Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mapping the Intangible

Today is Fathers day. I have two daughters, 3.5 and 8 months. I love them very much, but I don't know if I have the time to count the reasons why. Is it because they keep me awake at night? Is it because the eldest throws tantrums if her pants aren't exactly the correct colour she decides she needs? Or that wearing pants is so lame when you really need a twirly skirt?

No, that stuff blows, real bad. But do I laugh we she dances for me? Does she lift my mood when she dresses up and gives me the biggest kiss because she feels so good? Absolutely. How do I define that - by reason? If I used reason she probably wouldn't exist.

I guess that's an obscure way to introduce the following table - a way to try and make explicit these tangibles in an organisation, and to maybe try and take in the big picture rather than focus on the bottom line at the expense of everything else.

This table is endebted to Dr Farhad Daneshgar and Elisabeth Davenport, it attempts to integrate the Social Capital and Intellectual Capital of an organisation.

Eisner and making KM visible

"Not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that is measured matters"
Aphorism attributed to Elliot Eisner, and from a sign in Einstein's office?, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts".

There has been a rather robust discussion on the ActKM listserve around 'cutting-out KM in the organisation', and the gist of the posts suggests that Executive don't value the output of KM as it isn't visible to them, it's a cost centre. They know that its inputs are valuable, but obviously the amount it contributes to the bottom-line for them is tenuous.

What are the reasons for this? Is it because KM is a maturing field that hasn't passed through the stage of connoisseur to critic? 

'Thus… connoisseurship provides criticism with its subject matter. Connoisseurship is private, but criticism is public. Connoisseurs simply need to appreciate what they encounter. Critics, however, must render these qualities vivid by the artful use of critical disclosure'

Or is it because we deal in the tacit so much? I myself see KM as very closely aligned with Education, and KM practitioners almost as coaches that help realise the full-potential of an organisations Human Capital - by removing the obstacles of collaboration and helping the individual and organisation see how the development of Social Capital is ultimately to their benefit. (Is KM part of the triumvirate sandwiched between Learning and Change Management?)

As we move from the Information Economy to the Knowledge Economy education is going to be a centre of focus, and life-long learning an essential aspect of your career. The outcomes of your knowledge need to be visualised to be leveraged. Your Intellectual Knowledge needs to be surfaced, articulated, as advocated in the Nonaka and Takenuchi SECI model.

So how do we map this Social Capital? Even an egocentric view relies on it being shared across a network, which means at least one other must hold the same value?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Calling a spade a long handled digging instrument

Abraham Lincoln has a quote that goes "Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves". So how do you tell someone something that you know will challenge their own perception without it getting dimissed, or worse, becoming alienated by them?

Like in a relationship, is compromise not a bad thing? How do you tell someone that their bum does look big in that, without incurring resentment but still allowing them to access to their blindspots? Is it in assertive communication? Do we need to explicitly set the ground-rules, create expectations that engender trust in a process, divorcing from the individual? Ralph Stacey talks about knowledge residing in interactions, not individuals, and this may be a great way to deflect blame and anxiety from individuals. This is much more true in a virtual environment, and thanks to Dr Daneshgar, something that needs to be made explicit when setting up collaborative teams that don't have access to non-verbal clues. There are times you need to answer a question the way the requester wants it answered in order to keep communication open, and opportunies to be franker at other times, all signalled by subtle clues.

I like the potential the Johari window has in allowing you to improve yourself, but the emphasis surely is on allowance; leading horses to water, etc. I was thinking about my project and the way I had been describing the knowledge sharing problem in our organisation, trying to be as candid as possible. I know from my discussions with faculty previously that my plea to create conditions for Social Capital have led me to be called a 'Marxist', albiet in a joking way. However, there is more wisdom in humour, than humour in wisdom...

So what was on my Desk Calendar quote today? A line from Bertrand Russel, 'Many people would rather die than think; in fact, most do'.