May 14, 2013

Back To Basics: KM and Adult Education

OR, "I Am A KM Snob"

Ohhhhhhh, so many things going on this week...apartment hunting in DC (major pain in the ass), trying to figure out Rita Ora's ethnicity....I mean, she could be Albanian like it says on her Wiki page but she looks at least half Black AND she dated a Kardashian and, except for Kourtney, we know how they roll.

What else...I am officially over these "idealist peddlers" harassing folks on the streets of DC to listen to their spiel about whatever organization they're repping.  They could take a few cues from their homeless competitors, namely, say your piece and keep it moving!  'Cause, let me tell you, you are taking your LIFE into your hands steppin' in front me to block my path to the Metro at 6pm to ask me if you can ask me a question - you just did!

Ain't nobody got time for that!

Recently, I attended the Global KM Health Share Fair hosted by  the Global Health Knowledge Collaborative (GHKC).  Since the field of public health is new ground for me in my KM career, I hoped to get some insight into the ways in which KM is is being used in the space to help me be more creative.  Unfortunately, my takeaways weren't quite what I set out to acquire.

For starters, I made the realization that I am indeed a KM snob.  What is that you ask? In a nutshell, if I don't feel that a person adds to my understanding of KM then I'm not interested.  If I don't feel like a networking relationship will help me to grow as a professional or individual then I'm not interested. And, if I don't feel that someones understanding of KM is consistent or in line with mine, then I'm especially not interested.  This might seem ironic - possibly, even moronic, considering that my entire profession is about promoting communication and knowledge sharing, but honestly, that's just where I'm at these days.  Over the course of my nearly 10 year career I have certainly put in my time meditating on KM and sharing my insights on the subject with anyone remotely interested (and several folks who weren't) but too often those conversations seem painfully one-sided (and not just because we likes to talk, which we do). At this stage of my career I need professional relationships that are equally give and take, not ones where I'm giving solely to help them grow.  Yes, it's nice to give but sometimes we wanna be Johnny at Christmas instead of being Santa all the time - milk and cookies ain't the same thing as a Samsung Galaxy 4S, I'm just sayin'.

My second, unexpected realization, was that folks in this space don't seem to do as much sharing as you'd think or expect. There was whining about competition for donors/funding dollars and the need to differentiate themselves from their "competitors" in terms of publishing research and program activity and maybe I'm just being an unsympathetic jackass but it seemed that too many of these folks were operating in a spirit of fear - yeah, I'm getting spiritual - that flies in the face of the work that they are doing. At the end of the day, we are working to save lives and, in some cases, eliminate illnesses in poorer, underserved populations that don't exist within Western nations. There may be competition for the limited resources to achieve these goals but collaboration is free y'all!

Interesting side bar: Considering how fearful some of these organizations are about sharing knowledge and information, sharing fearlessly is a great way to give visibility to those organizations willing to try something different.

Anywho, while I sat there feeling like a fish out of water because everyone else has their history and experience within the space in which they (and now "'I") work to bond over and I'm being a "judgey" KM snob looking down on them for not knowing as much about KM as (I like to think) I do and not trying harder to know more about KM or to develop innovative ways to approach KM I started getting critical of everything: the layout of the room, anything anybody said, what the girl next to me was eating at breakfast (and how).

To be fair, I did make an effort to share my thoughts in small group work sessions but, honestly, no one seemed very interested in what I had to say.  And while I'm willing (in the space of time it takes to write this post) to consider that it's because what I said wasn't particularly interesting, it's common knowledge that everything I have to say is, at a minimum, interesting, so I don't think that was the case.  I think it's because the reflections and contributions of other people, doing exactly the type of work that they do, frustrated by exactly the same challenges they are confronting, and saying exactly the same things they believe (not to mention all of those people who don't like to be aggressive about the truth preferring to sugar coat every bitter pill until they rob it of it's effectiveness), were more compelling than some dude who was, essentially, asking them to reflect upon how their attitudes and perspectives (read: bias) influence how they do their work and the results they see.

Yeah, real-talk, I was that deep.

But I couldn't help it!  Listening to some of the comments just had me on an Adult Ed rager.  I know that I'm probably the only (or one of a few) KM professional who went the route of an Adult Ed course of study, but I truly believe that getting anywhere from the intersection of KM Avenue and Public Health Street demands an understanding of these Adult Ed principles courtesy of Malcolm Knowles (with a little help from the Queensland Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Collaborative (QOTFC):
  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
    • Develop rapport with your audience and encourage a Socratic method of learning to encourage critical thinking and elicit participation
    • Show interest in peoples thoughts, opinions, and feedback
    • Provide regular constructive and specific feedback (both positive and negative)
    • Encourage use of the range of KM tools and resources available within your organization
    • Encourage individual KM activity that reflects folks' needs and helps them to achieve their own goals and objectives 
    • Acknowledge folks preferred learning style of each member of your audience/team/staff
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
    • Understand the needs and skills of your audience before attempting to secure their buy-in or commitment to something
    • Facilitate reflective learning opportunities
  • Adults are goal oriented
    • Provide meaningful learning experiences that are clearly linked to your audiences goals
    • Provide relate-able, real-life examples 
    • Ask questions that motivate reflection, inquiry and further research.
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
    • Provide some choice in KM activities and tools so that participation - and learning - reflect the interests and habits of your audience
  • Adults are practical
    • When making choices about assessments, interventions, and availability of resources and tools, take the time to clearly explain and discuss your rationale
    • Be open, honest, and explicit about the impact and usefulness of tasks and activities in which folks are engaged
  • Adult learners like to be respected
    • Take an interest in your audience
    • Acknowledge the wealth of experiences that folks bring to the process
    • Regarding folks as colleagues equal (and maybe even superior) in life experience
    • Encourage the expression of ideas, reasoning and feedback 
    • Secure buy-in at every opportunity
Your organization may have this massive need (directive and/or mandate) to improve how knowledge and information resources are shared but folks' level of participation reflects their individual need, not your wants.  People may put documents in the knowledgebase because they have to (and manage it when told to do so) but active engagement happens when they see relevance to their own work.  If you're not getting this type of engagement stop bitchin' about folks not beating a path to the wonderful system you've gifted them with (clearly, in a vacuum) and start asking them what it will take to make that system and the processes you've established into a tool that meets their needs.

UPDATE TO POST: I was updating my Blog Roll when I came across this phenomenal post from Nancy Dixon with regards to approaching a KM Strategy for NPOs/NGOs Working in Developing Countries and all I can say is: "Thanks Nancy, this is exactly what I was hoping for when I went that Share Fair!"


Sibusiso Hobololo said...

hey chris. i need u to pump it up. i need you to continue writing on km. you're very passionate and informed. the km community needs you