Blossoming across both digital and physical spaces

Meeting of the minds

Reda Sadki Events, Presentations, Theory

This is my presentation for the Geneva Learning Foundation, first made at the Swiss Knowledge Management Forum (SKMF) round table held on 8 September 2016 at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Its title is “Meeting of the minds: Rethinking our assumptions about the superiority of face-to-face encounters.” It is an exploration of the impact of rapid change that encompasses learning at scale, the performance revolution, complexity and volatility, and what Nathan Jurgenson calls the IRL fetish. The point is not to invert assumptions about the superiority of one medium over another. Rather, it is to look at the context for change, thinking through the challenges we face, with a specific, pragmatic focus on learning problems such as: You have an existing high-cost, low-volume face-to-face learning initiative, but need to train more people (scale). You want learning to be immediately practical and relevant for practitioners (performance). You need to achieve higher-order learning (complexity), beyond information transmission to …

Vintage Bank Vault (Brook Ward/flickr.com)

Death of the knowledge bank

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

The complexity of the networks in which our organization operates is scaffolded by a corpus of mostly-unwritten, tacit knowledge and ‘ways of working’ that we learn mostly from our peers. It would be impossible to justify time to study even a fraction of the written corpus of policies, procedures, regulations and other instruments of bureaucracy that provides the legal and operational framework – and even that would not provide access to the tacit knowledge that we need. So we learn as we go from our colleagues. In some contexts, we may proceed by trial and error, making adjustments when we receive negative feedback. When asked where we learn such knowledge, sources may remain apocryphal. We seldom reflect on where, when, how, and from whom we learn. Relegating learning about operational complexity to the informal domain may seem to present a risk for the organization. In practice, we find that we do tend to …

Contradiction – Kyoto Train Station (Stéfan/flickr)

Dialectics

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

4:35 p.m. “My working hypothesis is that the learning that matters is mostly incidental and informal.” “Maybe,” he smiled. “Yet, my conviction that we need to explore this is grounded in my formal training in knowledge management.” 5:17 p.m.  “When we are under-funded and overwhelmed,” he sighed, “is just not the right time to go off on a tangential project!” “I won’t argue with you. Let us go through with it to determine how useless it is to trade short-term survival tactics for long-term strategic thinking.”   Photo: Contradiction, Tokyo train station (Stéfan/flickr).  

Autopsy

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

Knowledge management has met its timely demise. No matter how sophisticated or agile, knowledge management (or “KM”)  remains fundamentally embedded in a container view of knowledge. Where the ephemeral and superficial nature of social media reflects the failure of communication in the Twenty-First Century, KM’s demise stems from the Chief Information Officer’s view of knowledge as discrete packets of data, each one destined to be filed in its own pigeon hole. The death of KM is a soulless one, because it is devoid of culture. Even though KM shares commonalities with publishing (static knowledge, expertise frozen in time), the latter adds the significance of culture (whether organizational or literary) to the flow of knowledge. A book as an object (physical or electronic) does not confuse the container with the message or the processes that infuse the former with meaning. Photo: Tables in disused autopsy room (Eric Allix Rogers/Flickr)