Archive for June, 2009

The Art of Interviewing

June 28, 2009

Today I am flying to Indonesia to conduct interviews of staff in a company in Sukabumi, in the highlands of West Java. The Asian Productivity Organization provided them with training in 5S and kaizen a few years ago. My aim is to discover and evaluate the impacts of the training through interviews. After a couple of days I will fly to Thailand and do the same in Phitsanulok in Northern Thailand near the Laotian border.

As a knowledge-pull activity, the interview is the art and science of asking questions. The most unrepentant knowledge-pushers are professor-lecturers-cum-bloggers (like me!) and the best cure for them is to do interviews (ouch!).

From a previous blog post (“L14- Voicing”), the unproductive manners of voicing are: lack of respect, being judgmental and acting as if you know better, and talking more than listening. The interviewer is forced to unlearn these unproductive habits of voicing. The interviewer is also forced to learn the art of asking questions and interviewing.

What are some productive ways of interviewing?

  1. The presumptions of the interviewer hide underneath every question he asks — presumptions which may not always be shared by the respondent. Hence the first duty of the interviewer is to reduce his presumptions to a bare minimum. This is the reason why it is important to start with open-ended questions, or “grand tour” questions (see Step 1 in the diagram below), before moving on to more structured questions.
  2. A good open-ended question is the invitation to storytelling (e.g. “Tell us about it/them” in Steps 1-3 in the diagram below) which is a good device to elicit narration of experiences from a respondent in her own terms and using her own assumptions to interpret her experiences. The interviewer just listens, instead of asking questions which are often loaded — knowingly or unknowingly — by his own assumptions. The story teller’s experiences and her interpretation of those experiences reveal her mental models (see “12 Types of Learning”).
  3. In general, the cultural, technical and other assumptions of the interviewer are not the same as those of the respondent. And so the duty of the interviewer is to discover the assumptions of the respondent. He can then develop his next questions “on the spot” following the assumptions, categories and mental models/structures of the respondent — not his own. This is the reason why many anthropologists and ethnographers shy away from structured questionnaires: these research tools insinuate the researcher’s own assumptions onto the respondents’ answers. The casualties are scientific validity and cultural fairness.
  4. Interviews are expensive in terms of time, expertise and money. Open-ended interviews cannot generate the kind of data needed to make useful generalizations. In other words, open-ended interviews are good for hypothesis building, but structured questionnaires are better for hypothesis testing. If questionnaires are designed AFTER open-ended interviews and ACCORDING to mental models/structures of the respondent population, then structured questionnaires offer opportunities for generalizations that open-ended methods alone cannot offer. The two are complementary, but a structured questionnaire/survey should be a LATTER step (see Step 6 in the diagram below) in the research process.

interview questions

The same principle applies in designing a questionnaire: more open-ended questions should precede the more structured questions. For some research purposes, it is not advisable to tell the respondent what is the purpose of a questionnaire until after she is done answering. A good technique for avoiding or postponing some “smart” respondents becoming “test-wise” (i.e. they guess the purpose of the questionnaire and that guess consciously influences their answers) is to start with more open-ended questions.

Structure is “a fact of research life” because having research objectives means adopting a research structure. In this particular interview, my aim is impact evaluation of projects. The table above is oriented towards that aim. For my field interviews in five Asian countries, the sponsor and user of the impact evaluation is the Asian Productivity Organization or APO.

The range of concerns in impact evaluations typically includes (starting from the most immediate): outputs of a project, results on the larger organizational context of the project, side effects, and broader social outcomes. Attribution is easiest to claim on outputs and most difficult on social outcomes. Because interviews are at the individual level and social outcomes are at the macro level, interview is not a suitable tool for delineating social outcomes. The interviewer can still ask outcome questions, but he must remember that the answers he will get are highly interpretive and contextual on the part of the respondent. Hence, the correct sequence in asking such questions in an interview is to start with concrete and immediate outputs, and then move towards the more macro questions and their interpretive and contextual answers (Steps 2 and 3, followed by Steps 4 and 5 in the diagram below).

I will appreciate comments and improvements from other interviewers, or other impact evaluators (I am practicing knowledge-pulling!).

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Ask High-Value Questions

June 25, 2009


“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first fifty five minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I knew the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

— Albert Einstein

Among the 12 Manners of Voicing, asking questions is, from my experience, the most productive of learning and innovation. I have started to illustrate asking high-value questions in a prior blog post (“Personal Learning History”).

Last March 28, 2007 I was invited to be a reactor to several paper presenters in the “National Conference on Improving Competitiveness through Science & Technology Human Resource Development.” It was sponsored by the Science Education Institute of the Department of Science and Technology of the Philippine government.

As reactor I was expected to comment on the papers presented: expand on ideas I agree with, criticize ideas I don’t agree with, etc. I decided to completely change my approach. I decided not to provide answers. Instead my “reaction” was a series of questions:

  1. Provocative questions
  2. Mind-opening questions
  3. Assumption-exposing questions
  4. Mental model-challenging questions
  5. Bias-awareness questions
  6. Blindfolds-discovering questions
  7. Discovering-what-we-don’t-know questions
  8. Attention-shifting questions
  9. Market opportunities-attentive questions
  10. Reframing questions.

You can read my short (only 5 substantive slides) presentation by holding “Ctrl” and left-clicking HERE to view my presentation in a new tab.

Learn to ask high-value questions. I call them “high-value” questions because they can lead to answers that are high-value knowledge, for example:

  1. Delighting customers instead of just satisfying them, and thereby converting customers to willing and eager salespersons convincing their friends to buy your product.
  2. Changing how we see reality: this is why “reframing” questions are very powerful. For example, if we change how we view the market then it may enable us to see new market opportunities that we hardly saw before. This can lead to —
  3. Challenging and changing the assumptions behind our business model, resulting in a better or new business model that can revive a losing business or radically outstrip all competition or lead to an entirely new and successful business venture with its own niche!


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L14- Voicing

June 22, 2009

If you grew up in North America or Europe and have lived and worked for some time in Asia, you must have experienced something similar to the following scenario in a meeting or conference among Asians:

    Many do not speak their mind in obvious deference to the boss, or for seeming fear of causing disharmony or ruining good interpersonal relationships, or because of a prevailing organizational culture against disagreements. The boss may be authoritative and he may have a habit of browbeating or putting down any idea of his subordinates. Women and juniors noticeably hesitate to speak most likely because they grew up in a culture where they are expected to just listen to men and elders. Opposing or different ideas that are suggested are expressed with painfully too much sugar-coating and diplomatic language.

If you are an Asian who has spent years in North America or Europe, you must have observed meeting or conference scenarios among Westerners similar to the following:

    Speakers are very direct and appear confrontational and even disrespectful. Ideas and counter-ideas fly in all directions and the debate is uncomfortable to Asian ears. The boss is not spared from opposing or critical views. People who are otherwise friends behave so strangely unfriendly and seemingly arrogant when they argue and debate their positions. After the meeting, everyone seems OK and so easily forget the heated and emotional meeting.

Have you personally experienced any of the above?

The manner that people voice their views in a group (including virtual e-group or discussion lists) determines whether and how far learning will happen in the group. If authentic sharing and group learning are objectives of a group, then it is useful for the group members to distinguish what are the more productive from the less productive ways of voicing.

From our experiences at CCLFI, and from the 12 Types of Learning described in another blog post, one way to be more aware of our habitual manners of voicing is through the following 12 Manners of Voicing:


The green areas tend to be more productive for group learning and mutual trust-building, especially those manners of voicing in the dark green area or described in bold letters. The brown areas tend to be less productive, especially the dark brown areas. I highlight respect — both intended and perceived — as a defining factor in how far communication and learning can or cannot proceed productively. This typology must be understood from the context of the earlier 12 Types of Learning.

If you are married or have been married, do you agree with me that during the courtship or dating stage your communications were in the green areas such as 3? After you are married or before you divorced or separated, did you also notice that your communications shifted more towards the brown areas? Couples married for decades stayed in Green Area 3 and/or at least one partner settled in the brown habits in Area 5.

Scientific discourse often lies in Areas 1 and 4. Generative dialogue lies in Areas 1, 3 and 4.

The stereotypically Asian authority-driven habits are also in the brown habits in Area 5 as well as in Areas 6, 10 and 12. These manners of voicing belong to Stage 1 of William Isaac’s four stages of dialogue. The Brown Areas 9-10 are more likely where stereotypically Western habits of speaking would likely land on; these latter manners of voicing belong to Isaac’s Stage 2. I will explain these stages in my later blog posts (L42 and L43).

These are only my personal impressions of stereotypes coming from eight years living in New York and travelling many times to eleven other Western countries; they are not the result of any statistical or scientific study so I may be wrong or inaccurate. My intention is to help us be more aware of our personal habits and unconscious group patterns of communication, and to contribute towards a more conscious and studied way of managing our group communications towards group learning and mutual trust-building.

What do you think?

Can you suggest how we can improve the 12 Manners of Voicing?

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Personal Learning History

June 19, 2009

In the movie “The Kid” Russ Duritz (played by actor Bruce Willis) mysteriously met an 8-year old boy who turns out to be Russ himself when he was a boy. The conversations between the 40-year old Russ and the 8-year old Russ enabled the older Russ to reflect on his life: What did he do wrong? What should he have done? How should he chart a new course in life?

The time-warp was an extraordinary opportunity for the older Russ to give advice to the boy Russ. It was an equally extraordinary opportunity for the boy Russ to ask the older Russ questions such as: “Why did you give up your dream of being a pilot? You are 40 years old and you don’t have a wife yet! (The older Russ has a girlfriend who is getting tired of his inability or unwillingness to commit.) You don’t even own a dog, what’s wrong with you?!”

The last scene in the movie was in an airport runway in the evening. It was a double time-warp. As the 40-year old Russ and the 8-year old Russ was watching, a much older Russ — who was boarding his private jet with his wife (Russ’ current girlfriend) and their dog — waved back at them.

Richard Edler interviewed CEOs and compiled the results into a book entitled “If I Know Then What I Know Now: CEOs and other Smart Executives Share Wisdom They Wish They’d Been Told 25 Years Ago” (New York: Berkley Books, 1996). Like Russ Duritz in the movie “The Kid”, the CEOs summarized their most important life learning into a few paragraphs that they wished were told them when they were 25 years younger.

Some excerpts:

    “…the most important enduring aspect of a person’s ability to make a difference comes not from brains or motivation, but from character. And at the heart of character is an old-fashioned value that is overlooked and underrated. Trust. …certainly not a new perspective. But, as I look back at my own life, these things seem more important than ever.”

    — Norman Brown
    Retired Chairman and CEO
    Foote, Cone & Belding

    “Listening is the most difficult skill to learn, and the most important to have… Learning to talk is relatively easy. Spend twice as much time learning to listen as you do learning to talk.”

    — Lynn Upshaw
    Ketchum Advertising, San Francisco

    “Success is waking up in the morning, whoever you are, wherever you are, however old or young, and bounding out of bed because there’s something out there that you love to do, that you believe in, that you’re good at – something that’s bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it again today.”

    — Whit Hobbs

“What is your most important learning?” is a high-value question that is best asked of an experienced senior staff about to retire from your company. It will produce high-value answers that are worth listening to (and documenting) by you and your company colleagues. It is high-value knowledge that would otherwise be lost to the company.

“What is your most important life learning?” is a most high-value question that is best asked of very senior people in their twilight years. Their answers would be high-value knowledge on how to live life that would otherwise be forever lost if not asked. We spent years and much money going through school so that we learn how to make a living, but not how to live life. So, go ahead and ask high-value questions of very senior people. You will spend only a few minutes and they will share it for free. Where else can you get such an extremely high benefit-cost ratio?!


You can ask the same high-value question especially of people who are dying. I enjoyed and profited tremendously reading Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson.” I recommend it to you.

And how about you, what is your most important life learning?

Some organizations find it useful to construct a “learning history” (see for example: George Roth and Art Kleiner: “Developing Organizational Memory through Learning Histories” in James W. Cortada and John A. Woods (editors): The Knowledge Management Yearbook 2000-2001, Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000).

Why can’t an individual also construct his or her own “personal learning history“? Try it. Make a short outline your academic and career history, and ask yourself “What are my major learnings along the way?” “What does it tell me about my approach to learning, personal and professional development?” “Did I have a conscious learning plan and career development plan?” “How can I improve the rest of my learning journey?”

The last question is a high-value question for me. Ask yourself that question too (or perhaps you can invent another high-value question that suits you better).

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The Reflective Knowledge Worker

June 17, 2009

If self-reflection (or similar internal listening skills; see my last blog post on “Learning How to Learn”) is a key to successful business leadership, then self-reflection is also a key to success for knowledge workers.

What is the first practical step in learning self-reflection? From my experience, the doorway to learning internal listening skills is conscious moment-to-moment control of attention.

Practice it now. As you read these words, your attention is on the computer screen. If a phone rings now, your attention will be diverted to the telephone and to what the caller is saying. After the call, you revert your attention to reading this blog post starting from where you left off.

All of these are externally-focused and externally-driven attention. As much as 99% of our attention at the workplace is external.

Practice being also aware of how your mind is responding to what you are reading now. Is there agreement, or doubt? Does your mind shoot off on something you remember that is related to what you just read? Is your mind now making a silent internal conversation stemming from the ideas expressed here? Are you noticing any discomfort triggered by a word or phrase? Is your interest level moving up or down?

It all starts by your decision to consciously control where you focus your attention. There are times when your mind — without your conscious control or decision — shoots off in a different direction while you are attending, say, a meeting. In each such occasion of absent-mindedness you miss what is being said for several seconds.

The mind — the prime tool and asset of knowledge workers — is often like a poorly-tamed horse that literally gets off-track every now and then. And worse, the horse rider (=we) fails to notice this most of the time! Control of the horse begins with conscious attention: the horse rider must direct his attention on his horse consciously and every moment along the way.

The knowledge worker depends very much on his horse; therefore he must be a constantly alert horse rider.

untamed horse

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L13- Learning How to Learn

June 14, 2009

From two earlier blog posts (F9- Economics of Unconscious Learning and Q13- Learning = KM + “Power of the Third Kind”) we noted two things:

  1. Most (about 70%-95%) of our individual knowledge now we did not learn from formal schooling. We learned more from work and from life than from formal means.
  2. Our learning from work/life has been largely an unplanned, informal and unconscious process.

Isn’t that shocking?!

The UNESCO Task Force on Education for the Twenty-first Century, headed by former two-time EU president Jacques Delors, concluded in 1996 that there are four critical types of learning for the 21st century:

  • Learning how to learn, or learning to know
  • Learning to do
  • Learning to live together, or learning to relate
  • Learning to be

(see “Learning: the Treasure Within; Report of the UNESCO Task Force on Education for the Twenty-first Century”)

JACQUES DELORS (picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

JACQUES DELORS (picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Our school systems are primarily aimed at “learning to do” or providing professional or technical knowledge. This D Series of blogs on Indigo Learning Practices is aimed at contributing skills towards the other three largely ignored but equally critical learning, particularly learning to live together — a foundational skill in building relationship capital.

To develop a new formal and systematic system for learning how to learn, we start by being conscious and keenly observant of our daily learning processes. Psychologists call this practice metacognition. MIT Prof. Donald Schon studied and described the personal knowledge processes of a “reflective practitioner”. Prof. Charles Tart of the University of California at Davis calls it “self observation” (interview by Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove in the book “Thinking Allowed: Conversations in the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery”).

At CCLFI, we call it internal attention or simply “listening within”.

Start sharpening your skills of listening within by practicing the following:

  • Study your attention habits. When you read newspapers, notice that you habitually zero in on certain sections and always ignore other sections. Is it time for you to free yourself from your unconscious attention habits and consciously plan and select your information sources?
  • When you encounter a “silly” or “stupid” idea, it is your unconscious mental models, assumptions and value systems that are labelling the idea as “silly” or “stupid” or whatever. Suspend your judgment; hold your horses. Use the moment as a mindful opportunity to discover your unconscious assumptions. Are they still valid? Or are they valid in this instance?
  • Have you tied yourself to a pet theory? A theory or framework is double-edged: it allows you to see things that otherwise you could hardly see, but it also channels your seeing and thinking in particular and predictable ways. Theories and frameworks come and go. Is it time to let go of a “pet”?
  • Notice what things, events, words, experiences, people or any trigger make you uncomfortable, uneasy or drain you of energy. Very often these things happen repeatedly but you never noticed, until it surfaces as disproportionate anger, headache or sickness (because these drains lower your body’s resistance to germs and viruses). Listen to your body. Practice observing what and how these things drain you. Study how you can avoid these energy drains. An energy drain may stem from an internal resistance on your part against something; if you find a way to inwardly accept that something then the energy drain can fade away.
  • Be aware of your learning preferences and your thinking and learning style. Take a free online MBTI test or online learning style inventory and be more aware of the best ways that YOU learn.
  • Install a feedback habit within you. After finishing a task exceptionally well, ask yourself “how did I do that?” and “what made me do that task so well?” or “what do I do to repeat the success?” Practice the same feedback habit after making a mistake. Write down your learning and other insights in a journal that you can re-read later.
  • When you are driving in heavy traffic and you notice that you are tense, watch the tension within you. Many times the tension will die off simply by watching it. Don’t say “I am tense” because that statement makes you identify yourself with the tension. Objectify the tension by saying to yourself “I see tension in me”. Of course, continue to pay attention to your driving! Practice this skill minutes before you attend a meeting that you expect will be tense. Start by noticing and watching that expectation within you. That expectation is inside your head; what will happen in reality could well be something else!

In the February 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Bill George and his associates wrote about learning how to be an inspiring and empowering leader. They asked 75 members of the Advisory Council of the Stanford Graduate School of Business what is the most important capability that leaders must develop. Their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness!

If you have your own personal practice in sharpening how you learn from daily work and daily life, please share it by clicking the Comment link below.

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Listening (and Building Cross-Cultural Relationship Capital)

June 12, 2009

A good listener seeks to discover and understand the assumptions of a speaker. Cultural assumptions are particularly challenging to discover, because people are most often unaware of their cultural assumptions. This challenge has become more acute in a rapidly globalizing world economy, where cross-cultural collaborations and cross-cultural communications are multiplying all around us.

Some years back I met an American lady in a party. She had been stationed in the Philippines doing development work. She complained to me: “Filipinos sometimes say ‘yes’ just to be polite and then I later discover to my dismay that ‘yes’ actually meant ‘no.’ Why don’t they tell me the truth from the start?” She sounded perplexed and appeared irritated.

I paused for a while.

Then, instead of answering her directly I asked her a question: “Have you experienced being a guest with other Filipinos in a Filipino home where the host offered food?”

“Yes I did,” she answered.

“Did you notice how the host keep offering the food and how the Filipino visitor keep declining, but in the end relented and accepted the food?”

“Yes I did notice that,” she answered.

Then I explained, “Among Filipinos who are not acquaintances, visitors who accept food immediately after the first offer are viewed or interpreted as eager to get a free meal or quick to take advantage of the host, or as an uncouth ‘kalatog pinggan.'”

“Kalatog pinggan” (literally “clanking of dishes”) is a derogatory term Filipinos use to describe people who gate-crash parties or fiestas (town celebrations) or who constantly look for opportunities to get a free meal from anyone.

I continued to explain, “To avoid being viewed as taking any advantage, the visitor will say something like ‘Thank you but I am not hungry’ or ‘Thank you but I just ate something before coming here’ – statements which may in fact be untrue.

“Despite these answers from the visitor, a good host will repeat her offer because she understands that the visitor does not wish to impose any inconvenience on her, the host. If the host does not make a second offer, the common interpretation among Filipinos is that the host was never serious nor sincere in her offer in first place.”

“This cycle of offer and decline is often repeated a second time,” I continued to explain, “The repeated offer is a sign that the host really would like to play the role of a good host, and the repeated decline is a sign that the visitor really would not wish to impose or take advantage of the generosity of the host.”

“Finally, the visitor would accept and eat the food, and everyone is happy. This ritual is repeated almost every time a stranger visits a Filipino home. It shows that among many Filipinos not telling the truth is a lesser evil than not starting or not maintaining good interpersonal relationships.”

“Now I see,” said the American lady.

Preference for good interpersonal relationships and social harmony — which are common across Asian cultures — can become anti-learning if a person will choose not to speak, oppose someone, or voice out his truth for the sake of avoiding “rocking the boat” called “harmonious relationship.” “False harmony” is the first of William Isaac’s four stages towards generative dialogue. We will discuss this and other blocks to learning in the next blog post L13 and future posts in the L Series.

In a cross-cultural encounter, a person from another culture has at least two choices:

  • Judge a behavior of another as stupid, silly, perplexing or unproductive, or
  • Listen closely to understand (which is not the same as appreciate or agree) the cultural meanings behind the behavior.

The first choice is often not a conscious choice but an automatic judgmental reaction, often by people who have rigid beliefs about what is “right” and what is “wrong.” The second is often a conscious choice followed by a considered process of listening, asking, and attempting to understand or see the assumptions and meanings behind the perplexing behavior. This process requires 100% listening, awareness of one’s own mental models, assumptions and values, and temporary suspension of one’s judgment based on those values — skills that are integral in indigo learning practices and personal knowledge management, and in the broader capacities required in a learning organization.

Rigid beliefs and automatic judgmental reactions (or being unaware victims of our own childhood and cultural programmings) are becoming counterproductive in a world where cross-cultural encounters are multiplying exponentially. Indigo learning practices and related skills are needed more and more if people of different cultures are to live together peacefully or to work together productively in an ever more crowded and more interconnected world. New capacities are needed for all of us to build cross-cultural relationship capital together.

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Can We Manage Knowledge? (A Practice in Listening)

June 9, 2009

A lively discussion is now going on after I opened a new page on “Will KM Disappear?” and posted it too in the Linkedin group “Knowledge Management Experts” (to read the comments, click that page on the panel to the right or click HERE).

Some are saying that we cannot really manage knowledge. Others are saying we have been doing it all the time. I have my own views but I wanted to listen and learn (see my previous blog post on Listening) and really understand the thinking behind the comments posted. Why are the views so widely divergent? What does each commentor mean?

I think we need to be clear and precise what our referents are when we say the words “manage” and “knowledge”. Otherwise, confusion and fruitless debates will follow. Some say that labels are unimportant and let us just get on with the work. In this particular instance, we need precision of communication. In a work team, unclear labels will lead to communication gaps and then to performance gaps.

First, note that people do not talk about “managing an idea or concept”. Rather, they talk about “managing a process” involving ideas and concepts. Similarly, some are sceptical of the term “managing knowledge” but instead say “managing knowledge processes”. Nonaka prefers the term “knowledge-based management” instead of “knowledge management” (read Nonaka’s talk in Bangkok last January 2007).

Accordingly in the table below I detailed a range of knowledge processes that we actually refer to when we say we “manage knowledge”.


deconstructing the phrase managing knowledge

From the above deconstruction of the phrase “managing knowledge” we can better —

  • Understand why some KM practitioners say that only explicit knowledge (or “knowledge artifacts” or “knowledge objects”) can be managed, and insist that tacit knowledge of employees cannot be directly managed (by managers and executives);
  • Understand why other KM practitioners who equate KM solely with organizational KM will say that mankind has been managing knowledge all the time (even before the term KM was invented) and will equally insist that asking whether knowledge can or cannot be managed is asking a silly question;
  • Understand why KM practitioners who include also personal knowledge processes in KM will say that managers and executives cannot really manage knowledge in employees; they will also insist that managers and executives can only facilitate, support, motivate or incentivize the knowledge and learning processes going on inside the heads (and hearts) of their employees;
  • Understand how the above (often unstated or unconscious) differences in referents inside the heads KM practitioners (who are all well-intentioned) set up or predispose them towards miscommunication and fruitless debate (I wrote this blog post to avoid this); and
  • Understand why change management and similar behavioral tools — which address personal knowledge processes (nearer the bottom of the table) — must often accompany KM.

Here is my 2 cents worth:

The most important knowledge process in the above table is knowledge use/application/practice (the bottom one in red text). There are only two value-creating steps in the knowledge cycle, and knowledge use/application/practice is one of them. If this step is missing or faulty, all other knowledge processes would amount to useless expenditures. Since this value-creating step is affected most heavily by personal factors, KM must include “personal KM” or personal knowledge processes in its scope of concern and therefore also scope of definition.

Therefore, personal KM cannot be optional because personal knowledge processes in each employee are at the foundation of effective organizational KM.

What do you think?

(My thanks to Fernando Goldman, Skip Boettger, Jim Coogan, Harold Jarche, Douglas Weidner and John Tropea for their comments, which made me think this issue through.)

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L12- Listening

June 7, 2009

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

— Writer Ernest Hemingway

“I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am.”

— Industrialist Henry J. Kaiser

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

— Businessman and statesman Bernard Baruch

3 good listeners

I suspect that most people are not 100% listeners. A “100% listener” does NOT do the following:

  • Mentally prepare what he will say next while the other person is still talking
  • Mentally comment or judge what a person is saying
  • Recall past experiences, good or bad, about the person talking
  • Automatically defend himself when criticized instead of trying to better understand the reasons and background behind the criticism
  • Retrieve his past emotions, good or bad, he had on the person talking now
  • Fail to listen completely because of an expectation about what the speaker will say
  • Lecture on what he knows about a topic even if the other person is not interested or is not asking about it
  • Notice or get irritated at the bad grammar, bad logic or bad attitude of the person talking
  • Interrupt by saying something when the other person is not yet finished talking
  • Enter a conversation with the belief that there is little he can learn from the other person
  • Talk very long or give long lectures or monopolize the conversation and as a result the other person has less time to talk
  • Think about something else related, or unrelated, to what the person is saying now
  • Mentally dismiss whatever the person is saying because of his belief about the low credibility or trustworthiness of the person talking
  • Focus more on the emotion of the person talking than on what he is saying
  • Answer a question but say so many other extra things unrelated to the question
  • Do something else such as read something while the person is still talking
  • Get distracted by noise or any other external stimulus
  • Etc. etc.

Do you do some of the above?

Do you agree that most of the blocks to 100% listening come from inside ourselves? Our minds are superb instruments, but their incessant internal noise are equally superb blocks to 100% listening.

Imagine the wider opportunities for our own personal learning if we practice AVOIDING the above blocks to listening! Imagine the better quality of our daily conversations when we all practice 100% listening!

My thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the image files.

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L11- Will to Self-Improve

June 5, 2009

Corporations spend money to craft their vision statements. If that is important, why don’t we craft our own personal vision statement? We advocate KM and organizational learning, but do we practice what we preach and embark on our own personal learning program? Many corporations go for business process improvement and continuous improvement or kaizen. Why don’t we also go for personal self-improvement?

Is self-improvement part of your personal goals?

Count how many of the following ten statements apply to you:

  1. You started to read at least one book in the past six months.
  2. When criticized, you try to understand the criticism instead of automatically defending yourself.
  3. The intention or thought of learning a new skill had occurred to you in the past six months.
  4. More often, you admit you don’t know something instead of pretending that you know it.
  5. At least once in the past six months, you have asked a colleague to comment on what you wrote.
  6. You are enrolled in an academic degree program or took a training course in the last six months.
  7. When you hear about a new but untested idea, you listen or ask questions instead of dismissing it outright.
  8. When you come across a new word whose meaning you do not know, more often you look it up in a dictionary or learn about it from the Internet instead of ignoring it.
  9. Although it may appear stupid or embarrassing at times, more often you go ahead and still ask questions about something you don’t know about.
  10. You often ask colleagues for advice.

If you checked four or more, then you value self-improvement and learning. If so, you will enjoy and benefit from this L Series of blogs. If you checked seven or more, wow! Your inclination and readiness to learn and self-improve is superb!

Next, what is(are) your preferred learning style(s)? You can answer this question by answering a free online learning styles inventory (click HERE) from the Memletics team. According to them, the learning styles are:

    Visual (spatial): you prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
    Aural (auditory-musical): you prefer using sound and music.
    Verbal (linguistic): you prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
    Physical (kinesthetic): you prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
    Logical (mathematical): you prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
    Social (interpersonal): you prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
    Solitary (intrapersonal): you prefer to work alone and use self-study.

The labels inside parentheses are the corresponding intelligence types according to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence.

After taking the test and knowing your preferred learning styles, you can read more about their characteristics in the same website. Learning by reading my blogs and then practicing what you read would fit your preferred learning style quite well if you score high in verbal, logical, visual (I use lots of diagrams and photos in my blog) and solitary. If you score high in aural, please email me so I can also insert some videos in my blog.

Here are my preferred learning styles (I am very poor in aural and physical). I can learn alone as well as through groups (I like having many friends and I am a networker; I am in Facebook and LinkedIn). But I find it difficult to learn through singing and physical movements. You can also see why I am very poor at dancing! 🙂



(Note that there are embedded links in this blog post. They show up as colored text. While pressing “Ctrl” click on any link to create a new tab to reach the websites pointed to.)

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