” by Alva Noë is a fascinating read that asks us to step beyond the idea that we are our brains. It is stimulating me to reflect on some things I’ve been trying to articulate about knowledge sharing and  the transformation knowledge into new ideas, application, etc. It relates to some conversations on how we share knowledge across research projects, between journalists who care about their communities, and people who are trying to improve the world.

In observing how our experience of art changes when someone else shares their experience of the work, Noë writes:

This shift — from not seeing to seeing, from seeing to seeing differently, from not getting it to getting it — is actually very common. We live and learn, look and ask, bring what’s around us into focus continuously. At least part of what makes art different, or special, is that it yields the opportunity not only to “get” something, perhaps something new, but also to catch ourselves in the very act. In this way, art illuminates us to ourselves.

Interestingly, when I started to read it, I was not actually looking at art itself. The experience Noë writes about resonated deeply to my experiences of seeing people take in an idea and transform it into something they can use, apply, and “own” in the very productive sense. Own it in terms of being able to to use it meaningfully. Imagine a way of reducing open defecation, or changing water use habits. Imagine being able to take the building blocks of an idea and transform it into a locally useful solution. She frames it as the “world as the playing field for our activity,” and thus the interplay with it.

“This is not to deny that the world acts on us, triggering events in the nervous system. Of course it does! But the thing is, we act right back. Every movement of the eye, head, and body changes the character of our sensory coupling to the world around us. Objects are not triggers for internal events in the nervous system; they are opportunities or affordances for our continuing transactions with them. The world shows up, in experience, not like a diagram in a brain chart but as the playing field for our activity. Not the brain’s activity. Our activity. Not activity inside our head. But activity in the world around us.”

Now that I’ve read it, I’m thinking about how art can help me address my challenges with knowledge work!! Take a few minutes to read the article.

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