Two knowledge creation phases: Develop knowledge & Produce knowledge (Part 1)

In Knowledge Management, there are various lifecycles naming different stages in managing knowledge, like:
create > represent > share > utilise;
create > clarify > classify > communicate;
conceptualize > create > apply; and
create > share > retain.

See the common word? Create!

I’ve observed two different yet related phases within Knowledge Creation: I call them Develop and Produce. Appreciating the difference can help you collaborate more effectively with others; set more appropriate expectations with your clients or collaborators; and choose the best context and tools for doing knowledge creation work.

Part 1 of this two-part blog explains the idea of Develop and Produce knowledge phases. Part 2 shares practical examples of what I do and use in each of the two phases.

Characteristics of Two Knowledge Creation Phases

In Develop phase, the intent is to discover emergent ideas; formulate questions; and explore possibilities. In this phase, the knowledge creator is often internalising multiple sources of knowledge, then ‘gestating’ new knowledge. It can be difficult and may be unreasonable to have emotional distance and objectivity as the creator of knowledge during this phase.

In Produce phase, the intent is to refine and polish the knowledge to produce an output that can be used or experienced by others. In this phase, the knowledge creator externalises what they know (or are knowing), and applies contextual criteria to shape the knowledge into a product that fits a purpose and intended audience.

Here’s a table to compare and contrast the characteristics of the two phases.

Develop Phase Produce Phase
Partial form/unformed
Hunches
Half baked’
Questions
Unknown containers
Divergent
Creates value only for yourself or the internal team
Context agnostic
Discovery for serendipity
Emergent form and function
Undefined focus
Exploring
Rough
Ideation
Codified
Conclusions
Condensed, Crystallised
Answers
Constrained to container
Convergent
Creates value for others (external)
Contextual
Expression for accessibility
Defined form and function
Focused for an audience and purpose
Executing
Polished
Prototyping > Publishing

Develop Phase: Content without the pressure of form or style

In the Develop phase, it’s essential not to constrain knowledge creation activity by producing a draft of a final product. It’s best to decouple the emerging content from any potential style or form. Let the idea surface. Formatting comes later when making choices for the audience and the value you want them to gain.

In Steve Johnson’s video “Where good ideas come from“, he proposes that ideas are developed from slow hunches that take time to evolve and incubate, possibly even remaining dormant for several years. A great description of the Develop phase! Smaller hunches collide with other ideas and they potentially become breakthroughs. When this connectivity occurs, it offers new ways to involve other people who may have a ‘missing piece’ that will build or improve the original idea.

In the Develop phase, you might switch back and forth from a macro to micro perspective of the content. This allows for new ideas to emerge. You revisit where and how things connect together. You may find new ways to frame or connect things — without the pressure to sacrifice anything.  It’s an incubation, experimental period.  Anything goes!

Develop-phase content looks like scribbles, rough notes, good notes, drawings, collection of facts, bookmarked references or books, half-written paragraphs, outlines, disparate bullet points or lists. In Develop phase you are most likely to start with a blank page.

Produce Phase: Focus on generating value

In the Produce phase, the goal, as Seth Godin would put it, is “to ship”. Knowledge leaving the Develop phase can go out into the world to be used. This is the point where the knowledge acquires value. Value such as revenue; building or enhancing reputation; or enabling others to apply it in their context.

Produce-phase content looks like a blog, a book, a video, a workshop or course, a session plan for the workshop or course, a report, a video, a podcast, a presentation, a slide deck for a presentation.

If you start with a template or form, then you are already moving into the Produce phase; the context will be shaping the content. If you give something a name or title by which it is to be known, you are on the boundary or over the line into Produce phase. That’s analogous to giving a baby a name once it’s born or about to be born. (During the gestation of a baby, i.e. develop-phase, humans don’t tend to assign a name!)

The Produce phase transforms fuzzy knowledge into something is relevant to a person, purpose, place, or context. The context shapes the developed content.  As a produced piece of content, its now possible for the knowledge to be Mobile and Immutable (as John Seely Brown & Paul Duguid describe in their book “The Social Life of Information“, pp. 197-205).  Mobile because it’s now in a form that can stand apart from the knower, and circulate across people, time and space. Immutable because it’s been fixed into a form that can be relied upon to be consistent and re-usable.

Valuing the Develop Phase

Knowledge creation starts with the Develop phase. Often this is internal and invisible to others. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t get sufficient attention, or isn’t treated as having value in its own right. Content in the Develop phase may appear unordered, incomplete, nonsensical and tentative; and thus socially risky to show or involve others who may expect something more.

Once knowledge moves into the Produce phase, it’s much more difficult (and unlikely) to return to the Develop phase. Knowledge that becomes a Product tends to be resistant to being abandoned or destroyed, in favour of coming up with something fresh and better.

What does knowledge creation with the two phases look like?

The two phases of the knowledge creation activity are illustrated in the blog post, “Let others know – generating goodwill for your contacts“.

Iteration through phases

Knowledge creation may iterate through a series of Develop and Produce phases.

Image-D+P Phases Iterations

I wrote the blog post “Let others know – generating goodwill for your contacts” to test (and make visible) the theory. It was a Minimal Viable Product (MVP); a first release of the creation of ‘Develop-Produce Knowledge Phases’ knowledge during one of the iterations. And I expect more iterations as I find new Product opportunities (potential users with a need), or think of new or modified ideas to influence the raw in-development content.
Well, that’s the concept! Read Part 2 to see how I apply this.

 

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 making small changes that disrupt the way people think and what they do. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams get best value from their people and knowledge.

Using Notebooks to create and capture my knowledge

Notebooking enables me to be knowledge-savvy in my work. I am not alone in this vital practice.

Notebooking was a key part of the generative practices of knowledge masters Da Vinci, Edison and Picasso. In modern times, ‘Mythbuster’ Adam Savage is also a prolific notebook keeper. Unlike Da Vinci, Edison and Picasso, he uses digital notebooking. Adam acknowledges that the practice of putting his thoughts and ideas down in list form is pivotal to his work practice.

I write down things I know in digital notebooks because I want to remember them.  I want to revisit what I know, observed or reflected upon maybe months or years after I wrote these down. This is because I want to shape and play with my thoughts, to make sense of them or get a new angle on an idea.

Writing helps me to identify what I know and what I don’t know. Some of my knowledge is half-baked or incomplete and sometimes I write questions to trigger further thinking.

Ideas ordering – keeping the mind clear with notebooking

Writing down ideas is a way to create ordered patterns of what’s going on in mind.

Author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi argues in his book Flow: Psychology of Optimal Experience that the process of writing creates meaning from the information we receive:

“It is never a waste to write for intrinsic reasons. First of all writing gives the mind a disciplined means of expression. It allows one to record events and experiences so they can be easily recalled, and relived in the future. It is a way to analyse and understand experiences, a self-communication that brings order to them.”

Some of what I know is tacit and writing helps to expose this and find deeper meaning. This is particularly true if I have an audience or function in mind, for example; to inform, educate, or persuade others.

My notebooks are for personal knowledge use. I use them for personal knowledge rather than shared knowledge because they:

  • Are a private and precious space – I’m not exposed as I muse
  • Include content in the Development phase rather than Production phase
  • Record what gets my attention
  • Hold my deep and emerging observations about work issues
  • Reveal connections I’m making with what I know and what I’m observing
  • Help cultivate knowledge within me

Into the digital space – keeping electronic notebooks

I’ve kept physical notebooks for over 30 years. A few years ago I went electronic and implemented MS OneNote to support my notebooking practice.

Image-Electronic Notebook page

I made the shift because I desired features that hardcopy notebooks couldn’t provide. These included:

  • Input via hand writing, typing or drawing
  • Multi-colour content
  • Text, graphics, audio, and printouts held altogether
  • Search by word
  • Ordered and tagged for meaning
  • Copied for preservation
  • Easy to edit cleanly (erase text, or move text about on page)

There have been many advantages and benefits emerge from having an electronic tool for my notebooking activity. These include:

  • Merging personal and professional – my poetry notebook sits alongside my business notebooks
  • Less mass and more volume – I can keep adding notebooks and notebook content without a gain in physical weight
  • Re-editing and adding layers of annotation – content isn’t fixed so I can change or annotate it, I can insert new things between old things
  • Greater connectivity of content – I can use hyperlink feature to make and retain connections between pages
  • Better order and organisation – I can set up an order and reorder it as necessary, so the order keeps up with my current thinking
  • Quick and easy discovery – I can search by words, even those that are handwritten rather than typed
  • Multiple copies in synch – I reduce the risk of loss because I can have a copy with me as well as in the home or office
  • Sharing with others – I can allow others access to read and contribute

Learn about how I setup my electronic notebook

In the book Innovate like Edison, author Michael Gleb defined ‘keeping a notebook’ as one of 25 competencies in developing an innovation practice like the prolific innovator, Thomas Edison. Edison kept approximately 2,500 notebooks some of which survive to this day.

And famous inventor’s notebooks can survive to appreciate in other ways: one of Da Vinci’s notebooks was sold for $40 million to Bill Gates.

I wonder if my notebooks will survive a long passage of time. Whether a future someone will ‘dust’ them off, discovering something noteworthy or inspirational which will generate new knowledge for them and the world. Do I dare to hope it is so?

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.

Fourth Dimension Networking – A Concept (Part 1)

Many professionals would claim to know and utilise the value of the connections in their network. Yet most invest time, energy and cups of coffee in creating a network, only to let it languish on a forgotten LinkedIn account or as a stack of dusty business cards.

Not all networking is equal and certainly not all networkers are equal. After two years of intensive networking, I’ve developed a schema that outlines how to cultivate a potent professional network.

Fourth dimension networking is a concept that empowers you to realise greater benefit with your network.

Common networking – where most professionals stop

Most business professionals engage in low-impact networking. They meet someone at an event; exchange business cards and basic professional details (i.e. what you do, where you work, what experience and expertise you have); then connect through social media (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook), with some or no ongoing personal dialogue.

This kind of networking fails to realise the depth of knowledge, networks and capabilities of the people in the network.

Activating your network – become a leader

Network of connected peopleYour network is a resource of knowledge and action. It could sit latently with unrealised power, or you could assume leadership to activate the network and catalyse that power.

Your network is a collection of people with whom you have a relationship and to whom you can offer your knowledge, experience, skill and contacts.

So ask not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network?

Networking taken to the next level – the fourth dimension

The depth and richness of a network can be defined by looking at its dimensions. Network dimensions encapsulate the depth of knowledge held about a person.

Initially, deep networking appears to be a three dimensional concept, where the third dimension reveals the substance of a person beyond a mere name and face. However, there is a fourth dimension to networking that incorporates movement and action, where the capability of people is activated.

Network dimensions defined

One dimension (1D): A name and an email address; often in an email/newsletter list

Two dimensions (2D): A name, a face and some personal details; what you get from a brief meeting where business cards were exchanged

Three dimensions (3D): A name with a face, personal details and a personal sense or experience of a person; the result of a one-to-one conversation or a shared experience like a conference or committee; some bonding has taken place

Four dimensions (4D): Deeper knowledge of a person sufficient to access their stocks of knowledge (e.g. what-is, who-is, how-to, etc), and to participate in their flows of knowledge (e.g. collaboration or conversation); actively contributing to the other and their network; leading and leveraging with action

Short description of the four dimensions of networking

Uncommon networking – more to the fourth dimension

Fourth dimension networking’s richness is based on how it incorporates action and progressive movement. In this dimension there is purposeful intent to do activity of value to others, to catalyse goodness for and within the network, and to enable doing good with the network.

Within the fourth dimension, there are many levels of practical activity for the savvy networker. I have developed a list of value to me.

Levels within the fourth dimension network: Helen’s List

The items below are ranked and the higher numbers have greater value.

0  Responded/approached me/them of own volition with an explicit intent to keep in touch
1  Created opportunities to catch up with me/them in person to learn about them/me
2  Suggested a relevant reading, podcast, event, group, role, contact to me/them; shared knowledge or insights
3  Actively encouraged, affirmed or validated me/them in contextually relevant way
4  Mentioned me/them in a post; commented or Liked a post of mine/theirs
5  Endorsed or recommended me/them
6  Introduced me/them to someone else because I/they asked
7  Introduced me/them to someone else of own volition
8  Invited me/them to be part of a collaboration, strategic alliance or lead participant in event
9  Asked how to help me/them and acted on the answer
10 Offered me/them work

The levels can be customised and ranked according to personal preference.

A knowledge focus in fourth dimension networking

There is a knowledge management angle to fourth dimension networking: Managing your network with a knowledge focus.

Far more than just an information source, network contacts are a significant resource of rich, contextual and highly dynamic knowledge. The value of that knowledge is unlocked by actions and through relationships that mobilises knowledge for the benefit of all.

A network is a rich knowledge-base of many classes of knowledge: what-is; how-to; why-it-is-so; who-is; who-has; where-is; -when-is; what-happened etc. It can be a significant form of social capital where ‘who-you-know’ is often more highly prized rather than ‘what-you-know’.

A network can be a vehicle for the creation of personal and collective knowledge, as well as the distribution of knowledge that might be applied more widely.

I have consciously and carefully co-created my network so the preconditions for knowledge sharing are more prevalent: trust, respect and rapport through shared values and common frames of reference.

Want to ask me something? I may not know the answer but I’ve got about 600 people I can ask instantly who might.

Where to from here?

I am using this concept to examine my networking practice and the power in my network. In Part 2 of this series, I report on my findings. In Part 3, I share insights about what practices, tools and mindsets are useful for being a 4D Networker.

Join me on the journey of improving your networking performance. Spectators and participants both welcome.

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 individuals and teams make better use of their contacts, knowledge and information.

Networking Image credit: iStockphoto

Knowledge in little packages

Knowledge, from experience and of insight, can be powerfully distilled into a few words.  There is a large published knowledge-base of sage words in the form of aphorisms available to humanity. With famous and unknown composers, these pithy phrases are a handy package for disseminating memorable thought.

Some favourite aphorisms

I curate a personal collection of aphorisms and quotes. Here is a small selection of favourites from historical figures.

It is insufficiently considered how much of human life passes in little incidents.
~ Samuel Johnson

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. All progress depends upon the unreasonable man.
~ George Bernard Shaw

If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
~ Mark Twain

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
~ Abraham Maslow

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
~ Abraham Lincoln

Tweeting

Tweeting, with a maximum of 140 characters, is a publishing medium that lends itself to cultivating and disseminating the common person’s insights. I choose to follow a small group of Tweeters, as I am interested in insightful and stimulating content rather than the mundane. Here’s some of my favourite recent tweets.

@CreatvEmergence Michelle James
Be vigilant with your mission. Be exuberant with your passion. Be gentle with yourself.

@CreatvEmergence Michelle James
Resonance: a time-saving way to make decisions, connections and purposeful choices

@CDEgger Christine Egger
Time to build this into every day: putting the laptop aside for a 15-min #deepdive

As a new Tweeter, I decided to focus on composing Tweets that aim to be insightful and stimulating. Here’s some of my recent compositions (@helenrhx).

For many ‘truths’, there is a true ‘opposite’: Paralysis by analysis. Fools rush in.

Einstein said: “Technological change is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.” Was he wrong?

Don’t stand there, do something. Don’t do something, stand there. Same words. Different meaning. Order matters. Semantics!

Wondering: If we had to pay postage for each email, would we write/receive better quality email messages?

Written by Helen Palmer, Principal Consultant at RHX Group.

What is it to ‘manage’?

I’ve recently got frustrated about a lack of management ability in people with whom I was collaborating:

  • They couldn’t keep track on what they said/wrote, or what they agreed to provide
  • They couldn’t respond or act within negotiated schedule, nor had time or presence of mind to renegotiate
  • They said yes to things with good intentions and little realistic ability or capacity to deliver

So it got me thinking – if I want to encourage or facilitate different behaviour, what knowledge or behaviour am I seeking?

What is it to manage something? With the answer to this question, surely it is possible to plan, execute and measure efficacious action. Here’s what I came up with.

To manage something is to:

  1. Know what you have (description, characteristic, breadth and depth)
  2. Know what state it is in (right now)
  3. Know what you could do with it (now or in the future)
  4. Know what you want to do with it (purpose)
  5. Be prepared to make a decision or act quickly and accurately
  6. Be able to ‘plan’ a series of actions in consideration of time, resources, budget, people, promises, expectations, etc

And I think this can be applied regardless of what you are managing, i.e.
Work (i.e. Action tasks)
Project
Emails
Content
Self
People
Information
Vegetation and vermin (This one is inspired by a sign I saw in provincial Victoria.)
Water
Money
Wealth
Assets

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and ways 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.