Went along to the Gurteen Knowledge Cafe last night here in Dubai, hosted by Five Dimensions, at the Hotel Grosvenor. David ran a similar process to that at actKM last year (I could not see much difference in the slides at all but when you’re on a good thing….).
The interesting thing (as with any of these workshops) is the level of engagement and conversation with the people, especially across different cultures. David mentioned a Cafe that he ran recently in Asia where the participants refused to move between tables and others where engaging them in conversation was like pulling teeth. I was particularly interested to see what it would be like in an Arab country where conversation is very natural and meetings always start with social chitchat.
The conversations at the table were quite standard with people wanting to say their piece and engaging well in dialogue. But the whole group conversation at the end seemed more like a series of monologues with people wanting to state their piece rather than continuing on a theme that someone else said. There was not much dialogue, debate or true conversation. Someone who knows the local culture stated that this was because the local environment is competitive and it is important to make your point rather than stay silent.
Two other items were interesting. One was the importance of job security for people which meant they felt they needed recognition for their work and their ideas. This means that people tend to be quite loyal to the organisation, sometimes a good thing but not when it restricts idea generation and establishment. The other was the high value placed on western knowledge with locals importing expertise from western countries – not bad if you are an expat consultant!