Posts Tagged ‘change management’

Personal Intangible Assets and Intentions

August 14, 2009

Among KM practitioners, the word “knowledge” has a very specific meaning, namely, “capacity for effective action” (see previous blog posts “F5- A Proposed KM Framework” and “Practical Exercise #15: Ingredients of Effective Group Action”).

I wrote a paper entitled “Organisational energy and other meta-learning from case studies of knowledge management implementation in nine Asian countries”. It will be published soon by Routlege in the next issue of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal. In this paper, I reviewed 22 KM case studies from Asian countries and 21 KM case studies from the Philippines, and I concluded that effective action is the result of two factors: knowledge assets and “organizational energy“. I defined the latter term as motivational, intentional, relational and related factors that determine effective group action. A knowledge worker must “know” how to do a job well, AND he/she must be “willing or wanting” to do it. See blog post: “Q23- Know-how (=Knowledge) without “Willing-to.” Organizational energy is a part of an organization’s capacity to create value. Organizational energy is part of its intangible assets.

KM practitioners know that KM to be successful must be accompanied by one form or another of “change management” (click “Change Management Must Accompany KM” in the CCLFI opening page). If you examine the repertoire of a change management expert, you will conclude that all change management interventions aim to enhance organizational energy — it seeks, enhances, encourages, builds upon or enables “willingness” of employees to perform the desired actions. (see: “A Success Factor in KM: Motivating Knowledge Workers”)

Therefore, to optimize person-to-person communication for either creation or transfer of knowledge, organizational energy must be managed, including paying attention to the intention behind our communication acts.

Let me share an insight about personal intangible assets.

I blogged about people who had experienced looking at death face-to-face, and surviving from that experience. The experience leaves them with a heightened appreciation of life. They listen to, engage with, and live life more fully. The experience also results in a valuable learning, namely, that when your time is up, we leave behind many things that we thought we “own”. Think about this: when you or I cross the threshold to death, we leave behind:

  • Our tangible assets: properties like house and land, financial wealth, explicit knowledge, equipment and technologies (you can’t bring your laptop with you!);
  • Our physical body and its physical or biological life;
  • Our academic, professional and social credentials and positions.

I had assumed that religious beliefs cannot be scientifically scrutinized. I realized I could be wrong after I read books such as Dr. Raymond Moody’s popular book “Life After Life”. Since that time, much research in transpersonal psychology had grown. This subfield is not yet recognized by the American Psychological Association, but a couple of universities had started to offer doctoral programs in transpersonal psychology.

Thanks to this new field of research, we are beginning to see new insights about life and learning.

Dr. Moody is a physician in Pennsylvania who noted that patients who unexplainably regained consciousness hours after having been pronounced clinically dead (“spontaneous revival”) almost always have a story to tell about their “in-between” experience. The fact that some people can regain full consciousness and bodily functions hours after the brain had been deprived of oxygen is itself a medical mystery. But Dr. Moody’s interest was elsewhere: in those stories. The stories seem to exhibit similarities. Listening to the stories, it appears that the “in-between” experiences were often life-transforming for those patients. His interest grew and he sought and collected more stories from other hospitals. Eventually he published the case studies in book form in 1978.

The similarities he observed across many stories were as follows. Patients recall:

  • Passing through and eventually emerging from a dark tunnel to a place of light;
  • Meeting or being met by relatives and friends who had died before;
  • Reviewing their life in a split second — as if watching a super fast movie;
  • Having someone beside them during the life review, whose demeanour is kind and non-judgmental (the identity of this “someone” varies according to the religious belief of the patient);
  • This “someone” asks basically two questions during the life review: Q1: What have you learned? Q2: Whom have you helped or loved?;
  • Then the patient “returns” back to life.

Dr. Moody was intrigued by the similarities because the patients who told their stories were unknown to one another (and therefore they could not have secretly conspired to tell similar stories). In fact many patients regard their experience with so much significance and respect that some hesitate at first to reveal their experiences.

Did you notice that Q1 is about (using KM language) gain in human capital while Q2 is about gain in relationship capital? The indications from Dr. Moody’s studies are: we do leave behind all our tangible assets; these are NOT ours, at least not in any permanent way. But our intangible assets do stay with us! They are really OUR assets.

Findings from transpersonal psychology, and knowledge accumulated by those who practice what we can call experiential technologies (e.g. Tibetan Buddhism; see my previous blog post “A Paradox of 20th Century Scientific Practice”), indicate that we can bring with us:

  • Our intangible assets: tacit knowledge, lessons learned, relationships;
  • Our capability to be consciously aware and to make decisions, choices or intentions.

The book I am reading now is Stephen Levine’s “A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last.” I am happy to learn that many of the skills and tools in conscious living (and in “Indigo Learning Practices” in this blog series) we have been practicing and developing at CCLFI, are useful not only for personal KM and organizational learning, but also for fearlessly and smoothly crossing the threshold to death.

We saw in previous blog posts that intangible assets are more important than tangible assets in: (a) GWP and the global economy, (b) in corporations, and (c) in development of poor communities. And now we see that intangible assets are also fundamentally important at the personal level.



“It is said that for money you can have everything, but you cannot. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; knowledge, but not wisdom; glitter, but not beauty; fun, but not joy; acquaintances, but not friends; servants, but not faithfulness; leisure, but not peace. You can [buy] the husk of everything, but not the kernel.” – Arne Garborg, Norwegian writer and reformist

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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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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):


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.


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Q18- Negative(?) Metacapital #1: Corruption

March 8, 2009

To say that human capital consists of skills, experience or knowledge is correct but grossly incomplete. Yes, skills do contribute to effective group action. But other, and I believe even more important, things also do.

In April 1975, the most powerful nation on earth — economically, politically, technologically and militarily — was defeated by a much smaller, poorer and technologically inferior nation. I refer to the hasty and humiliating retreat by the American forces in the fall of Saigon to the northern Vietnamese army with the aid of the Vietcong southerners. How did it happen?

Leading towards 1975, many American citizens have ceased to believe in the moral rightness of waging war in Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands have been demonstrating in Washington D.C. and many U.S. cities. Maimed American soldiers were coming back home only to face a lifelong agony because their own country men and women doubt or criticize the value of their personal sacrifices. The national will behind the Vietnam War became more and more divided and eroded.

On the other hand, Vietcong guerillas remain committed to their cause — despite the devastating effects of superior American military technology: carpet bombing by B52 bombers, Agent Orange defoliants, etc. Vietcong guerillas, upon waking up in the morning, would embrace each other and say in Vietnamese “One heart, one mind, one mission.” Vietnamese are a proud people (in the 13th century, after China succumbed to the Mongols under Chinggis Khaan, the Mongols under Kublai Khan failed to occupy Vietnam despite three attempted invasions). Vietnamese national will behind the Vietnam War remained strong.

Will is the more important ingredient in human capital. I keep saying in this blog, KM is not enough, because “know-how” without “willing-to” will not result in effective group action. That is why most KM initiatives must incorporate elements of change management; we described our experiences on KM+CM in our website (click the change management block at the bottom of the CCLFI homepage).

Unwilling-to or anti-group-willing-to can frustrate effective group action.

In one of my KM workshops, a participant asked, “If people are our best assets, can people also be our worst liabilities?”

“Definitely”, I answered. A willing skillful person is a big plus, but an unwilling or counter-willing skillful person is a big NEGATIVE (I wrote an article for the next issue of KM for Development Journal where I propose the model for effective action: Know-How X Willing-To = Effective Action). It is all about intent.

Let me give a real world example.

In the 1990’s I was Chair of the National Committee of the UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme in the Philippines. Among the grants we approved was one for a micro-hydropower project for a small community. The project was a failure. The reason is: the community leader who was responsible for the project spent the grant money for his election campaign. His intent was not for the community; his intent was for his personal political gain.

Corruption is a skill that destroys group effectiveness and frustrates group value creation. It happens in small communities as well as in big nations. Corrupt national leaders amass ill-gotten wealth (personal value creation) and hide them safely away in Swiss banks — which in turn use Swiss privacy laws for their corporate value creation through secret bank accounts.

From Economics 101 we learned that there is no such thing as “negative human capital” or even “negative capital” because the factors of production — land, labor and capital — in the production function are always positive. And so we turn to the Accounting 101 framework, where an entry can be an asset (positive) or a liability (negative). In this sense, we can say that corruption — or unwillingness or anti-group willingness — is a “negative metacapital” (see previous blog post on metacapital). It is negative because it destroys group value and frustrates group value creation. Corruption is the use of knowledge that results to costs to the group.

What do you think?

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Limits of the Possible

February 24, 2009

An hour ago, I saw on television the excited faces of young Mumbai children and the rest of the cast of the 8 Academy Awards winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” They and winning Director Danny Boyle were being interviewed at Hollywood by BBC. “We are on top of the world” exclaimed one of the young boys. The scene shifted to a crowd in Mumbai cheering and jumping as they saw all these on an outdoor TV screen.

Cast of Slumdog Millionnaire

Cast of Slumdog Millionnaire with Director Danny Boyle (reproduced with permission of

Suddenly, the limits of the possible in the minds of many Mumbai slum children have been breached. You CAN become a Hollywood celebrity. You CAN dream greater dreams. You CAN achieve greater things.

Three months ago, the victory of President Barack Hussein Obama triggered a similar breaching of the limits of the possible among African-Americans and among blacks and minority groups all over the world. The color of your skin is NOT a limit to becoming the most powerful person on Planet Earth. Young black children watch on television the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, in the White House. The concrete reality in front of their eyes is changing the limiting assumptions at the back of their minds.

The limits of the possible are not out there. Those limits are inside our heads. They are self-inflicted (or parent-inflicted or teacher-inflicted) limits. And this is very important: they limit our seeing, thinking and deciding in a manner we are often not conscious about. They imprison us but we don’t know it.

This morning I had coffee with an economist of a development agency. For many years, he had been practicing and advocating that the political PROCESS of economic reform is as important as the technical CONTENT of the economic reform. Some colleagues do not see what he sees, and so they do not agree with him. Others agree with him, but because their expertise is on technical content, they are hesitant and unsure how to proceed. Traditional economists hesitate to touch the political economy, yet they know from experience that success of development projects depend on political, socio-cultural, personal and other non-technical factors. They are more comfortable working within their familiar mental boxes. The traditional economists are men and women of goodwill and great intelligence, but their own unconscious limiting assumptions prevent them from seeing more fully. The result: continuing low development aid effectiveness, many failed projects, and projects that wittingly or unwittingly strengthen the ills in a recipient country’s political economy.

“Presencing,” (see Q15) sensing the emergent (see Practice #10) and innovation (see D14 and D19) (and our other important decision making) can better proceed if we first learn how to manage our self-inflicted mental boxes.

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