Eng and Corney’s “Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion”

When approached to support knowledge management (KM) in my consulting practice, I often reply “I don’t believe in KM!” This flippant but heartfelt comment reflects the failures I’ve observed as people tried to reduce the complex processes of learning, creating, sharing and applying knowledge into a set of “best practices” and databases. It was as if KM was a mechanical but glorified tool, like a fancy food processor, admired while new, and then left on the shelf. Most KM approaches failed to understand that at the heart of creating, sharing, adapting knowledge is embedded in our entrained human behaviors and rarely successfully redirected by rules. Especially for busy people. Yes, I am a skeptic of of many KM approaches.

So when Paul Corney and Patricia Eng invited me to take a look at their new book, “Navigating the Mindfield: A Practical KM Companion,” I had a glimmer of hope. Why? I have interacted online with Paul for many years via the global community of practice on KM in international development, KM4Dev, and have found him sensible and practical, while also pushing and looking forward. Those are all good indicators of a viable KM approach. 

Eng and Corney’s book is at first a somewhat basic and “obvious” book. It ticks the check marks around understanding what KM is and it’s diverse value proposition. It is a GREAT introductory text for someone who has just been handed a KM responsibility. It is filled with common sense, which we know from experience isn’t always so common. Usefully it is grounded with stories exemplifying the ideas provided: a real world check. 

For me, as an “old hand,” the book sings in Chapter 7 – What Surprised Us. After analyzing all their interviews and research, Eng and Corney put their heads together to identify the surprises that ultimately spring from what they describe as KM being “all about people.” People are not orderly, obedient and prepared to live in the (fantasy) land of “best practices.” Their contexts are diverse and often complex. In describing these surprises, the authors sketch out the reality that KM is a complex practice and requires complexity appropriate strategies and adaptations. My favorite is #2, “Operational KM to the fore, strategic KM to the rear.” This is a classic polarity, a wicked question. How can we be both operational and strategic? Focus solely on an operational challenge, KM dies when that operational imperative ends. Strategic only and buy in at the front line rarely happens. KM, at its best, dances within these two polarities, rather than tries to resolve them. 

The issue for me is to be always thinking forward about KM and how it can add value in ways the generatively move a system in the direction we want it to go. If we rely on a single model or framework, that task is impossible. So watch out for the trap!

If you are just starting out with KM, read the whole book and absorb the stories and lessons. If you are an old/jaded/in-a-rut practitioner, start with Chapter 7 and be prepared to discover lessons you probably already know, but haven’t applied. That darned old common sense isn’t always so common. So let’s start practicing it again. Let’s get more creative … or maybe that isn’t the word. Let’s use, for example, complexity frameworks to understand and expand what works and ditch the failing old plans. Maybe KM can be real!

KM4Dev and Bev and Etienne Wenger-Trayner – April 6-7 2017

Care about communities of practice? Care about how we build and share knowledge in any context? In international development? Like hanging out with fun and interesting people? Then get yourself registered for a regional KM4Dev gathering here in Seattle on April 6-7. Our focus is communities of practice: the heaven and everything else. (Registration)

Our goal is to share practical experiences of the application of Communities of Practice (CoPs) and explore what is working, not working, when and why or why not. As practitioners, we will share stories and cases on day 1 to extract patterns and insights with a particular focus on the purpose of a CoP in a particular context, its fitness for purpose and practices that support success.

On day 2, tighten your seat belts as we will host a rare public workshop with CoP leading thinkers, Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner who will share their Value Creation Framework to  identify and measure value created by communities and networks. Together, the two days will link the essential anchor of purpose, with an emerging framework for assessing our progress towards purpose. I don’t know about you, but there are not many frameworks that really dig into the value of CoPs and networks… too many just measure activity. This is a GOLD MINE, my friends. Don’t miss it!

This is a practitioners workshop, using examples and experience, bolstered by theory. It is not a “CoP’s Introductory” workshop nor a review of CoP theory. Come with your real world stories, challenges and insights, prepared to share, think, and make sense of our work. We will use a variety of participatory methods, many drawn from Liberating Structures http://www.liberatingstructures.com/, to engage and unleash the knowledge and energy of everyone present.

Don’t work in international development? We still love and welcome you!

We will gather in the brand new Centilia Cultural Center at Plaza Roberto Maestas http://www.elcentrodelaraza.org/room-rentals/, hosted by the long time Seattle institution, El Centro de la Raza. In the south end of Seattle, steps away from a Light Rail station, the Center itself is a hub of community and network activity of the Latino community in the area.

Come both days or just one (same price either way). Just JOIN US. Register HERE. Questions? Leave them in the comments.

Connections Shape Us – Food for Thought from Scientific American

Good food for thought on a Monday morning.
From the Scientific American blog post

Network thinking lets us scientifically understand the world around us as one of connections that shape observed phenomena, rather than as one where the intrinsic properties of people, genes, or particles determine outcomes. Like previous scientific revolutions, the network revolution also has the promise of reshaping our basic commonsense expectations of the world around us, and may allow us to recognize that we are not a basically individualistic, asocial, and quarrelsome creature that comes in bounded linguistic, ethnic, racial, or religious types, but a social species linked to one another by far-reaching network ties.

via How Networks Are Revolutionizing Scientific (and Maybe Human) Thought | Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network.

Elinor Ostrom’s 8 Principles for Managing A Commmons – Words to Live By

The work of Elinor Ostrom comes up again and again as I engage with people from different parts of my diverse network. This is always an indicator to PAY ATTENTION. Here is a brief summary of Ostrom’s * Principles for Managing a Commons via “On the Commons.” This has been in my draft file for too long, so I’m getting it OUT!

A classic example of this was her field research in a Swiss village where farmers tend private plots for crops but share a communal meadow to graze their cows. While this would appear a perfect model to prove the tragedy-of-the-commons theory, Ostrom discovered that in reality there were no problems with overgrazing. That is because of a common agreement among villagers that one is allowed to graze more cows on the meadow than they can care for over the winter—a rule that dates back to 1517. Ostrom has documented similar effective examples of “governing the commons” in her research in Kenya, Guatemala, Nepal, Turkey, and Los Angeles.

Based on her extensive work, Ostrom offers 8 principles for how commons can be governed sustainably and equitably in a community.

8 Principles for Managing a Commons

  1. Define clear group boundaries.
  2. Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions.
  3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.
  4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities.
  5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior.
  6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.
  7. Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution.
  8. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system.

As I prepare to facilitate a research scientists team retreat with communications and teamwork on the agenda, I am refreshing myself with some foundational ideas and thinking. Anything else I should be looking at or revisiting?

via Elinor Ostrom’s 8 Principles for Managing A Commmons | On the Commons.

Why The ____ Would I Wake Up at 4am for a Hangout? Project Community – CogDogBlog

Why The ____ Would I Wake Up at 4am for a Hangout? Project Community 

Alan shared a great blog post about the final Project Community Hangout – it is wonderful so I’m being a lazy blogger and pointing you towards it. I’ll have a final reflective blog on this… but later! I need to catch up on my sleep first!

Of course, I also have to share the great pic Alan found…

Why The ____ Would I Wake Up at 4am for a Hangout? Project Community - CogDogBlog