Moscow presentation on knowledge management

April 7, 2007

The presentation in Moscow was via simultaneous translation, so I while I had an hour, the most I could manage was eight slides speaking slowly. There is little choice other than to use slides where translation is taking place. Speaking through translation is a good discipline, the need to provide structure, and to speak slowly can improve the quality of presentation.

The audience were, in the main just getting started in KM. The organisers claimed it was the first specific KM event in Moscow. The fact that they are just getting started means that they can avoid the mistakes of the last ten years and take advantage of the newer technologies such as social computing and narrative. The problem is that they are being sold consultancy solutions based on five to ten year old technology using the sort of recipes that contributed to the failures of knowledge management that I documented here. If you have mobile phone technology, then you do not need to start with traditional telephone exchanges. The same is true of KM, but more on that tomorrow, for today I want to summarise what I said and provide links to supporting material. This is primarily targeted at the participants, but others may find it useful. The slides also use the new Cognitive Edge image, this will be carried over to the web site in a major set of changes before too much longer.

After the obligatory this is who we are I use a single slide to summarise the three rules of KM, along with three generations of KM practice (The Information Age, the Nonaka period and modern day) along with a basic principle of knowledge flow across silos. That allowed me to cover off the need for narrative as a half way house between experience and written documents.

That done, I went on the talk about the importance of understanding the levels of abstraction in knowledge sharing. That together with Cynefin framework for communities (academic article here, popular article here) provided the meat. On this occasion I used the theme of natural numbers, coupled with advice on the use of social computing as an alternative to building communities of practice. I previously blogged this position here

Finally I discussed the use of narrative in KM, and showed some illustrations. An early article on the use of story can be found here and some of the more advanced thinking is in this book chapter There are other articles on the web site which show the application of narrative in different situations.

In one of the question sessions I talked about how to get started, and I will blog this tomorrow.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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