Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reflections from Week 1 of the Second KS Workshop

I know this is early and we are still in the middle of the official Week 1 but I had to start writing up my observations from the workshop. This week has been exciting with participants discussing what knowledge sharing is to them and how it relates to their current projects or work environments. Throughout this week's discussions, learning logs and telephone conferences, I have observed the following:
  • Clarity of Concepts is needed: The concepts of "information" and "knowledge" are not easy to work with and throughout the introductions as well as teleconferences I have observed the tendency of the two being mixed together. One of my favourite explanations for this is provided by the Anecdote group in their white paper. Nancy provided a great cake analogy from David Gurteen, which I am replicating here.
Knowledge is often seen as a rich form of information. This differentiation however is not terribly helpful. A more useful definition of knowledge is that it is about know-how and know-why. A metaphor is that of a cake. An analysis of its molecular constituents is data – for most purposes not very useful – you may not even be able to tell it were a cake. A list of ingredients is information – more useful – an experienced cook could probably make the cake – the data has been given context. The recipe though would be knowledge – written knowledge - explicit knowledge – it tells you how-to make the cake. An inexperienced cook however, even with the recipe might not make a good cake. A person, though, with relevant knowledge, experience, and skill – knowledge in their heads - not easily written down - tacit knowledge – would almost certainly make an excellent cake from the recipe.

It is important to note that to make knowledge productive you need information. Knowing how to make a cake is not sufficient – you need the list of ingredients. And to decide what cake to make - you need information – the tastes of the consumers of the cake.

Know-why is also important. If an ingredient of the cake was unavailable – knowing the purpose of that ingredient might help a knowledgeable cook substitute an alternative. In fact know-why is often more important than know-how as it allows you to be creative - to fall back on principles – to re-invent your know-how.
  • Tools are not the solutions: During the introductions, participants provided insight into what they are currently working on. Often, this is a website, blogs, or wikis which they use for knowledge sharing. An often heard statement is "We provided the tools but no one participates." or "I find the tool great for knowledge sharing but no one is contributing." I think, like in any other case, tools need to be provided when there is a clear need and demand for it. One method to get your audience (group which you expect to be working on these tools) more involved is to promote "learning by doing". For example, I attended the KM4Dev meeting in Portugal last July, where we held many open space discussions. The nice thing was that each person who was leading the discussion was also given the responsibility to provide notes from the session for everyone (especially for those who could not attend that specific session) else to read. This meant that everyone had to login to the Wiki and start editing and learn by actually doing it hands-on. Another issue here is the need for "incentive" and/or "common goal or objective". It is important to ensure that everyone is involved in the process, providing a tool does not mean they will come! It is important to include the audience when thinking of the requirements, the possible options for tools and in finally selecting the tool. As Nancy mentioned in one of the teleconferences, "We need to be clear about the needs of the audience before we start talking about tools and methods." Knowledge sharing also gets easier and more participatory when the "sharing" is part of their day to day work rather than an added activity "on top of all the other things that they need to do."!
  • Culture is an issue: The other common topic was culture and how to make people see the value in sharing. Some of us "float" in the organizational culture that promotes and encourages knowledge sharing while others in cultures that constrain it. There is also need to understand each other's culture (national, regional, etc.) when working and collaborating together with people from different countries and backgrounds. My question for the coming weeks is to see what culture change is needed in our organizational environments (and how can we go about the process of changing the culture) to create a positive knowledge sharing environment.
On a more personal note, I learned that:
  • Roles can change the perspective: During this workshop I have moved from being a participant (KS Workshop 1) into the role of a facilitator! As I am always trying to connect people, who need something with either something I know or someone who might be able to help them, this is an ideal role for me and I am enjoying it immensely. Doing the same course second time around of course has made me learn things I had missed last time. Nancy posted some of our experiences in her latest blogpost. Other than our ability to "navigate interfaces better", I have also observed that as a participant, the barrage of emails seemed overwhelming while as a facilitator, I feel proud and happy to see so much interaction taking place. In the first case (as a participant) it seems like I am never going to catch up and second time around (as a facilitator) I am waiting to see new emails and see how I can help the participants understand and appreciate KS tools and methods!
  • Facilitation is draining but addictive!: This week, I led one of the three weekly teleconferences. My call had 10 participants and we discussed why and how KS mattered to the participants in their work. As it was my first time to lead, I was glad that Nancy had taken time out to wake up at 4:45 AM to help me out with Pete supporting anytime I was a bit lost with his thoughts and clarifications. As I had 10 participants, I started around the clock asking each person about KS and its role in their work.
    The Clock Method Collage
    (image credits: Nancy White)

    The most difficult part for me was to ensure that I paid each participant enough attention and at the same time moving on to the next person in the interest of time. The transition from one participant to the next, without making the first feel that I was moving to quickly to the next and without making the second feel that I had given too much time to the first, was the tricky part! This was tough and I hope to work on this in the next calls.
The week is still young and we still have participants, observers and special guests joining in to discuss the very important question of why share knowledge? or also as one of the participant put it why not share knowledge?!

All in all, this week so far has been exciting, fruitful and a great learning experience for me! Stay tuned!


Awad said...

Dear Gauri

It seems that i have lagged behind - yesterday i openned my gmail and saw to my horror 128 emails ...... i later went on the moodle and saw Jo's instructions on how to limit each and every emails being sent to me GREATTTTTTTTT. However this got me thinking a bit ... there is zillions zillions tons of data out there and we really need to define what our scope is - what means of data collection we should follow and how we should use it to form information and finally what is the best method to share this information and with whom.

anyways i am not an expert but in my opinion and as a listener the teleconference went very smoothly

finally have a wonderful weekend got to go have a meeting :-(


Gauri Salokhe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gauri Salokhe said...

Hi Mariam,

Thank you for stopping by! I am sorry that there is so much traffic but I am glad you are able to sort out the flow and get the stuff that you really need! What you say is very true; we do have (at least in this part of the world) often the problem of information overload. In terms of personal information (emails), I try to sift through what is really important for me and what are just “FYI” type emails. I have also learned to use RSS feedreaders instead of getting emails from mailing lists directly into my mailbox. In the case of information at organizational/project level, we need to, as you rightfully say, scope things. Another point that I would make here (when projects deal with building databases or websites) is that we need to realise that we can't provide all the information our stakeholders need and there are other partners who are producing or doing this job much better. This "realisation" should help us identify these partners and build partnerships instead of trying to do everything ourselves.

Thank for your feedback on the teleconference! :)

See you in Moodle!