Friday, February 27, 2009

Given what we know is happening around the world...

There was some fresh talk around a conference table in Back Bay yesterday hosted by Sharon Wilson, Bain & Company KM leader. A group of us knowledge geeks rolled up our rambling sleeves and had an all morning back-and-forth in the grand tradition of rocking chairs, porch swings, and pitchers of lemonade.

I'm referring to the Boston chapter of the SIKM Leaders -- a virtual community of know-ledginess practitioners, forged by the prolific KM firebrand Stan Garfield a few years back. The group was then adopted by Gian Jagai as a list for generating some well-placed face time among the local, Boston-based members. I'm actually making it sound more formal than it is. It's all based on an opt-in basis for self-selection and the low overhead only heightens the value and richness of the meetings.

The agenda is in full view -- there is none -- just a free and even flow of ideas. The breakout session is the keynote. There are no vendor booths or dues to pay or deadlines -- either by committee or self-imposed. We are not beholden to a presentations or applications.

If someone makes a casual probe into a knowledge delivery method then a formal model is referred to and the slide appears. If someone else wants to know how a gaggle of social media could fly as a way to sell new business then the gadget, page, or prospect in question is never more than a click away from where the conversation around the table turns and pivots.

The lack of group-affiliated baggage reminded me of what it's like to wave one's blogging credentials around a group of peers with no hierarchy, market focus, or even a shared professional pathway. The unifying factor here is the sharing of ideas. The uninhibited flow of our exchange is a welcome departure from a culture of scarcity -- not just the drying up of capital and job markets but creative problem-solving. The face-to-face is an essential restoration of this. Experimentation is an unacceptable form of risk. Mistakes can and must be made. Failure is an option that must be back on the table!

Exploration is the prerequisite for laughing at the misfires and drawing on the larger lessons. What a relief to seat this assumption at our conference table. In the unraveling of structure we aren't rushing towards any certainties or defensible postures. Our escape lies in knowing the uncertainties that confront us beyond the conference room and what we can do with KM as a verb -- not as a budget category or enterprise technology.

What is that confrontation?

Beyond (1) the silo-busting transparency of the post web 2.0 economy, (2) the austerities of diminished appetites for greed, and (3), the profound regulatory climate change that is sure to come there will be much call for unadorned, well-documented truth-telling. Case-in-point: Dan Abramson details departmental redundancies at his former, high-flying financial services giant and who's first on the chopping block? The truth-teller, that's who.

How will this play out over the next few years? What truths are prime for selection and who gets to testify?

There's a looming discovery that needs to be part of our collective recovery. We need to know how we got where we are before we can get out. This is not for blame-hungry, fingerpointing partisans. This is a post crash climate where politically-agnostic, process-centric investigations can shine. Some of the seeds of this truth-telling are spread in the knowledge harvests led by Kate Pugh and Nancy Dickson. Kate is teaming with Kiette Tucker to be leading one soon at the Institute for Health Improvement.

This higher calling is not about outlasting the competition, retiring early, or the self-enrichment of unfettered bubbles but about restoring the social contract. As Robert Johnson noted tonight on Bill Moyers, without it the architecture of the integrated world could be shattered. Interdependency is not about campfires and bi-partisanship. It's the long postponed realization that the zero sum game is a losing battle. Case-in-point: the winners will be asked for their resignation letters as soon as the taxpayer becomes the primary shareholder in their banks.

Regardless of whether our next pay day comes from a value-driving innovation, a stimulous package, or a loan from China, my gains better well be our gains or the losing streak will continue.

1 comment:

Marc Solomon said...

From: Subject: Re: Director of KM and IT at Jobs for the FutureTo: spinvillage@yahoo.comDate: Thursday, March 5, 2009, 11:34 AMMarc, I love your blog! The writing is so crisp... and it was great to see how you captured that sense of possibility -- even responsibility -- we shared as we were together. I'm not much of a blog-poster, but I thought about your message today, when I was listening to NPR and an interview with an economics and psychology professor at Sloan who said, (my paraphrase) "It's a shame that Obama is calling on us to take personal accountability. Only a few were not ethical or other-centered in their quest for gain. We should be thinking more about our collective."

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