Originally published on December 4, 2017

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I developed a list of maxims in response to a discussion led by Verna Allee and hosted by the Association of Knowledgework. Verna asked community members “what, for you, are the tried and true ‘classics’ and what are the newer or ‘emergent’ maxims that you find yourself relying on in your current conversations?” Verna’s question, and the ensuing discussion, prompted me to create the list that is the starting point for this article.


  1. Maxims
  2. Benefits
  3. Visions
  4. Insights and Nuggets
  5. Issues and Principles
  6. Tips and Techniques
  7. Myths, Pitfalls, and Sins
  8. Questions and Answers

Section 1: Maxims

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1. A Maxim a Day Keeps Disaster Away by Verna Allee

max . im (noun)

  1. a succinct or pithy saying that has some proven truth to it
  2. a general rule, principle, or truth

Five years ago, an AOK dialogue serendipitously began what we now know as the STAR Series. Yipes! Has it really been that long? Steve Denning (then at the World Bank) and his colleagues Michel Pommier and Leslie Shneier asked if ‘rules of KM’ were forming and started us off with a few pithy principles of KM such as:

  • Knowledge sharing is essential to economic survival
  • Communities of practice are the heart and soul of knowledge sharing
  • Virtual community members also need physical interactions
  • Storytelling ignites knowledge sharing

In the late 1990s we had Larry Prusak’s enemies of knowledge management that included cautions against mechanistic thinking, over reliance on technology, top down KM. He reminds us that knowledge is in groups — not individuals. I proposed a “delightful dozen” of my own in my 1997 book with things like “knowledge is messy; knowledge seeks community, no one is in charge” and so on.

Lately I have been trying to “catch” myself and notice what maxims keep falling from my lips on a fairly regular basis. I can’t help but notice that they seem to have changed or evolved over time to quite a different set. (This is a good thing I think because it might indicate that I am teachable and accidentally learning something from time to time.)

So, for this stint on STAR Series (gosh, I love that title!) I thought it would be fun to have a conversation around our “favorite maxims” and “hot questions.” We all have favorite little maxims and pithy sayings that come up over and over in our conversations. Can we reflect on what we are relying on most heavily at this particular point and what is the larger issue underlying it? These might be tried and true classics or might be ones that have come to the forefront as being especially compelling or meaningful right now.

What are the tried and true principles that you have come to believe in even more deeply than when we began? What has withstood the test of time? For me I think one would most surely be those around community: knowledge seeks community (Allee), knowledge is in groups (Prusak) and communities of practice are the heart and soul of knowledge sharing (Denning et al.). That was a theme we all hit on in the beginning and it seems to have become an even stronger theme today. In fact I cannot think of a single company known for excellence in knowledge sharing that does not use a communities of practice strategy. They might call it something else — knowledge networks, expert communities or something like that — but the supporters and champions are quite explicitly applying community of practice principles.

What are some of the other “classics” that have withstood the test of time and practice? What are the ones that people still find most relevant today?

I notice too that there are also some “emergent” maxims that I am relying on quite a bit. What are the new principles and issues that are beginning to emerge and how do they help us tell our KM story? What are we saying or emphasizing differently today than what we might have said a year ago? Where are the edges of a real breakthrough in perspective for us personally, more broadly across our field, in management practices, or more directly within an organization you are working with?

Here is an example of a somewhat newer one that I find myself iterating over and over: “We are moving from a world of jobs to a world of roles.” This shift of perspective is critical in understanding the changing foundations of how we organize work. As we become more and more networked people we negotiate more around projects and our roles in the project. Yet, we are often stuck in job descriptions that don’t allow for these other roles. LaVeta Gibbs, whose group heads up all the contact centers around the world for Cisco sums it up pretty well. She says, “Our group is funded for the obvious role of providing knowledge to the customer. Yet we are capable of playing and even expected to play other roles. We play an analyst role in understanding the customer feedback we get, an advisory role into the strategy and decision-making activities, a consulting role to production and we are innovation partner for development. How can we make those other roles more visible, supported and appreciated both in my own group and in the larger organization?”

Another little principle I put forward is to remind people that we just made up the concept of “the firm.” I love this quote from Peter Drucker in 2000 for Fast Company. “The corporation as we know it will not survive the next 25 years. Legally and financially perhaps, but not structurally and not economically.” (Of course we are now 6 years into that prediction.) What if “the firm” as we know it becomes just one organizational form of many? What is emerging? Then how do we organize, how do we make decisions, how will accountability work? If we are truly in a world of collaboration, roles and projects then we will need to learn how to “make up” very different forms of organizations, yet as a general business population this is not something we have been trained to do.

A personal favorite and one that usually sparks a lively discussion around leadership is “You cannot administer a network you can only serve it.” Our illusion of and desire for control is so pervasive in business thinking that this maxim requires an enormous shift of perspective. I first heard something similar from Meg Wheatley who says, “You cannot fight a network with a hierarchy.” This principle is proving quite powerful in my business conversations.

Here is another one that I find is a powerful punch line: “If you don’t have a way to tell your story other people will make it up for you.”

Everywhere I go now people are expressing deep frustration with the performance indicators that are driving their decision making — and they feel helpless to fight them. Their “hot question” is “how can we fight back?” When we explore this we find that they are being given mostly industrial age performance indicators or financial measures such as financial ROI, revenue and cost reduction, which are mandated by some politician or CEO. In KM we have rather conveniently side stepped the educational work around the intangibles story and now it is coming back to bite us in an uncomfortable part of our anatomy. Without this foundation the people we are asking to support our efforts have no way to tell the story of why we should do it or demonstrate the big wins on the non-financial aspects of building capability. There is a learning curve in how to speak this language and I see KM people expressing the same frustration with metrics — where in my view it is our job to develop, tell and educate people into that new story. Even when I introduced this topic in the last STAR Series it generated more whining than productive suggestions for how to get on with the job.

Here are a couple of other quickies:

  • Transformation happens one darn person at a time. (Sigh)
  • Conversation is the cellular level of knowledge creation — and the most ignored.

Anyway, you get the drift. So I am curious — what, for you, are the tried and true “classics” and what are the newer or “emergent” maxims that you find yourself relying on in your current conversations?

2. 36 Useful Maxims for knowledge sharing, leadership, and personal growth

Knowledge Sharing and Reuse

1. We are stuck with “knowledge management” as a recognized term, but we can use better terms when we communicate, such as “knowledge sharing and reuse.”

2. Place more emphasis on connecting people than on collecting documents.

3. Despite the oft-stated goal of learning from past mistakes, we keep repeating them. To prevent this, work out loud, ask if anyone has done something similar before, and search for reusable materials and experience before starting a new effort.


4. The sooner you can try out an idea, the better.

5. A prototype or pilot can be useful immediately, and you can learn how to improve it from the users.

6. Prolonged study and planning cycles are not as useful as rapid prototyping and frequent incremental improvements.


7. Be as inclusive as possible in community membership, rather than restrictive. What’s the harm of an outsider joining? Maybe they will learn something, share useful information, or be able to answer a question. So don’t keep out potential members — welcome them in!

8. Take some time to stimulate community conversations.

  • Enable posting and replying by email to the community discussion board, and suggest that all members subscribe to email notifications
  • If a member posts a question, make sure that it gets a response
  • If your community has a regular call, leverage the discussion board as a means of continuing the conversation, or providing resources covered on the call
  • Set a calendar reminder to post every week, if there has not already been a post
  • If questions are asked or information is shared outside the community, redirect or copy to the community discussion board

9. Face-to-face knowledge sharing is not a luxury (from Bruce Karney). It is essential to building and sustaining trust.

Killer App for Social Networking

10. Find a killer application for social networking within your organization, analogous to external ones such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Commercial software options include Chatter, Facebook at Work, IBM Connections, Jive, and Yammer.

11. A killer app will get people to voluntarily sign up and maintain their personal information and networks.

12. Link your key knowledge initiatives to this killer app (e.g., sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, and learning).


13. Leaders should be open, honest, authentic, accessible, and responsive. People want to follow good leaders who are inspirational, straightforward, and fair.

14. Bad leaders eventually get what they deserve, although it often appears to take too long for this to happen.

15. Set no more than three goals, and keep them simple and easy to remember.

16. You can’t make yourself a leader by proclaiming that you are in charge. You must command respect through your words and deeds, and by leading by example.


17. Good communication matters. Use language carefully, correctly, and clearly.

18. Avoid buzzwords, confusing jargon, and corporate speak.

19. Tell the truth. People can easily tell when you are lying.


20. Most community members, meeting attendees, and conference call participants are reluctant to speak up. They are glad to lurk and listen, but they prefer that others lead discussions.

21. People are more willing to enter questions and comments electronically during a conference call than to speak up and ask a question on the phone. So provide a way for them to do so, anonymously, if possible.

22. People are more willing to talk about a success story than they are to fill in a form to report on it, even if filling in the form takes less time. So find ways to get them to talk about their successes, and fill in the forms for them.

Crowd Behavior

23. People jump on bandwagons, follow fads, and use the latest buzzwords. How about you? Do you follow the crowd? Do you take quizzes to find out what kind of person you are? Do you “reach out” to “amazing” people with an “ask?”

24. If you send out a legitimate message to a large distribution list requesting input, you will receive a limited number of replies.

25. If you send out a message perceived as spam and include the distribution list in the TO or CC fields, many people will reply to all asking to be removed from the list, asking others to stop replying to all, or saying “me, too.” This is what I call an email storm, and it may not subside for hours or days.

Workforce Reduction

26. The people who are affected by downsizing are often the people with the most critical knowledge and skills. As a result, laid-off workers often have to be brought back as consultants or contractors.

27. Many of those who survive downsizing are not valuable to the organization, leading the rest of the organization to wonder why these people are still employed.

28. The people who send spam and reply to all (as described above under the third point in “Crowd Behavior”) are good candidates for downsizing.

Personal Growth

29. Don’t hide — engage. Take a risk, get outside your comfort zone, and challenge yourself to try something new. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know, and connect to them in LinkedIn. Ask or answer a question in a community, on a call, or at a meeting. Participate in or lead a discussion.

30. Submit an abstract for a presentation at a conference. Write an article and send it to a publication. Tweet, post to LinkedIn, or blog. You will be rewarded by the results.

31. Try out tools and processes yourself. Learn first-hand what works well and what does not. You will be able to empathize with other users, learn useful techniques, and become recognized as an expert. Be hands-on, use the tools of the trade, and practice what you preach.


32. Expand your personal network. Talk to other people at conferences. Contact other people, including those who don’t know you and those who are famous. You will be surprised at how many people will be glad to interact with you, become part of your network, or join a community that you lead or participate in.

33. Share relentlessly. Look at each useful piece of information you receive, read, or create and ask, “who else could use this?” If others can benefit from it, share using Twitter, LinkedIn, Enterprise Social Networking, or a relevant community threaded discussion.

34. When you contact someone else, even if just sharing a minor piece of information, often it will lead to an unexpected benefit. They will be prompted to ask you question, share an idea, make a suggestion, or schedule a time to catch up, all of which will be helpful.

35. Rely on your colleagues. Ask them to review what you are working on, and they will give you good advice. If you do good things for others without concern for what’s in it for you, your colleagues will be glad to reciprocate.

And here is one final maxim:

36. Pundits are usually wrong.

3. Additional Maxims

Section 2: Benefits

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1. 15 Knowledge Management Benefits

  1. Enabling better and faster decision making
  2. Making it easy to find relevant information and resources
  3. Reusing ideas, documents, and expertise
  4. Avoiding redundant effort
  5. Avoiding making the same mistakes twice
  6. Taking advantage of existing experience
  7. Communicating important information widely and quickly
  8. Promoting standard, repeatable processes and procedures
  9. Providing methods, tools, templates, techniques, and examples
  10. Making scarce expertise widely available
  11. Showing customers how knowledge is used for their benefit
  12. Accelerating delivery to customers
  13. Enabling the organization to leverage its size
  14. Making the organization’s best problem-solving experiences reusable
  15. Stimulating innovation and growth

2. Enterprise Social Networks: Benefits

  1. The most effective and efficient way to share, ask, find, answer, recognize, inform, and suggest (SAFARIS).
  2. ESN effectiveness (compared to email) for getting answers and resources
  • Time to receive responses: Faster
  • Diversity of responses: More varied and widespread
  • Volume of responses: Greater
  • Probability of success: Closer to 100%

3. Additional Benefits

Section 3: Visions

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1. My vision for how knowledge management should work

  1. People, process, and technology elements are in place to enable everyone to conveniently Share, Innovate, Reuse, Collaborate, and Learn
  2. A single global platform is available, with access to community sites, websites, team sites, content repositories, and collaboration tools
  3. Everyone can interact with the platform in the ways they prefer, including entirely by email, mobile client, desktop client, web browser, RSS feed, etc.
  4. A unique global, cross-functional community is available for each major specialty, role, and focus area, with a site, a calendar, frequent events, useful news and content, and active discussions
  5. Everyone belongs to at least one community, including the one most closely aligned to their work, and pays attention to the community’s discussions and activities
  6. Anyone needing help, an answer to question, content, an expert, or information on what the firm has done and can do can post in a community discussion board or the Enterprise Social Network (ESN) and receive a helpful reply within 24 hours
  7. Everyone can easily find, follow, be made aware of, and share what is going on in the ESN, activity stream, blogosphere, content repositories, etc.
  8. People are recognized, rewarded, and promoted if they Share, Ask, Find, Answer, Recognize, Inform, and Suggest, and leaders set a good example by doing so themselves
  9. What one part of the firm knows, the rest of the firm knows; different parts of the firm routinely work together; ideas are solicited and implemented; high levels of trust and transparency exist; leadership engages with all levels of the firm’s members; people work out loud and interact with people they didn’t know before; and individuals learn effectively
  10. Decisions are made quickly and effectively, it’s easy to find information and resources, open communications are made frequently and widely, redundant effort is avoided, mistakes are not repeated, scarce expertise is made widely available, clients see how knowledge is used for their benefit, sales and delivery are accelerated, innovation and growth are stimulated, morale is high, and the firm’s reputation is strong; as a result, the firm thrives

2. Enterprise Social Networks: Vision

  1. There is one (and only one) global network for all people in the organization.
  2. There is one (and only one) group for every subject of importance to the organization, its businesses, and its people, and each one of these groups has 200 or more members.
  3. Everyone belongs to at least one group (including the one most relevant to their work), and possibly other groups.
  4. Group members pay attention to the discussions, either by setting email notifications for the group, checking regularly, or other effective methods.
  5. Whenever a group member sees a question or a request for a resource to which they can respond with assistance, they do so.
  6. All group admins actively monitor their groups to ensure that all questions receive an answer within 24 hours.
  7. When other channels (e.g., email), are used to share, ask, or find, those who receive these messages redirect them to the most relevant communities.
  8. When someone takes the time to share useful information, they receive positive response in the form of likes, replies, and praise.
  9. People post in public groups in the ESN whenever possible, and only use private groups for truly private interactions.
  10. Leaders routinely post, reply, like, and praise in the ESN, and don’t just use it for formal communications or events.

3. Additional Visions

Section 4: Insights and Nuggets

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1. A Baker’s Dozen Insights

  1. Collect content; connect people
  2. Try things out; improve and iterate
  3. Lead by example; model behaviors
  4. Set goals; recognize and reward
  5. Tell your stories; get others to tell theirs
  6. Use the right tool for the job; build good examples
  7. Enable innovation; support integration
  8. Include openly; span boundaries
  9. Prime the pump; ask and answer questions
  10. Network; pay it forward
  11. Let go of control; encourage and monitor
  12. Just say yes; be responsive
  13. Meet less; deliver more

2. 10 Sets of Knowledge Nuggets

  1. Prima donnas — be vigilant, coach privately, stand up to them
  2. Point/counterpoint — ask for feedback in the open, be respectful, maintain civility
  3. Ask not, get not — redirect queries, use email to link to discussions, don’t reply to all
  4. Sounds of silence — plant questions, allow questions via text, allow asking anonymously
  5. Don’t try this at home — make it easy for leaders to use the tools, spend 10 minutes each week, lend a hand
  6. You’re out! — uphold your principles, warn and give one more chance, don’t put off making hard moves
  7. Fear factor — patience, persistence, perseverance
  8. Location, location, location — meet face-to-face periodically, allow people to work from where they prefer, inform colleagues in cities you will visit of your plans
  9. Hot potato — hire people who actually like sharing, call knowledge management “KM,” keep KM small and close to the business
  10. Do good fences make good neighbors? — open/broad is better than closed/narrow, prevent redundancy, discuss globally and meet locally

3. 5 Reasons for Starting a KM Program

  1. An outside consultant advises management to start a KM initiative.
  2. A senior leader heard or read about knowledge management or social media and thinks their organization should be doing it.
  3. An organization has some knowledge-sharing processes or tools and wants to coordinate them into a coherent program. An individual volunteers or is asked to take the lead.
  4. Competitors are known for their KM or ESN efforts, and an organization wants to keep up with them. A senior leader challenges someone to come up with an initiative as good as or better than what the competition is doing.
  5. Members of an organization have complained that it is difficult to share what they know, innovate or invent, find information or locate content to reuse, collaborate with colleagues, or learn from others. A visionary who is passionate about improving on the status quo takes on the challenge of addressing these concerns.

4. Additional Insights

5. Blog Posts

  1. Collaboration
  2. Communities of Practice
  3. Content
  4. Culture
  5. Enterprise Social Networks
  6. Goals, Measurements, Metrics, Analytics, and Reports
  7. People Components
  8. Process Components
  9. Technology Components
  10. Webinars, Conference Calls, Videos, Podcasts, and Recordings

Section 5: Issues and Principles

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1. 15 Issues in Knowledge Management

  1. Getting senior leaders to provide funding, demonstrate support, and lead by example.
  2. Balancing people, process, and technology components — not focusing on rolling out tools.
  3. Delivering tangible business benefits that support organizational objectives and priorities.
  4. Motivating people to share, innovate, reuse, collaborate, and learn.
  5. Establishing a vision for how knowledge management should work, and relentlessly working towards making that vision a reality by implementing, improving, and iterating.
  6. Defining compelling use cases clearly showing the advantages over existing alternatives, and answering the question “what’s in it for me?”
  7. Getting people to openly ask for help.
  8. Making useful information easily findable.
  9. Connecting people to each other so they can help each other at the time of need.
  10. Improving decisions, actions, and learning.
  11. Focusing on a few initiatives, setting a few simple goals, and not trying to tackle everything possible.
  12. Delivering what people want and the organization needs, not what is trendy.
  13. Communicating by pull and opt-in, not by push.
  14. Augmenting and automating processes using analytics, cognitive computing, and related techniques.
  15. Integrating knowledge management into existing processes, workflows, and systems so that it is not perceived as extra work or yet another tool to have to learn and use.

2. 10 Principles for Successful Communities

  1. Communities should be independent of organization structure; they are based on what members want to interact on.
  2. Communities are different from teams; they are based on topics, not on assignments.
  3. Communities are not sites, team spaces, blogs or wikis; they are people who choose to interact.
  4. Community leadership and membership should be voluntary; you can suggest that people join, but should not force them to.
  5. Communities should span boundaries; they should cross functions, organizations, and geographic locations.
  6. Minimize redundancy in communities; before creating a new one, check if an existing community already addresses the topic.
  7. Communities need a critical mass of members; take steps to build membership.
  8. Communities should start with as broad a scope as is reasonable; separate communities can be spun off if warranted.
  9. Communities need to be actively nurtured; community leaders need to create, build, and sustain communities.
  10. Communities can be created, led, and supported using TARGETs: Types, Activities,Requirements, Goals, Expectations, Tools.

3. Enterprise Social Networks: Principles

  1. Don’t be too heavy-handed or you will scare away users; tell them how to use the ESN for their gain, not what is prohibited.
  2. Moderate with a light touch: personal, understanding, and private. Explain why you are intervening, don’t embarrass anyone, and offer to help.
  3. Keep the ESN team small and focused on what’s important. Resist spending time on bureaucracy or being Big Brother. Help and lead by example.
  4. Leaders who want the ESN to grow must use it routinely and regularly, and not rely on edicts, promotions, and one-time live-chat events.
  5. Don’t tell everyone to join to start collaborating; tell them specifics of why, how, and when to use the ESN. Use SAFARIS and COLLABORATION to explain recommended use cases.
  6. There are not huge differences between ESN vendors; for products under consideration, look at the number of existing users, how the product integrates with other tools already in use, what current users have to say, and how they meet ESN requirements.

4. 5 questions to answer before starting a new community

  1. Is there an existing community which covers the topic or a related one?
  2. Is the topic defined using widely-understood terminology?
  3. Are people likely to want to join in sufficient numbers to achieve critical mass?
  4. Are you willing to spend the time it takes to lead a community?
  5. Are you willing to measure the community using prescribed health indicators?

5. 8 reasons for working out loud and narrating your work

  1. Multiple people may need to know what is going on, to read updates, and to reply
  2. Provide transparency in thinking, decisions, and processes
  3. Enable and exploit serendipity
  4. Allow others to benefit from seeing discussions
  5. Keep a record of discussions
  6. Build your personal brand
  7. Avoid fragmentation into different email threads and different sets of people
  8. Move from old ways of working to new and better ones

6. 10 reasons to share your knowledge

  1. Helps you learn
  2. Improves your personal brand
  3. Creates demand for your expertise
  4. Encourages people to request that you apply the information you shared
  5. Comes back to you in the form of help when you need it
  6. Gets others to also share, which may ultimately benefit you
  7. Increases your personal morale
  8. Strokes your ego
  9. Strengthens your knowledge
  10. Aids your career

7. Additional Issue and Principles

Section 6: Tips and Techniques

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1. 5 Steps for Implementing KM

  1. Create a Top 3 Objectives List of challenges and opportunities which your KM program will address.
  2. Provide 9 Answers to questions about people, process, and technology: who will participate, which processes will be required, and how tools will support the people and processes.
  3. Define the KM Strategy — specific actions which will be taken to implement the program.
  4. Gain the sponsorship of your senior executive through The 10 Commitments.
  5. Create and execute the Implementation Plan.

2. 10 Priorities for a Knowledge Management Program

  1. Put a strong KM leader in place, and ensure that the KM team has only strong members.
  2. Balance people, process, and technology components, with a project leader for each category.
  3. Establish a governance and collaboration process to engage all groups within the organization (e.g., business units, regions, functions), and to formally manage and communicate on all projects — appoint KM leaders in each major group.
  4. Hold annual worldwide face-to-face meetings to get all KM leaders informed, energized, and collaborating.
  5. Communicate regularly through newsletters, training, web sites, and local events.
  6. Get the senior executive to actively support the program.
  7. Engage with other KM programs, both internal and external, to learn, share ideas, and practice what you preach.
  8. Focus on delivering tangible business benefits that match the overall objectives of the organization.
  9. Deliver regular improvements to make the KM environment effective and easy to use.
  10. Set three basic goals for employees and stick to them for at least a year.

3. 10 Tips for Starting a KM Program

  1. Identify the top 3 objectives for your program and focus on meeting the biggest needs of your organization.
  2. Determine who will participate in the program, which basic processes will be required, and how tools should support the people and processes.
  3. Articulate the end-state vision: what does it look like when it is working? Establish a vision for how knowledge management should work and relentlessly work towards making that vision a reality.
  4. Start working on getting to the vision right now, in small steps, and with measurable progress. Implement, improve, and iterate key KM processes and tools.
  5. Define compelling use cases: don’t talk about adoption or rollout of a tool — talk about the advantages of using it over existing alternatives.
  6. Don’t start by rolling out a KM system.
  7. Understand why people don’t share their knowledge and help them to see why they should share their knowledge
  8. Set goals, establish promotion requirements, and recognize and reward for desired knowledge sharing behaviors
  9. Collect Content and Connect People
  10. Lead by example, practice what you preach, and model desired behaviors to show others how it’s done

4. 10 ways leaders can create a knowledge-sharing system

  1. Sell the benefits
  2. Appoint a KM leader who can dedicate meaningful time to building the right infrastructure
  3. Set up a community of practice (CoP) to start
  4. Create a formal repository in which knowledge can be dropped off
  5. Think globally
  6. Encourage the sharing of knowledge by embedding related activities within existing work processes
  7. Reward those who show special initiative in sharing knowledge.
  8. Cultivate senior management as champions
  9. Create a network of knowledge advisors
  10. Open the lines of communications among KM subject matter experts, regardless of their exact titles, roles and locations

5. 10 Tips for Leading Communities

  1. Carefully choose the community topic
  2. Publicize
  3. Increase membership
  4. Post and reply
  5. Use newsletters, blogs, and wikis
  6. Schedule and host events
  7. Provide useful content
  8. Tell members how they should participate
  9. Set goals and measure progress
  10. Solicit, find, and publicize success stories

6. 15 Tips for Newsletters

  1. Publish once a month — more often is too frequent, and less often is not frequent enough
  2. Keep your newsletters as short as possible (one page) to encourage people to read them — otherwise, they will be ignored, deleted, or set aside for later reading (which means they are unlikely to be read)
  3. Provide news updates, success stories, event announcements, recognition of individuals, and other content which subscribers are likely to find useful
  4. A newsletter can serve as a monthly reminder that there is good content being shared on a web site, in ESN or social media posts, or during events
  5. Think about the content from the point of view of the reader, not the publisher — do people really want to know about this, or do you just wish that they did?
  6. Solicit content from those who would like to reach your audience, and also from your readers
  7. Provide multiple alternatives, including email, RSS feed, and reading online
  8. Allow opting in and out — use services which allow people to subscribe and unsubscribe easily
  9. Include clear instructions in each issue on how to subscribe and unsubscribe
  10. Don’t send newsletters to people unless they want to receive them, or you will be viewed as a spammer and your messages will annoy the recipients rather than please them
  11. Send a one-time invitation to subscribe to a wide audience, and then respect the decisions of the recipients
  12. Provide prominent links for subscribing and viewing the archives from key sites, communities, and social media platforms
  13. Include short promotional articles in other newsletters — include your newsletter’s topic, target audience, frequency, length, and links to subscribe and to view the archives (in order to check it out)
  14. Store an archived copy of each newsletter — a blog is an excellent way to do this
  15. In each issue, include a link to the archives, which will also allow others to link to your newsletter

7. 20 Tips for Good Conversations

  1. Ask questions to stimulate discussion — include questions that everyone can answer without fear of being wrong.
  2. Ask people to respond with their thoughts — especially those who have not been heard or may be reluctant to speak up.
  3. Concentrate on listening — really hear what others are saying.
  4. Don’t plan your next statement while others are talking — pay attention to the discussion.
  5. Write down things to remember so you don’t forget them — this will allow you to focus on listening rather than trying not to forget.
  6. Respond to what others say — this will show that you are listening.
  7. Use people’s names — they will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
  8. Speak loudly, clearly, and not too quickly — this allows others, including non-English speakers, to understand what you are saying.
  9. For in-person conversations, look others in the eye — periodically rotate your gaze between all participants.
  10. Don’t talk too long — pause regularly to allow others to ask questions and get a word in.
  11. Smile and use hand gestures — be sure the gestures are positive, not intimidating.
  12. Acknowledge the points of others — praise them if possible.
  13. Wait for a natural pause in the conversation — don’t jump in with your next point while others are still speaking.
  14. If others start talking while you are talking, don’t raise your voice or quicken your pace — hear them out, and then resume what you were saying if it still applies.
  15. Don’t make the conversation just about you — bring up topics you know will be of interest to others.
  16. Articulate your own point of view — and allow for others to do the same.
  17. Tell stories — gain and hold the interest of the participants.
  18. Use humor when it fits — make sure it is appropriate and will be understood by all.
  19. Keep the conversation moving — when a topic has been discussed long enough, make a new point or ask a new question.
  20. Recognize when a conversation should end, either due to time limits, or when it has run its course — summarize highlights, review next steps, and thank the participants.

8. 10 Tips for Successful Face-to-Face Meetings

  1. Ask the participants to help review and approve the agenda, using your organization’s enterprise social network (ESN).
  2. Test each agenda item: could this be just done just as well on a call or webinar? If so, don’t include it in the meeting.
  3. Use your ESN before, during, and after the meeting.
  4. Schedule time during the meeting for attendees to meet one-on-one or in small groups with other attendees, birds-of-a-feather sessions, and an innovation challenge.
  5. Allow attendees to get personal instruction on useful methods, techniques, and tools.
  6. If you invite outside guest speakers to present at the meeting, involve them in workshops following their talks, in which participants.
  7. Provide the opportunity to discuss and exchange books.
  8. Include an attendee-driven segment in the agenda, also known as an unconference or BarCamp.
  9. Solicit feedback after the meeting.
  10. Conduct a post-meeting review, including what went well, what didn’t, and the feedback provided in the survey and ESN discussion.

9. 10 Ways to Build Expertise in Knowledge Management

  1. Assess yourself
  2. Read books, periodicals, blogs, and sites
  3. Join, participate in, and help lead KM communities
  4. Attend KM conferences
  5. Tweet, retweet, and follow tweets
  6. Present, speak, lead discussions, and deliver training
  7. Post, write, and publish
  8. Attend training
  9. Learn by doing
  10. Find a mentor

10. 10 Rules for Asking Others to Share Knowledge by Bruce Karney

  1. Make the subject line very specific; use 5–10 words, not 2–3.
  2. Identify yourself by name, role and organization.
  3. Identify the problem briefly and clearly.
  4. Explain why solving the problem is important to the reader.
  5. Explain exactly what kind of help you want from them.
  6. Specify your deadline.
  7. Tell what you know (and how you learned it), and what you don’t know.
  8. Ask for suggestions about who else to ask and what else to do.
  9. Tell what you will do to share what you learn more broadly.
  10. Explain how those who help you will be rewarded or recognized.

11. 10 ways to stimulate innovation

  1. Ask communities of practice, both internal and external, for ideas.
  2. Follow good examples from other organizations, such as the Netflix prize, P&G Connect & Develop, IBM Jams, and InnoCentive.
  3. Conduct experiments to test new methods. Use analytics to analyze the results and pick the ones that are most effective.
  4. Ask for suggested improvements, use rapid prototyping to try them out, and then iterate and improve.
  5. Enable innovation by supporting integration of diverse tools. Don’t require a single platform — use APIs, RSS, search, and web parts to integrate tools. Encourage skunk works projects to use these techniques to create new features which build on and connect with existing platforms.
  6. Encourage the formation of book clubs, discussion groups, and brainstorming sessions to get people thinking about new and better ways of doing things. Take the best ideas and implement them.
  7. Hold regular innovation challenges, tournaments, and jams.
  8. Ask people to use collaboration tools such as enterprise social networks (ESNs) to discuss ideas for improvements, new approaches, and breakthroughs.
  9. Invite people outside your organization to speak on calls, present at meetings, and participate in workshops. Adapt their methods for use in your organization.
  10. Set up prediction markets to use the wisdom of crowds to choose between alternatives.

12. 10 Knowledge Retention Methods

  1. Make sure you have a knowledge management program in place — don’t wait until people are about to retire or depart
  2. Preserve community contributions and community discussion threads in an archive
  3. Ask thought leaders to develop training courses on their specialties
  4. Provide incentives for creating personal guides to processes, contacts, and content
  5. Conduct interviews using videos and community spotlights to collect stories, instructions, and tips
  6. Ask people to submit their top ten most used documents
  7. Produce a knowledge map to define knowledge sources, flows, and constraints
  8. Establish mentor/apprentice pairs as far in advance of departures as possible
  9. Hold transition workshops to allow departing people to tell stories and answer questions
  10. Form a community for former members of the organization, and allow retirees to continue to participate in communities as long as they can contribute

13. Ten Leadership Tips

  1. Follow your passions — play to your strengths
  2. Treat others with respect — and earn theirs
  3. Never give up — keep on striving
  4. Be true to your word — do what you say you will
  5. Stay positive — have fun in what you do
  6. Expect a lot of yourself — and of others
  7. Challenge conventional wisdom — think for yourself
  8. Ask not what others can do for you — ask what you can do for them
  9. Leave the world a better place — make a contribution
  10. Put a little love into everything you do — it is always possible

14. Four Fundamentals of Leadership

  1. Practice and reward caring, sharing, and daring — caring for others, sharing what you know, and daring to try new ideas
  2. Insist on trust, truth, and transparency in all dealings — earn and respect the trust of others, communicate truthfully and openly, and demonstrate and expect accountability
  3. Look for opportunities to help, thank, and praise others
  4. Eliminate criticism, blame, and ridicule in all interactions with others

15. The Right Stuff of Leadership

  • Do what is right — logically, financially, morally, ethically, and environmentally — with decency, integrity, and fairness
  • Do it the right way — honestly, accurately, correctly, and completely — with good effort, resulting in high quality, and meeting all commitments
  • Do it right away — don’t procrastinate, make excuses, or avoid what is unpleasant — the sooner you start, the better

16. Additional Tips and Techniques

Section 7: Myths, Pitfalls, and Sins

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1. 37 Knowledge Management Myths

  1. Push it
  2. Someone else will do it
  3. KM is dead
  4. Incentives don’t work
  5. Roll it out and drive adoption
  6. Social is frivolous
  7. Don’t control
  8. Eliminate risks
  9. Be like Google and Amazon
  10. We need our own
  11. I don’t have time
  12. We should work ourselves out of a job
  13. Bigger is better (except for community membership)
  14. Make people do it
  15. Everything is a community
  16. Our IP will be stolen
  17. Pay close attention to maturity models and industry benchmarks
  18. The best way to innovate is using ideation management to collect ideas
  19. Knowledge Management should be called something else
  20. The best way to locate expertise is to make people maintain skills profiles
  21. Leadership communications should be tightly controlled by Internal Communications
  22. Collect every possible metric, and focus on publishing cool infographics
  23. Certification in knowledge management is useful
  24. Personality tests help people to work better together
  25. Restricting information access on a “need to know” basis maintains security
  26. The DIKW pyramid is helpful
  27. It’s possible to definitively compute the ROI of a KM program
  28. Face-to-face meetings are not needed in the age of virtual meeting technology
  29. Communities can self-manage without the need for a community manager
  30. Enterprise search can be tweaked until it yields the desired results for any search
  31. Communities should rigidly enforce rules for what can be shared
  32. It is possible to fundamentally change the culture of an organization
  33. Enterprise Social Networks should be governed lightly or not at all
  34. Knowledge will be shared even if there is no trust
  35. The 90–9–1 rule of thumb for community participation inequality is defunct
  36. Best practices can be established
  37. Content should be automatically archived after 90 days

2. Top 40 Knowledge Management Pitfalls

  1. Trying to take on too much
  2. Focusing on technology
  3. Not engaging constituents
  4. Doing too much studying and planning and not enough prototyping and piloting
  5. Not reusing what others have already learned and done
  6. Focusing on collecting documents or updating skills
  7. Being gripped by anxiety
  8. Not meeting in person
  9. Frequently reorganizing, including moving KM around
  10. Relying on maturity models and benchmarking
  11. Using the term “best practices”
  12. Reporting metrics for the sake of metrics
  13. Becoming certified in KM
  14. Rolling out tools and driving adoption
  15. Using buzzwords and corporate speak
  16. Telling others to do as I say, not as I do
  17. Being secretive
  18. Making it difficult to find information and resources
  19. Lacking trust
  20. Pushing content
  21. Expecting that someone else will do it
  22. Believing that KM is dead
  23. Believing that incentives don’t work
  24. Saying that social is frivolous
  25. Not controlling the creation of communities and ESN groups
  26. Trying to eliminate all risks
  27. Trying to be like Google and Amazon
  28. Saying we need our own
  29. Saying I don’t have time
  30. Saying we should work ourselves out of a job
  31. Believing that bigger is better for organizations, and that smaller is better for community membership
  32. Trying to make people do things
  33. Saying that everything is a community
  34. Worrying that IP will be stolen
  35. Using the DIKW pyramid
  36. Denying the 90–9–1 rule applies
  37. Trying to compute the ROI of KM
  38. Archiving content after 90 days
  39. Seeking a new name for KM
  40. Starting KM without first determining the objectives

3. 20 knowledge-sharing sins

  1. Obsessing over analytics, producing slides with nice-looking (but insight-poor) graphs, or cutting data in every possible way in lieu of taking action
  2. Sending private emails or private ESN messages with queries
  3. Removing people from the list of recipients of a message
  4. Leaders not using a tool effectively
  5. Avoiding direct use of knowledge-sharing tools
  6. Talking but not acting
  7. Using an ESN like an email distribution list
  8. Using channels outside of an ESN for interactions that started there
  9. Providing limited information about what is being sought in a query
  10. Doing only what is requested
  11. Withholding the names of people whose identity should be visible
  12. Not sharing openly
  13. Ignoring questions in ESN groups and failing to reply to email requests
  14. Disparaging existing tools, wanting to jump on the bandwagon of the latest trendy technology
  15. Hosting con calls and webinars ineffectively
  16. Posting the same message to multiple ESN groups, appearing to be spam to many of the members
  17. Creating an ESN group, but never answering any questions in it
  18. Posting to an ESN group just to make appear active, so it won’t be deleted
  19. Promising to make an ESN group active, but not actually doing it
  20. Posting mostly trivial items

4. 10 Fragile Practices

  1. Maturity models and benchmarking
  2. Best practices
  3. Metrics for the sake of metrics
  4. Certification
  5. Tool rollout and adoption
  6. Personality tests
  7. Corporate speak
  8. Do as I say — Not as I do
  9. Secrecy
  10. Mediocracy

5. 16 Reasons Why People Don’t Share Their Knowledge

  1. They don’t have time.
  2. They don’t trust others.
  3. They think that knowledge is power.
  4. They don’t know why they should do it.
  5. They don’t know how to do it.
  6. They don’t know what they are supposed to do.
  7. They think the recommended way will not work.
  8. They think their way is better.
  9. They think something else is more important.
  10. There is no positive consequence to them for doing it.
  11. They think they are doing it.
  12. They are rewarded for not doing it.
  13. They are punished for doing it.
  14. They anticipate a negative consequence for doing it.
  15. There is no negative consequence to them for not doing it.
  16. There are obstacles beyond their control.

6. Additional Myths, Pitfalls, and Sins

Section 8: Questions and Answers

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Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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