Archive for May, 2009

Q28- Recap of KM Virtues and Gaps, or Will KM Disappear?

May 30, 2009

This Q Series had been a successful one; 16,267 hits came in since it started. We end this blog series with this summarizing post. To better appreciate an item that strikes you, I suggest reading the blog which explains that point. The blogs are accessible from this post through embedded links (which appear as colored text). While pressing “Ctrl”, you can click on the colored text to create a new tab to read the previous blog post referred to.

Virtues of KM and OL (organizational learning):

Gaps in KM and OL practice:

What we need next, a new KM or the next discipline after KM:

Q28 cartoon

We will start the new L Series on “Indigo Learning Practices” in the next blog. Stay tuned in!

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Emerging Indigo Practices

May 28, 2009

From previous blogs, I tried to show that major world problems stem from our lack of knowledge in the indigo quadrant (lower left quadrant in the diagram below):

groupings-with-label1

When two long-term societal megatrends are combined, we discover (see “Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the next societal innovations”) that the next significant societal innovations are expected in the indigo quadrant. In my contribution to the book “The Future of Innovation” (to be published by Gower in the autumn of 2009), entitled “The Future of Innovation Must Be Sought in Non-Technological Spheres” I wrote, in part:

    “Mankind has demonstrated that its ability to technologically innovate is far greater than its ability to anticipate, learn and solve the negative social consequences of those innovations…

    Innovation in the future will be driven by common threats confronting mankind. Ironically, most of those threats are man-made. Innovation will proceed in the general direction of preventing and resolving conflicts, governance at all levels, advancing human rights and human security, cross-border agreements in preventing and fighting crime and terrorism, eliminating social exclusions and other social ills that lead to poverty, generating consensus on environmental problems and solutions, and value creation.”

In the specific area of KM, this means that tools, technologies and practices for effectively managing relationship capital would be important. Below is a list of such KM tools (reproduced from a previous blog post: “Practical Hint #17: Tools for Managing Relationship Capital”):

  • Social Network Analysis (SNA), sociogram or stakeholder analysis: Maps and analyzes frequencies of communication, teammate preferences, perceived closeness of interpersonal relationships, degree of agreement/disagreement, etc. between people in a group, organization or network
  • Team building and team learning exercises
  • Setting up a cross-functional KM Team
  • Customer relations management, business development, account management, or business partnership management: Management of relationships with customers, suppliers, partners, etc.
  • Customer clubs and e-communities: strengthens a company’s communication and relationship with customers, allows customers to participate in product improvement or R&D, makes some customers feel special by receiving advanced news or product prototypes, etc.
  • “Customer ba”: Part of the task of some Japanese customer relations managers is to create an affirmative, trusting and creative “relationship space” between himself and the customer.
  • MBTI, Belvin types and other psychological profiling tests: Assessing potential for complementarity and good mix of thinking and working styles among prospective team members
  • Various tools in brand management and marketing which enhance reputation and credibility of the company
  • Various HR/OD tools to enhance employee loyalty and morale: recognitions, honors and awards; policies that allow appropriate decision-making to employees; CEOs that listen e.g. allow direct emails from employees; facilities that show the company cares e.g. day-care facilities within company premises for young children of mother-employees, etc.
  • Group exercise in mind mapping: Allows members to see and better understand the assumptions of other fellow members
  • Professional and personal profiles of staff, Expertise Directory, company White Pages: Facilitates staff in getting to know each other and each other’s skills, expertise and talents
  • Face-to-face meetings and SN functionalities among e-community or e-CoP members: Mutual trust in a virtual CoP or e-community is best nurtured through face-to-face meetings, and through appropriate social network functionalities in the website of the CoP
  • Visioning exercise: Co-creating and contributing to an organization’s vision tend to enhance buy-in and engagement of members in programs, projects and activities aimed at the vision of the organization.
  • Negotiation: collaborative/integrative negotiation training, skills development (thanks to Peter Spence), and related tools in conflict management
  • Leadership (thanks to Peter Spence): one that knows and appreciates many of the above.

Accordingly, I have decided that the next blog series will be on “Indigo Learning Practices.” We will call it the L Series.

Cheers!

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Left Brainers and Nonaka’s “Ba”

May 25, 2009

My friend and colleague Joitske Hulsebosch of Netherlands commented today on the previous blog:

    “Hi Serafin, very interesting. Did you hear about Daniel Pink? He wrote about the left-brainers ruling the western world, but thinks it is time for right-brainers now. Though he writes from a western perspective, it is interesting to see him explain both sides of the brain.”

I promptly called my favorite bookstore in Quezon City and they are readying a copy of Daniel H. Pink’s “A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future” for me to pick up this Friday. (Thank you Joitske!) According to author Daniel H. Pink’s website, the main argument in his book is that “the era of ‘left brain’ dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which ‘right brain’ qualities — inventiveness, empathy, meaning — predominate.”

In 1981 Dr. Roger W. Sperry won the Nobel Prize for discovering that the left and right hemispheres of our brain think differently:

left and right brain

Left brainers (or people whose left brain is overdeveloped while their right brain is underdeveloped) tend to go for engineering, computer science, information technology and mathematics. Right brainers tend to go for creative and entrepreneurial activities, designing, relationship building, strategic sensing and pursuit of adventure. In knowledge management, KM guru Karl Erik Sveiby observed that KM practitioners either adopt the “technology side” of KM or its “people side”. Left brainers are best in using IT for KM, but they tend to misunderstand the more tacit aspects of KM such as KM guru Ikujiro Nonaka’s “ba” and SECI model. I have read many criticisms of Nonaka that reveal to me more about the mindset of the critic than about what Nonaka is writing about.

“Ba” is the communication and interpersonal space built and nurtured between two or more people; it is characterized by trust, empathy and shared meanings. Practice of “ba” belongs to the indigo quadrant. It is an area of practice that right brainers are good at.

Remember that for centuries, the Japanese have been creating and transfering tacit knowledge from master to pupil through their traditional “iemoto.” Japanese iemoto schools have produced great masters in tacit knowledge of kendo, kabuki, ikebana (flower arrangement), chanoyu (tea ceremony) or chado (way of the tea), yakimono (pottery), sumo wrestling, Zen practice, Noh (a drama form), etc.

An example of a tool that helps a person shift from left-brain thinking to right-brain thinking is the “koan” in Zen Buddhism. Koan is another Japanese innovation. A koan usually takes the form of a question or riddle that quickly befuddles the left brain and thereby exposes the very limitations of the left brain to itself.

An example of a koan is: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!”

What are your thoughts upon reading this koan? What do those thoughts tell you about how your mind usually works?

A left-brainer trying to understand this koan is like a left-brain KM practitioner criticizing Nonaka’s “ba”. After Googling, here are some actual examples of left-brain explanations I found in the Internet:

    “A logical interpretation of ‘kill him’ is ‘cease to cling to his footsteps if you wish to match his wisdom,’ but I would never claim that this is what the passage means.”

    “I think that this is saying that if you meet the Buddha by the road (an actual road, i.e., a man preaching where there are people), he probably isn’t the real Buddha.”

    “…you do have to ‘kill’ your master to surpass him.”

Those remarks reveal the left-brain empirical orientations of the writers.

Let me attempt at one answer that illustrates the point I wrote about in my previous blog:

    “Buddhist” literally means “internalist” because the aim in Buddhist practice is for YOU to attain the INTERNAL state of Buddhahood or enlightenment. Hence, you don’t look for the Buddha on the road or anywhere outside of yourself; you discover the Buddha WITHIN you. You don’t walk and look around; you WAKE UP to a larger reality. What the koan is saying is that you should “kill” the very idea of trying to meet the Buddha on the road (or anywhere outside yourself). That idea is an obstacle to your growth; get rid of it.

How about you; what is your answer to the koan?

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A Paradox of 20th Century Scientific Practice

May 23, 2009

Science as practiced in the 19th and 20th centuries lies in Quadrant 3: it is biased towards observing and studying the outer world of forms and phenomena. With few exceptions, the inner world of consciousness is either ignored, denied or regarded as not real or less real, or reduced to its empirical, behavioral or operational counterparts. Listen to these authors:

    “Values, life meanings, purposes, and qualities slip through science like sea slips through the nets of fishermen. Yet man swims in this sea, so he cannot exclude it from his purview.”

    – Huston Smith

    The “modern Western character complex is connected with a peculiar perception of all things – including psychic and mental things – as ultimately reducible to quantifiable material entities. This is what gives it its ‘outwardness’.”

    – Robert Thurman

    Science views as real “any objectifiable entity or process that could be described in valueless, empirical, monological, process it-language.” According to this “flatland” view of the cosmos, “none of the interior dimensions and modes of knowing has any substantial reality at all… The mistake of modern science is that “all interior dimensions (of I and WE) were reduced to exterior surfaces (of objective ITs)… Modern science “aggressively invaded the other value spheres – including interior consciousness, psyche, soul, spirit, value, morals, ethics and art… pronouncing on what was, and what was not, real.”

    – Ken Wilber

The foundation of scientific knowledge is the scientific method of establishing objectivity and empirical validity. Listen to these quotations, particularly the eminent Austrian expert in the philosophy of science Karl Popper:

    Objectivity is based on “eliciting intersubjective agreement.”

    – Huston Smith

    “Ultimate truth, if there be such a thing, demands the concert of many voices.”

    – Carl Jung

    “…the objectivity of scientific statements lies in the fact that they can be inter-subjectively tested.”

    — Karl Popper

Current scientific practice is objective and outward in orientation, yet the very foundation of scientific validity is inter-subjective corroboration. Scientists in the 19th and 20th centuries prefer to define reality in terms of Quadrant 3, yet the fundamental basis of their method of validation is inter-subjective processes in Quadrant 4. Objectivity depends on inter-subjective invariance. Intersubjectivity is at the foundation of objectivity!

This paradoxical blind spot in modern science will fade away if science evolves to also embrace Quadrant 4 or what I call “indigo practices”. The indicators that this may have started to happen are:

  • The growth of humanistic and transpersonal psychology;
  • The emergence of experiential-phenomenological methods of anthropology (e.g. the early works of Carlos Castaneda);
  • Interest in paranormal studies;
  • Emergence of organizational learning and specifically the practice of team learning and dialogue;
  • The emergence of management of knowledge and other intangible assets;
  • The convergence between modern science and religion exemplified by the Mind and Life Institute mentioned in a previous blog.

These events are all part of global Megatrend #1: towards Yin. An interesting convergence that is worth watching is that between transpersonal psychology (Quadrant 3 science moving towards Quadrant 4) and Tibetan Buddhism (the only major religion that straddles Quadrants 1 and 4).

If mainstream scientific practice has been outward-looking, then its inward-looking mirror-image is Tibetan Buddhism. While modern science has developed empiricism (which is consensual corroboration using outward-looking data) for over 3 centuries to its present height, Tibetan Buddhism is unique in having developed the practice of consensual corroboration using inward-looking or experiential data gathered by thousands of monk-practitioners (lamas) for over 12 centuries. Quoting Thurman again:

    “In Western culture, the last frontiers of our material conquest of the universe are in outer space. Our astronauts are our ultimate heroes and heroines. Tibetans, however, are more concerned about the spiritual conquest of the inner universe, whose frontiers are in the realms of death, the between, and contemplative ecstasies. So, the Tibetan lamas who can consciously pass through the dissolution process, whose minds can detach from the gross physical body and use a magical body to travel to other universes, these ‘psychonauts’ are the Tibetans’ ultimate heroes and heroines.”

experiencing outer vs inner universe

The above critique of prevailing scientific practice is part of a paper I wrote in 2004 entitled “Patotoo: an Indigenous Concept of Validity and Some Implications” which was published in 2005 by the Institute of Spirituality in Asia as part of the book “Hiyang: Papers of the Colloquium on Research Methodologies in the Study of Spiritualities in the Philippines.” If you want to receive a copy of this paper, please email me (serafin.talisayon@cclfi.org).

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Evolving Forms of Governance

May 20, 2009

As I type these words I am enjoying the view of Kowloon across the Hong Kong harbour. Beyond Kowloon I can see the distant mountains in the New Territories. Somewhat to my left are the mountains of Hong Kong Island. I can see the moon-shaped Peak Tower on Victoria Peak over the high-rise buildings in Causeway Bay.

Panoramic views from a high place always bring me to a quiet space within me. Very early this morning, in the twilight zone between sleeping and waking, I again experienced an in-flow of new ideas — a process that happens to me countless times before. I am not sure exactly how the process takes place. After I receive them, my mind then shapes and clothes them into words, paragraphs and figures. Today the ideas came at the right time so that they can find their way into this blog. The middle three diagrams below are explicit rendering of the ideas that came to me this morning.

Following the long-term evolutionary framework in the last blog (see “Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the Next Societal Innovations?”), we can see that forms of governance have been evolving also according to the two megatrends (the 3×3 diagram below was first presented to the Futuristics in Education course for Malaysian senior education officers last August 23, 2005 at SEAMEO INNOTECH). Glocality and counter-glocality were discussed in the previous blog on “More Power to Glocals!”

governance 1

The great American democratic experiment can be viewed as a steady movement towards the lower left or indigo quadrant, the direction of the two megatrends (see previous blog). It remains to be seen how it will further evolve in the next centuries.

governance 2

Tibetan Buddhism was never a centralized and doctrinaire religion from the beginning; it has been an independent experiential and learning-oriented practice among generations after generations of lamas or monks across Tibet, Mongolia and elsewhere.

Potala Palace (photo credits to Wikimedia Commons)

Potala Palace (photo credits to Wikimedia Commons)

The political loss of Tibet to the Peoples Republic of China led to the farther spread of Tibetan Buddhism as a personal practice across the globe; from our framework, this is movement towards the indigo quadrant. What has happened is consistent with what Padma Sambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, prophesied 1200 years ago that the Tibetan people “will be scattered like ants across the face of the Earth.”

governance 3

However, we see from our framework that the evolution of Christianity was regressive from Pentecost up to the Middle Ages, and then it reversed back towards the indigo quadrant starting with the Protestant Reformation and continuing with Vatican II reforms.

governance 4

The modern corporation is also evolving (see my blog on “From corporate disregard to corporate embrace of stakeholder capital to socially-embedded corporations”). The advent of knowledge management, organizational learning/presencing, corporate social responsibility or CSR practices, the power shift (see Alvin Toffler and Daniel Bell) to knowledge workers/enterprises and a “flatter world” according to Thomas Friedman, are forces that tend to push the modern corporate practice towards the indigo quadrant.

governance 5

What do you think?

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Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the Next Societal Innovations?

May 18, 2009

I introduced trans-societal Megatrend #1 in an earlier blog (“Q14- Naming Trans-Societal Megatrend #1: towards Yin?”). I summarized Megatrend #1 (see blog “KM and trans-societal megatrend #1”) as:

megatrend-1

Trans-societal Megatrend #2 (introduced in blog Q26- Information: another Force for Democratization) can be summarized as:

Megatrend #2

If we combine these two megatrends and again use Ken Wilber’s framework, we have a new way of characterizing major societal innovations and anticipating where the next major societal innovations would be emerging:

Combining 2 megatrends

Do you agree with the following observations?

  1. The combined trend is towards the lower left or indigo-colored Quadrant 4 in the figure above. Using simplistic language, the trend is towards the democratization of religions (Quadrant 1 to 4) and the spiritualization of democracy, free markets and science (Quadrant 3 to 4).
  2. There is a mega-tension between Quadrants 1 and 3 which can be seen in the conflict between Western democratic values versus Islamic fundamentalism and theocracy (which underlies the events in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorist attacks in Europe and North America, and tension between European cultures and cultures of Muslim immigrants in Europe), the conflict between scientific empiricism and religious faith (seen in Matthew Fox’s creation spirituality versus traditional Catholic doctrines, Darwinian evolution versus creationism from Genesis), and the conflict between laissez faire capitalism and various economic models that emphasize the humanistic, psychological and spiritual dimensions (such as “Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered” by Schumacher, Bhutan King Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s “Gross National Happiness”).
  3. Regressive forces are represented by those groups which aim to maintain or go back to communism, dictatorship, theocracy, monopolistic control of national economies, etc.
  4. New practices are emerging in Quadrant 4, which I call “indigo practices.” I will write about this in another blog. The interactive practice in double-loop learning that I am proposing in the last blog (An Invitation to Interactive Practice of Double-Loop Learning) is an indigo practice.
  5. A most interesting convergence between Quadrants 1 and 3 is happening between Tibetan Buddhism and modern science: the Mind and Life Institute. Tibetan Buddhism comes from centuries of learning, experiential studies and applying consensual corroboration in the inner worlds; while modern sciences comes from centuries of learning, empirical studies and applying consensual corroboration in the outer worlds.

interesting convergence

I introduced the ideas in this blog in an earlier paper on “Information Technology and Security in the 21st Century” which I read at the Asia-Pacific Security Forum Conference in Taipei, Taiwan in December 1999.

Please tell us what you think about these.

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An Invitation to Interactive Practice of Double-Loop Learning

May 16, 2009

(Please see recent note at the bottom of this blog)

Only seven months old, this blog has grown in readership (see chart below). I am very happy and thankful to all my loyal readers, including of course YOU reading this blog now.

growth of weekly hits

There is surprisingly great interest in double-loop learning and intangible assets (see Rank 1 and 2 in the Top Posts below). Three posts: 12 Types of Learning (Rank 6), Limits of the Possible (Rank 7) and Techniques in Knowledge Innovation (or: You Experience How Da Vinci Thinks) (Rank 12) are very recent posts yet they attracted high page hits. These three blogs are all about expanding and deepening our own personal learning processes.

top posts 20May2009

I interpret the high number of hits of two posts: “Oops! (Learn from My KM Mistakes)” (Rank 3) and “About Me” (Rank 4) as great interest in the personal learning journey of other people.

After reflecting on the above findings, I decided that the next blog series will be about “Practice Double-Loop Learning: Discover Why You Think, Perceive and Behave the Way You Do.” I will call this series the “2L Series.”

For this blog series, I will invite a small group of readers in interactive practice of double-loop learning. Merely reading a blog is not enough learning; deeper learning requires practice and even deeper and expanded learning requires interaction with others involved in similar practice. This is the essence behind the KM tool called Community of Practice.

Therefore in joining this group I will ask you to commit yourself to practice all the techniques and interact with each other through the Comment functionality below each blog. The purpose of interactive comments is to enable group members to compare notes, learn from each other’s personal practice, contribute to improving the practice itself, and thus learn and grow together.

If you are interested to join this group, email me (serafin.talisayon@cclfi.org) and say something about yourself and your intent in participating in this group experiment. I will collect your emails and send this to all participants at the start of the 2L Series, so that members of this small group, though virtual, can start by knowing something about each other. The 2L Series will start on the last week of May. On the meantime, we shall finish the last few blogs of the Q series.

Below is the tentative outline of the 2L Series on “Practice Double-Loop Learning: Discover Why You Think, Perceive and Behave the Way You Do.” The group can revise the outline as we go along.

> 1- Self-Observation

    11- Isko and Esbert, internal attention
    12- Double listening
    13- Sensing my energy level
    14- Aristotle’s advice: watching my emotions
    15- Watching “from the 4th floor”
    16- Thinking past or thinking future, or being present

> 2- Self-Understanding

    21- My most fulfilling moment
    22- What makes me angry and indignant
    23- MBTI: my seeing and thinking style
    24- My learning style
    25- Three things I did exceptionally well: my talents, virtues and passions
    26- My highest or peak life moment and my lowest valley life moment
    27- My childhood issues
    28- Our biological and my cultural programmings
    29- Three pointing fingers

> 3- Sensing Life

    31- “For me, life is…”
    32- Peak work experience
    33- Triple listening
    34- Sensing the emergent
    35- Looking for questions
    36- Problem finding and innovating
    37- Learning from movies
    38- Insights from world events
    39- “Reading the Living Book”: connecting the dots in your life
    310- “Panoramic Gantt Chart”
    311- Conscious co-evolution: the fourth wave of creation

> 4- Self-Management

    41- Discovering my blindfolds
    42- Examining my assumptions
    43- Uncovering my automatic behavior patterns
    44- Suspending judgment
    45- Divergent-then-convergent thinking
    46- Conscious and transparent intent
    47- Escape from runaway trains
    48- Capabilities and knowledge for action

> 5- Your Organization and You

    51- Vertical vs. horizontal organizations
    52- Young-entrepreneurial vs. old-rigid organizations
    53- Weight of organizational culture and systems
    54- “Undiscussables”
    55- Change management

> 6- Co-Evolving with Others

    61- Process partnering
    62- A new way of conversing
    63- Appreciative sensing
    64- Generative dialogue
    65- Consensual discernment
    66- Glocals for one another

Cheers!

Note (25 May 2009): Some of the people who signified interest in participating in the above-described interactive practice of double-loop learning expressed their concerns to me about privacy issues. I understand their concerns, which is particularly relevant to double-loop learning. While seeking a satisfactory way of addressing this issue, I therefore decided to postpone the 2L Series and instead start a different blog series entitled “Indigo Learning Practices” or L Series.

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Appreciating Nonaka’s SECI Model (#23)

May 13, 2009

Let us review the four critical tasks of a learning organization (numbers 1-4 refer to the figure below):

  1. Build those tacit knowledge in workers that contribute most to value creation;
  2. Convert useful tacit knowledge into explicit forms that are easier to reproduce, replicate and reuse; this explicit knowledge is collected in an organized fashion into a knowledge repository or Organizational Brain;
  3. Provide the right explicit knowledge to be reused or practiced by the right knowledge workers; if substantial volumes of explicit knowledge have been collected, it becomes possible to recombine, digest, analyze, correlate and otherwise “mine” the collection to generate new insights and conclusions that are actionable;
  4. Procure needed expertise or knowledge from outside.

4 critical tasks in a learning organization

The tasks revolve around the green quadrant because (a) it is the quadrant where most value creation takes place, and (b) most of the knowledge in an organization is located in the green quadrant.

According to Laura Birou, only 10-20 percent of an organization’s knowledge is explicit. Robert H. Buckman of Buckman Laboratories estimates this fraction at only 10 percent. William H. Baker Jr. estimates it at 20 percent. Furthermore, not all of this explicit knowledge is captured in the organizations’ IT-based information systems. What IT does well is facilitate the replication and transmission of explicit knowledge so that more knowledge workers can use/practice them, convert them to their tacit knowledge, and create value for the organization.

Notice that the well-known SECI model of Nonaka addresses all four critical tasks of a learning organization:

  1. Socialization: tacit-to-tacit knowledge transfer from expert to learner
  2. Externalization: conversion to explicit group knowledge
  3. Combination: combining new explicit knowledge with other existing explict knowledge
  4. Internalization: conversion back to individual tacit knowledge

Nonaka SECI model

The SECI model is not the only mix of knowledge pathways that performs the four critical tasks. In the previous blog post, notice that the Case Study 3 organization also addresses all four critical tasks of a learning organization. The mixes of knowledge pathways do vary from organization to organization.

In Case Study 3, the explicit group knowledge is in the form of a Learning-Oriented Systems Manual (=organizational brain), which at this point in time is not yet web-based. This illustrates the fact that although information technology can be an excellent enabler, it is not an absolute necessity for a learning organization.

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Knowledge Pathways: 3 Case Studies (Practical Hint #22)

May 11, 2009

Please first review the previous blog on “Knowledge pathways in a learning organization.” The following three case studies are drawn from our KM consulting experiences at CCLFI.

Case Study 1. These are the new knowledge pathways resulting from the KM initiatives of a big government ministry/department:

pathways 1

The characteristics of this organization’s KM initiatives are as follows:

  • Membership of the cross-functional KM Team is drawn from about 20 functional units.
  • The KM team was involved in the KM audit, KM strategy formulation and KM action planning activities.
  • Nurturing of the KM Team took the form of KM training using experiential exercises and KM mentoring as the team members “learn KM by doing KM.” Their practice projects are various web-based KM toolkits.
  • The KM Team launched a wiki to reconstruct the KM history of their department, the first Philippine department to formally set up a KM unit in 2001.
  • The KM Team practiced in documenting a sample business process (procedures to be followed by a retiring staff) and placed their output in the department intranet.

Actual feedbacks from KM Team members:


    “I am more confident now to promote KM in [my unit]; being equipped with all ideas from the KM meetings and workshop.”

    “[I learned] that I love my work more – because of the KM challenge. Would like to see this work and take part in its success.”

    “KM also responds to the heart of the worker by way of interaction, collegiality and peer learning. To me this is a very holistic approach in the development of the person/worker.”

Case Study 2. These are the new knowledge pathways resulting from the KM initiatives of a government regulatory agency:

pathways 2

The characteristics of this organization’s KM initiatives are as follows:

  • A KM Team was set up consisting of a Process Sub-Team, a Technology Sub-Team and a People Sub-Team.
  • KM training was through workshops that use adult experiential learning processes.
  • The central KM initiative is mentoring of the KM Team in setting up their intranet and organizing/uploading content.
  • The next activity was mentoring the KM Team in documenting and automating a business process through their new intranet.

Actual feedbacks from KM Team members:


    “The development of the Intranet was a very challenging activity. To be able to put all the information and knowledge in a one-stop shop for the benefit of the organization is just a great achievement.”

    “What I like is the part where we are actually doing the hands-on, applying what we have learned from the lectures”

    “The development of the Intranet system gave me freedom to speak my mind by contributing some articles for uploading at the Intranet”

Case Study 3: These are the new knowledge pathways resulting from the KM initiatives of a multi-sectoral organization consisting of representatives from the national and local governments, local community organizations and non-government organizations, and private sector. The red arrows show where and how tacit knowledge is increased through practice.

pathways 3

The characteristics of this organization’s KM initiatives are as follows:

  • Their biggest problem is high turnover of membership resulting in constant loss of knowledge and long learning curves of new members.
  • The solution was (a) training in team learning including convening Lessons-Learned Meetings or LLM to elicit and document what works well in existing procedures and (b) compilation of administrative and technical documentations into a “Learning-Oriented Systems Manual.”
  • A subset of the Manual was used for briefing of new members.
  • The executive committee adopted a new vision: “to become a living, learning organization.”
  • LLM was adopted as an organizational habit: “what worked well” and “what did not work” was answered and documented at the end of every activity: meetings, field operations, etc.

Actual feedbacks from the members:


    “I learned that learning can be tremendously fun… the atmosphere becomes conducive if you have fun while learning.”

    “The process, the flow, the sequence of events were very well placed and very appropriate that even the games brought us to higher levels of interaction.”

    “Here, we are taught to take notice of those that are not usually taken notice of in the ordinary course of thinking.”

    “I passed through the `unlearning’ stage, then the `learning’ stage, then perhaps it may be more than this, but the end of it is the ‘appreciation’ stage.”

Overall observations:

  • Documentation is not the end-point of the KM pathways; the end-point is adoption/practice by other employees for their more effective action.
  • The mix of KM pathways varies across organizations; it responds to what the organization wants from KM.
  • “Learning by doing” coupled with mentoring/coaching is an effective knowledge transfer from consultant plus learning by client. There are three secrets to good KM: practice, more practice and still more practice! (smile)
  • Experiential workshops are effective in helping KM team members understand and appreciate KM.
  • Participation, team practice and involvement tends to develop sense of ownership on the part of KM Team members.

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Knowledge Pathways in a Learning Organization (#21)

May 9, 2009

I wrote in the previous blog about the “Organizational Brain” (lower right or yellow quadrant in the diagram below). The Organizational Brain is a superb instrument for storing, providing, replicating and leveraging explicit knowledge but explicit knowledge by itself cannot create value. Information just sitting in a database does not create value. It is only when PEOPLE apply knowledge that value can be created (upper left or green quadrant in the diagram).

K pathways in OL

There are few exceptions. In a fully robotized factory, technology (~explicit knowledge), almost by itself, creates value. I said “almost” because there will always be humans overseeing the factory. Even in highly automated systems such as Ultra-Large Crude Carriers (ULCCs), about two dozen crew members are needed to manage its sophisticated technological systems.

Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

Value may be created from explicit knowledge such as when a company sells the patents, copyrights, tools, software and formulas it had internally developed. Of course, the original source of this explicit knowledge is the tacit knowledge of the employees who developed them.

In short, the main creators of value are PEOPLE: individuals and teams using their tacit knowledge: this is a central tenet in the knowledge economy. In the diagram below, these are located in the left quadrants, particularly the green quadrant. Structural capital and technology (right quadrants) are only supportive. Note that the diagram is again based on Ken Wilber’s framework. You can go back to the following blogs to read about Ken Wilber’s framework: (click on any link)

There are four critical tasks facing a Learning Organization:

    Task 1: Enhance employees’ tacit knowledge (green quadrant) especially those that create most value for the organization.

    Task 2: Convert useful individual tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge — the form easily replicable and re-usable by more people in the organization (conversion from green to yellow quadrant using Pathways 2, 3 or 4).

    Task 3: Facilitate re-use or practice of the right explicit knowledge by the right people (conversion back to green quadrant). Pathway 6 does this. Through practice explicit knowledge is converted into the practitioner’s own tacit knowledge (see “D4- Converting Tacit to Explicit Knowledge and vice-versa”). Some organizations analyze, recombine, correlate and mine their Organizational Brain into more useful forms (Pathway 5).

    Task 4: Acquire needed knowledge from outside (Pathways 7-10 in the diagram below)

Sourcing K from outside

Some KM tools for Task 1 are:

  • Pathway 1 or replication of individual tacit knowledge: Mentoring, coaching, understudy, buddy system, lecture-demonstration, peer assist, cross-visits, knowledge sharing among a community of practitioners. Some of these KM tools tend to lie “outside the radar” of HR practitioners because the HRD framework looks at the individual employee as the unit of management, while the KM framework is based on managing value-creating knowledge across employees.
  • Various tools to enhance employee motivation and engagement; our empirical findings at CCLFI reveal the importance of motivational factors (see: “A Success Factor in KM: Motivating Knowledge Workers” and “Practical Exercise: Ingredients of Effective Group Action”)

Some KM tools for Task 2 (individual tacit knowledge to group explicit knowledge) are:

  • Pathway 2 (the predominant knowledge pathway for Task 2): Manualization, process documentation, learning history, individual mind mapping, blog, surveys and questionnaires.
  • Pathway 3: Lessons-learned session, after-action review, wiki or collaborative authoring, group exercises for thinking together such as mind mapping, causal flow diagramming, fishbone diagramming, etc.
  • Pathway 4: Video capture of story telling, company visioning exercise accompanied by documentation, minutes or aide memoire of a meeting and conceptual design brainstorming among architects

Some KM tools for Task 3 are:

  • Pathway 5 or recombination: Data mining, performance metrics followed by identification and study of best practitioner, multiple regression or path analysis to detect causal linkages and contributions, statistical summaries and fitting trend lines to data.
  • Pathway 6 or group explicit knowledge converted to individual tacit knowledge in many: Practicum, learning-by-doing, on-the-job training, workplace-oriented mentoring, action research, R&D, experimentation and replication/adaptation of best practice.

We know that the usual means for Task 4 are: purchase of knowledge products, hiring new employees, buying a franchise to quickly use a ready product and its support network, engaging a consultant, copying from the public domain, business intelligence procedures, etc.

I have written about these knowledge pathways in Section 3.5 of my Overview chapter in the book “Knowledge Management in Asia: Experience and Lessons” published in 2008 by the Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo, Japan. If you wish to receive a copy of this chapter, send me an email.

See also: “Knowledge pathways: 3 case studies” and “Appreciating Nonaka’s SECI model”.

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