In this blog let me focus on Conversations and Knowledge Cafe’s.
Some background: I am not a huge fan of conversations as a KM Tool! This is perhaps because of my conditioning in Sales and Business Development for most of my career. The ‘Lets Get on with the job’ attitude and ‘Let’s keep correcting things as we move along’ makes it difficult to accept that there is another way. Also, I guess I had a lot of misconceptions about the tools. KM Asia 2013 was the place where I interacted closely with Nancy Dixon and David Gurteen. So, I have just started to understand the role of these tools in Knowledge Sharing. My take-aways:
- Nancy Dixon: As the co-chair, Nancy introduced an interesting twist at the end of every Presentation. Instead of the standard Q&A, she triggered a 4-5 minute conversation at the tables, on the presentation. Thereafter each table had to summarize their key insights or confusions. This was novel! The feedback from participants was that this conversation them realize that sometimes they were not alone in their conflicts- others too had similar confusions; different viewpoints enriched their action points, since it came from the secure environment of fellow practitioners, who were seekers like themselves.
I saw firsthand how conversations in a relatively secure environment enriched the experience of the participants.
What I realized was that these conversations helped people to ‘personalize’ their learnings according to their contexts, which might not have happened so consistently had it been the usual Q&A after each presentation. In essence a critical part of any learning event is taking the time to reflect on the insights we have developed with others. We learn the most when we first think through our own insights and then gain new perspectives on that learning from others
- David Gurteen is a ‘household’ name in the field of KM. He is synonymous with ‘Knowledge Cafe’s’ that he has created and perfected.
I first ran into David at KM Asia many years ago and attended his ‘Speed Dating’ Knowledge Cafe in Bangalore at the KM India Summit a couple of years back. It was an innovation he had to come up with given the paucity of time. The India MAKE winners were given different corners of the room. The audience was split into an equal number of groups as MAKE winners. Each group had 5 minutes with a MAKE Winner. Thereafter they rotated to the next. In the 5 Minutes, the MAKE Winner had to do a 2 Minute ‘Elevator Pitch’ to the audience. This was followed by 3 minutes of Q&A. At the end everyone agreed that they gained more from this exercise than had it been the normal MAKE Presentations and Q&A.At KM Asia 2013, David Gurteen innovated once more. He presented a short video clip and then conducted a Knowledge Cafe in the traditional manner- smaller groups initially, followed by single group sharing! It helped that he chose a controversial topic ‘Rewards destroy Motivation’ which created instant polarization. At the end of the Knowledge Cafe I saw participants taking on board others viewpoints and while consensus was not reached (that was never the objective), each one was enriched by the variety of viewpoints.