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Next Big Thing in KM – workshop report

I’ve just finished running a workshop on What’s the Next Big Thing at the KIMPS09 public sector knowledge management conference, and succeeding (I think) through the simple expedient of asking participants what think. As I explained earlier I came up with the some conversation starters, then asked people in groups to imaged what advice they would give to a friend taking on a new KM job in a local authority, with an emphasis on social media.

You can see the conclusions people reached in the video report back above,  together with video interviews of speakers below. Roll mouse over lower part of video frame below for more speakers.

You can find all the videos from KIMPS09 on YouTube separately here. Main speaker names are in the video info. If slides become available, I’ll link.

Twitter stream here.

Help! What's the Next Big Thing in Knowledge Management?

What’s the next big thing in local government knowledge management? I could do with some help on this topic because tomorrow I’m running a workshop at the big annual KM event run by the Ark Group – KIMPS09 – and I’m not a specialist in the topic.

The invite to contribute came in months back – courtesy I believe of a recommendation from my friend Steve Dale, who really is an expert in KM, and developing the Knowledge Hub for local authorities that I’ve written about here.

My first reaction was to say no, I don’t have the expertise. Then I thought – how can I do this in a socialreporter-ish way? With agreement from the helpful people at Ark I came up with a three-stage process: first, look at what the experts are saying; then take some key points to the first day of the conference and check out with participants; finally run my session as a workshop with revised points as conversation starters at the tables. Relax, let the crowd do the work.

To give it some focus, I’ve taken this possible situation as a starting point: a friend has just been given responsibility for knowledgement management in their local authority department – and they are panicking. They are OK with data and project reporting systems – but apparently the boss has heard social media is the next big thing. What could you tell them?

I’m just off to the conference, with the following points to check out with anyone I can find to chat with at coffee. Then I run the workshop tomorrow. What do you think? Is this a useful guide to the Next Big Thing? In summary … Conversations and Stories. More simply – Talk to Each Other.

1 Create conditions for collaboration
You can manage information – but you can’t manage the most useful knowledge. What you can do is help people to share what they know. That requires leadership to develop a culture of trust where collaboration is encouraged.

2 Encourage conversations

The best way to help people share knowledge is to give them plenty of chances to talk to each other. The richest conversations usually happen face-to-face, after which people are more likely to open up and contribute online.

3 Add new roles
Online knowledge sharing among a diverse group of people requires appropriate tools – but more than anything it needs appropriate people to help. They may be variously called community manager, technology steward, digital mentor, social reporter … and it’s unlikely one support person can do it all.

4 Listen carefully, connect widely
Use light-weight social media tools like social bookmarking, Twitter, Netvibes, Ning communities to scan what’s going on outside. Build relationships with useful people, follow and share with them.  Then the network is your new library.

5 Talk failure, tell stories about success
If you really want to understand what works in any situation, help people talk about what failed, and  to tell stories of success in their own words. Case studies from consultants won’t connect nearly as well.

6 Open up, cross boundaries
Communities of Practice behind a login are excellent for sharing knowledge among specialists. If you also want to understand what service users need you have to engage with the wider community out in the open.

7 Mix and blend your media
Work both on and offline. Run semi-structured events like knowledge cafes and unconferences. Shoot some video, blog and tweet the event … then use digital assets to spark new conversations online. Cultivate a knowledge ecology where learning can flourish.

8 Dive in, try it, change it
You can’t learn to swim outside the pool … or learn to fly watching the instructor. Find time to explore. Many of the tools you need are free, so you can experiment and build on what works, or drop anything that doesn’t. Invest in people rather than technology.

9 Decentralise, foster resilience
Encourage teams and groups to take responsibility for their own research and learning, then share with others. That way you should have a more resilient system less dependent on central services.

10 Three Ps before T
It’s easy to get caught up in the how and wow of new tools. Think Purpose, People, Process – and only then Tools.

I did check out these points with three experts in the field – thanks David, Steve, Ed. Full acknowledgement if it all works out. I’ll report back.