Archive for April, 2009

KM Practice #19: Techniques in Knowledge Innovation (or: You Experience How Da Vinci Thinks)

April 29, 2009

Leonardo da Vinci's drawing of his helicopter screw concept (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Leonardo da Vinci's drawing of his helicopter screw concept (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Listen to Secretary-General Takenaka of the Asian Productivity Organization:

    “The days when incremental or continuous improvement preoccupied corporate managers are over. It is to innovation and breakthroughs that those managers have turned their attention. For achieving innovation, the most relevant tool is no longer quality control or quality management. It is KM in its broadest sense, which includes value creation or knowledge creation that is the most relevant.”

Listen also to the guru of all management gurus Peter F. Drucker:

    “…the major task in society – and especially in the economy… [is] doing something different rather than doing better what is already being done.”

Here are some practical techniques to hone your skills in knowledge innovation. Do not just read this. PRACTICE! Set aside one day to PRACTICE each bullet point:

  • LISTEN to alternative views on an issue. ASK several people the same question; you will learn different ways to view and think about something.
  • Practice more CURIOSITY. Ask stupid questions. Do you recall how you thought and behaved when you visited a foreign country for the first time? Bring that kind of thinking and behavior here and now.
  • When something goes wrong, ask why. Ask why again. And again. Dig deeper to discover the ROOT CAUSE. When something goes wrong or did not work well, you can bet an action was performed without correct knowledge about something. Don’t blame the person; he did his best according to what he knew. Instead, discover and supply the missing knowledge.
  • Don’t be afraid of criticisms. Go beyond your usual initial emotional reaction and try to better UNDERSTAND the thinking behind the criticism. If you automatically defend yourself when criticized, you will never learn or improve or innovate.
  • Even if nothing is going wrong and business is proceeding as usual, ask your internal or external customers: how can we improve our output? Don’t aim to just satisfy her, try to discover how to DELIGHT her.
  • If you are allowed by your boss or organization, experiment doing things differently or doing different things. In your personal life, look for how to do the same thing better. More importantly, look for better things to do.
  • Visit trade fairs, technology fairs, product fairs, scientific fairs, book fairs, etc. — and let your mind welcome, absorb and enjoy the FLOOD of new ideas. One of those ideas could re-emerge one day or re-combine with your other ideas.
  • When your company keeps losing money, it means your company must stop doing something and/or start doing something new. Answering those questions can lead to knowledge innovation.
  • Study and learn to apply what are the best practices in your profession; as you copy and apply them, keep asking: what is missing in this “best” practice? What “NEXT practice” is even better? The moment you discover this, you now become the new “best practitioner” and everybody else will copy from you!
  • When you hear about a crazy or weird idea, stop and ask yourself: why do I think it is “crazy” or “weird”? It is one of your HIDDEN assumptions or beliefs that is making that judgment! Ask yourself: is my assumption still valid? Hearing about a “crazy” or “weird” idea offers you an opportunity to discover your unconscious LIMITING beliefs.
  • Practice DIVERGENT thinking. For example, get a simple and common object like a pencil. A pencil is used for writing. Think of 33 other ways of using a pencil. For another example, get a dictionary. Randomly select a word. Then randomly select a second word. Now try to COMBINE the unlikely two words into a new and useful idea, story, practice or whatever.
  • Practice problem FINDING. Wherever you are now, list twelve problems — big or small — you are experiencing. Did you discover a NEW problem you or your office colleagues never noticed? If not, List twelve more. Any NEW problem? Keep going until you find a problem no one had seen before. Voila! The solution to that new problem can be an innovation for your office! Problem finding (NOT problem solving) can lead to innovation.
  • Talk to an entrepreneur who had started more than ten successful enterprises. Listen and learn how he looks at things. Watch how his mind works in revising and devising new BUSINESS MODELS and business concepts. He is constantly looking for better things to do. KM is about doing something well, but knowledge innovation is about finding what are better things to do. If you do not check what is the right thing to do, then KM might just be doing well the wrong things!
  • Break your routines every now and then. Routine is the ENEMY of innovation. Try eating a new kind of food. Visit a place you have not gone to. Do something new for your spouse or significant other. Perform a “random act of kindness” to a stranger. Don’t allow the resulting initial discomfort to push you back to your usual familiar routine.
  • Finally, if people will adopt, copy or use your ideas then it means those ideas are USEFUL. Then you are innovating!


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Value-Creating and Value-Destroying Social Innovations

April 27, 2009

The term “social invention” was first proposed by Stuart Conger in his 1974 book “Saskatchewan Newstart”. It covers new organizations, laws and procedures that satisfy personal, social or market demand. His examples are:

  1. Organizational social inventions: schools, law courts, House of Commons, labour union, jails, YMCA, Children’s Aid Society, Red Cross, he Boy Scouts, etc.
  2. Social inventions in the form of laws: Poor Law of 1388 in UK, Indenture of Children Act of 1601 in UK, English Bill of Rights (1689), Compulsory School Attendance Act in Russia in 1717, Swiss Unemployment Insurance Act of 1789, and an 1875 US law against child abuse.
  3. Procedural social inventions: language, writing, charity, democracy, labor strikes, professional licensing, training, courtroom oath, probation, testing, psychoanalysis, etc.

I have a reservation with Conger’s use of the word “invention.” According to WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), an “invention” has only the element of novelty while “innovation” has both elements of novelty and utility. Evidence of utility is market demand or social acceptance (see my blog on D14- Innovation versus Invention). Conger’s examples fit the term “innovation” and therefore I will use the term “social innovation” instead.

Let us apply the Value Creation Scale from the previous blog post to various social innovations. Below are examples of largely value-destroying or simply resource transferring social innovations:


Boxing as a spectator sport is a strange way to create value. When two people fight to hurt each other and no one is watching, this is just 3 in our Value Creation Scale. However, there are many people who will pay to watch people hurt each other — the value proposition of the boxing industry which is 3 and 6 in the Scale. Gladiatorial “fight to the death” in old Rome, Japanese sumo wrestling (an institutionalized, stylized, protocol-bound and milder form of fighting), fee-based hunting/fishing and cockfighting belong to the same category.

Cartels such as OPEC do three things: (a) extract non-renewable natural resources making them no longer available to countless future generations, (b) appropriate proceeds solely to its elite members, and (c) collect rentier profits through oligopolistic supply-fixing or price-fixing. From the perspective of the Scale, burglary, robbery and thievery are better than OPEC! Why? They do not irreversibly deplete natural resources. We tolerate OPEC more than we do burglars, robbers and thieves. Why? Don’t forget “free riders” of OPEC such as the big oil multinationals who earned billions of dollars during the last oil price spike. We grudgingly shell out more of our money for a pricey tankful of gasoline but do we feel the same with bag-snatchers? Why is institutionalized global robbery more acceptable than personalized local robbery? Strange.

Next, examine below various examples of value-creating social innovations. I inserted motherhood for illustrative purposes only although it is not a social innovation:


The corporation is indeed a successful and widely adopted social innovation (creating value for the few or 6 in the Value Creation Scale). It has several variants. Oligarchic capitalism is where a national economy is dominated by a few business elites. “Regulatory capture” is where powerful businessmen (or “crony capitalists”) tilt the rules of the game in their favor through bribery, collusion (“cronyism”) or outright control of government regulatory agencies. An enclave corporation is one that is isolated and has zero interaction with the local communities in or around which it operates.

I sense new social innovations emerging towards 7 and 8 in the Scale. I wrote earlier about corporate social responsibility and new variants towards the “socially-embedded corporation.” I also wrote on the growing practice of “Triple Bottom Line” — introduced by John Elkington in 1994 — which is 6, 7 and 8 in our Value Creation Scale. A Working Group of the Organisation Internationale de Normalisation (ISO) is currently developing a new voluntary standard on Social Responsibility for corporations; it will be released next year as ISO 26000. The Cartagena Agreement and Costa Rica’s Biodiversity Law combine biodiversity conservation with local rights and community development — harbingers of social innovations combining 7 and 8.

Perhaps we are not hopeless; we are still learning and evolving. There are institutions facilitating innovations towards 7 and 8. Peter Spence from Australia alerted me to Mary Parker Follett Foundation whose program areas are: learning democracy, participatory design of social systems and dialogue as community reflection. Thanks Peter!

(PS to my loyal readers: if my recent blogs seem too “Cloud 9” for you, I promise to write something “Ground 0” or very practical for KM in my next two blogs before going to “Cloud 11” in Q26 and Q27 according to my set schedule. Cheers!)

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Q25- Robin Hood versus the Sheriff of Nottingham

April 26, 2009

The concept of glocality and counter-glocality (see my previous blog about “More Power to Glocals!”) can be applied to situations where the scope or reach of power of an actor does not overlap with the scope or reach of his beneficiaries. Two different and separate groups or publics are involved. The net effect of this behavior pattern is what economists call “transfer” of resources.

A popular example is transfer of resources from the many to the few (=Sheriff of Nottingham model) and transfer of resources from the few to the many (=Robin Hood model), where — unlike glocals and counter-glocals — the few is not a subset of the many. I discussed these two models in a paper on “Information Technology and Security in the 21st Century” at the Asia-Pacific Security Forum Conference in Taipei, Taiwan in December 1999.


Actually, the two models are not opposites. Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham share something in common: both did not create value; they merely transferred resources from one economic entity to another. Other examples of transfers are: robbery, burglary, pyramidal financial scams, taxes, government subsidies, B lost something and finder A keeps it, casinos, gambling, dole-outs, charitable philanthropy, gifts, donations, grants, etc.

A way to visualize the small difference between “Robin Hood” behaviors and “Sheriff of Nottingham” behaviors is to create a Value Creation Scale where mere transfers of resources are in the middle between value destruction and value creation behaviors:


Using this scale, we can now better appreciate where the two models lie:


I will provide more illustrative examples of using the Value Creation Scale in my next blog post. See you soon!

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Mindmapping Our Learning Processes (#18)

April 24, 2009

Let us compare the types presented in the previous blog post on “12 Types of Learning” with data from actual experiences. Below is a sample group mindmap resulting from a KM workshop I designed and facilitated at the Ambedkar Institute of Productivity in Chennai, India. This mindmap summarizes the answers of workshop participants to the question: “How do I learn?”


(While pressing “Ctrl”, left-click HERE to download the original image file; if you wish to receive image files of mindmap outputs from other workshop groups, please email me.)

The objectives of the workshop exercise were:

  • To illustrate the conversion of many (private, inaccessible) individual tacit knowledge into a single (public, accessible) group explicit knowledge, namely the mindmap;
  • To examine the various ways and patterns in how we learn;
  • To illustrate how a mindmapping software can facilitate thinking and deciding together;
  • To appreciate how our thoughts can be made visible for everyone to see and study.

The steps of the exercise are:

  • Individual writeshop begins by issuing each participant several metacards and a thick felt-tip pen (e.g. Pentel Pen). Metacards are thick paper or cards about 4 inches by 12 inches on which short phrases can be written down, and posted (using pieces of masking tape) on the whiteboard or wall for everyone to read.
  • Each participant writes down his or her answers to the question “How do I learn?” in the metacards. Only one idea or answer is written per card.
  • The participants submit the metacards to the facilitators who post them in front in related clusters.
  • Unclear answers are explained by the writer and rephrased. The participants examine the answers, suggest moving a metacard to another cluster, and combine or split clusters.
  • The participants decide what label best applies to each cluster.
  • The result is inputted in a mindmapping software (there are many commercial and open-source software available) and displayed using an LCD projector so everyone can observe how the mindmap is changed to suit their evolving consensus. The participants suggest rearrangements and repositioning of the clusters, branches and sub-branches. They also finalize the labels of the major branches. The mindmap evolves before their eyes to reflect their group decisions.
  • The group studies the result and discusses any pattern they see, insights and lessons that occur to them, further questions and finally comments and evaluations the entire process.
  • The final mindmap of “How Do We Learn?” is printed for each participant.

Some of the lessons and insights that frequently emerge are:

  1. Formal education is only one of numerous ways we learn.
  2. We learn by interacting with people, especially the experts in our field. Many answers are in this cluster. This insight is a good take-off point for introducing the benefits of a Community of Practice.
  3. We learn by reading books, watching TV, surfing the Internet and listening to the radio. An application of this common modality is the web-based Video-Visual Manual such as that used by Toyota Motors in training its workers.
  4. We learn by doing, from practice and work experience and through experimentation, trial-and-error and even mistakes. Many answers fall under this cluster. This insight is a good take-off point for introducing the benefits of Organizational Learning. The insight is a realization that we all learn while doing, but this learning is semi-conscious and inefficient unless we use systematic means such as various tools in Organizational Learning. I teach graduate-level KM at the University of the Philippines using Workplace Practicums that must be integrated into actual workplace processes and approved by the student’s boss.
  5. We learn by observing other people. This is one of the advantages of Demonstration-Mentoring over classroom-style instruction.
  6. We learn by reflection, analysis and self-study. This insight is a good take-off point for introducing the benefits of After-Action Reviews or Lessons-Learned Sessions, where the review is directed at eliciting what works (=knowledge) and what does not work (=obverse knowledge).
  7. We learn if we want to, if we are Motivated.

In learning anything new, I recommend the following sequence (see my previous blog post on “D4- Converting Tacit to Explicit Knowledge and vice-versa”): reading or listening to a lecture, watching an expert demonstrate the skill, study under a mentor (if available), constant practice, compare notes with similar practitioners, reflective dialogue with similar practitioners, and more practice!

If you wish to read more about mind mapping, check out the books of Tony Buzan. After reading, do not forget to practice!

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More Power to Glocals!

April 23, 2009

Corrupt leaders, terrorists, nationalistic actions of superpowers and “gnomes in Zurich and other financial centres” (a term coined in 1956 by former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson) share something in common. The reach of their influence and power far exceeds the extent of their beneficiary group:

Scope of power > Scope of benefit

“Scope” can mean geographic or demographic scope. Using the language of extended benefit-cost analysis, they generate private benefits for themselves and their small group at the expense of inflicting social costs on the larger public.

In Q23 on “Know-How without Willing-To” I wrote about organizational energy and showed that

Know-How X Willing-to = Effective Action.

which is a reformulation of

Capabilities X Intentions = Potential Action

in “Cutting the (Complex) Gordian Knot.”

If we add the geographic or demographic dimension to the above formulae, we see that the geographic reach or the public scope of an actor’s capabilities is different from that of his intentions. For example, the scope of interest of a corrupt president includes only himself and his immediate family, while the scope of his power and influence is the entire government bureaucracy and the nation. A nationalistic superpower pursues only its national interests, yet its power is global. The “gnomes in Zurich” or “gnomes in Wall Street” are profit-seeking actors working for their personal or corporate interests, yet the impact of their actions is global.

Narrow interests drive their global actions.

At the opposite end is glocality (from “global” and “locality”), a new word that has gained currency among development and civil society sectors, and among expat professionals who frequently move around the globe. The word captures the essence of the injunction: “Think globally, act locally.” A glocal person is one whose area of power and influence is confined only to her immediate small locality, yet her local actions are informed from her global perspectives and interests. Glocals are opposite to corrupt leaders, terrorists, nationalistic superpowers and “gnomes in Zurich and other financial centres.”

Global interests drive their local actions.


The dysfunctional situation where geographic or public scope of power and influence of an actor exceeds the scope of his perspectives, interests or intended beneficiaries, is met across a wide variety of circumstances:

  • a virus creator introducing his creation into the Internet,
  • a corrupt public official using his powers for his own or his family’s benefit,
  • a terrorist motivated by a particularistic ideology,
  • a factory discharging wastes in a nearby stream,
  • a psychotic with a gun in a large crowd,
  • a nationalistic action of a superpower,
  • a resource cartel such as OPEC,
  • a swimmer who secretly pees in a swimming pool with many swimmers
  • a conspiratorial group of shadowy foreign exchange traders with controlling market share in a country,
  • a government-sanctioned monopoly
  • a protectionist domestic manufacturer bribing a government official to keep tariff levels high against competing foreign products,
  • pirates operating near Somalia,
  • a smoker-turned arsonist who throws his cigarette butt and starts a forest fire.

I introduced the above concepts in a paper on “Relevance of Values in the Management of Corruption” which I read at the Conference on Integrity in Governance in Asia, Bangkok, Thailand, June 1998 and in another paper on “Information Technology and Security in the 21st Century” at the Asia-Pacific Security Forum Conference in Taipei, Taiwan in December 1999.

Counter-glocal persons spend their lifetimes “climbing the ladder” whether in business or in politics, but as their power and influence expands, their interests remain narrow. They learn to become masters in manipulating the external world around them. They seek Power of the First and Second Kind (see blog posts Q9 and Q10). The world becomes a riskier and poorer world as counter-glocals attain greater power.

To become a glocal person, you do not have to travel around the globe or get appointed to a high position. All you need to do is stay where you are, expand your perspectives and take the interests of Planet Earth as your own, and express these in whatever work you are doing now. Glocals are masters in broadening their own internal world of perspectives, motives and aspirations. They practice Power of the Third Kind. The world becomes a safer and happier world as more glocals attain greater power.

May their tribe increase!

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Q24- KM and Power: Constant(?) Bed Fellows

April 21, 2009

When two persons of unequal power, authority or influence interact, the result is different from those described in my previous blog post (“12 Types of Learning”):



The root causes of human behavior lie in past experiences (extreme left box in the diagram). Therefore the most effective (or most insidious) method of controlling human behavior over the long term is through training (from earliest childhood) and religious or political indoctrination. The social nature of knowledge implies that groupthink and imposed visions and values are the next most effective mechanisms. “Carrot and stick” (or rewards and punishments) methods achieve shorter-term results.

Power differentials exist everywhere. You see this dynamics as it occurs every day between boss and subordinate, between parent and child, between professor and student, between government and citizens, between a person pointing a gun at another person, etc. Most likely you participate in it too, both from a superordinate position and from a subordinate position in the same day and in the same organization! We are part of the problem! I label it a “problem” because vertical dynamics are easily anti-learning.

We often do the above interaction types out of unconscious habit. If we do it to another who is our equal we appear to him as arrogant, presumptuous or disrespectful. For example, criticism triggers an equally unconscious reaction from the other person of defense, counterattack and debate that result more to mutual irritation than to mutual learning. Praise could appear as patronizing.

The terms “knowledge transfer” and “learning” hardly apply to the interactions in the above diagram, unless we stretch our common understanding of those terms to apply them to hierarchical societies such as North Korea and fundamentalist religious-military groups like Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas. What happens in these societies is a coerced or indoctrinated replication of belief systems from parent to child, and from leader to follower.

Learning hardly happens or happens slowly. We saw in Q8 (“Wanted: Workable Tools for Voluntary Paradigm Shifting”) that in vertical or hierarchical societies, learning is extremely slow. Below I reproduce the table from Q8. Notice from the table that two factors result to mankind’s very long Unlearning Cycles: (1) institutionalized vested interests and/or (2) institutionalized rules to prevent people from thinking freely.


In real-world organizations, the knowledge dynamics is often a mix of KM-across-power-differentials and KM-across-equals, or what we can call vertical KM and horizontal KM. Leadership and culture affect this mix from organization to organization. Even in development-oriented organizations, this mix shows up clearly in how projects are evaluated. I wrote about the difference between vertical learning and horizontal learning, or between conventional project evaluation and post-project knowledge capture including lessons-learned sessions. Again, the cultural momentum and context of an organization determine how the mix is tilted between vertical and horizontal dynamics:


The challenge is how to develop perspectives and effective tools for conscious shifting of the mix away from vertical towards more of horizontal dynamics. One way is by using military force to shift a nation from dictatorship to democracy, as what President Bush started by invading Iraq and getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Another way is to help organizations voluntarily shift towards becoming learning organizations. In Q26 I will write about how this shift has been unconsciously but inexorably taking place over the last three centuries.

What do you think? Do you agree that we may all be participating in this problem?

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12 Types of Learning

April 19, 2009

To prepare the ground for my next blog post (Q24- KM and power: constant bed fellows), we will use the KM framework introduced in F2 (Intangibles: More Essential for Value Creation) and F5 (A Proposed KM Framework) to look at different ways that we learn.

I have illustrated 10 different ways to apply the KM framework in 10 past blog posts:

Delineating the 12 types of learning (see diagram below) will be the 11th illustration of using the KM framework. I am using the same color codings (yellow for knowledge, crimson for action and green for results) as in the above 10 illustrations. This typology refers to the channels or modalities of learning and does not presume whether and how far in fact the knowledge receiver learned (thanks to Bill Kaplan of Washington, D.C. for pointing this out).

12 ways we learn

Person A and Person B are co-equal in power, authority and influence. Interactions between people with unequal power are discussed in the next blog post on “KM and Power”. In the diagram, we start with Type 1 at the extreme right and proceed towards the left for Type 2 and the rest.

Type 1 is simply studying What Works Better, where A and B compare results of their actions; the two learn when they discover which action produces better results.

Type 2 or Communal Validation is similar to Type 1 but it involves a community and its protocols for knowledge validation. For example, the scientific community learns and generates new knowledge through scientific protocols on observation of results of actions/experiments up to analysis and interpretation of data. In a community of practitioners (CoP), identification, documentation and transfer of best practice follow similar protocols: results of many similar actions are compared and a “best” practice is identified, documented and shared with the rest of the community. Ken Wilber calls the steps in Type 2 learning as “three strands of valid knowing”; see his books “The Marriage of Sense and Soul” or “A Sociable God”. (Thanks to Mark Wolfe for pointing out that the feedback does reach back to enculturation and training.)

While Communal Validation is a feedback from observed results to mental models (=knowledge, beliefs, paradigms), when we rework our mental models or re-organize what we know (thanks to Katherine Bertolucci for pointing this out) we Reframe how we view the world. This learning process is the feedforward back to observation of results.

Type 3 is similar to Type 1 and 2 but Reflective Practice can involve only one person. Types 1-3 involve feedback or observation of results to improve knowledge and practice. A common variant of Type 3 is Learning from Doing, which happens largely semi-consciously. If you wish to learn more about Type 3, start by reading the book “The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action” by Donald A. Schon.

Type 4 is Presentation where A or B talks and the other listens, such as watching YouTube, listening to a lecture or reading a book. This type of learning is suited for learning concepts but not skills. Discussion occurs when participants take turns in presentation and then proceed to a mix of Type 1 and 2 learning, and oftentimes with Type 5 and 6 thrown in.

Type 5 is Criticism, Praise or Judgment where B — using his own knowledge, beliefs, interests or values — judges a statement or action of A. If A and B do not share the same knowledge, beliefs, interests or values, then A will defend himself based on his own knowledge, beliefs, interests or values. If A and B are co-equal in power, and neither will give up their own knowledge, beliefs, interests or values, or they are unable to shift their discourse towards Type 1-2 or Type 8-12, then the result is —

Type 6 is Debate. Learning can still happen through Type 5 and 6, but this learning is least likely to happen compared to other types. Unfortunately, when one or both of A and B strongly believes he is right, or avoids being proven wrong, or is unable to shift to Types 1-2 or 8-12, then each tries to convince/criticize the other but the other then digs in and defends himself, and the process can degenerate to an ugly downward spiral (I have seen this many times in one of the KM discussion lists). In a debate, the objective is no longer learning but winning, or proving the other person is wrong, or pushing for one’s pet theory or belief. In the end, people hardly learn or change their beliefs as a result of debate; and goodwill is often the casualty. It is unfortunate that many people allow themselves to be drawn into this inutile form of communication. This is common among people holding on to different religious and political beliefs, but I also see it among intelligent people holding on to different academic schools of thought. I wrote about Debate versus Discussion versus Dialogue in a previous blog post. If you want to learn more about the difference between debate, discussion and dialogue, start by reading the book “Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together” by William Isaacs.

Type 7 or Exemplar is when A through his actions and speech models, manifests, demonstrates or acts as exemplar of a knowledge, belief, interest or value such that B learns through observing A. This is the process that occurs during mentoring when the apprentice watches the mentor perform, and when a child watches her parents and teachers. The mentor initiates the learning process not through trying to convince but through demonstrating how certain actions produce desired results.

Type 8 is when A and B consciously and jointly review or revise their Mental Models, underlying assumptions or frameworks that sponsored or led to specific actions or statements. This is one of the five disciplines of a learning organization according to Peter Senge. Learning or changing one’s beliefs is more likely to happen by making our assumptions explicit and examining them together than by trying to convince, argue or attack another person (Types 5 and 6). If you have not read the landmark book “The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization” by Peter M. Senge then I suggest you do. John Naisbitt’s “Mind Set! Reset Your Thinking and See the Future” is entertaining to read. A prevalent variant of Type 8 is the unplanned or semi-conscious process whereby two or more people through conversations Reconstruct their shared view of social reality.

Type 9 is Conscious Living, where a person studies why he does what he keeps doing, reflects on his own assumptions and beliefs, and consciously manages how he thinks, perceives, interprets, values and makes daily life decisions. My NGO — the Center for Conscious Living Foundation — has been developing, practicing and teaching tools under this type of learning since 1999. Check our website for more information.

Type 10 is Storytelling and Story Listening, where B shares his experiences with A. If A is able to truly listen, or to listen while suspending his judgments and beliefs, he may understand or appreciate why B thinks and believes the way he does. Then A can discover new ways of looking at the same thing they are both looking at. Check out the book by KM gurus John Seely Brown, Stephen Denning, Katalina Groh, and Laurence Prusak: “Storytelling in Organizations: Why Storytelling Is Transforming 21st Century Organizations and Management.”

Type 11 is Insight or Intuition, when new ideas or thoughts emerge in one’s consciousness — through processes the thinker himself is not clear about — that can provide the basis for better action.

Type 12 or Generative Dialogue is the process where a group of people have reached a level of trust and skill in performing Types 8-11 such that they are able as a group to reflect and explore how and why they think, see and interact the way they do, consciously discover their limiting assumptions and biases, reframe a problem or issue, revise or improve their mental models, and generate new options or solutions. Learning is more likely in Types 8-12 than in Types 5-6 which are hampered by inability or unwillingness to reflect and to suspend judgment. I have written about Generative Dialog in a previous blog post. Besides Isaacs’ book mentioned above, check out also Adam Kahane’s “Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening and Creating New Realities.”

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Cutting the (Complex) Gordian Knot

April 17, 2009

According to Greek legend, when Alexander the Great was only 23 and not yet well-known, his campaign in Asia Minor brought him to the town of Gordium in 333 BC. Its former king, Gordius, tied an extremely complicated knot in the local temple to Zeus. An oracle foretold that whoever untied the knot would rule all of Asia. Many tried to untie the knot, unsuccessfully. Upon arriving at the temple, Alexander drew his sword and cut the Gordian Knot. Over the next decade, he went on to conquer Asia up to India.

By painter Jean-Simon Berthélemy (1743 - 1811) -from Wikimedia Commons

By painter Jean-Simon Berthélemy (1743 - 1811) -from Wikimedia Commons

An example of professionals faced with the serious responsibility and task of making sense of complexity are intelligence professionals working for national governments. When I took a temporary leave from academic life to accept appointment as Assistant Director-General of the National Security Council (NSC) of the Philippine Government in 1992-1998, I had the rare opportunity and pleasure to meet and participate in warm fraternal intelligence exchanges (=knowledge sharing) with my counterparts in the national security and intelligence establishments of the governments of Singapore, Brunei, United States, Taiwan and South Korea (=CoP or community of practice).

The task of a national intelligence analyst/security adviser is formidable. National interest is at stake. He must assist the President in:

  • Discerning new global and regional patterns and trends
  • Making forecasts or estimates
  • Interpreting the statements and actions of actual/potential hostile groups
  • Estimating next moves of major political and economic actors
  • Assessing a multitude of risks and threats
  • Analyzing the power relations among top government personalities of superpowers
  • Assessing potentials, threats and opportunities arising from new and emerging technologies

Do intelligence professionals use complexity theory? Not to my knowledge.

My former NSC boss, General Jose T. Almonte, the Director-General of the National Security Council and the National Security Adviser to President Fidel V. Ramos in 1992-1998, and who has decades of achievements in intelligence work, gave me a valuable technique that is sheer simplicity itself. It seemed to me like “cutting the Gordian Knot” of complexity facing intelligence analysts. He reminded me that people, groups, corporations, political parties, nations, etc. are essentially purposive actors; and so he advised me to study only two things: CAPABILITIES and INTENTIONS of international and intranational actors.

Through this blog post, I acknowledge him as the source and inspiration of the model I proposed in my paper on “Organizational Energy” — KNOW-HOW X WILLING-TO — that I wrote about two blog posts back, as well as the MOTIVATION factor in the CCLFI expanded KM framework. My previous blog post listed research findings that motivating knowledge workers is a key success factor in KM initiatives.

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A Success Factor in KM: Motivating Knowledge Workers

April 15, 2009

Further to my previous blog post, I compiled the results of some studies showing that user satisfaction or commitment (internally-driven) and/or motivating/rewarding knowledge workers (externally-driven) contribute to success of KM initiatives:

A. Two of five factors to ensure KM initiatives succeed:

  • High priority given to the initiative at the very top of the hierarchy
  • Establishment of incentives to share knowledge.

(Source: Mathi, Kavindra: “Key Success Factors for Knowledge Management.” MBA thesis, Internationales Hochschulinstitut Lindau, University of Applied Sciences, FH Kempten, Germany, December 2004)

B. Factors identified as critical through multiple regression analysis:

  • Establishment of a reward strategy
  • Willingness to share knowledge
  • Top management support

(Source: Yu-Cheng Lin and Lee-Kuo Lin: “Critical Success Factors for Knowledge Management: Studies in Construction,” Department of Civil Engineering, National Taipei University of Technology, 2006)

C. From Randy Williams: “Critical Success Factors When Building a Knowledge Management System” (Sharepoint Magazine, 4 December 2008) two of seven success factors are:

  • Motivating staff
  • Executive support

D. According to Murray E. Jennex and Iryna Zakharova: “Knowledge Management Critical Success Factors.” Management.Com.Ua, 29 June 2005:

D1. Two of eight design recommendations for a successful KM system:

  • Have senior management support
  • Build motivation and commitment by incorporating KMS usage into personnel evaluation processes; implementing KMS use/satisfaction metrics; and identifying organizational culture concerns that could inhibit KMS usage.

(Source: Jennex, M.E. and Olfman, L. “Development Recommendations for Knowledge Management/Organizational Memory Systems.” Information Systems Development Conference 2000)

D2. Eight factors common in 18 successful KM projects out of 35:

  • Senior management support
  • Linkages to economic performance
  • Motivational incentives for KM users

(Source: Davenport, T.H., DeLong, D.W., and Beers, M.C. “Successful Knowledge Management Projects.” Sloan Management Review, 39(2), 43-57, 1998)

D3. Importance of user commitment, motivation, incentives or reward system was among the findings of 7 studies, support from top management in 6 studies, and clear goal or purpose in 4 studies.


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Q23- Know-how (=Knowledge) without “Willing-to”

April 14, 2009

In 2006-2007 the Asian Productivity Organization put together a team of nine National KM Experts to produce case studies of good KM practices from nine Asian countries. As Chief Expert, I headed the team and also edited the resulting publication which came out in 2008. In the last chapter on Concluding Observations of that publication, I noted that almost all of the 22 good-practice organizations employed one or more ways of motivating knowledge workers. Read about these methods at the Change Management section of the CCLFI website (click the link labelled “Motivating Knowledge Workers” on the right side of the webpage).

Lesson from Asian KM case studies: Good KM practice is often accompanied by various approaches to motivate knowledge workers and/or organization-wide change management approaches.

This finding is consistent with our ten years of KM training, advising and consulting experiences at CCLFI. CCLFI is a leading KM service provider in the Philippines. We compiled 21 case studies of KM initiatives in, or supported by, multilateral and bilateral development organizations that CCLFI had assisted. We found two behavioral indicators that an organization is committed to KM: appointment of a KM officer and allocation of funds from its internal budget. We also found that the following approaches are effective for starting and sustaining a KM initiative —

  • Look for or encourage visible forms of support from top executives
  • Look for or nurture a KM champion from among top executives
  • Organize and train a cross-functional KM team, which will take the lead to —
  • Formulate a KM roadmap aligned with the organization’s goals, responding to current issues and problems, and suited to its organizational context.

Lesson from Philippine KM case studies: It works well to recognize and nurture various forms of commitment at various levels of the organization.

I wrote about the above lessons from Asian and Philippine KM case studies in an article that will be published next month by the Knowledge Management for Development Journal. In the article, entitled “Organisational energy and other meta-learning from case studies of knowledge management implementation in nine Asian countries”, I introduced a new concept, “organizational energy” and concluded that —

Know-how X Willing-to (or Wanting-to) = Effective Action
(Tangible assets + Knowledge assets) X Organisational energy = Effective Action

In short, a knowledge worker may know how to do a job well, but if he is unwilling to do it, no effective action will happen.

Do you agree?

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