Nuggets of knowledge

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled Knowledge in little packages in which I shared some of my favourite aphorisms and quotes.  I keep a collection of these little nuggets to inspire myself, to share with others via micro-blog posts in Twitter or LinkedIn and to underscore a key idea in a presentation or writing.  Sometimes I value such nuggets for triggering a thought that generates new knowledge; sometimes they just make me feel good – and if I’m feeling good, I’m probably more likely to have energy to be generative with knowledge.

Here’s a few more that have made it into my collection recently:

When you write things down, they sometimes take you places you hadn’t planned.
~ Melanie Benjamin

You’ll increase your creative potential once you begin to value your own thoughts.
~ Doug Hall

Perhaps we cannot raise the winds. But each of us can put up the sail, so that when the wind
comes we can catch it.
~ E. F. Schumacher

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult
~ E. B. White

When forced to work within a strict framework the imagination is taxed to its utmost – and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl.
~ T.S. Eliot

An engineer is one who can do with a dollar what any bungler can do with two.
~ Economic Theory of Railway Location (1887)

To be a designer is to be an agent of change.
~ Barbara Chandler Allen

Designers are the alchemists of the future.
~ Richard Koshalek

Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.
~ VISA founder Dee Hock

What quotes have been inspiring you or stimulating new knowledge lately?

The way of kindness

Can knowledge work be influenced by the mindset of kindness?  Why not a kindful quality of knowledge and knowledge-sharing!

I’ve recently been introduced to the World Kindness Movement (WKM). It’s based on the idea that our world will be more compassionate and peaceful if a critical mass of acts of kindness is ignited.

I had an recent inspirational and energetic conversation with Michael Lloyd-White, General Secretary to WKM and Chairman/Founding Director of World Kindness Australia who passionately shared stories of what was happening with the movement. The conversation stimulated my thinking about ways I could be a useful ‘broker’ to keep this knowledge and energy flowing. I thought of …

  • Hand ReachingThose among my contacts who would embrace such an idea and how I would approach them;
  • Meaningful messages I could share with key people;
  • Using my interest in origami to package the idea and capture an audience’s attention; and
  • Forums I could use or start, to inspire more people to act with generosity, and to recognise it in others.

Fellow travellers

The very next day an opportunity arose to actively show kindness. I was standing on Platform 2 awaiting my train to the city. I saw a guy on Platform 1 opposite dragging a large suitcase, looking perplexed. He was glancing from the train tracks to our platform filled with people, to his platform with only him, to the train schedule board. I yelled out, “Do you want the train to Melbourne?” He replied eagerly, “Yes!” I told him he needed to quickly change platforms, as the train he wanted was due any minute.

I shared relevant knowledge with someone who lacked it at a time of pressing need, and avoided an upset. (He would have had to wait an hour for another train.)

A fellow passenger, another stranger, commented on my kind act. So I told her about my recent introduction to WKM, and thanked her for recognising what I did. We then parted ways as we caught our train.

That night, I ran into the same woman again on the train home. She said she had thought of me that day. She shared her own story of how she helped out a fellow traveller with timely information they needed.

My actions in the morning had resulted in a knowledge transfer on multiple levels, and led to two pleasant encounters in Melbourne that day.

Good business: generosity at work

As a Change Facilitator, I can see ample opportunities for empathy when dealing with people in the midst of organisational change. How great to discover a group that aims to spread the idea of compassion in the workplace – so often the arena for self-advancement and competitiveness.

In an organisation, kind actions provide a more conducive environment for us to create and share helpful knowledge. It’s like a ‘good virus’ that spreads the possibility of further altruism. I am more likely to be an agent for good if I am liked, and people like the way they feel in how I treat them.

Play the Kindness Card

kindness_card_frontpageWKM has created a great initiative to capture acts of kindness – the Kindness Card. Michael gave me a card (has the appearance of a credit card) which I’ve activated on the Kindness card website and will physically pass on next time I see and can acknowledge an act of kindness. And each time it’s passed on, a story can be posted to add to other stories on the website. How much better will the world be for sharing these heart-warming moments?

How exciting to take a simple, instinctive concept like kindness, integrate it into a professional domain like knowledge management, and see what positive effects can be had. My knowledge ‘engine’ is fuelled with a warm emotional energy that I hope in turn infuses the knowledge I create and pass on.

Kindness is ‘heart’ knowledge. And we tend to focus on head knowledge. It’s time to expand our focus more holistically.

Research indicates kindness is literally in our DNA. How’s that for original tacit knowledge?

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work and how to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change and learning, so that ideas become impact. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.

Image credits: ‘Reaching hand’ from Microsoft Online Clipart; ‘Kindness card’ from World Kindness Australia

Extend your vocabulary and appreciate words

I love language. I love linguistics. I genuinely get a kick out of Etymology (the study of the origins of words and how meaning has changed over time), Morphology (the study of the forms of words, prefixes etc) and Semantics (the study of the meanings of words and phrases).

A high school teacher told my parents I had an extensive vocabulary; a result attributed to a voracious reading habit.  In Plain English – I know a lot of words because I read a lot. Easy to argue the last sentence was easier to comprehend than its predecessor – but was it as satisfying to read?

I’m all for Plain English used in reading material where I have to make a decision, or provide requested information. But when I’m seeking insight, inspiration or influence (that’s Alliteration!), I’m intellectually delighted to be stimulated by well chosen novel words.

I want to promote discovering and using non-Plain English words to
a) appreciate the great invention of the alphabet which gives us the ability to store knowledge in non-verbal form, and
b) exercise your mental muscle – that great engine of knowledge creation and storage.

In English, from a mere 26 characters, humanity has formed hundreds of thousands of words. The Oxford English Dictionary is a collection of more than 600,000 words. What creativity!  What possibility for expression!

One website has collated the 500 most commonly used English words The small subset indicates we can write and share knowledge with less than 1% of the entire collection.

To the matter of exercising your mental muscle, let’s follow the inspiration of my high school English teacher who regularly stimulated interest in new and unusual words. I still recall two words she introduced:
Cacophony – harsh, inharmonious collection of sound
Onomatopoeia – words that imitate the sounds associated with the actions or objects they refer to

In one book I recently read, I came across eight words to extend my vocabulary (list below).

Three I have never heard of before, and had to look up in the dictionary:
Purblind – lacking in vision, insight or understanding
Pentimento – a visible trace of earlier painting beneath the paint on a canvas
Sacristan – a person in charge of the sacristy and ceremonial equipment

Two I had come across and had some sense of their meaning but not enough to explain to someone else:
Verisimilitude – The quality of appearing to be true or real
Eschew -To avoid, to shun

Three I could explain to others  and intend to use more creatively in everyday conversation:
Ominous – sense that something bad or unpleasant is about to happen
Loquacious – very talkative
Rancour – feeling of deep and bitter anger or ill-will

Two suggestions for you:
1. Sign up for Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of Day ( ) to begin extending your vocabulary.
2. Find a buddy to share and practice your new words with. Start a competition for the most interesting finds!


Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and how to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change and learning so that ideas become impact. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.