12 things every knowledge worker should know how to do

As a knowledge worker you are a site of production. You are ‘plant and machinery’. You are a knowledge ‘engine’. Your capability and capacity for knowledge work is a function of the condition of YOU and the conditions you create for yourself. What should you know how to do to be the best functioning knowledge engine?

Here’s a list of twelve things.

Manage self

1. Know your own learning style/preferences (try Felder and Silverman’s Index of Learning Styles); your personal knowledge management style (try Six Cs of Personal Knowledge Management by Straits Knowledge).
2. Know your strengths and what to do to play to these (try Clifton Strengths Finder).
3. Use personal resources like Time, Attention, Energy and Relationships effectively (try Activity Time Budget, Honest Digital Calendar, Attention Filter).

Manage information

4. Title documents meaningfully – follow a naming convention that makes good sense. Use Properties and meta-data whenever you can to enrich the information, and enable quick easy discovery.
5. Setup, maintain and use an information organisation system; both for a collection of items, and with the structure within a single item. (i.e. Headings/Sections, Table of Contents, Cross Referencing, etc.).
6. Curate information; manage a collection of useful resources for self and/or others.

Develop knowledge

7. Use reflective practice including after-action reviews, to Think about what you’ve done and what could be done and what you are going to do.
8. Set an intention and test hypothesis; experiment to gain insights. Sometimes you need to Act to discover useful Thoughts.
9. Summarise and distil a set of knowledge (try Notebooking or Mindmapping).
10. Recognise knowledge creation and distribution opportunities and leverage them.

Produce knowledge

11. Create produced knowledge to address different learning styles, with communication medium appropriate for the audience.
12. Package knowledge creatively for production/publication (e.g. document, presentation, slides, session outline).

Learn more about Develop knowledge and Produce knowledge phases in knowledge creation.

If you can do all these, you have the foundations for being knowledge-savvy.

 

Helen Palmer is Founder of RHX Group, a boutique agency that partners with people who want to make change in how they work with information and knowledge.  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.

 

Let others know – generating goodwill for your contacts

Knowledge work is often associated with Social Capital, that is, a collection of trusted meaningful relationships. One way to build social capital is to publicly value a person for the difference they have made with their talent, knowledge and character. It’s more than simple gratitude; it’s letting others know about the value of a person. There is much evidence that we respond strongly and easily to the ‘social proof’ from a trusted source about the quality of another person and their offering.

I recently overheard this intriguing phrase about networking: “I collect good people”. Putting your thoughts into tangible words makes visible the quality of the relationships in your collection of ‘good people’.

The What and How

Digital networking tools like LinkedIn make it easy for you to publish a recommendation. The common hurdle is knowing What to write and How to write it. Here is an approach to deftly leap that hurdle.

Step 1: Decide on a focus or theme

If you have the opportunity, ask the person you are writing about to indicate to you what focus they would most value in a recommendation. For example, they may be a great Project Manager and that’s what you thought you would focus on; however, they would most value a Recommendation about their Leadership capability.

Step 2: Write answers to the following questions.

A.  What was the situation in which I experienced/engaged with PERSON-X?
B.  What did PERSON-X do to make a real difference?
C.  What was the result of what PERSON-X did? (What did I gain? What was the difference that was made?)
D. What do I really like about PERSON-X? (could be about style/approach, character, value, etc.)
E.   What would be my reason to recommend PERSON-X to others?

Step 3: Turn the answers into a short paragraph of prose.

a. Keep it short and smart
I choose to define a Recommendation as a very short piece of text (maximum 4-5 sentences; 80-100 words) that can be inserted into other documents. It is not a Reference Letter. It is succinct, targeted and typically only covers a small aspect of a person. A quality recommendation has depth rather than breadth.

b. Avoid writing the prose for your answers in the order of the questions.
For good advice about the order of what you say (i.e. the value of WHY before WHAT) listen to Simon Sinek talk about Golden Circles in his presentation at TEDx.
http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

c. Make the sentences powerful and meaningful. Include adverbs and adjectives.
Here’s some samples.

WEAK = He gave good advice about what to do.
STRONG = He gave practical advice we could easily implement.

WEAK = She facilitated a workshop about X.
STRONG = She masterfully facilitated an enlightening workshop that shifted our thinking about X.

WEAK = He mentored me and now I see things differently.
STRONG = He mentored me sharing his expert knowledge and asking me challenging questions so I looked at things with a new perspective.

WEAK = She worked with our staff in many situations.
STRONG = She sensitively worked with different groups of staff adapting her communication style to best fit the situation.

WEAK = He always did good work.
STRONG = His work product was consistently of a high quality and his work style was professional.

d. Have a Thesaurus on hand; it helps to avoid reusing the same descriptive words.

Step 4: Share the recommendation (either publish online or send to person in a message)

Recommendations don’t have to be published in LinkedIn.
You might send the recommendation directly to the person with your permission for them to use the exact words (or a subset) in a cover letter, resume or selection criteria table, or in other promotional material.
You might send the recommendation in a message to a specific individual as part of making an introduction between two of your contacts.

Doing it for real

Here’s a real example, following Steps 2 and 3 above.

The Questions & Answers

A.  What was the situation in which I engaged with Emma?
Taking portrait photos for business use

B.  What did Emma do to make a real difference?
Listened to what we wanted and integrated that in her suggestions
Gave practical advice to prepare for the photos about location, timing of day, colours of clothes
Made us feel at ease during the shoot
Experimented with different poses

C.  What was the result of what Emma did?
High quality photos that we are proud to show
Ready-to-use images that have a relaxed professional vibe

D. What do I really like about Emma? (could be about style/approach, character, value, etc.)
Her relaxed nature in taking the shots
Her interesting ideas for different looks/poses

E.   What would be my reason to recommend Emma to others?
She provided an enjoyable experience to get great product
Great value for price

The Prose

 “Emma Smart artfully gave us an enjoyable experience as she took portrait photos for our business use. We are very proud to use the classy photos with a relaxed professional vibe. Such great photos are the result of a partnership with Emma in choosing location, time of day and poses plus her relaxed nature which put us at ease during the photo shoot.  It was an excellent investment to utilise Emma’s talent to get beautiful images.”
~ Helen Palmer, Director, RHX Group

Note: There are phrases in the prose that weren’t in the answers to the questions above. That’s a good thing! When writing the prose, I got additional inspiration about what to say and how to say it.

Get going

Don’t wait to be asked. Do it because you can.
Schedule 1 hour in the coming week to identify someone worthy and write them a recommendation.

 
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 make better use of their people and knowledge.

 

Mixing business with kindness (a ‘new knowledge’ recipe)

Growing or developing in a business context is usually about skill and performance of vocational ability. How about extending this attention to emotional or psychosocial ability like the character and practice of kindness?  How might you mix a cocktail of business with a strong serving of kindness?

Here are strategies for how an individual, or an organisation, can be an example and a contagion for the Practice of Kindness.

1. Imagination and intent. Imagine a kinder workplace and set out to intentionally create it. This is a task for leaders as well as followers. It has to be believed to be seen. (Why not write a ‘kindness policy’ as an exercise in crystallising your intent? Draft document available.)

2. Cultivate a community around kindness theme. Good attitudes spread. Give the kindness ‘infection’ a host environment where it can incubate and spread. Provide place and time for people to commune in kindness.

3. Foster conversation. Find ways to introduce Kindness into the conversation. Ask questions like: What is the kind thing to say here? What is the kind response? How can I speak kindly?

4. Tell stories of kindness. Find the small everyday deeds and tell others. It’s content for the conversations and ‘infectious’ material. It fuels the imagination of others. Share these inside and outside our organisation.

5. Design for kindness. In every action consider, what is the kind thing to do? How can we make this a kinder experience? Make Kindness a fundamental design principle for products, services and processes, even messages that we write.

6. Overwhelm the negative. It can take 5 positive actions to overcome a negative action. Don’t let a negative action go unattended without overwhelming it with at least one kindness response. Make this an imperative for everybody.

7. Forgive and learn. Create conditions where it’s okay to make a mistake; and where mistakes are always an opportunity for learning. Be the type of person that forgives mistakes and helps with the learning. Such a Kind attitude can enable quicker growth and innovation.

8. Be disciplined. Be mindful and purposeful about developing the habit of practicing kindness. Discipline and regular practice creates results. Kindness is not a soft option; an attitude of kindness is sure to be tested in trying circumstances. Know what you will do or who you want to be in a crisis or conflict before it strikes.

9. Catalyse goodwill. One way to show goodwill is to be thankful, and to say Thanks. A kind word can create goodwill that immunises against future unkind acts.

10. Make connections. Partner with others outside our organisation in doing kindness and promoting kindness. Work with others worthy of our socially responsible activity. Leverage the events and campaigns of organisations like World Kindness Day (Nov 13) led by World Kindness Movement.

Your help is sought to create and mobilise useful knowledge on mixing kindness with business: Add your ideas in the comments below and share this post.

 

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and how to create conditions where knowledge is created and mobilised for business and social good. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.

 

Reduce knowledge loss with Knowledge Transfer Report

Retention of Critical Knowledge (or ROCK) is a popular concern in organisations or groups with retiring workforce or turnover of personnel.

Often initiatives to retain knowledge focus on turning the details of what people know into codified forms or documentation. This makes it more possible for others (maybe unknown today) to read (or watch) in a different place or at a different time.

Codifying knowledge affords an immutability and mobility of the knowledge. Immutability fixes the knowledge in time, preserving it across time. Mobility means it can move beyond its creator and point of creation.

Immutability and mobility are seductive notions for knowledge capture:

  • An upside of immutability is that you can feel certain about codified knowledge as fixed definitive content and this can give rise to a sense of community and continuity. A downside – it probably stopped being definitive before the proverbial ink dried.
  • An upside of mobility is that it can readily circulate. A downside – it needs supporting context to enable decisions about its relevance somewhere else; and if this is missing, its less usefulness is limited or non-existent.

Trying to capture a substantive portion of what a person knows in a codified form is akin to writing a book on the person. And if it gets written, will anybody have the time or motivation to read it?

How about instead writing the Table of Contents on a person’s knowledge?

Enter the Knowledge Transfer Report. A succinct document that lists all the essential important topics and points to where to get details. Those details may be explicitly in a database, website or document; or more importantly, held implicitly (or tacitly) in an individual or group of individuals.

The design of the report addresses the issue of immutability by allowing for micro details (Chapter & Verse) to change while providing macro details (Table of Contents) which are more likely fixed. The form of the report gives a vehicle for circulating the knowledge.

The Table of Contents (ToC) concept embodies an organisation structure with sequence and/or logical groupings with which to traverse a body of knowledge. It’s the map of the territory – rather than detailed step-by-step instructions. It’s scannable and doesn’t need to be ‘read’ for the user to get immediate value. Re-using the form of ToC for the report content, empowers the user of the Report the freedom to explore and discover within useful parameters.

Learn about the technique: the process and template.

Share with us about your experimentation with the Knowledge Transfer Report, and other practical ideas to enable retention of critical 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.

Creatively packaging knowledge

A common response to the risk of losing knowledge is to capture or document it.  This is a worthy activity. However, how often is what is captured or documented, actually read or used? One factor may be the format or medium used to present the knowledge. This blog presents some creative  ways you might package knowledge to make it appealing, and more importantly easy to digest and thus apply.

A selection

* Recipe metaphor

One expertise I have and use is in designing and leading the change process for an organisational change.  I like to employ creative ways of engaging with people in change to providing a meaningful experience while also addressing their wellbeing (physical, mental and emotional).  I redefined a ‘go-live preparation’ activity using the analogy of air travel.  In order to share the idea with other practitioners, I used the metaphor of a recipe to explain the essential elements and thus enable others to easily replicate and even adapt the idea for other contexts.

Sample ‘Fly away together – change activity’

* Game show presentation

When the opportunity arose to present a client case-study at a conference on ‘managing change (as a designed user experience)’ , I gave the conference participants their own user experience with a game-show format. I packaged the knowledge of the case study into 12 mini packages (1 slide, 3-4 min of talking points) that become elements of the game-show. The audience chose from the 12 about the aspects of the case study they were most interested in.

Sample ‘Managing change as a designed user experience’ [45 min audio with video of the slide deck]

* Graphical resume with timeline

Somebody has already down the work of curating a small collection of resumes to inspire doing things differently. A key idea is turning your chronological work history into a graphical timeline.

Samples ‘7 Cool Resumes Found on Pinterest’

* Graphical rich report of survey results

Kea New Zealand exists to connect ‘talented Kiwis and Friends of New Zealand’ around the world. (I’m a Kiwi!) One of their activities is to survey expatriates to understand their choices about living away from NZ and engaging with NZ from a distance.  The 2013 report of this survey is visually rich in graphics, colour and icons. How more compelling is this to read and understand than pages of prose, plain tables and bullet points?

Sample ‘Kea Every Kiwi Counts 2013 Report’

* Advice about better practice in an infographic

There are often arguments that if you want to motivate people to change their behaviour you need to offer social proof; or use facts and figures; or use colourful images. Here is an example combining all of these.

Sample ‘Taking Breaks at Work’

Other advice includes provide a compelling narrative (aka story); or a large dose of humour that might trigger awareness of a reality we haven’t been prepared to face – we are laughing at ourselves!

Sample ‘How to lead a creative Life’

* Graphic recording of group conversation

One master of the art of graphic recording is Lynne Cazaly. She offers a worthwhile and recommended learning sessions called ‘Catch-It’. Learn how to visually think and record the conversation of a group in real-time. Rather than read about this – experience it!

Sample ‘Video showing graphic recording by Lynne’ (1:45 min)

Recommended reading

These references in my collection have been a source of inspiration and practical guidance to me in creatively packaging knowledge. .

I hope this selection has got your creative juices humming. As a knowledge worker we often create knowledge products – let’s find and use ways to do this innovatively.  I hope you will share other examples you have created or have seen.

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 credit: Microsoft Online Clipart

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

Work is where you are

Where does work take place? In the office? At home? Maybe in a café, or on the train? More importantly, should we define work only as what we do at a desk?

Earlier this year the company Yahoo asked all work-from-home staff to return to working only at the office. They cited the collaboration, the interactions, and the experiences that are only possible when you’re in the building.

After reading Eileen Brown’s blog supporting the Yahoo decision I reflected on how and where work gets done. Putting aside a discussion about whether Yahoo’s decision will achieve what they want, I wondered about the assumptions made: ‘Work is (only) done in the workplace, i.e. office’; and ‘Work (only) gets done with a computer and internet connection’.

Many 21st century knowledge workers are not confined to the same four walls each day. And they aren’t necessarily freelancers or working for themselves. They have some choice as to where and when they work, and can make the most of different locations, timing and mobile devices.

A typical day on the move

shutterstock_127691597_crop

Recently, I kept a log of my activity on a fairly typical business day. I noted where I was, what I was doing and what devices I used:

8:25am: On train platform; reviewing calendar and sending text messages; with smartphone
8:40am: On train; reading articles/material in my notebook and making notes; with laptop (no wi-fi) & paper notebook
9:30am: On tram; musing and people-watching; with no IT
10:00am: Seminar for client; with laptop and paper notes
11:30am: At Café; processing emails and note-making; with laptop and WI-FI
1:30pm: At Library shared table with others; writing resources and reading articles; with laptop (no WI-FI)
3:30pm: At Co-working space with collaborator; writing proposal; with laptop and wi-fi
4:30pm: At Café bar; meeting with prospective client and taking notes; with paper notebook
6:00pm: On train; reflecting and note-making; with laptop (no WI-FI)

Different locations, different possibilities

I work as I move about. Each location brings different opportunities – and limitations. So I adapt to where I am, or go somewhere else. Some examples:

* I needed to type and send a timely email message to a client after a seminar I give, so I sought out a local venue with a suitable table surface and WI-FI connectivity.
* Internet access is tricky on the train or bus, but I can draft emails or write in my paper notebook. If I’m sitting, I read and annotate on my laptop – typically articles I have set aside just for such times.
* For deep thinking or creating content while in between appointments, I headed for a quiet spot with good seating and lighting at a local library.
* For taking a phone call I received when on the street, I sought out the foyer of nearby building to remove background street noise.
* To have a sense-making conversation with people I knew and felt safe to I toss around emerging (crazy?) thoughts, I headed to my co-working space and entrepreneurial community at Hub Melbourne.

Park benchNot mentioned on my list above is my car (in stationary mode, of course!); or a local park bench. I’ve been known to use these spaces too if they are the most convenient and the climate is acceptable. The likely context? When I’ve just finished up a meeting and I’ve got things on my mind I need to quickly capture – else they might distract me when driving the longer distance from the city to my country home.

I also get inspiration just being in the outside world. Walking or on public transport I see posters and flyers, observe activities and hear conversations, which get me wondering about what others care about and are paying attention to. This in turn shapes my emerging ideas and influences how I might approach an unrelated current situation.

There are things that might be better done if you are not sitting at a desk, not tied to a computer. Activities like reflection, cultivating relationships, taking mental and physical breaks and conceptualising new things (often done best with whiteboard or blank sheets of paper).

My mobility and the variety of place, time and activity also supports an ebb-and-flow approach to sustaining good energy for work. Mindful of the conditions that increase or reduce my energy, I make choices about where I need to be or where I need to leave.

Organisations making change about where people can work

There is a growing trend for organisations to provision and support a variety of work spaces both within and without the organisation. In these spaces lie the hopes of greater collaborative activity, innovative outcomes and happier engaged employees.

Some thoughts about how to get moving:
1. Start with a conversation about individual styles and preferences. Talk about the different contexts and how preferences might change in relation to context.
2. Discover some new possibilities to mentally or physically explore. Find stories or examples on web. Visit places that provide non-traditional experiences – local co-working spaces often have open day tours or try-for-a-day arrangements, i.e. Check out Hub Melbourne and what people are saying about such places.
3. Setup some temporary options to experience. Observe what happens; note what you liked or disliked, and how you felt energy-wise.
4. Use what you now know to make wise decisions in defining the practices and acquiring the resources to make effective change in where you work.

May you be productive and effective where-ever you find yourself working.

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 credit (woman on train): Shutterstock