Tag Archives: knowledge management

Storytelling for business (Part 2)


By Elisabeth Goodman, 5th May 2018

My Knowledge Management colleague from my days with NetIKX , Stephen Dale, recently alerted us to John and Joann Girard and Co’s new book “Knowledge Management Matters – words of wisdom from leading practitioners.”

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 15.00.06

The editors very generously offer the book as a free pdf, although one look at the contents convinced me that I needed the convenience of the printed book.

It’s the chapter entitled: “Putting stories to work: discover”, by Shawn Callahan that has caught my attention first.

Storytelling in a business environment is a topic I am fascinated by and would like to add into my CILIP on-site course on Good Practices for Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration.

I started to explore this topic in an earlier blog on Telling stories at work and am always keen to learn more.

Shawn Callahan has written his own dedicated book on the subject: “Putting Stories to Work: Mastering Business Storytelling”.  He is an evident expert on the subject, and I picked up lots of useful tips from his chapter here which I’ve combined with some of my own insights in this blog..

Why use storytelling in a business environment?

We may not realise it, but many of us do this already!

We seem to be genetically programmed to listen to stories. They engage us emotionally and make us pay attention.  They help us to learn and remember.  As soon as someone begins to tell us about something that happened to them or to someone else, almost subconsciously, we are ready to listen to what unfolds.

So, in a business context, stories can have a lot of potential for a variety of situations, for example:

  1. At a staff meeting, to get people engaged in the vision and goals of a team or of the whole organisation
  2. When going through organisational change, to build buy-in to and commitment for the new way of working
  3. During activities relating to learning and development – to help the new knowledge ‘stick’

However, storytelling does require some skills and techniques, and this is where Shawn Callahan and others can help us.  His chapter in “Knowledge Management Matters” focuses on how to discover good stories – so I’m cheating a little here in extending this blog to the wider aspects of storytelling.  Perhaps I’ll get hold of his full book next…

What are the basic constituents of a good business story?

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 15.40.45

In my previous blog on storytelling I highlighted what Christopher Booker had to say about how the seven basic plots resolve themselves into some common characteristics: a character, an event, some conflict and uncertainty, some form of resolution.

Shawn Callahan has a framework which is not too dissimilar – there should be:

  • A time and/or place to set the scene
  • A series of interconnected events (preferably connected by “but” or “however” which are more dramatic than “and then”)
  • Two or more characters in dialogue
  • An unexpected twist

As we know, fairy or children’s stories usually have a moral lesson.  For a business story, there needs to be some link with the business point that you want to make.

What makes for an attention grabbing story?

A business story does not have to be about business!  In my previous blog on “Telling stories at work”, I describe how we learnt, during my NLP practitioners’ course, to use metaphors as a way of getting a point across. We also learnt that a story will be more powerful if we draw on the senses: what we see, hear and feel.

The metaphor I created, in the NLP course, drew on my husband’s research on the fruit growing industry in South Cambs.  My main character was a magnificent elderly greengage tree in our garden, a possible remnant of the orchards that used to fill this part of South Cambridgeshire.  It is in full delicate white bloom at this time of year and at the mercy of determinedly pecking pigeons, and of sudden snaps of late spring frosts.

Greengage treeIn the summer, downpours of rain will swell and split the fruit, and wasps will burrow into it, so that the gages fall rotting to the ground.

However, come August, I still manage to make rich green jam and succulent crumbles, and sometimes still have surplus to put in the freezer.

Despite this constant challenge and adversity, the Cambridge gage has continued to survive, appearing on the stalls in the Cambridge market and further afield. It has deservedly earned a reputation for its rich golden green colour and unique flavour.

My story was an illustration of the constant change that we experience, at work as in life, and of enduring resilience to it.

Shawn Callahan suggests a few pointers for attention grabbing oral stories in a business context:

  • They should be about topics that your audience can relate to.  So my story linked to nature, food, and (for a Cambridge audience), local to Cambridge might work. Apparently anything relating to our reptilian brains i.e. stories about power, death / near death, children’s safety, and stories about sex (though perhaps not in a business environment) will be effective too.  Power can be about position, education, money, celebrity, beauty – and of the misery or joy that they can cause!
  • Using photographs (in a presentation setting perhaps), especially if they feature people, will add to the effectiveness of a story.  Artefacts can also help with eliciting and sharing stories – a technique I’ve used for example in the adult French conversation group that I lead, where I’ve asked people to bring something that has some sentimental value to them to talk about.  That resulted in some very powerful stories.
  • And oral stories need to be shorter, less detailed and more evocative than written stories.

Where to find your stories

Shawn Callahan’s chapter is on discovery, and he has lots of suggestions for us for where we can find our stories for business.  They don’t all involve making them up ourselves.  We can:

Listen in to what we hear work colleagues talking about in cafés, restaurants, corridors, and in the informal part of meetings before they start or after they have finished.  We can then tell the story as we saw or heard it.

Reflect on an experience we’ve had, and then connect it to a business idea (as I did above with the greengage tree).

Do something unexpected at work, which then creates a story for others to tell to illustrate a business point.  (Shawn Callahan tells one about a CEO quietly replacing a light-bulb during a meeting to illustrate his value of being prepared to ‘muck-in’).

Be aware of stories that we find ourselves telling, especially those that make us feel some emotion, and that we can attach a business meaning to (as I did in my previous blog in talking about a personal experience of change).

Retell other people’s stories – but make sure we acknowledge them. I  have one that my friend Tim told us about his washing machine when we visited him and Harriet a few weeks ago.  Tim and I got quite excited about his story as he worked it up over lunch after he and I had been talking about how he could get started in storytelling.  It’s a simple story, with an unexpected outcome, and I will be using it, with his permission, to illustrate how it’s possible to start telling stories, and to find them from unexpected sources!

Victim survivor navigator

Victim, survivor and navigator mindsets in change

Draw on scenes from films, especially films that others might have seen.  I have for example used a scene from The Shawshank Redemption, where the characters are sitting in the prison courtyard, talking about their attitudes to imprisonment and how they for me depict different responses to change: the ‘survivor’ (played by Morgan Freeman) who accepts his fate (at least initially) as being in the hands of others, and the ‘navigator’ (played by Tim Robbins) who is always looking for ways to take control of his own fate.

Conclusion

Shawn Callahan had lots of useful tips to enhance those I have previously collected about storytelling.

I am starting, as he suggests, to keep a storytelling journal.  I may or may not, as he also suggests, set myself a regular time to reflect on what has happened or what I have heard during the day that might make for a good story.  I will certainly continue refining and practising the stories  I do have, so that I can draw on them when I need them.

And I am looking forward to exploring this whole topic with my delegates in CILIP’s on-site course on Good Practices for Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration.

NOTES

About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals). Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

 

Advertisements

Social media at work – 4 years on!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 28th November 2017

Four years ago, in 2013, I wrote a blog on the ROI for social media for SMEs based on a seminar that I delivered for the Cambridge Network [Social Media – What’s the ROI? Cambridge Network Breakfast Meeting for SMEs].

I conducted a poll before the event, the results of which suggested 3 main benefits of using social media for SMEs:

  • Building ones reputation
  • Making connections
  • Developing knowledge

Three years before that, in 2010 I wrote about the wider relevance of social media to organisations, with a strong emphasis on facilitating knowledge sharing and creating a sense of community. (I referenced communities of practice, and communities of interest.)

This year’s November-December issue of Harvard Business Review carries an article by Paul Leonardi and Tsedal Neeley.  They reference a McKinsey Global Institute study of 4,200 companies of which 72% reported using social media for employee communication.  They also carried out their own research across a range of sectors.  (See reference under the illustration below.)

What managers need to know about social media_HBR Nov-Dec 2017

Illustration from: What managers need to know about social media. Paul Leonardi and Tsedal Neeley. Harvard Business Review November-December 2017, pp. 118-126

Social media tools cited include Yammer, Slack, Chatter, Microsoft Teams, JIRA..

The benefits of social media for organisations

Leonardi and Neeley’s research came up with some additional angles on the benefits of social media:

  • Greater collaboration and sharing of knowledge across silos in an organisation
  • The ability to make faster decisions, and the ability to develop more innovative ideas
  • Enabling employees to become more engaged in work and in the company

The results of their 6-month study with a large financial firm also indicated the value of social media in identifying and being able to get in touch with people with the necessary expertise to meet a business goal.

So, the value of social media still seems to be based around connections, reputation and knowledge, along with feeling part of a community.

It was interesting that the main reasons the authors found for organisations adopting social media were: “other companies are so we should” and “we want to attract young talent”.  Few used a solid business case as their rationale!

Traps and guidelines for social media in the workplace

Finding the right balance of informality / formality in using social media within organisations

Leonardi and Neeley’s research suggests that “millenials” find it harder to adopt social media within organisations than older people do, whereas the assumption is often the other way around.

The reason given for these different levels of comfort is that “millenials” use tools externally for personal reasons – and so can struggle to adopt the right level of informality for use of the tools internally.

However, it is often the informal conversations (around outside interests for example) that can help people to relate to each other – and so open the way to asking for help and sharing knowledge.

Leonardi and Neeley suggest that managers “spell out the rules of conduct”, encouraging and role modelling informal conversations and steering clear of any formal postings.  These rules of conduct would include protecting confidentiality and any regulatory or legally related information.

Clarifying and communicating the purpose of social media in the organisation

Because conversing through social media can be a somewhat gradual process, people might not always recognise that they are gaining new knowledge and learning through it.  The authors suggest that people can gain “meta knowledge” about the go-to people with expertise.

There is also a risk that the knowledge gained may be misleading.  Just because someone is sharing knowledge over social media does not mean that they are necessarily the go-to expert, or that their knowledge is comprehensive.

Leonardi and Neeley suggest that managers make the purpose of using the social media clear – which of the benefits would their organisation like to emphasise? The authors also suggest that people build their “ambient awareness” of how the social media are being used by their colleagues, so that they can draw more informed conclusions about the quality of the knowledge shared.

How do these findings relate to your experiences of using social media within organisations?

What are people’s level of comfort with social media?

RiverRhee

RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for managers and teams includes topics relating to knowledge sharing and collaboration.  Click here to find out more.

Is it helping to build engagement, collaboration and knowledge sharing?

Is it leading to better decision making and innovation?

NOTES

About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) 

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

 

 

Knowledge Sharing – more than one reason and more than one way to do it


By Elisabeth Goodman, 7th April 2017

Cardiff Central Library

I am enjoying my first visit to Cardiff on two very sunny days in April, and combining a bit of sight-seeing with delivering the CILIP on-site course on Good Practices for Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration.  Spotting the rather impressive Central Library seemed an added reason to write a blog on knowledge sharing!

More than one reason for sharing knowledge

We know that people can be reluctant to share knowledge in the belief that doing so may result in them losing something – their uniqueness, indispensability, power even.  Yet hearing some of the success stories that my delegates tell about the times they have shared knowledge, and the impact that has had, should go some way towards convincing the skeptical.

Sharing knowledge brings value to the individual, and to the organisation.  It can be as simple as feeling that you have been helpful to someone and made their life easier and richer, and as ‘complex’ as resulting in cost savings to your company and improved customer service.  The gains from sharing knowledge can vastly outweigh the losses.

As an individual you can gain time as people no longer need to come to you with everyday questions.  You help to create a climate where others will be more willing to share their knowledge.  You gain recognition for the value you can bring to the organisation.  You have the satisfaction of knowing that you have contributed to improving the quality of work in your organisation.

And, as delegates discover when they try out some of the knowledge sharing techniques in the course, you can add new knowledge to your area of expertise as a result of sharing your knowledge with others!

More than one way of sharing knowledge

As delegates discover during the training course, there are many ways to share knowledge, they need not be difficult, and they can be fun!

Goldfish bowl illustration from “The Effective Team’s Knowledge Management Workbook”, RiverRhee Publishing 2016

We use the gold fish bowl as a way of exploring a topic in which two or more people have some expertise and others are interesting in learning about.  The ‘experts’ sit in the middle of the room, and have a conversation about what they know, challenges they’ve dealt with, opportunities they envisage.

Those on the outside are asked to take notes on they key points that they hear, and to then play those back.  It concentrates the attention of the listeners and so enhances their learning.  For the ‘experts’ it’s an opportunity to enjoy talking about what they know, and can also reinforce their awareness of their expertise.

It’s a simulation, in a relatively short space of time, of what people might expect to gain from “Communities of Practice”, or “Centres of Excellence” – where people have the opportunity to gather, across organisational silos, with colleagues who have related areas of expertise.  These can be short term, or longer term structures to address specific organisational problems, or provide opportunities for continuing professional development.

Other approaches we explore on the course include “Ask the Expert”, “Peer Assists”, “Learning Reviews”, “After Action Reviews” and also the use of storytelling.  Like the gold fish bowl, these provide a structure for the exchange of knowledge between those who have experiences, insights, expertise to share, and those who have questions that they would like to address.

As our delegates find, sharing knowledge in these various ways is not only enlightening but also enjoyable, and very beneficial to both the individual, and the organisation.  Sometimes it can result in a very pleasant surprise!

Torta della nonna – at San Martino, Cardiff – my treat to finish off a very enjoyable meal as a result of surfing TripAdvisor for recommended restaurants!

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she is a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Decision making. Noise, intuition and the value of feedback.


By Elisabeth Goodman, 1st February 2017

There is a lot more ‘noise’ in decision making than we might suppose.

The Harvard Business Review has been running some very useful articles on decision making.  The most recent article by Kahneman D. et al, “The cost of inconsistent decision making”, October 2016, p.38, suggests that the incidence of professionals or experts making different decisions on the basis of the same facts and data is higher than we might suppose.  They call this “noise”.

HBR article by Kahneman D. et al on noise in decision making

HBR article by Kahneman D. et al on noise in decision making

This is different from bias, where people might make a consistently wrong decision based on their prejudices. (I wrote a blog based about this some time ago after reading Ben Goldacre’s book “Bad Science”.)

Kahneman et al suggest that this noise, or variability, in decision making could be quite important in professional settings that require judgement, such as medicine, finance, project management.  Presumably this would also apply to scientific research and development, and in such areas of management as evaluating job performance!

The authors maintain that people assume that they, and their peers, will be able to make good and consistent judgements, and yet this is not the case.

Decision making relies on intuition, as well as facts and data

I was reminded of a series of three blogs that I wrote a few years ago based on Gary Klein’s book “The power of intuition”.  To quote an extract from the third blog: intuition “is solidly founded on experience and can be enhanced or diminished dependent on our receptiveness, diligence and the environment in

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training, workshops and coaching for managers and teams

Quality decision making is one of the good practices that RiverRhee explores for high performance teams.  Click here for more information. 

which we operate.  It is the result of our expertise and how we exercise it.”

The September 2016 article on decision making “How to tackle your toughest decisions”, by Badaracco J.L, p.104. suggests five key questions to consider, in order to use judgement effectively.  Badaracco defines judgement as a combination of thought, feelings, experience, imagination and character – so some echoes of Klein’s definition of intuition.

Decision making is enhanced by good feedback

Kahneman et al. remind us that in high skill areas such as playing chess, or driving, we get very rapid and significant feedback on our decisions.  If we make a false move, there are very tangible consequences!

By contrast, decisions made in projects, or in research and development can take quite a long time to play out before we know the outcomes and their implications.

Management decisions such as evaluation of performance, can also result in quite rapid feedback from the individuals concerned, but it may not always be considered in a very constructive way..

Practitioners of Knowledge Management already use a range of techniques to help them and their teams reflect on what they can learn from experience.  This is a form of feedback.  The techniques include short and sharp “After Action Reviews” after significant milestones, and more in-depth “Learning Retrospects” at the end of projects.

Systematic approaches for reducing noise in decision making

Kahneman et al, Klein and Badaracco between them suggest a number of approaches for enhancing decision making.. Their approaches, and some others that I have come across include:

Tapping into different mindsets

The MBTI zigzag model ensures that we use the different information and decision making preferences available to us: ‘sensing’ to review all the facts and data; ‘intuition’ to extrapolate to what might be; ‘thinking’ to consider cause and effect; ‘feeling’ to reference how we feel about alternatives and outcomes.

De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is another variation of this, and helps a group of people work collaboratively in both generating and then evaluating ideas.

Badaracco’s five suggested questions is yet another variation (with thanks to my colleague Liz Mercer for talking me through these..):

  • Think, as widely as possible and with input from others, about the net, net consequences of all your options.
  • Consider your core obligations to the key people (stakeholders) affected by your decision: what they would think and feel about the consequences.
  • Think about the world as it is – be pragmatic about your chances for success.
  • Consider your values – what do you / your organisation stand for, and how would this decision align with those values.
  • Ask yourself “can we live with this”? Imagine explaining your decision to a friend or partner and what their reaction would be.

Using 4-box and more complex decision matrices

The 4-box decision matrix used in RiverRhee's Lean Sigma courses for evaluating decisions.

The 4-box decision matrix used in RiverRhee’s Lean Sigma courses for evaluating potential improvement solutions.

These are visual tools for evaluating alternative options against agreed criteria.  The 4-box matrix is the simplest version.  More complex decision matrices will have more criteria.

Check-lists and carefully formatted questions

This would seem a fairly simple way to document the factors to be considered when making perhaps more routine decisions, ensuring that all the necessary information has been collected and evaluated.

Constructing algorithms

This is Kahneman et al’s main recommendation for reducing ‘noise’ in decision making, after conducting a ‘noise audit’ to find out quite how bad the variability is.  They suggest that it would be possible to construct algorithms fairly simply, by identifying a few (6-8) key variables that are closely linked to the outcome. These could then be combined into a formula, with alternative decisions assigned to the different outcomes.  Sadly the article was missing a simple example to illustrate this approach.

Using Decision making exercises or ‘DMX’ from Klein

These are “an accelerated learning process” for developing individual intuition.  They rely on defining and working through scenarios as a group, so participants can gain quicker and deeper insights from each others expertise.

Kahneman el at suggest something similar: but with people working on a given scenario independently – and then coming together to explore the decisions made and what they can learn from that.

Conclusion

So, there are lots of factors to consider for improved decision making.

You could conduct a “noise audit”: have people make decisions independently to find out how different their conclusions are, and use this as a learning opportunity in its own right or…

….explore alternative approaches for your decision making.

You could use techniques such as “decision making exercises” to enhance people’s intuitive skills.

And you could ensure that you collect feedback and take time to learn about the consequences of your decisions on a more systematic basis.

What will you do?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Appreciative Inquiry – a tool and philosophy for positive change


The Appreciative Inquiry five-step model

The Appreciative Inquiry five-step model

By Elisabeth Goodman, 5th November 2016

Asking questions sets the tone for what will follow – start from what’s working well

It seemed obvious from the moment that our facilitator, Andy Smith (Coaching Leaders), mentioned it at the start of the two day course on Appreciative Inquiry (AI) that I attended this week. The minute you ask someone, or a group of people a question, you have influenced their mindset. Ask them what they like about something, or what is going well, and the chances are they will relax, open up and be in the mood to be creative. Ask them what’s not working and they may get defensive, close up and descend into despondency.

That’s a simplification of course as people may want to air their problems before they can open up to explore solutions, and they may automatically rise to the challenge rather than wait to be asked the right question. But the general premise of AI is to focus on what’s working well, on what people do best and on everyone’s potential to do so much more and better. Asking the right, open, positive questions will enable this to happen.

There are implications for coaching and personal development, for team building, for problem solving, decision making, innovation, knowledge and project management and for managing change! This blog just highlights a few of the ways to do this. There’s obviously a lot more about this that I will weave into RiverRhee‘s work and that you can find out about from some of the references below.

A new five-step model

The illustration at the start of this blog is of the five-step model. (Andy calls this ‘the 5 Ds’ but I already have a different 5D model that I refer to for time or productivity management so I will keep these distinct.)

Define the topic to be explored in an affirmative way: so it is stated in terms of what you want to move towards, rather than the problem to be moved away from. Focus on the vision and your mind and body will be already working out creative ways to achieve it.

Discover all the things that you are already doing well towards achieving that vision. This is where the affirmative questioning really starts to kick in.

Dream what it would be like when you achieve that vision: what will you hear, feel, see, think? What would it be like if a miracle happened overnight? This step engages the emotions: the heart as well as the mind and creates a really compelling vision.

Design all the possible alternatives (without evaluating at this stage) for achieving the dream. Build on what’s going well and stretch beyond that.

Deliver – this is the point at which you evaluate the alternatives and decide on the next steps to achieve your vision.

Applying Appreciative Inquiry to coaching

People familiar with the GROW and T-GROW models of coaching will have spotted that define equates with setting the topic (T) or goal (G). Discover equates to reality (R) but with a focus on what’s working well rather than on what’s generally happening. Dream is an enhanced version of the goal. Design equates to options (O) but holding back on evaluating those options. Deliver equates to will ( W ).

The slightly different order of the AI five-step process means that the aspirational vision or dream can build on the positive mood generated and so be more creative than the early definition of the goal permits in the GROW model. Although, in practice, either model can be iterative in a coaching situation.

Appreciative Inquiry and team building

The five-step model could also be used with a group of people in a team situation, to explore how a team can become more effective and attain, or sustain high performance. It could be used ‘live’ within a workshop, as an alternative to using pre-workshop diagnostics or temperature checks as described in some of my previous blogs for team development.

So the team can define in real time what it wants to achieve, discover all the things it is currently doing well, dream of what it could do, brainstorm how it could get there (design), and then agree the actions to take forward (deliver). The team could use rating scales (1 to 5, 1 to 10 etc) at any point in this discussion to make their assessments and goals more tangible.

Appreciative Inquiry and problem solving, decision making, innovation, knowledge and project management

As the previous sections demonstrate, the five-step model has built in approaches to aid with problem solving, decision making and innovation. Focusing on what has gone well and using the dream steps arguably allow people to go beyond just fixing the problem into new realms of creativity.

Apparently others have already explored how to apply AI in Lean and Six Sigma, and I shall look into this more. Certainly, exploring what has gone well and why, in the Measure and Analyse phases of the DMAIC are possibilities that I do already touch upon in my RiverRhee courses. We also sometimes use ‘blue sky’ thinking to imagine a ‘to be’ way of working in the Improve phase.

De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, and the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis also encourage equivalents to the Discover step (yellow hat, and Strengths respectively), the Dream step (green and Opportunities), and Design (green again, and the actions arising out of the SWOT analysis).

Andy also mentioned SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) as an affirmative alternative to SWOT and which should give more scope for the Dream step!

Finally, knowledge management techniques will obviously benefit from AI, especially as having a productive conversation is at the heart of sharing knowledge between people. After Action Reviews, Learning Reviews or Retrospects (or Lessons Learned exercises in Project Management) already explore what went well. So AI techniques and philosophies would enhance the outcomes in these areas too.

Appreciative Inquiry and managing change

Last but not least, AI has something to offer those leading or dealing with change and so support one of my missions which is to create ‘navigators‘ as opposed to ‘victims’ of change! We can aim to understand and look for ways to maintain, enhance, or at a minimum, compensate for the best of what people previously had in creating whatever the new situation might be. And we can ensure that that new situation is as compelling a vision or ‘dream’ as possible.

In conclusion

There are lots of opportunities to apply Appreciative Inquiry tools and ways of thinking in our working and home lives.  I am using some of these applications already, and looking forward to exploring more with with clients, colleagues, friends and family!

I’ll try not to be a “rose-tinted evangelist” though: we still need to acknowledge the very real problems and challenges that people experience and how they feel about them.

How might you apply AI?

further references

ABOUT THE author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Personal knowledge mapping – applied to project management


By Elisabeth Goodman, 27th March 2016

Our mental maps

I’ve noticed lately that my brain is not as sharp as it usually is.  For example, when setting off in my car I have to think carefully about where I’m going, and then re-create my mental map of how to get there. Trying to remember the name of an actor, I see his face, his expressions, other things that he’s acted in before his name eventually comes back to me.  Hopefully this lack of sharpness is just a temporary result of how busy my work and life have been, and this Easter break will act as a restorative!  Meanwhile, it’s a useful context for this blog…

Isn’t a lot of what we remember dependent on the mental maps that we’ve created?  How we’ve slotted together various pieces of information?  Like the game we used to play with the children: here’s a person, a place and an object – let’s create a story from them.

MBTI judging

Creating and using maps of what we know..

Personal knowledge maps as analogies of organisational knowledge maps

In organisations, knowledge maps are described as an inventory of their internal and external sources of information and knowledge.  I quite like the idea of considering our mental maps as personal knowledge maps.

Creating personal knowledge maps about Project Management

Teaching people about Project Management recently has acted as a reminder and an illustration of how I pass on my own mental knowledge map to others.  My one-slide overview that I shared in  “A second look at project management, RiverRhee Consulting November – December, 2015” is a useful artefact to act as a starting point, or framework , for sharing my map and to help delegates build their own.

We go on from there to explore all the different aspects of managing a project such as: clarifying the goals, scope, anticipated benefits and building a strong relationship with the sponsor; understanding the constraints the project is under; identifying key milestones, and interdependencies and developing a project plan; managing risks, issues, decisions and actions; managing stakeholders and the associated change; building a strong project team.  We explore each of these topics: my experience and theirs, tools and approaches.  They reflect upon, practise and apply their existing and new knowledge to specific challenges they have been tackling.

As we talk we discover that the delegates have some useful resources and artefacts that they can slot into their new maps for managing projects:

  • Other people with expertise that they can draw upon
  • Formal meetings that are part of their organisation’s mechanisms for making key decisions about projects
  • Documents that describe procedures or act as templates for managing projects
  • Databases that hold key information about projects and which they are expected to add to

Each time I teach a course like this, my delegates’ experiences, resources and artefacts become woven into my mental map too so that, next time I share it, with a new set of delegates, they too benefit from the new knowledge that I’ve gained.

On a more personal note

This idea of personal knowledge maps and what might happen to them was made especially poignant to me recently as I read “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova, and about the main character’s experience of Alzheimer’s.  As her disease progressed it eroded so many of her memories and of the connections or mental maps she had made.  Distressing as the story was, it was also heartwarming in the account of how Alice and her family dealt with it.  How for example they created videos to remind her of their shared memories. And how feelings could still be communicated.  It was a reminder to me too of how much I value this dynamic sharing and development of our individual maps as I interact with others.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Weavers of knowledge in our communities


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th July 2015

Consistent messages about value and knowledge facilitation at CILIP’s 2015 conference

John Riddell and I attended Day 1 of CILIP’s 2015 conference in Liverpool to lead a master class on how to add value to your organisation as a ‘knowledge facilitator’. It turned out that not only was the concept of value to be a key theme at the conference, but also that of ‘knowledge facilitators’ albeit under different names.

R. David Lankes opened the conference with a very enjoyable keynote speech in St George’s concert hall, a splendid venue packed full with the 600 delegates. Although David used the generic term ‘librarian’, his messages hold true for all library and information professionals. He also used a variation of the phrase ‘knitters and weavers of knowledge in the community’ – the inspiration for this blog’s title.

R. David Lankes presenting the opening keynote speech at CILIP's 2015 conference

R. David Lankes presenting the opening keynote speech at CILIP’s 2015 conference

David set the tone for these important themes that continued throughout the day and culminated, back in the concert hall, with an inspiring presentation from Barbara Schack on Biblioteque Sans Frontiere’s creative Ideas Box approach to providing library and information resources in a different kind of community: that of refugees from wars and disasters.

The multiple roles of knowledge facilitators

I have witnessed a few variations of human bingo lately so thought I’d introduce one of my own at the start of our master class. We asked people to stand up if they illustrated one of the examples of knowledge facilitators on our slide. So we had examples of people facilitating information and knowledge sharing on committees, in project teams and on working parties. We captured a few other examples from those still seated.

(Note to self for next time, it works better to ask everyone to stand and then sit if they ‘match’. It’s easier to spot those still standing!)

Other knowledge facilitator roles identified by delegates in our master class at CILIP's 2015 conference

Other knowledge facilitator roles identified by delegates in our master class at CILIP’s 2015 conference

Martin Newman’ presentation on managing records of England’s legally protected heritage reminded me that Records Managers are also an example of knowledge facilitators. Martin has developed his team’s work such that they are moving from a traditionally responsive or reactive approach to one that is more strategic.  They will also be crowd sourcing images and additional information from their wide community of those accessing the National Heritage List.

Sandra Ward’s historical and forward looking presentation on “Information Management – impossible to ignore?” was also an important reminder of the evolving role of library and information professionals in the context of ‘big data’. I also came across at least one delegate who was now responsible for research data management for projects at her University. I felt like I had come full circle from my first role as a biological data coordinator after completing my MSc in Information Science. Only the complexity and quantity of the data involved is many times greater now than it was then.

Knowledge facilitators connect people to people, and people to content.

Challenges and opportunities for knowledge facilitators

Sandra Ward’s reflections on the history and future of Information Management drew out four key learnings:

  1. Innovation – it’s important to keep pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with Information Management, to keep up with (or even stay ahead of) the changes in the communities that IM supports
  2. Keep exploiting IT – to enable users / customers to do things for themselves
  3. Actively manage the interaction between the research and practice of IM
  4. Cooperate (or collaborate) with IT and with the business – to make information more accessible and aligned with business goals

These learnings raise both challenges and opportunities for knowledge facilitators – themes that we came back to in our master class when we suggested that knowledge facilitators created benefits both for the organisation and for themselves.

Organisational and personal benefits of being a knowledge facilitator - from Elisabeth Goodman's and John Riddell's presentation at CILIP's 2015 conference

Organisational and personal benefits of being a knowledge facilitator – from Elisabeth Goodman’s and John Riddell’s presentation at CILIP’s 2015 conference

Mindsets, tools and tips for knowledge facilitators

We shared case studies of knowledge facilitators during our master class, some of which reflected examples from the interviewees for our 2014 publication with Gower “Knowledge Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry“.

We also referred to Collison and Parcell’s book “Learning to Fly” and their approaches for learning before, during and after. It was good to hear from Stephen Latham in his presentation “Developing knowledge and information management capability in government” that they too use these knowledge learning and sharing techniques.

We then challenged our audience to identify ways that they could help knowledge facilitators succeed.  We got lots of good suggestions in a relatively short period of time.  Some matched our own suggestions, others went beyond them.

Delegate's suggestions for how to help knowledge facilitators be successful

Delegate’s suggestions for how to help knowledge facilitators be successful

Denise Carter’s presentation on engaging stakeholders was a great opportunity to reinforce what knowledge facilitators can do to build strong relationships with the members of their communities. I particularly liked her suggestion of taking advantage of the fact that people like to be asked their opinions, by making sure that you go to them with something specific to discuss, and to do this as part of a planned schedule of regular interactions.

Conclusion

There was a tremendous amount of food for thought in just Day 1 of the conference for how library and information professionals can add value as knowledge facilitators, and act as “hotspots” (quoting David Lankes again) in their communities.  I would be curious to know whether Day 2 continued and expanded on those themes.

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just under 6 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) for which she delivers various courses including “Fostering effective knowledge sharing and collaboration“.  Elisabeth is also a member of APM (Association for Project Management).