Posts Tagged ‘self-disclosure’

T5-5 Expertise Directory with a Twist: “Getting Surprised with Each Other’s Talents”

February 17, 2010

In 2006, I designed and facilitated a KM planning workshop for a new cross-functional KM Team. Among my objectives were (1) to motivate individual team members and (2) to show them in a concrete way the advantages of an expertise directory. I introduced a module that generated so much energy and enthusiasm among the team members that I repeated this module in other KM workshops for other organizations.

This is how the process flows:

  1. Individual seatwork: Each team member is provided a 3′ x 4′ kraft paper (or Manila paper) and a black felt pen. The instruction is: “List down all your talents, both technical and non-technical.” A few members asked guidelines on how to identify their talents. My answers were: “In what tasks/skills do your colleagues often ask you for assistance?” “Recall 1-2 very successful task/projects you did; what talents did you use?”
  2. Public posting: After a team member is done, she/he posts her/his work on the wall.
  3. Comment/feedback on each other: After all team members’ work had been posted around the walls, each team member is given a red (or any colored) felt pen, goes around and reads everybody else’s work. Anyone can write comments on anyone else’s work, e.g. “you forgot to add skill XX.” “I didn’t know you are good at YY!” “Prove it!” “You are too shy to mention skill ZZ!” “You should have joined Project @@!” Approval of a skill can be conveyed simply by a red asterisk.
  4. Answer comments: A team member, if she/he wishes, can write her/his reaction to a comment using a blue (or another color) felt pen.
  5. Plenary discussion: The team sits down and the facilitator leads a group discussion on insights and learning from the content (output) and process, and how they each felt about the process. As facilitator, I conclude by proposing “Let us collect your outputs and use this as inputs to your internal KM Team Expertise Directory.”

My own insights and learning from this module are:

  • Team members often express surprise at knowing (and at previously not being aware of) many of each other’s talents. For example, they were very surprised that a medical doctor colleague had learned the skill of laying out bathroom tiles! KM is about harnessing talent, and it starts with recognizing it.
  • The module was able to reveal to them the value of an expertise directory, especially one that includes both technical and non technical skills. For example, a non-technical skill (or a skill that does not appear in the ordinary CV or resume) that is useful for the organization is the ability to act as emcee (from “MC” or master of ceremonies) in a ceremony, conference or public event.
  • The commenting process creates a space where KM Team members mutually acknowledge and affirm each other and their skills (this works well when the KM Team members know each other beforehand). It is a process that generates much interactive energy, team building and motivation.
  • The process supports openness about one’s abilities and gaps, at the same time that it reveals individual styles and preferences such as hesitance to publicly announce one’s talents, and personal boundaries in self-disclosure. Such hesitance is acknowledged and respected by the group instead of challenged.
  • All outputs taken together can reveal new systemic insights. In one organization, the CEO herself read the postings and then remarked “We have enough talent to put together a chorale and music band.”

What do YOU think? Tell us.

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Another Communication Boundary: How Far Can You Self-Disclose?

August 28, 2009

Organizational learning requires the ability — and willingness — among members to self-disclose. Senge and his colleagues use tools such as “Left-hand Column” and “Ladder of Inference” which require a member to be aware of, and to publicly describe, how one thinks. That includes many things: how one reasons out, what doubts and uncertainties one entertains, whether one agrees or disagrees and why, what one does not know or what is the extent of one’s ignorance, what facts or observations led to one’s conclusion, the meaning of a word or label one uses, etc. Below are two slides from a PowerPoint presentation on Senge’s “Five Disciplines” that I show my KM graduate class at the Technology Management Center, University of the Philippines, which lists things that members of a learning organization must be able and willing to talk publicly about.

mental models

systems thinking

Double-loop learning is more demanding: it requires self-disclosure that can bring about strong emotional content: personal likes and dislikes behind a behavior or pattern of behavior, personal fears and desires that affect work performance, tacit patterns of inefficient or ineffective behavior one is unwilling to talk about, etc. The strong emotional content itself can inhibit self-disclosure.

How far one is willing to be candid and public about his own thinking and feeling processes — which are normally private or personal things — is another form of communication boundary. This “self-disclosure boundary” delimits what one is willing or comfortable to tell others; just as the “communication boundary” we discussed in the previous blog post (“Announce Your Communication Boundaries”) delimits what one is willing or comfortable hearing from others. In both cases, discomfort is the signal that tells one that his boundary is being breached. These boundaries vary from person to person, and from context to context, but watching at what point the discomfort begins is a useful way to be aware exactly where one’s boundary is.

Browse through the profiles of your contacts in Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, or other similar social networks. You will notice the differences in the willingness to self-disclose. In fact people who are “very private” will not even join such social networks. You must be a “social person” or one who is less guarded about your “private space” or “personal life” to join and enjoy participating in them.

In the plane ride from Beijing to Manila last Tuesday, I sat next to a young man who visited his Chinese girlfriend. Wow! He disclosed to me — a stranger — much more than what I expected about him, his girlfriend and what they did in the two weeks he was in Beijing. He showed me their pictures in his laptop. He is a body-piercer. He told me so much about how he does it to minimize the pain in his clients. He described where (=what parts of the body) and which way he had pierced his lady clients as well as gentlemen clients, etc. He showed me the piercings in his face, mouth and head (he had temporarily removed the rings in them).

Willingness to self-disclose is not enough. Some may be willing to self-disclose more than others, and a few may be like my plane seatmate. Most people assume that they know everything about themselves — why they think, feel and do what they keep thinking, feeling or doing or NOT thinking, feeling or doing. This is a wrong assumption. Most people are actually unaware about much of their internal states. For example, most people are unaware of their “blind spots” or “blindfolds”. A willingness to self-disclose is not enough; self-disclosure to be productive of learning must be accompanied by self-knowledge that comes from years of constant practice of double-loop learning and “conscious living”.

Chris Argyris, who introduced double-loop learning, said: “Leaders and subordinates alike… must all begin struggling with a new level of self-awareness, candor and responsibility.”

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!

I believe that extending the envelope of organizational performance can be achieved through three steps:

  1. The first envelope is through better technology: this is the easiest.
  2. The second envelope is through better management: this is not difficult as there are numerous management tools for this purpose.
  3. The third envelope is through better psychological-behavioral technology: this is difficult because the tools in this area are still works in progress.

According to Management Today, “Peter Senge’s advocacy of the learning organization helped begin a revolution in the workplace. And, the relevance of Senge’s work is growing rather than diminishing over time. As more businesses go global, the need to overcome psychological barriers to necessary organizational change increases.”

Peter_Senge

PETER SENGE

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 webpages pointed to. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the use of the last image in this blog post.

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