Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Individual Learning to Organizational Learning

Someone asked a question that is probably very key to the existence of Knowledge Management. “How do we convert individual learning into organizational learning?”. It could surely have been the root cause why KM was conceived and is now being pursued seriously within organizations. KM is not only about individual learning and competency development but also about converting it into something that the entire organization understands and can act upon. It exists on the premise that each of us learn different things and have our own unique strengths. When many of us come together to accomplish a common goal, we can only do things a lot more effectively and efficiently due to the pooling of knowledge, skills and expertise [provided we genuinely want to contribute and avoid herd mentality and are open to learning from others]. But how easy is it to convert individual learning into organizational learning? It, admittedly, is a very complicated affair. And whatever can be achieved can anyway be done so only after years of effort and passion.

A very quick response to that question would be:

  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Shadowing (You let the knowledge-seeker shadow the 'expert' and watch and observe what he/she does rather than just restrict it to focused conversations and training sessions)
  • Communities focused on collective thinking and learning
  • Tools and utilities that you find on the Internet these days - allowing you to share your bookmarks, videos, articles, notes, ideas, book-reading habits, friends and so on. [Which basically means you begin to understand how individuals learn, from where they get their material, who the connect with and learn from, how they think etc]

Takes me back to my previous post on Calvin and Hobbes wherein Calvin wants to learn to be a Tiger and Hobbes tells him it is instinct and cannot be taught. Calvin’s retort is to look up the topic of Tigers in the Encyclopedia. The result of that exercise is anybody’s guess. So, there’s clearly a limit to what one can do to convert individual learning into organizational learning….

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two sides of the same coin

Heads you are strong, Tails you are stubborn

Heads you are flexible, Tails you are indecisive

Heads you are sweet, Tails you are meek

Heads you are humorous, Tails you are silly

Heads you are a child, Tails you are ignorant

Heads you are enthusiastic, Tails you are not practical

Heads you are thoughtful, Tails you are skeptical

Heads you are a leader, Tails you are dominating

Heads you are you, Tails you are not you

Which side of the coin you see depends on how you toss it

Sometimes it simply depends on whether you toss it or not

Monday, April 27, 2009

No Ideas or Too Many Ideas?

I am going through a strange phase right now. I seem to have tons of thoughts and ideas on what to post about on this blog but I don’t seem to be able to sit down and convert them into full-fledged and satisfactory posts. Not writer’s block. Some other block. Don’t know what. End result. I have a whole bunch of small bits and pieces of papers and post-it-notes lying around in my room and at office…with topics and thoughts I need to ponder over. The brain, meanwhile, stoutly refuses to put up with all the stress. Says it can’t have too many unfinished ideas floating around. Let me see what I can do about that. Just praying that the brain lasts till such time I figure out what thoughts to discard, what to keep and convert into something sensible and so on. Like it so often happens, when you have too many things to talk about, you are so confused that you give up and go back to a repetitive thing that you are most comfortable with, at the risk of appearing like a person who can speak of nothing else. So, here come the one and only awesome 6-year-old boy and stuffed Tiger pair, Calvin and Hobbes, again!


Check out the third box. Sounds like a KM paradox, don’t you think? How can Calvin become a Tiger is the question. Hobbes rightly says that’s instinct and can’t be taught. Calvin says he’ll look up the Encyclopedia (replace that with Wikipedia or what-not). So, will that solve Calvin’s problem? It will make him more knowledgeable about Tigers but it will not make him a Tiger! What? Calvin will always be Calvin and Hobbes will always be Hobbes. Like I said, I just have too many thoughts running around in my head right now. So, I don’t think I have what it takes to calm down and drill into this thing till I see some light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s intriguing and thought-provoking and calls out for some intuitive thinking or perhaps just plain analytical thinking. Good enough for KMers to lose their sleep over it, actually. Think about a parallel in your organization and you’ll know what I mean. Maybe, I’ll manage to clear the mist in my brain and come back to expand on this theme. If you happen to have any bright ideas, be my guest!

Pic Source:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Life, One Day at a Time...

The way we live our days, is the way we live our lives. - Annie Dillard

Goes a long way to show that time flies and we better have our priorities right. Also goes a long way to show we need to focus on the present.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hobbes is my Virtual Guru...!

And on another day...

Calvin: "The world is a complicated place, Hobbes."
Hobbes: "Whenever it seems that way, I take a nap in a tree and wait for dinner."

Hobbes...will you please be my Guru?

In other recent news, a biker honked like his life depended on it earlier this morning, when I was on my way to office. It was deafening. I hate noises (anything above a certain decibel level) so much that I almost forgot that it was Friday for some time and lost my cool. Anyone heard of any occupation on the lines of horn-testing? Maybe the poor soul is a horn-tester! Maybe he was born to honk! Maybe his purpose in life is to honk! It takes all sorts of people to make the world, as we all know. Unable to get it off my mind, I tweeted about it and two nice people compensated for my temporary loss of hearing. Thanks to @PriyaRaju and @peerlessdeepak. While the former suggested that I forget the world's probably best honker and move on with the TGIF mood, the latter brought to my notice that it would be fun to just observe and smile. I know. Maybe I should also try plugging my ears once in a while to avoid physical damages?

PS: Comic strip courtesy -

Friday, April 10, 2009

Don't Grow Up...!

Discovered another lovely post! [Been doing a bit of blog-hopping, today being a Friday and all that.] I love anything that urges me to to go back to being a child again. I can relate to it soooo much! Actually, anyone who reads Wodehouse will think nothing of being a goofy 'adult'!

============= (Excerpts from Mith's post...)

I've highlighted everything that I have generally indulged in. Good score, eh? Must try the rest very soon and perhaps extend the list further...with the aid of my own imagination! Heard me, Nimmy? And, hey, ideas from you - dear blog-friends - are more than welcome!


When was the last time you -
  • Sang into a hairbrush at the top of your voice in front of the mirror?

  • Jumped into a puddle and didn't care about the state of your clothes?

  • Finished your ice cream in 2 minutes flat and looked around to see if someone would share theirs with you?

  • Played your favourite song as loud as possible, over and over again?

  • Walked barefoot on wet grass?

  • Got excited at the prospect of going to the zoo/beach/park/anywhere?

  • Played a game where you made up the rules as you went along?

  • Made up a secret language for just you and a friend?

  • Found a pretty stone and kept it?

  • Laughed your head off for no particular reason?

  • Painted with your fingers?

  • Gave yourself a lame nick name? (Nimmy: Thanks to Zeph for this! :-))

  • Found no money in your wallet and didn't care?
Just when did you grow up?

Life is not a Race...!

I first came across this poem in a comment that someone had left on some other blog. Needless to say, it was extremely inspiring and thought-provoking. I then bumped into it again somewhere else...perhaps an email forward. Found it again this morning. And I like the way this blogger has compiled it with some beautiful pictures in between. Shall bookmark here. Especially good to read on a Friday...! ;-)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Bird and the Frog

A very beautiful cage
That promises to protect
Aah, but it feeds on fear and age
The bird inside leads another life. Almost dead
It has all the colours and the feathers to fly
But the wings are anything but spread
The bird sings but a karaoke
The frog laughs with the orchestra
For he [the frog] has the cage's key
He jumps and hops from the rocks
And dives straight into the running water
He cannot sing but he, quite determinedly, croaks

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Rules and Rebels....

We start something and learn from it. We get better. We practice. We work on making it sustainable. We're happy with what we've accomplished. So we make rules. We develop guidelines. We create frameworks. We settle for a predictable process. We measure. We analyze. We improve again. Someday, the process becomes a mundane habit for many of those at the heart of it all. It has reached its maturity. Then, all of a sudden, the surroundings change...the people change, their needs change. But what do we discover? All this while, there was a set of people that was never really comfortable...and hadn't adopted the process in reality. They're still complaining. They're still resisting the change. And then, on the other hand, there is a new set of people who want to get rid of the old and start their own thing or at least change the existing set of rules in preparation for a new 'world'. Society swings between these two sets of people. Always. Between the old and the new. Be it organizations, be it generations, be it technology, be it it emotions! Will these two sets of people ever come together and be forced to speak in a common language? Perceptions are different...experiences are different...and the stakes are different. Where is the room for commonality? Well, we need to start somewhere if we want to avoid the about starting with genuine conversations and tolerance?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

On the Dock

Hmm! A HBR blog post that seems to be totally against document repositories! Not so fair, in my opinion. I, of course, left my thoughts on the blog and will make a note of it here as well as is my habit. [ Reminds me of this old post/conversation on repositories.]


Interesting post! But a harsh conclusion! Right from the time I have been engaged in building repositories for knowledge sharing, I've heard people talk about the possibility of repository-users compromising on originality. I think there has always been a tug-of-war between reuse and innovation.

Organizations end up pushing people to deliver faster while doing better and most people choose to make it faster at the cost of quality just to temporarily silence the managers breathing down their neck. At the end of the day, I think a lot depends on the individual's style of working. Some people are subjected to the NIH syndrome and will not reuse anything whatsoever even if it is thrust down their throats while there are others who will blindly reuse anything and everything that is even remotely related to their work.

KM's job is to provide the repository, ensure that good content gets into it and also usher in a culture that involves introspection before the decision on whether the situation calls for reuse or originality or a mix of the two. In most cases, I'd imagine it ought to be a combination!

Shutting down corporate document management systems is akin to shutting down libraries, even otherwise. It seriously can give us food for thought. Different from giving us the thoughts themselves. And many a time, I discover a document and that is how I come to even know that there is such a person (the author) whom I can contact for further conversations! Consider another case - Innovation is often described as a new way of connecting 'old' information. When I discover many documents written to satisfy the same requirement (by many people) I may end up seeing them as different dots that need to be connected....I could possibly connect them in a novel way - perhaps combine [mash-up] all the material to create something quite new.

But there definitely are situations that call for abandoning the past and starting with a clean slate. The individual/team working under such a circumstance should realize it and know when not to recook knowledge. Human intelligence and decision making must intervene and take over the rules and old habits.