Play toy and hobby illustrates knowledge work

My husband has found a new love: nanoblocks It started out innocently – a single package to entertain a young guest. A few single packets later, he requested the ‘free build’ multipacks for his birthday. Loving spouse that I am, I acquiesced not aware of his emerging passion. Now there are custom patterns, stacks of boxes of block pieces, a shelf full of completed objects and entering competitions.

NanoblockDogs

Breed of Dogs, custom creations by Robert Heslan

What does this have to do with knowledge work? There’s a great parallel!

Inspiration for knowledge work analogy

There are two broad groups of nanoblockers: Those who get the model packs with a pattern and follow the instructions to create an artefact; and those who come up with their own creations without following a documented pattern, producing a facsimile of something in the world or a unique creation from their imagination.

This is a great analogy for differentiating knowledge workers from people who work with knowledge. Knowledge workers are a special class of workers. They can go beyond following the documented pattern or knowledge of others and create new knowledge.

All workers may produce knowledge artefacts, i.e. a report, a presentation, a completed form, a completed process. However, knowledge workers produce artefacts with new knowledge. They actively grow and cultivate knowledge that becomes the valuable content in the artefacts.  The ‘newness’ may be insights, advice or recommendations, a method or a narrative.

The knowledge work of nanoblocks

Beyond using and crafting nanoblock creations, Husband has also got into ancillary knowledge creation activities: he’s joined a Community of Practice; he’s created new tools to assist his actions; and he’s sharing his new knowledge actively and regularly with others.

His passion spilled over first into making a Facebook page to show off his creations (check it out!): creations where he followed someone else’s pattern, and those he composed himself.  Likeminded people found him, and he found others so he joined with them in an online Community of other nanoblockers. In this community, he found himself actively involved in a robust discussion about the credit and recognition of knowledge work (aka IP). Without knowing him personally, you won’t appreciate how extraordinary that is – he’d be a hermit if he had his way!

To be able to share his knowledge creation work with the community, he found he needed a way to capture the knowledge in his head to mobilise and make it definitive for someone else to apply. First he took photographs of each stage of building an object (layer by layer).

But he found it difficult to show useful orientations for someone else to understand what to do and thus copy the build.  He wanted to present his knowledge in images not text; so people could look at images and copy them rather than read written instructions – which would have been very difficult to compose. So he investigated tools for visual creation, like CAD (computer aided design). He found a LEGO® specific one but not one for nanoblocks. And as nanoblocks have a different connection mechanism – the LEGO one just wouldn’t do. He spent the winter of 2014 painstakingly measuring and creating blocks in CAD to get a set of 33 blocks/images.  As a result he could create the set of pattern instructions in colour and multiple orientations very easily. And then he wrote about this process (including graphics) and shared that knowledge!

(For true knowledge workers, it’s not uncommon to creation new tools and methods to represent or curate the new knowledge being created. There is a double level of activity going on: doing the work, plus reflecting on and improving how to do the work.)

When he shared these pattern instructions with the community – they immediately saw the potential of using the images of individual blocks to develop a database/register of blocks.  In the database, meta-data could be captured for each block and enable a consistent reference to blocks, particularly when people were seeking special blocks to solve a particular build or design problem.

It’s an example of two Knowledge Creation phases

His approach to designing new nanoblock objects follows the Develop and Produce phase that I’ve written about in previous blog posts.

In the Develop Phase … He looked about in world for objects he wanted to copy or represent. He checked if a nanoblock pattern existed – often there wasn’t one suitable. So he chose to come up with his own design.  He would get his set of nanoblock containers out and see what shapes he had to play with. He would gather a likely volume of certain shapes he might need and start building.  Following a highly iterative process he gradually figure out the final size, colour, granularity of shape in detail with the blocks, and working components. Yep, these aren’t static objects; he’d graduated to creations with moving parts, e.g. Melbourne Southern Star Ferris wheel.  (His first pattern was an Eskimo dog – in different variations that became a family of adult and puppy dogs.)

At first knowledge creation was in his head and in the prototype the he produced so the idea could be refined, then tested/valued by others. Next he utilised photography to capture knowledge of the final version and the build stages, evolving quickly to using the CAD patterns … completing the Produce phase.

 The evolution

Now he rarely buys a ‘packet’ for a singular object unless it has a unique block or set of colours he can use to solve a design problem in his own creations. What started out as simply applying someone else’s knowledge, has turned into a knowledge production factory.

Recently the love affair went to a whole new level.  He’s written and published a story about how he got into nanoblocks. A complete stranger asked him to do this, and he agreed.  This from the man who says it’s a lot of work to put a few sentences into my birthday cards!

He’s entered some of his creations into competitions sponsored by the nanoblock toy production company. A very astute business decision by them to tap into the cognitive surplus of the nanoblock hobby world and get product ideas for low cost.

I wonder if there is such a thing as a nanoblock widow? At least I got great content to write this blog post. 😉

 

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 isnt 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: Self unLimited – A vocational adventure for the 21st century

This is a Product that has come from creating the ‘Self unLimited’ body of knowledge. [As at 2017  a Learning Program and a book have emerged. The journey over past five years has involved contexts that triggered 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.

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.

Exposing the design behind a new-style resume

Late in 2013, guest author to this blog Christoph Hewlett shared his thoughts on using a knowledge product I created: a new style resume.

In response to requests for insights about the WHAT and WHY of the resume design, I provide the following details.

The basic design

Resume is four pages; no more, no less.
Each page has specific content:
Page 1 – Contact details, Description, List of Key Skills or capabilities
Page 2 – Portfolio: List of selected items of work experience
Page 3 – Testimonials: Excerpts of recommendations that relate to the Portfolio items
Page 4 – Qualifications: list of selected items; Work history: Job Title, Organisation, Dates for all your working life

The order of the content

There is a logic in why the content is laid out in a particular order.

Page 1 is the page likely to get the most attention from your reader. Therefore it needs the most important information: how to get in contact with you; what to remember about you (you description should be memorable!); and the set of capabilities that make you useful and desirable.

Page 2 is a tailored list of things you have done, that show what you are capable of and which show you in your best light. This content differs than normal work history in a number of ways:
* You can include small items, e.g. An interesting blog post you wrote; a powerful introduction you facilitated; as well as large items, e.g. A project you managed.
* You can include old items, i.e. something you did 20 years ago, as well as recent items. Traditional resumes tend to drop off content that is not recent, i.e. last 5 years. This hides the fact that you have more experience that could be relevant or transferable than what you’ve done in the past 5 years.
* You can include extracurricular items that doesn’t have any place to go in the traditional resume because they aren’t related to a job, e.g. Social media activity; leadership in a professional association; or volunteer role.
* You can be specific and concrete, and mix activity with achievement or purpose – thus give more interesting and relevant information:
Compare “Managed large projects” with “Managed the ABC Project with $500K budget and team of 20 people, delivering on time and within budget.”
Compare “Made a blog” with “Designed, built and maintained professional blog with insights and inspiration for people  leading knowledge workers or doing knowledge work (https://rhxthinking.wordpress.com)”

Page 3 is content that provides ‘social proof’ about your experience and talents.
Some of the good things  said about you in the past, are still useful to your story even when you’ve lost contact with the person or they are not available to be a verbal referee.

Don’t leave your reader waiting to talk to referees to learn what others think about you! Provide this knowledge as soon as you can for the most positive effect.

Page 4 is the facts that need to be evident and can be checked out if necessary. This is typically not the content that is going to sway somebody towards favourably considering you – however, it’s due diligence that this information is available. The work history is downgraded content – this means presenting information in an order, where what you are capable of, is more important than the job titles you have held in organisations.

Content for the pages

A. Reuse content you have
For this new style of resume, you can reuse content from your traditional resume for Pages 1 and 4.

For Page 1 content, make sure you include ways to contact you in writing and in voice. If you have quality online profiles (e.g. LinkedIn), you could include a hyperlink.

Consider including a quality photograph.

Have a description that is more akin to a bio (though write it in first-person) and includes a sense of where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going.  For good advice, see article ‘Does your resume tell your story?’

Be memorable; be interesting.

For Page 4 content, include Qualifications or Certifications rather than listing courses you have been on. If you wish to promote the fact that you are continuing to learn – then add that content under the Skills section or a relevant item or two in the Portfolio section.

Keep the list relevant to the audience, so be prepared to adjust this content each time you use the resume. For example, your First Aid Certification is probably not so relevant if you are applying for a Leadership role.

B. Gather and Create content you need
For this new style of resume, you probably don’t have content ready to include on Page 2 and Page 3.

For Page 2 content look back over your work life; use your old resume as a prompter and compose a list (a looong list!) of work experience items. For examples of items, see a copy of one of my resumes (MS Word DOC).

Organise the items under headings that relate directly to the audience of your resume. Where your audience is a recruitment panel or HR personnel filtering applications in response to a job advert, use the headings from the Position Description.

Include hyperlinks to online examples, or reference material relating to the items.

I keep my lists of content on pages within a MS One Note notebook, in the right typeface and font size for me to simply cut-n-paste the items into the resume when it is being constructed. Here’s a screenshot of a page in the context of a notebook.

Screenshot of Portfolio List in OneNote

For Page 3 content you’ve got old content to reuse, and new content to get:
a) Look through old letters of Reference and review Recommendations that have been posted online; extract short excerpts that are relevant to reuse.  Don’t be afraid to cull words – though be sure to use conventions that show if you have edited someone else’s quote.

b) Ask people for Recommendations. Ask people from your past to provide relevant content. When you are finishing up a job or project, ask people to compose you a Recommendation.

To get better quality recommendations, read this blog post.

Whether it’s old or new content, all recommendations should support what you have chosen to include in the Portfolio section on page 2.

Supplementing the resume

Your resume is a marketing document for a target audience. It isn’t a record of all the details of your work history – keep that worthy information somewhere else. I use a MS OneNote notebook to store items for the Portfolio page and Testimonial page, as well as results from assessments I’ve done, bios I’ve written for myself, and reflections about work I’ve done. The image above gives you a taste of my collection.

Just one resume?

Above is the advice for a single resume. It is entirely possible that you have a suite of resumes, tailored to a different theme or focus.  I have 6 basic resumes: 5 follow the format above for the themes of Change Management, Enterprise Business Analysis, Learning & Development, Leadership, Information Management. The sixth resume is an Academic resume and conforms to expectations of the structure and content for Academia.

For each resume theme, I change the following:
The Description on Page 1
The order of the Skills on Page 1 (put the most relevant first)
The Portfolio headings and items on Page 2
The Testimonials on Page 3

My resumes get used as an Appendix in a Tender, as an Introduction to an Agent, and as an Application for a Vacant Position. For each of these situations I change the content to best address the anticipated needs of the audience.

 

If you are inspired to use this new design, let me know how it goes. Please share with me any ideas you have to extend and enhance the design.

 

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.

 

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.

 

A new CV … of value for the aspirational Knowledge Manager

At a recent Knowledge Management Mini-Conference arranged by Helen Palmer from RHX Group, it was refreshing to once again see the difference between “knowledge worker” and “Knowledge Manager” articulated. Here is the definition of each as explained by Helen:

knowledge worker
– a class of workers (like ‘blue-collar worker’); knowledge-savvy; primary work purpose is creating, distributing and applying knowledge

Knowledge Manager
– a title of a particular role (like ‘Finance Manager’); a person who has expertise in meta-abilities to do with creation, acquisition, distribution, application and retention of knowledge in organisational contexts

This provided some very interesting insight into my career to date. I have spent nine years working on a variety of significant organisational change projects for the State Government, spanning both Human Resources and Information Management change. This culminated in my role as secretariat for the Executive Sub-Committee for Information Management and ICT for the Department of Health. This was a job that had huge knowledge and change management requirements, but due to the bureaucratic nature of government was often highly administrative.

This led to a very interesting conversation between Helen and I about the career paths for aspiring Knowledge Managers (and Change Managers).

The emerging challenge

The emergence of Knowledge Management (I would argue including Change Management, Information Management and Learning) as a critical workplace vocation and skill set has oft been discussed as a part of the evolution of the 21st century worker. The management of corporate knowledge, as well as individual knowledge (including creativity) is both essential and nebulous. What has become apparent in the last 20 years is that knowledge management is both a specialised and a general skill set. Everyone must manage their own knowledge at the micro level, but the organisational knowledge is managed by a skilled professional at the macro level, to facilitate knowledge sharing and maximise the business benefits of knowledge as an organisational asset.

In this context the professional Knowledge Manager is emerging distinct from the more common “knowledge worker”. The formation of this sector has seen many Knowledge Managers discover their profession usually through serendipitous career progression, usually from an administrative, clerical, technical or professional service role. Being in the right place at the right time. This is on the verge of a boom, as open information sharing and natural (multi-disciplinary) learning methods become the norm, and young professionals (like myself) are realising the value and importance of managing organisational knowledge.

My professional background

In my endeavour to pursue a career in Knowledge Management I entered the Public Sector straight out of university through the Graduate Recruitment Program and knew my Bachelor of Arts/Business background gave me a bent toward generalisation rather than specialisation. It was to my surprise that my role in Organisational Development with one department was quite staid and lacking in Change Management. Also it was not as adept with technology as the broader industry. Therefore, following a few projects I moved to the Office of CIO in another department. This breadth of experience taught me a lot about different approaches to Knowledge Management, between “people knowledge” and “machine knowledge”. I still felt my government career experience was not matching the pace of industry change that I was observing outside of my job.

For a lot of this time I felt like a worker without a job title. When asked what it was I did in my job, the answer was variations of “projects of various kinds”, “at the moment, but that might change”, or “oh, I deal with organisational knowledge and change” – all of which attracted blank looks.

What is the Corporate Lattice?

The 2010 book, The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Work written by Cathy Benko and Molly Anderson for Harvard Business Review Press, and well summarised in this Deloitte Review article, did much to form my view of the modern career. When I so often had to battle corporate silos, my view was that if people had sideways career moves as frequently as promotions, most of these battles would disappear.

The future career pattern is a lattice not a ladder

The future career pattern is a lattice not a ladder

The current day CV is designed on the premise that the corporate ladder still exists. Stating your work history in ascending order (most recent first) gives a visual construct of a linear and upwardly mobile career. It doesn’t accommodate sideways career moves, whether that is to shift industries, start your own business, or re-locate to a different city or country. It also creates a presumption that new work builds upon old work – therefore new work is considered more relevant, and work more than three years old is redundant. Modern careers now show that knowledge is gained across many years, and multi-disciplinary experience is a strength not a liability, but the modern CV fails to express that.

The Portfolio CV

When discussing the Corporate Lattice with Helen, and my experience with it, she mentioned to me what she called her “Portfolio CV”. This format effectively turns the modern CV on its head and draws out activities of a knowledge worker that may identify potential Knowledge Management capability. It is a concise 4 page document, with the following pages.

1. Cover Page

Provide contact details, biographical summary, and list of strengths/capabilities relevant to role.

Content is customised for the role which the CV represents; may have multiple CVs to represent different roles or specialities.

2. Portfolio Page

Accurately specify selected pieces of work that support the claims on the Cover Page (Regardless of the currency, industry or whether it was paid, volunteer or extracurricular.  If you’ve done it once, you can do it again)

Content is drawn from a list or ‘database’ of relevant work.

3. Testimonials Page

List quotes and feedback from clients, managers and peers; it confirms the quality and impact of the work explained on Portfolio Page.

Content is drawn from a list or ‘database’ of relevant quotes.

4. Details page

List employment placements, qualifications and other facts of relevance.

Content is constant between versions.

In my instance, creating a Portfolio CV was quite easy for pages 1,2 and 4 – the challenge was page 3. Public servants are well trained on the precautions required when putting statements on the record. It took quite a bit of foraging and chasing, but I was able to get some testimonials from previous co-workers and managers. In discussing these challenges Helen described that it is a trait of saavy professionals to keep their network engaged and collect written testimonials. Coming from an industry where long tenures are the norm and silos run deep, that is something that I have realised through this experience.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Having come through this process, I now have a very interesting career document. One that definitely defines my Knowledge Management and Change Management experience very clearly. However, I get the sense that the recruitment industry in Australia is not completely ofay with the multi-disciplinary nature of KM and CM. The most success I have had to date has been through discussions with other Knowledge Managers. Others still appear to think of Knowledge Management as a heightened records keeper, and Change Manager as a project manager with pizzazz.

In closing, I’d like to return to this concept of a KM career path. Of all the colleagues I’ve spoken to about how they got into Knowledge Management, it has always be a circuitous route, a chance project, or a fortunate happenstance that helped reveal their aptitude for Knowledge Management. But where is the feeder pool for the next generation of Knowledge Managers; where are the 2ICs and the deputies/juniors to the current crop of KM field leaders?

This blog post was written by guest author Christoph Hewett. Christoph is General Manager of Resonant Integrity Training Solutions, a consultancy for knowledge, change and learning.

Image credit/source: Wikimedia

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.