Getting help with knowledge creation

I am frequently asked for (or I seek) feedback on created knowledge with friends and colleagues. Thinking more about the Knowledge Creation phases of Develop Knowledge and Produce Knowledge described in recent blogs, what kind of contribution is sought and needed?

Scenario 1:  CV writing

My friend Mary needed to update her CV. She knew it didn’t contain the words, content or structure that she thought it should have to be effective and get her a new job. She was stuck on what changes to make. She asked me to look at her CV and suggest changes to the document.

Was my contribution sought in Develop or Produce Knowledge phase?

Answer: Produce Knowledge phase.

The help I believe she really needed was in the Develop Knowledge phase. She didn’t know what she wanted to say about herself; forget what words we’d use on the page! It was not the best use of our time or efforts to sit with the MS Word document and edit it.

She is, of course, the source of much of the knowledge (history of her work experience, her description of her skill, and her aspirations for the future, etc.) that could be communicated through the CV but it was raw knowledge, half-baked and forming. She was having trouble getting it out of her head and making sense of it before we could shape it into words that could be used to help her get a new job. Words that might make it into the CV, but also to her LinkedIn profile; what she would say in a cover letter; or at the interview; or in general conversation with people about the work she was seeking.

Scenario 2: Proposal development

Charles was a post-grad student who wanted to become a consultant. I was his business mentor and we had started a journey because he had a good idea for a strategy piece of work for potential clients. I was going to help him find his first client to get himself work experience. He had drafted a Business Proposal for a piece of work with a potential client and asked for my feedback to finalise it.

Was my contribution sought in Develop or Produce Knowledge phase?

Answer: Produce Knowledge phase.

The help I believe he really needed was in the Develop Knowledge Phase. Never having been a consultant before, he had been struggling to keep the content of the Strategy he would produce, out of a Proposal to be engaged to produce the Strategy.

He had lots he wanted to say, and he wanted to show he knew lots of useful stuff but it was not relevant to product nor purpose of the Business *Proposal*. The content may be relevant to later activity, perhaps for an analysis or report.

I chose to treat his draft as a Developed document. I didn’t think the content was fundamentally right, so I focused on the ideas for (re)Development and ignored doing any Producing critique.

Scenario 3: Memorandum of Understanding collaboration

I was asked by the CEO to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between our organisation and an external organisation, as a pre-Joint Venture document. Having never written one like this before, I asked the company lawyer for guidance. He provided a couple of templates, plus an example of a finished one. I took the finished one and deleted text that wasn’t relevant, and inserted rough notes for additional content. This was really rough – and not in legalese which he said he would fix once we got input from the other organisation about what they wanted in the Memo.

I sent the document with a mix of rough and finished text to external organisation, with the intent of being collaborative and simply putting in indicative text to get a collective sense of what the content of the document needed to be. I did this purposefully as I wanted them to have a sense that they were equally contributing to the nature of the content. (Side note: There is an argument that the Lower the Fidelity of a piece of work, the more others will take ownership, plus be prepared to revise and delete aspects rather than simply refine what is there, particularly when deleting is more valid than compromising.)

Was I asking them to contribute in Develop or Produce phases?

Answer: Develop Knowledge phase.

I was seeking feedback on a Developed document. However the external organization gave it to their legal counsel who treated it like Producing phase. They refined all my rough notes into legalese and added their own polished content. While they acted graciously, I sensed judgement that we hadn’t been ‘serious’ in the quality of the content we sent. It was clear we were operating with different intent in the review process. I wondered what kind of quality of collaboration we might have had if we both had a sense of different phases in the knowledge creation process.

The Emerging Role of Synthesiser

As I reflect on these experiences, I see the potential of a role and skill set for people who can bridge the gap between the Develop and Produce phases. Someone who can take half-baked content and shape it into a workable draft. A Synthesiser: A mix of a ghost-writer, investigator, interviewer, critic, editor.

Here’s my wish list of the skills and qualities of a Synthesiser:

  • Listening and asking questions
  • Reading
  • Thinking critically
  • Collecting the fragments
  • Processing
  • Digesting, musing and reflecting
  • Validating – with others; against a brief
  • Structuring thoughts; writing outlines
  • Researching for extra details
  • Organising, sorting and ordering
  • Connecting and linking
  • Presenting in synthesised organised form(s)
  • Having, using, and understanding a notation system that differentiates editorial review vs. content review.
  • Abducting – thinking about what is possible and may not be naturally indicated by the existing thought provided

In the three scenarios outlined above, the role of a Synthesiser would have helped shape all the pieces of content, such that they could be ready for the Produce phase. A Synthesiser could have bridged the gap between Develop and Produce phases by asking questions to elicit fresh thought, thinking critically, digest and ultimately offering a structured response to elevate the initial piece of work into something better and richer.

Learnings from reflection

When I am asked to review material now, I have a quick scoping conversation to gauge and set expectations about the nature of my contribution. I seek to best serve the person requesting help, so the framework of the two phases of knowledge creation is a useful reference for both to use to reach a mutually satisfying agreement.

 

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.

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.

 

Two knowledge creation phases: Develop knowledge & Produce knowledge (Part 2)

In Part 1 of a two-part blog, I explained two separate but related phases in Knowledge Creation: Develop, where raw ideas are created as malleable knowledge elements; and Produce, where the knowledge is refined into polished deliverables to be valued and used by others.  In this blog, I go deeper into what my personal knowledge creation practice looks like in these two phases.

Develop Phase – what happens!

I observe and note things that capture my attention. I read or listen to inspired or intelligent people and think about what they are sharing. I talk with others in stimulating conversation. I sit with pen and paper and write what comes to me – a stream of consciousness. I reflect, and mix and merge form new thoughts and ideas. In this phase, much of my knowledge creation work is internal within me.  And while some of the thought is encoded in my notes, the bulk of the knowledge is not yet available or accessible by others. It is knowledge in tacit and implicit forms. Only when I start to encode my thoughts into symbols, or form them into concepts or models, can they can be tentatively explored in interaction with others.

Time spent in the Develop phase can be long – and that’s okay. It’s about quality, not speed. I like for my ideas to marinate and be iteratively explored. Albert Einstein had a analogous view about proportions of time in problem-solving: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”

Practices I follow in the Develop phase :

  • Be as free-form and raw as possible when documenting the emerging knowledge. Use rough forms to capture ideas: sticky notes; phrases (not sentences); and bullet points (not prose).
  • Outline ideas to frame emerging thoughts. If a template artefact is involved, I extract the outline decoupling it from its format and prescribed order. (Once knowledge is structured in a working outline, it can be more readily considered for various production formats.)
  • Use modular or elemental form. Having ‘parts’ allows reorganising and trying different connections and couplings. (It’s like what my aunt does when she’s quilting. She prepares her fabrics and squares so she can play with them to explore possible quilts products, all without having to stitch it together.) Such flexibility means I can test combinations for different situations or formats.  And with the non-diminishing characteristic of knowledge, from one batch of developed content, multiple products are possible!
  • Keep the content as raw as possible. The more finished the content is, the more difficult it is to cull or reorganised. It’s an emotional barrier rather than a functional barrier because of the perceived loss of effort invested in word smithing, polishing and refining. This refinement also tends to ‘fix’ the content making it harder to be repurposed or re-used. I remind myself I have permission in the Develop phase to stay loose, and be messy!
  • Seek old products (my own or others) to harvest for knowledge I can repurpose or reuse. I have to resist the temptation to Save As on finished products that I am re-purposing – I might unintentionally lock myself into a Production format too early or that is wrong fit.
  • Use non-production tools like MS OneNote, sticky notes and scrap recycled paper (it’s not clean and fresh on purpose) and pens/pencils. Learn more about how I use MS OneNote.  (I’ve got a colleague who’s working on a new tool for collaborative knowledge creation: TribalMind – it’s in beta so why not play with it and share your thoughts with the creator.)
  • Give myself permission to keep the knowledge close and not release it widely, if that’s what I feel comfortable with. Sometimes I have been accused of not sharing, of playing power games or being a perfectionist. I’m believe that knowledge in the Develop phase sometimes simply isn’t ready to be shared, and may not be sharable because it’s not yet in forms or symbols that others can access or read.
  • Set good expectations with collaborators about the kinds of input or ‘feedback’ that are acceptable in Develop phase (compared to Produce phase). Censorship or editorial judgement is not appropriate for Develop phase content. Appropriate treatment is critical thinking: Is this a good idea? Is there a better idea than what I’ve got? What knowledge is missing?

A challenge of the Develop phase is making some of the knowledge Mobile (across space and time) so others can collaborate. Mobile forms of knowledge start to take on the forms of particular genre, e.g. a blog, a report, a document. Then the knowledge starts to look like a Product or the thing that would come from the Produce phase. And things that look Product-like, attract Produce-like behaviour, e.g. a critique or proof reading.

Produce Phase – what happens!

In the Produce phase, I firm up the Developed thoughts for the purpose of making it of value to others. I turn words and images into finished product with an audience in mind and a defined purpose or context. These constraints filter which parts of raw and half-baked material will make it into a product that can exist apart from me. It becomes knowledge in an explicit form that can be readily accessed and used by others.

The time required to move through the Produce phase depends on the type and quantity of products – more than one product is possible for different audiences and purposes. Arguably, if the Develop phase was thorough, then Production can be quick. The Produce phase is about packaging the knowledge, and the quality of the package depends on the quality of its original content.

Practices I follow in Produce phase:

  • Use models about communication and learning styles to shape the nature and format of the finished product.
  • Get creative about the way I might package the knowledge. Check out some example’s to stimulate your thinking.
  • Use templates to quickly shift raw material to publication ready in the desired format. (For a workshop, I’d use a session plan.)
  • Test the draft product with the intended audience and their intended use/context. Use their critique to refine to a polished product.
  • Use production-specific tools and leverage their production-specific features. For example, word processer like MS Word and Styles, Table of Contents and Cross-referencing features; and Adobe Acrobat PDF creator which preserves hyperlinks and Table of Content/Outline features.
  • Engage a collaborator who writes in Plain English to rewrite raw content with a fresh perspective and a talent for simplification.

There are many examples of my Produced knowledge you can access and share, that were created to be of value for knowledge workers:

1. A tool to use in your day-to-day work: Making and applying an Activity-Time budget

This blog post is one Product that has come from creating this particular knowledge. There is also a Module in a Learning Programme and a stand-alone Workshop. And that knowledge creation is nested in a broader knowledge creation activity on the concept of ‘Practices for Effective and Productive Knowledge Workers’.

2. A concept to reset your mental paradigm about your and work: Me Inc. – A vocational adventure for the 21st century

This blog post is one Product that has come from creating the ‘Me Inc’ body of knowledge. There is another iteration underway back to the Develop phase for this, as I have been challenged to supplement an existing Learning Programme, with a Book, and a Podcast series. These contexts are triggering thoughts about gaps or opportunities to redress with new developing content.

Rubber Hits the Road

This blog you are reading now was written in two phases. The Develop phase started two years ago! I intentionally wrote some rough notes to start to capture and organise my thoughts. Then I shared the concept in conversation with different people. And as new insights or refined concepts occurred to me, I added to those notes. From time to time, I would re-read the notes. Then months passed as I waited to see if the tentative knowledge felt right, or a fresh realisation had emerged.

The Produce phase for this blog started two months ago and involved me and one other. In moving to Produce phase, I created headings and initially organised the content into a logical flow, dumping some parts altogether, and putting some parts aside for another blog (and its own Develop phase). Then I sent it to my friend who turned rough blocks of text into meaningful prose – simplifying meandering sentences and refining bullet points and phrases into polished succinct text as fit a ‘blog’ format. This friend was a ‘Synthesiser’ helping me with the Develop-phase-to-Produce-phase transition.  With a really excellent draft, I then played my final part as the author of the concept, to fine-tuning nuance and flow to arrive at a blog ready to publish.  And this is what you are now reading.

Phew! Knowledge creation work is hard work.

 

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.

Me Inc. – A vocational adventure for the 21st century

Autonomy, or the condition of self-governing, is often associated with knowledge workers and knowledge work.  Typically autonomy is about how you DO your work. What if autonomy was about how you MANAGE yourself in relation to all your work? Enter the Me Incorporated (or Me Inc.) concept.

Essential to Me Inc. is the idea that you take the lead for your vocational adventure. It’s about you AT work, and you ABOUT work. It’s honouring the ‘voice’ inside that calls you to align what you do with your purpose. (The word ‘vocational’ is related to the word ‘voice’.)  It’s having a considered perspective about the Why, How, What, When, Who, Where of your workscape. It’s the mindset that “You are self-employed regardless of who pays you.” And this new mindset means new responsibilities, new actions, and new tools.

Why consider a Me Inc. adventure?

Work is literally and figuratively a huge part of our lives.  Work generates a source of income; it provides a place to exercise talents and skills; it’s where we often make friends; it’s a place to learn and grow; and it’s a way to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. With something so critical, shouldn’t there be substantial personal consideration about how work figures into our own life?

Catalysts for this adventure are often:
1. Desire to improve your professional and personal well-being. You need to shift out of a bad state and restore well-being; or you want to establish patterns of working to sustain well-being.

2. Major shifts about the idea and reality of work in response to political, economic, and social changes. You want to be prepared and capable to navigate these shifts. For more insights on the shifts, I recommend reading “The Shift, the future of work is already here” by Lynda Gratton

Are you seeking and ready for change?

Explaining Me Inc.

Me Inc. is separating You as an identity from your current job and employer. There is You (becomes Me Inc.) and The Job (becomes a job). Many employees find their identity so integrated into their current job that they can’t define themselves without that job. People on a Me Inc. adventure can define themselves without reference to any single job or employer.

Your current job is simply one ‘gig’ in a lifetime workscape of many serial gigs, as well as one gig in current workscape of potentially many co-existing gigs.

The diagram below illustrates Me Inc. as two perspectives of your vocational life.
A. Lifetime workscape (Blue box) with multiple eras (Green lines)
B. Current workscape with either a single (Black box) or multiple gigs (Red box)

Concept of workscape

A set of Me Inc. scenarios

The Me Inc. vocational adventure can be thought of as different scenarios. The scenarios are not necessarily progressive – you might go for No 1 and never go for No 3 or 4.

1. Reinvent your work.  A traditional way to change your current work is to negotiate with your current employer for a different set of responsibilities or a different scope of work and change what you do. The Me Inc. approach changes your mindset about yourself in relation to your current employer, i.e. you have a Client not an Employer, and you are a Service Provider rather than an Employee.

2. Add extracurricular.  This is an approach for when your current role doesn’t offer the opportunities you want, to use or develop particular talents, or the talents you want to develop or use have little relevance or value to your current employer, i.e. starting a business. The Me Inc. approach is for you to take the lead of adding activity you value into your vocational package. It is very likely this activity will be done outside current work hours and for another organisation or group.  Extracurricular could be taking a leadership role in a professional association group; doing volunteer work; tinkering with a hobby as a potential business; or starting up a group or exploring a venture with like-minded people.

3. Go somewhere different. This is an approach for when you decide to leave your current role to locate somewhere else, while reconceiving how you want to be or what you will do in a different role. The Me Inc. approach is for you to find and secure a role that is a good fit for your version of Me Inc. It’s not to simply take any role just because it’s available or offered.

4. Take a big leap. This is an approach for when your entrepreneurial spirit is so strong you simply must create your own business or organisation to realise your vocational adventure. You may be a business of one as a freelancer, or you may create a business that employs others.

In all scenarios above, you take on additional responsibilities for your vocation or career than if you were ‘simply’ an employee. You might call these ‘career management’ responsibilities; I invite you to think of them as ‘Me Inc.’ responsibilities. (By a different name, you may liberate new insights for yourself!)

Extra Responsibilities in Me Inc.

Many of these ‘extra’ career responsibilities were previously owned and determined by the organisation you work for – and this won’t necessarily change. In a Me Inc. paradigm, You change to you have your own perspective: doing these by yourself, and for your direct benefit.

Here’s a list, brought to you by the letter R.
Reign  purpose, strategy, direction – the big picture stuff that will guide your choices
Reputation  branding, marketing – what you are about and getting the word out
Relationships  connections, networks, collaborations – who you know and how you leverage social ‘capital’
Rule  code of practice, processes, terms & conditions – your ‘operating system’ for doing and managing your style of work
Reform  performance, improvements, quality criteria – the What and How you will learn and transform
Resources  infrastructure (soft & hard) – the things you need to have and use
Revenue  delivery, multiple sources, administration – how you are going to get currency-of-choice for what you do

This translates into skills and resources you need that you probably won’t get with/from your current employer. On a Me Inc. adventure – it’s up to you!

Me Inc. adventurers

The Me Inc. adventure is for at least these three groups of people:

  • Young people starting their working life who want to set relevant useful patterns for themselves
  • Experienced employees seeking to approach work differently
  • Mature people who are exiting traditional working life and ready to reinvent themselves

Influences from my own journey

The Me Inc. idea was influenced by other people’s thinking. I’d like to take a moment to honour the sources of influence.

  • About 10 years ago, I saw a book on the bookstore shelf called “You Inc.” by John McGrath . The title and premise about personal responsibility, were sufficient to shift my thinking: To a view of myself as my own business even if I was an employee and not looking to start my own business/organisation.
  • About 8 years ago, I bought the book with the provocative title “Willing Slaves” by Madeleine Bunting, and was fuelled by the notion that modern organisations are not the benevolent employers they purport to be. My eyes were opened to the general lack of self-determination of employees about their relationship to work.
  • In reading the book “Slideology” by Nancy Duarte,  I was introduced to the elegant slides of Pamela Slim as designed for her Declaration of Independence message (viewable on YouTube) . I was particularly taken by the message, “I am self-employed regardless of who pays me”.

Ready, set, go

Are you ready to start a Me Inc. adventure?
A learning programme for Me Inc. adventurers is under development. For more details, contact me directly helen@rhxgroup.com.au

 

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and how to ensure knowledge is valued and leveraged. 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.

 

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

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.