SHAM Discussion Group, Fred Nickols, Creatively Encouraging User Adoption, Government KM Community, KAM, Levity Effect
KM Question of the Week
Q: How can you start a discussion group where people talk about subjects of some depth in a thoughtful manner?
A: Discussion groups have been called by a variety of names, including salons. The Algonquin Round Table was a group of journalists, editors, actors and press agents that met on a regular basis at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. The group began lunching together in June 1919 and continued on a regular basis for about eight years.
John Smith sent me an example of how Robert Textor sends out invitations to his local community called Thirsters. Anybody who passes through Portland, Oregon gets button-holed and he has perfected the art of tagging people in interesting ways.
Its founders encourage people to get together with others for conversation on things that matter, particularly these questions:
- How can we best prepare our children for the future?
- What does sustainability look like and how do we get there?
- How do humans need to adapt to survive in the 21st century?
- How do we shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’ to solve our problems?
- How can we ‘be the change’ we want to see in the world?
- What kind of economy supports sustainable living?
- How do we reinvent politics so people have a real voice?
- What kind of leadership does the world need now?
- How can we balance personal needs with those of the community and world?
- How can we end violence everywhere?
- What is the most important question in the world today, to you?
Every month, starting in September 2007, a group of friends interested in stimulating conversation gather for dinner and discussion in the metro Detroit area. We call it SHAM (Society for Hot Air Meetings). As Woody Allen’s character Fielding Mellish said in Bananas, “It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”
I serve as the moderator for the discussion. I started by sending an email to my friends whom I thought might be interested in participating, asking them to reply with the following information:
- What topics are you interested in discussing?
- Are there others whom you would like me to invite?
- Do you have other ideas and suggestions for how to make this succeed?
Here are the ground rules we set for our discussions:
- Everyone will get their turn to speak, and should do so uninhibitedly.
- We will actively listen to each other, consider the merits of our different views, and try to learn from one another.
- If we disagree on something, we will do so in a good-natured and pleasant way.
Here are the topics we have discussed so far.
- Think of three turning points in your life.
- Be prepared to talk about what they were, when they occurred, and their impact.
- Who are three people whom you admire, and why?
- Tell stories about each one.
- You might choose relatives, friends, or public figures (hero, survivor, performer, artist, writer, leader, athlete, etc.).
- When you started college, what career did you have in mind?
- As you approached graduation, what did you want to do?
- What are your thoughts about your life since you graduated?
- What alternative careers might have been interesting to pursue?
- What would you like to do next?
December 15, 2007
- You have just been appointed as the leader of the United States.
- You will be able to implement three major policies without having to get Congressional approval or Supreme Court review.
- What three policies would you implement?
- What are your reasons for choosing these three?
- What positive outcomes do you expect as a result?
- What are the possible negative consequences, and how will you deal with them?
December 31, 2007
- What are your hopes for 2008?
- Think about three types:
- Personal — what do you plan to achieve?
- Serious — what do you wish for the world?
- Frivolous — what will make you happy if it happens?
- What are your core values, principles, and insights?
- Think about three types:
- The ones your parents exemplified and tried to impart to you.
- The ones you have tried to live by.
- The ones your children have learned from you.
- What are your three most memorable dinners of the past?
- The occasion
- The setting
- The people
- The menu
- Why it is memorable
- What political topics would you like the group to discuss?
- For each topic, address:
- Why is the topic of interest to you?
2. What is your position on it?
3. What are the pros and cons of the different positions?
- You have been awarded a grant which will allow you to purchase three different homes anywhere in the world at no cost to you, with no limit on the cost of each one.
- Where would the homes be located?
- Describe the features of each one.
- When would you stay at each one?
We rotate the host every month. Twice we have dined out and then returned to our home for the discussion.
We are planning to go on the road for a SHAMROCK (SHAM Raucous Overnight Conversation Klatch) this summer. This will allow for longer and more varied discussions.
And we have had two Fam SHAMs with my family. Over the holiday season we reviewed personal highlights of 2007, and at my sister’s 60th birthday party we shared stories about why we appreciate her.
KM Thought Leader of the Week
I posed the following question to many KM thought leaders. “If you were invited to give a keynote speech on knowledge management, what words of wisdom or lessons learned would you impart?” This week’s answer is from Fred Nickols, Toolmaker to Knowledge Workers.
“It seems to me that KM, like lots of other things (e.g., reengineering, change management, and communities of practice to name three) has been hijacked by the information technology (IT) folks. Abraham Maslow is often credited with saying that “If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.” To paraphrase him, when your only tool is a computer, then every problem reduces to the bits and bytes of data. For me, people should be front and center in any true KM effort and, as far as I can tell, they are not. As a consequence, neither is the most important form of knowledge: the kind that resides in human beings.
I typically don’t quibble about definitions of knowledge but, when asked, I generally point to some different forms it can take. There is, of course, the explicit form found in books and manuals and even in help screens on your computer. This is the kind of knowledge that can be articulated. Then, too, there is the tacit kind about which Polanyi wrote — the kind that can’t be articulated and thus can’t be documented. And there is a third form: the implicit, which is knowledge that resides in people and can be articulated but hasn’t yet been articulated. This is the kind of knowledge that can be teased out by a skilled observer/analyst. Explicit, tacit and implicit — these are the three forms of knowledge that I find useful to contemplate. Computer-centric KM efforts can cope only with the first kind, leaving the other two to go begging hat in hand.
It further seems to me that the really important meaning of knowledge — that is, a state of being in a human being that provides that individual with the capability for effective action — has gotten lost in the shuffle. As a consequence, we have huge databases and huge piles of documented practices, etc., etc., but we are no closer to being able to manage knowledge (i.e., concentrate and channel the capability for action along productive lines) than when the KM movement began. Many others will no doubt argue otherwise, but they have a huge investment to protect and I don’t.
So, we have these huge investments in KM and, as far as I can tell, not a great deal in the way of demonstrable returns to show for them. And, at the same time, managing human capability for effective action — what for me should be the true focal point for KM — goes largely unattended and unaddressed. Moreover, were it to receive attention, those doing so would quickly encounter a requirement to shed much of what is believed about managing people in the workplace. Why? Because people — especially knowledge workers — aren’t programmable machines, or even compliant servants; they are autonomous, living control systems and they must be viewed and dealt with as agents acting on their employer’s behalf. As Peter Drucker said of knowledge workers a long time ago, they can’t be managed; they must manage themselves.
The net of all this is that I have largely lost interest in most of what now passes for KM. I’m still interested in communities of practice — the kind that center on people and practices — and I’m still intensely interested in knowledge as the capability for effective action but I don’t pay much attention to the rest of what bears the label KM.”
KM Blog of the Week
Several of the really interesting discussions I had at the SharePoint Summit in Montreal were about encouraging user adoption of new SharePoint collaboration sites. You need to choose creative adoption techniques that work for the culture of your organization, but here are a few ideas we’ve tried in the past:
- “Get Sharp on SharePoint”
- “Stall” Stories
- Birth Announcement
- Web Cam Window
KM Link of the Week
In km4dev from Giora Hadar, Knowledge Architect, Federal Aviation Administration: The new Federal Knowledge Management Working Group (KMWG) site is now ready for use.
In km4dev from Lina Salazar, Ph.D., Knowledge and Learning Department, Inter-American Development Bank: The World Bank’s Knowledge Assessment Methodology — The KAM is an interactive benchmarking tool created by the Knowledge for Development Program to help countries identify the challenges and opportunities they face in making the transition to the knowledge-based economy.
KM Book of the Week
From Reading for Leading by Dan Mulhern
The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten Up by Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher
If you think work is no laughing matter, the joke’s on you. The Levity Effect uses serious science to reveal the remarkable power of fun and humor in building a productive, engaged, and loyal workforce…and a more successful you.
If you doubt levity is good for business, consider this: lighthearted leaders earn more on average than their more dour peers; entertaining workplaces breed more loyal employees and happier customers; and employees who are considered humorous are vastly more likely to get promoted — especially to senior positions.
The benefits of the levity effect are built on extensive research and case studies from some of the world’s most successful organizations. Bestselling author Adrian Gostick and humorist Scott Christopher provide powerful examples of leaders from Boeing, Nike, KPMG, Yamaha, Enterprise, Zappos, and dozens of others, all of which prove that lightening up leads to real business results.
The Levity Effect also presents extensive research into the subject — including compelling data from the Great Place to Work Institute’s one million-member database — that cuts against the grain of traditional business thinking to reveal that great companies consistently earn significantly higher marks for fun.
The Levity Effect is for anyone who wants to build an engaging, productive work culture and a more successful career. With interviews, extensive research, and lighthearted insight, The Levity Effect turns traditional business thinking on its head to prove again and again that a fun and engaging workplace leads to better business, more focused employees, and satisfied customers.
PART I: The Case for Levity
1. Chapter One: Levity Is a Funny Thing: If They’re Busting a Gut, They’ll Bust Their Butts
2. Chapter Two: Levity Effect — Communication: If They’re Laughing, They’re Listening
3. Chapter Three: Levity Effect — Innovation: With Comedy, There’s Creativity
4. Chapter Four: Levity Effect — Respect: In You They Trust
5. Chapter Five: Levity Effect — Health: Good for What Ails You
6. Chapter Six: Levity Effect — Wealth: Laughing All the Way to the Bank
PART II: Getting Lighter
7. Chapter Seven: 142 Ways to Have Fun at Work: How to Bring the Levity Effect to Work
8. Chapter Eight: Overcoming Objections to Levity: So What if I’m a Brow Knitter?
9. Chapter Nine: Levity for Life: Bringing Home the Fun
Conclusion: Your Levity IQ
Did you know? Levity-minded individuals:
- climb the corporate ladder faster
- make more money than their peers
- are more creative
- close more sales
- have more trusting relationships
- and live long, full lives (though accidents can and will happen… you can’t just step in front of a subway or bus)