What People Want Out of Work – Validation and Sense of Belonging

August 31, 2006

Went to a presentation today by Dr Sally Cockburn – or as many people in Melbourne would know her as Dr Feelgood – a well-known media personality with TV and readio appearances and shows over the past decade and more on health issues.  She is now also a corporate speaker, presenting on stress and health in the workplace.

One particular point from today was that two of the main things that people want out of work is validation and to feel like they belong.  Validation in the sense that the work outputs that they perform are acknowledged and the ideas that they have for improvement are given a hearing.  Sense of belonging as people at work want to feel part of a team and community. 

Having these two items would defray a lot of stress building up in the workplace and improve many relationships at work.  Many years ago, I was on a working party looking at Harassment in the Workplace and many people identified that harassment was caused by work-related issues.  Now some of these might have been confusing harassment with particular abrasive management styles but the important thing is that if they were listened to and had good connections with others in the group, then stress and feelings of harassment would have been alleviated.

Sounds so easy doesn’t it? But as with many behaviours, they are ingrained and we need to becoming aware of them in order to change how we operate and relate to others.

Terrorist KM

August 31, 2006

The Director General of the Australian Security and Intelligence Office (ASIO), Paul O’Sullivan is quoted in The Age today as saying:

“[They] are educated and highly capable people.  They learn from their mistakes and those of others who have gone before them and seek to apply that learning to developing new and better ways of defeating our counter-measures.”

Damn those terrorists!  Fancy them adopting the principles of learning organisations!

Six Eyes of Seeing Knowledge

August 29, 2006

At the actKM monthly meeting in Canberra in May, I gave a presentation titled Eyeing the Knowledge Management Seas: Exploring the Surface and Delving its Depths. 

It was a lot of fun creating the slides for the event.  I used a heavy dose of alliteration and simile (thanks Brett) to understand the eyes of KM.  In particular, I explored the hidden assumption that intellectual knowledge is the only lens for creating and sharing knowledge. Other eyes for seeing and sense-making have the potential to uncover new knowledge. The very brief overview of these six eyes of knowledge are:

Intellect – arguably the most important eye.  The basis of our logic, rationality and learning.  Uses science as the metanarrative.  Leads to Information and Intelligence (and knowledge of course). 

Instinct – knowledge gained from our initial response to sensory input without cognitive thinking processes.  Able to form quick conclusions in a “blink” (Malcolm Gladwell reference).  Knowledge here leads to Immediciacy of Response but can lead to incorrect generalisations and stereotyping.

Imagination – knowledge gained from our dreams, aspirations and visions.  From this knowledge we gain Intention and Inspiration. 

Intuition – knowledge gained from emotional rather than intellectual understanding based on our relationships with others.  From this knowledge we gain Integrity and Interconnectivity.  It includes the notion of morphic resonance (Sheldrake), microvita (Sarkar) and emotional intelligence (Goleman).

Insight – knowledge gained from our creative processes using theta waves.  Happens best in the shower (or in Archimedes’ case, the bath).  Happens when we are not thinking about things.  Knowledge here gives us Improvisation happening In-Time. 

There is a sixth eye but this is hidden (sort of like your third eye).   It is that of:

Ignorance – this is our hidden knowledge – what we don’t see.  By focusing only on what we know, we miss the areas that we don’t know.  KM is as much about managing our ignorance as it is about managing our knowledge.  See Patrick’s article for more or Sohail Inayatullah’s piece. From our ignorance, we gain Inquiry leading to Interventions.

So there they are, the six eyes of knowledge. Not intellect alone, but also Instinct, Imagination, Intuition, Insight and Ignorance. 

And that is enough alliteration for one evening!

DRIVERS of a Modern Organisation

August 29, 2006

Over the past couple of days I have been preparing a presentation – one of the aspects of that was to consider what are the hallmarks or traits of a modern organisation.

 I’d come up with seven and was discussing them tonight with friends Cate and Alex.  We have changed one of those and came up with the definitive seven drivers of the modern organisation. These drivers are:


And to think that coming up with these seven drivers required no alcohol at the time. Just think what we could have achieved with some collaborative inducements!

Shipping Containers and Urban Redevelopment

August 27, 2006

Great main article in the AFR Review last Friday 25 Aug 2006 by Witold Rybczynski.  It is only 50 years ago that the first full-fledged container shipping occurred.  Major change has occurred in cities worldwide with the introduction of containerisation.  He cites that London and New York each had about 50,000 dock workers in the decade after World War II.  With containers, large workforces are no longer required, wharves no longer need to be located close to cities and large container ports such as Swanston Dock here in Melbourne negated the need for the large number of small docks along the Yarra River.  Cultual change also occurred with the removal of petty crime from the docks (with lots of items previously falling off the back of trucks available for sale – no longer possible in secure containers).

Fifty years ago, it would have been almost impossible to foresee this.  Large numbers of displaced workers, the decay of breakbulk wharves along the Yarra, the introduction of large container ships have allowed the Docklands to be redeveloped for housing.  An interesting question then is if this has occurred in the past 50 years, will there be a major change to shipping goods over the next 20 to 30 years that similarly results in major change, or will this come from another source?

The Knowledge Management Equation: E=mc2

August 25, 2006

Einstein’s elegant equation of his special theory of relativity linking energy, matter and speed rocked the scientific establishment.  It challenges notions of absolute time and space towards ones that are relative, depending on the observer.

I think that it is also an excellent mathematical equation for describing knowledge management.  Many of you who know me may wonder why I am going against my previous statements on the troubles with measuring knowledge and reducing complex things down to the bare essentials.  Quite true, but it’s an interesting exercise anyway.  Here goes:

Sveiby has defined knowledge as “the capacity to act“.  In this sense, it has an energetic dimension.  I remember from high school physics that you can have kinetic energy (an object is moving so that it can perform work on something else) and potential energy (such as an object on top of a cliff that might not be moving but could do work with its potential capacity if it is unleashed).  Both are like knowledge in an organisation – the potential for work to be done either by knowledge in an action or flow or knowledge that is not being used currently but has the potential to be used. 

Knowledge as energy!  But what then of the m and c you ask?  Well m of course is meaning.  Knowledge won’t work unless it has some meaning.  Some might say that this is circular – knowledge is only knowledge if it has meaning – otherwise it is just data or information.  True, but it also demonstrates the strong positive relationship between the two – if I can enhance the meaning to people (through story or through process or through rewards), then the value of the knowledge and its potential energy is increased.

Meaning – that’s easy I hear you say.  What about the c? And how are you going to square it?  Well c stands for connections.  And it’s not just about knowledge energy being increased when connecting people to information (through technology or content management systems for example) but also connecting people to people (such as through CoPs, shared visions, narrative or simple email systems).  Both sets of connections are important – hence why connections squared.  There are obvious links here to Metcalfe’s Law of the Networked Economy. 

Simple then, isn’t it?  E=mc2.  Knowledge energy (or the value of knowledge) is dependent on meaning, connecting people to information, and connecting people to people.  Cover all three bases and your knowledge energy will exponentially grow!


Working with Knowledge Energies – presentation to actKM Canberra October 2006

August 24, 2006

My wife, Lyn, has always wondered what I get up to at KM conferences.  So I decided to not only invite her along to one, but to present with me.  Below is what we plan to have a conversation about at the actKM 2006 conference in Canberra.   

Early in the 20th Century, Albert Einstein rocked the scientific world with his E=mc2 equation linking energy, matter and speed in his special theory of relativity.  The equation shook the paradigm of Newtonian concepts of space and time towards a view that matter is not just something that is static but is alive with energy.  Later in the 20th century, knowledge management theorists and practitioners commented that knowledge also appears to have energetic properties; that it can be considered not just as an object or stock but as something that is dynamic and that flows.  Could we consider successful knowledge management then as the maximization of energy within communities, providing healthy opportunities for collaboration, creativity and sense-making?  How do we explore these energetic properties of knowledge? 

Pathways for knowledge energies in organisations can be likened to the energy pathways in us as individuals.  Each of us has many physical systems such as our circulatory, nervous, lymphatic and digestive systems.  But we also have meridians that channel energy.  While once discredited, acupuncture is now viewed as an acceptable means of releasing energy blockages in these channels, freeing the body to heal itself.  Likewise, organizations have physical systems that can be portrayed as organisational charts, process flows and communication maps such as SNA.  But just as with individuals, there are also hidden energy channels in organisations that can become blocked or disrupted in a way that impedes the flow of knowledge energy.   

This presentation will explore the generation of positive knowledge energy and the dissipation of negative knowledge energy in the workplace.  We will marry (excuse the double entendre) Western views of knowledge energies as flows and relationships with Eastern views of knowledge energies that incorporate yin/yang Feng Shui principles and subtle dimensions.  Our presentation will explore the hidden world where serendipity meets synchronicity, where chance meets coincidence and where sense-making meets deeper meaning and understanding. 

About the Presenters 

Luke Naismith has recently joined the Victorian Government’s Department of Justice as a Corporate Strategy Manager.  He has previously been in senior positions in the Australian Public Service in the areas of information economy public policy, knowledge and information management and technology implementations.  Luke completed his Masters of Strategic Foresight last year and has been a long-standing member of the Standards Australia Knowledge Management Committee.   

Lyn Naismith is the owner of the Kiva Wellbeing Centre, a place where clients can come to relax, unwind and reconnect with their inner strength.  She is a Qi Gong Kinesiology Practitioner, Reiki Master, Massage Therapist and Tien Ti (Space Clearing) Master.  Lyn specialises in identifying and releasing the emotional and physical blockages to health and wellbeing to assist her clients to restore and balance their energy.  She also has degrees in Psychology and Social Work.


August 22, 2006

I first presented the concept of infoluenza at the AGLIN conference in Canberra in July 2006.  I later presented it at the Ark Group KM Australia 2006 conference in Sydney and then wrote a post on it on the act-km website.  As far as I know, this is a term that no-one else has defined; a quick Google search revealed nothing – apart from lots of misspellings of influenza.  If you know of anyone that has used it, please let me know by adding a comment.

Below is a description of what I mean by infoluenza.

A couple of years ago, Clive Hamilton from the Australia Institute wrote a book called Affluenza. In this book, he defined affluenza as:

  1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses.
  2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the Australian dream.
  3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.

His thesis was that we work hard to pay off the mortgage and buy material goods but that our growing wealth only serves to increase our desires for more material possessions. Our attachment to money and material possessions robs us of autonomy and fails to deliver happiness. It’s a disease and one that appears for many people, very hard to cure. It’s not affluence that is the problem but affluenza, our attachment to materialism.

I used this concept to describe the informational variant, infoluenza. I define infoluenza as:

  1. The frustrated, overwhelmed and unfulfilled feeling that results from continued efforts to broaden information or knowledge management systems.
  2. An epidemic of confusion, vendor hype, paralysis by analysis, and suspect decision-making caused by dogged pursuit of a Technology Nirvana.
  3. An unsustainable addiction to incorporating more and more information.

The similar thesis here is that many people have a desire for more and more content and information but this attachment to information resources robs us of our search for deeper meaning. It fails to deliver contentment (which etymologically, is derived from the satisfied feeling that comes from being contained). Information is not the problem, but infoluenza – a disease of not being able to understand the limitations of deriving contentment from content alone.

Just as affluenza is a term that is increasingly being used in Australia to describe the disease of failing to master our affluence and therefore the need to broaden our goals away from material possessions and towards other contributors of happiness, infoluenza is a term that could be used to describe the failure to master our information resources and that to achieve contentment at work in solving our business problems, we need to turn our attention to other contributors of contentment apart from content (like relationships, stories, context, etc). 

Jack Vinson has identified some excellent cures for those inflicted with the infoluenza virus

My first post

August 22, 2006

Welcome everyone to the Knowledge Futures blog.  This is the first post.

Just something to get up there and I will fill all this out with more fulsome information in due course.