The Art of Context

This past weekend I saw an art exhibit, you can read more about it on my Stephanie Barnes Art blog, but what struck me about it was the value of context, or knowledge to the understanding of the paintings. The paintings are abstract blocks of colour, meant to elicit emotions and a reaction, to me they have a meditative quality to them. They have value in the colours that they use, the textures, and the shapes. Seeing the exhibit revived me. I walked through the exhibit first on my own, but then joined a guided tour, where I learned more about the artists, and what was going on at the time, why they painted the paintings they way they did, what had come before, and what came after: context. Learning about the context added more meaning to the artworks my second time through the exhibit. It strikes me that this is the same with knowledge management. We can look at the end result of a process or project or activity and know if it was successful or not, but we don’t necessarily know what worked and what didn’t until we start asking the questions: what worked? what didn’t work? why? … Continue reading

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Knowledge Management, Creativity, and Innovation: Part 2

Talking about design and balance and creativity and knowledge management makes me happy, joyful even. Bring on the joy. In Part 1 I talked about how important TIME is knowledge creation and reuse, creativity practices that allow us to take knowledge and either transform or apply it in order to create something new. What does it mean to design time for this into our activities? Well… Design thinking is characterized by being purposive; human centered; a balance of analytical and creative; uses abductive reasoning, i.e. inference from best available explanation; and iterative, it uses prototyping and play testing to achieve success. Here’s how these principles are applied in knowledge management: Purposive: we look at the organization’s strategy, goals, and objectives and assess how knowledge management best supports those activities. The knowledge management strategy outlines how the organization’s goals and objectives are furthered through the application of knowledge management activities. Human centered: the best knowledge management implementations consider the people of the organization, e.g. how they work, what makes their work-lives easier, what the culture of the organization is like and works with those requirements to make the organization more efficient and effective in its knowledge processes and activities. A balance … Continue reading

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Knowledge Management, Creativity, and Innovation: Part 1

“Knowledge Management, ho hum, who cares? I have more important things to worry about than some esoteric discussion about knowledge. I have a job to do.” I know that’s what they’re thinking with the glazed-over look in their eyes as they search around the room to see who else is around that they can talk to. I’m not going to tell you why you should care; I’m going to tell you why I care. I like to make connections, meet new people, learn new things and I like to share what I know with others. I like to make my job as easy as possible, and I like to help others do the same thing. I like to learn from my mistakes and not make the same mistakes repeatedly. So, you’re probably thinking, where is she going with this? This isn’t knowledge management; this isn’t creativity; this isn’t innovation. And to that I say, “ah, but it is.” One definition of creativity says: It is the reorganization of experience into new configurations; A function of knowledge, imagination, and evaluation. In other words, the use of knowledge. Knowledge is about holding information learned through experience or study. Knowledge management wants you … Continue reading

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ColaLife Documentary

I will write more about this later, but I wanted to get some initial thoughts down tonight, while it’s fresh in my memory. I was lucky enough to be invited by a friend to attend a University of Waterloo Alumni event this evening. At the event they were screening the Canadian premiere of ColaLife a documentary about an organization that is “is working in developing countries to bring Coca-Cola, its bottlers and others together to save children’s lives by opening the distribution channels which Coca-Cola uses, to enable ‘social products’ such as oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements to use similar routes. We began with the concept of using space in Coca-Cola crates – but have extended into a range of innovations, some based on Coca-Cola’s expertise and networks – but many based on questioning the status quo.” (This comes from their webpage, here https://www.colalife.org/about/colalife-about/) It was a fantastic story about trying to save the lives of children, but for me it was also a story of creativity, innovation, and knowledge management and design thinking. Why? Because ColaLife wasn’t afraid to think outside of the box, to say who is getting their products into remote regions in Zambia and how … Continue reading

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Knowledge Management by Design, part 2

Design thinking seems to be everywhere lately, but it seems to me that KM has always been “by design,” at least it was if it was done successfully. Design thinking is characterized by being purposive; human centred;  a balance of analytical and creative; uses abductive reasoning, i.e. inference from best available explanation; and iterative, it uses prototyping and play testing to achieve success. How are these principles applied in knowledge management? Purposive: we look at the organization’s strategy, goals, and objectives and assess how knowledge management best supports those activities. The knowledge management strategy outlines how the organization’s goals and objectives are furthered through the application of knowledge management activities. Human centred: the best knowledge management implementations consider the people of the organization, e.g. how they work, what makes their work-lives easier, what the culture of the organization is like and works with those requirements to make the organization more efficient and effective in its knowledge processes and activities. A balance of analytical and creative: KM should be a balance of analytical and creative. It should capture knowledge and make it reusable, but it also needs to leave space, ba, to allow for knowledge creation. This space can look like lots of … Continue reading

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Why Joyful KM?

Because I think knowledge management has gotten too left-brained, too driven by technology and away from its knowledge sharing and organizational learning roots. Knowledge Management is not about technology, it is about making connections that would not be made otherwise, it is about sharing what you know to help someone else, even if you do not know them. Knowledge needs space to grow and spread and create and innovate, not processes that stifle it before it takes root.

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Joyful Knowledge Management

Joyful knowledge management. Yes, knowledge management is joyful, at least it is to me. I enjoy it when I can find what I’m looking for: the answer to the question, the person who has done a project before and can share her/his experience and lessons learned with me. I enjoy pulling together the pieces to make a new picture, creating new pieces where necessary. In fact, I think the creating is the best part, whether we’re talking about something that is completely new, something that is new to the organization, or something that is an improvement on something that has been done before (partly new). How do we do that creating? We can take a left-brained approach and use knowledge management activities, like expertise location systems, communities of practice, enterprise content management–processes and technology to help us find things that may be similar or provide a piece of the puzzle, activities that help make new/different connections. We can take a right-brained approach and create space for knowledge creation activities like painting, drawing, photography, playing foosball, running, walking, swimming, playing squash. Activities that let us do something new, different, unexpected. Activities that create the space for us to make different connections … Continue reading

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Knowledge by Design

I have been doing some more research, reading, and thinking about this creativity-innovation-knowledge management area and am coming to the realization that to a certain extent KM by design is what I’ve been doing all along, I’m just becoming more aware of it and kicking it up a notch. Let me explain… What I have been doing is knowledge (management) by design, and I say that because, I’ve always believed in looking at what knowledge activities were need to meet the needs of the organization  I’ve never said, “you need xyz technology, or you need a lessons learned process,” without understanding what the organization was trying to achieve with knowledge. I’ve always focused on the left-brain activities, the process, the activities, the technology, the information architecture, etc. What I’m incorporating now is more right-brain thinking, which takes me and my knowledge management consulting into the innovation and creativity arena and making space for knowledge creation–ba, to use the term made familiar in Nonaka’s knowledge management work and writing. How am I going to do that? Through having people do right-brain activities in the workshops that I run, but also by working with organizations to include more of these kinds of activities … Continue reading

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Engaging in Knowledge Management an Artistic Work

As I continue to develop my ideas around the intersection of knowledge management and creativity, I picked up a book called Engaged Knowledge Management by Kevin Desouza and Yukika Awazu as I believe that being creative leads to greater engagement, plus a client had recently had an email exchange about some engagement issues he was having with the KM program at his organization. The book was really meant to give me some more ideas of things to suggest to him, other than change management and alignment with processes–pretty left-brained stuff. I started at chapter 2 and was immediately caught by the metaphor the authors use about KM being a balance of tensions, much like a work of art and I thought, “ah ha, I love this book already!” The authors describe knowledge management as both art and work because of the balance that has to be struck between having imagination and vision about what a knowledge-based organization should look like–identifying its attributes and its dimensions and how all the pieces fit together and how to construct/execute that vision. They talk about what happens when the balance isn’t balanced and the dysfunction that results and the failure that it leads to. They say we (knowledge managers) … Continue reading

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What are the outcomes of taking a creative approach to knowledge management?

I have been talking a bit lately about the intersection of KM and creativity, I had a coaching/workshop session yesterday that helped me focus on that intersection and start to figure it out. I am very excited about this activity, and can honestly say this is the most excited about KM that I have been in my 14 years of actively doing it. I am still working on scoping it out and incorporating it into my services but in the meantime I will blog about what I’m figuring out. Adding creativity to KM solves an employee engagement problem. Adding creativity to KM results in the following outcomes: innovation productivity enhancements collaboration engaged employees (happy employees) thought leadership patents (when used in R&D) decreased cycle/process times improvements to work-life balance a sense of community among stakeholders All of these things give your organization a competitive advantage with customers/clients and in attracting and keeping staff. I’m excited, are you?

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