welcome to AcKnowledge Consulting

This is the blog site of AcKnowledge Consulting and Keith De La Rue.

Main focus: Optimising Sales Force efficiency by effectively managing and delivering the knowledge required to meet customer demands.
How this is done: By building a managed knowledge transfer toolkit.

Creativity and Constraint

Keith September 2nd, 2009

At yesterday’s Creative Performance Exchange meeting, we held an “unconference” session.  People nominated to present twenty minute “mini-sessions” on a range of topics at one of three tables, and the rest of us chose to sit in on whichever topic was of interest.  We cycled through the mini-sessions three times, so there were nine in total.  Great fun, and a great way to spark new ideas and innovation.

One of the sessions I attended was led by Don Miller, of the Melbourne Centre for Ideas. Don briefly spoke about the comparison between western ideas of freedom, and how “total” freedom can actually limit creativity. (My paraphrase.) The point is – when we are given some form of constraint, we can often become more creative.  Some creative fields come with built-in constraints.   For example, an architect will usually be constrained by the available land area, and by design restrictions imposed by materials, technology, planning regulations, etc.  When we start to test imposed limits, we can also frequently break new creative ground.

To my mind, a classic case of this is the design of the Sydney Opera House.  When Jørn Utzon first drafted his designs for the famous “sails”, it was said that it would be impossible to build with the concrete technology available at the time. The design was changed during the development process, yet it is unlikely that the current globally-recognised design would have ever been built if the construction limitations had not been pushed as they were.

Don led us in a brief exercise to illustrate creativity under constraint. We were asked to spend 10 minutes writing – on whatever topic we chose – with the constraint that every word must include the letter ‘e’.  We were also asked to write at least six lines of text. 

Given that ‘e’ is the most common letter in the English language, this is not as severe a constraint as restricting other letters, yet still enough of a constraint to encourage some creativity! For one thing, it completely rules out the conjunctions ‘and’ and ‘but’, forcing some creative use of punctuation to replace them.  (Try it for yourself.)

At the end of the session , we all read out our pieces.  The seven or so of us at the table were all able to complete the task, with a very varied set of results.  One was a “meta-text” – a piece about the task itself.  For reference, here’s my piece:

Wearily, Eve went westerly.  She previously called her boyfriend, when her vehicle expired. He delayed. She waited; she waited. Darkness fell. Remoteness, loneliness grew. She called repeatedly – response lacked. Heavily, she trudged ahead, seeking help.

Lightness somewhere, beyond the trees. Her prayers went heavenward; her feet westward.

Where’s Edward?

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The rains down in Africa

Keith July 11th, 2009

I have been following the “TOTO challenge” for a while now.  ActionAid Australia is sending Australian bloggers to remote parts of the world. Why? To help give poverty a voice:

Using blogs, Twitter, Facebook and more, the outreach blogger will travel to one of ActionAid’s program countries to help locals harness the power of social media to secure their human rights. You don’t need to be a blogging expert, you just need to have an open mind and be passionate about fighting the root causes of poverty. Social injustice and poverty are easy to ignore when hidden from view. Your mission will be to help bring attention to the scandal of poverty.”

The bloggers will spend one to two weeks in a remote community, blogging their experiences, and – importantly – training locals to use tools such as Twitter and blogs to shine a light on social injustice and human rights abuses.

One blogger has already been there to check out how the program will proceed. Read about Stilgherrian’s experiences on his blog.  Read some further discussion on how challenging this really is on Laurel Papworth’s blog – particularly read some of today’s comments (11 July).

Some very worthy people are now nominating themselves to be outpost bloggers. I have also put my hand up. My nomination text is as follows:

Most nominees here are far more worthy of this than I am – seriously. However, if you still need any more candidates, consider my hat to be in the ring.

I blog (and tweet – @kdelarue), and I have taught people about blogging.  I have been writing my own web sites for 10 years.

I absorb other cultures by eating in Lebanese restaurants in Sydney Rd, Coburg, and go to difficult, remote places by walking around Little India when I go to Singapore to speak at conferences.

The most adventurous thing I have done is to travel 5,000 km by motorcycle from Melbourne to Karratha, WA, in 6 days (29 years ago).

I enjoy writing and talking, researching and teaching. I have been known to get passionate about injustice, and I support Oxfam and others from the comfort of my armchair.

I am not fazed by having to set up my own technology under difficult circumstances, and am quite used to helping others to get things working as needed.

Work-wise, I only need approval from myself to make the time available to go.

Does any of this qualify me to help out with this project? Probably nothing like as much as others here, but drop me a line if you run out of the really suitable people, and I’ll be there.

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Knowledge Transfer and Collaboration

Keith July 10th, 2009

How do you go about transferring knowledge from one part of an organisation to another? For example, from a technical product management group to a business-to-business sales force? This is the topic of my new article published in the May/June issue of IDM Magazine. See a copy of the article on this site: Foundations of Knowledge.

This article effectively serves as a White Paper on the work that I have done in the past on a Knowledge Transfer Toolkit, and the related consultancy service now offered.

The Australian Collaboration Software Report

Are you currently using collaborative software, or are you planning to acquire it? Would you like to benchmark your experience against that of others? Are you based in Australia? Please fill out the survey at http://tinyurl.com/ozcollab now!

Matt Moore of Innotecture and I are researching the use of collaboration tools in Australia. “Collaboration” is a buzz term at the moment, and we want to get behind the hype to discover how organisations are selecting and implementing tools and whether they are benefiting from them. If you have experience with selecting, implementing or maintaining a collaboration tool within the last 12 months then we would like you to take part in this survey. 

Read more about what’s in it for you at: http://ozcollab.com/.

Twitter and the challenge of openness

Keith June 8th, 2009

I have posted on this blog about Twitter a number of times, and also written about it in one post at Digital Ministry. But as I foreshadowed there, there was one other aspect of Twitter that I intended to say more about – and that is the use of Twitter as a great tool for “open note taking”.  I have held off writing more about this, and I guess in some way I was looking for more to say about it. I have recently got the spark of inspiration that now prompts me to get back to the blog and get this all down…

First, back to the Digital Ministry article:

I like to record notes when I attend seminars.  For some time, I have been taking notes on a PDA rather than on paper, as the notes are then synchronised with my PC, and available for blogging or other reuse.  This is great for me.

But with Twitter, I can take notes in just the same way, and everyone “following” me on Twitter can choose to tune in if the topic is of interest.  The notes are necessarily brief, which helps to keep them focused.  Some of the feedback I have received from this has been overwhelmingly positive, with some stating that it is just like being there themselves.

The “tuning in” is done with the use of a “hashtag” – a word relevant to the title of the conference, preceded by a “#”, added to each tweet.  The attendees at the conference can immediately see each other’s tweets by searching for the hashtag, as can all of their followers not at the conference.  (It’s also a great way to connect with people with similar interests.) The Twitter stream provides a great summary after the conference for everyone. You can do this in Twitter search (which can be a bit slow and flaky), or through any of a number of other sites that access Twitter, such as #hashtags.

Since writing that, I have seen this practice grow. As there are more and more people using Twitter at conferences, the richness of the conversation has also grown. It has been great to see people unable to attend conferences actually joining in through Twitter. This is greatly facilitated by mobile Twitter interfaces or clients (dabr is my interface of choice). You can pick a Twitter-aware conference organiser when you see the hashtag put up on the screen at the beginning of the conference!  This saves any hassle in getting an agreed tag going.

Regular meetings may have different hashtags for different dates, or just re-use the same tag. For instance, at the monthly Melbourne KMLF meetings, we tend to stick to the same tag each month – #kmlf.  You can see some of our recent conversations (before, during and after the actual meetings) on #hashtags.

There’s more to be said about Twitter at conferences – but see Olivia Mitchell’s blog posts How to Present While People are Twittering and  8 things I learnt about using twitter as a participation tool for a great insight into fairly serious Twitter use at presentations.  (By the way – if you want to put up a live Twitter display during your presentation, go to Visible Tweets and enter your hashtag.) 

There are three particular points I would like to make on this topic:

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Capabilities

Keith April 7th, 2009

How do you define what you do? Particularly when the main thing you do is something as potentially nebulous as “Knowledge Management”?

In order to clarify the consultancy services that AcKnowledge Consulting is offering to the market, I have drafted a collection of Capability Statements. A Capability Statement is normally a fairly straightforward document, outlining a technical function that can be delivered by an organisation – particularly one operating in an area like IT outsourcing. This is fine where the technical capability is readily understood by all concerned.

The main area  of this consultancy service is Optimising organisational efficiency by effectively managing and delivering the knowledge required to meet business demands – with a particular focus on meeting the demands of a sales force. This could be summarised as “Knowledge Management for Sales”, but the term “Knowledge Management” can mean many different things. Accordingly, I have developed a slightly different format for my Capability Statements, as follows:

  • The Business Situation – an outline of the needs of a particular function or group within an organisation.
  • The Challenge – some specific issues in this area that require attention, or that are presenting a problem.
  • Where AcKnowledge Consulting can help – an outline of some of the specific ways that AcKnowledge Consulting can address these issues.
  • Why AcKnowledge Consulting? – some supporting information on relevant experience that can be brought to bear in this situation, including testimonials from clients as appropriate.

These documents are written on a single page for each capability.  For an example, see the Knowledge Transfer Capability Statement.  The current list of capabilities and statements is available on the About page on this site.

I welcome any feedback or comments on these statements, and how useful you may find them for understanding the services described.

Gearing up for Knowledge 2.0

Keith April 3rd, 2009

How are companies dealing with the KM challenge in the Web 20.era? … Reports of the demise of knowledge management sound somewhat exaggerated to the large number of Australian professionals working to implement KM strategies at large and small organizations across the country.

I contributed to an article in IDM Magazine some time ago; I have now been able to load a copy of the full article on this site.

The article includes interviews with a number of Knowledge Managers: Margaret Williams, Knowledge Manager at Gadens Lawyers; Linda Bevin, Information and Knowledge Manager at the Australian Wine Research Institute; Nerida Hart, Director of Knowledge at Land and Water Australia and Luke Naismith (then) a knowledge, foresight and change project leader with Contax, operating in the Middle East.

My contribution was based on my experience with the “KM Toolkit” at Telstra. (I had just left the organisation by the time the article was published.)

Effective organisational comms (updated)

Keith March 25th, 2009

Presented a half-day workshop on this topic at the CPA Australia Newcastle Convention this afternoon. Seemed to go well – had some good discussions.  This is basically an updated version of the same presentation I delivered at the Victorian CPA Congress last October. 

See the updated slide pack on SlideShare.

The details are as follows:

  • A toolkit approach to organisational comms – an overview of a range of comms media that can be used.
  • Understanding the social media revolution – understand how much things are changing around us.
  • Engaging and collaborating – working through a number of Web 2.0 tools, their applications and results.
  • Segmenting the audience – understanding diverse styles and needs.
  • Putting it all together – how to assemble a program of both traditional and Web 2.0 tools, with some specific case studies.

The Art of Business

Keith March 24th, 2009

I delivered a presentation yesterday that I really enjoyed putting together, and it was great fun to deliver!

The brief was a keynote presentation for Panviva’s annual SupportPoint User Conference.  SupportPoint is a “Business Process Guidance” system.

The brief was to deliver a Keynote presentation, and to set the theme for the conference: “Communication and Collaboration”.  The underlying theme that I used to couch this on was Creativity, and the importance of creativity in both leadership and knowledge work.  The slide pack is available on SlideShare.

I have used this as a good opportunity to shake off (at least some of) the shackles of PowerPoint – by using lots of pictures, and a lot less words.  Some of the photos are mine, and most of the rest are Flickr “Creative Commons – Attributions” licensed photos, all with links on the relevant slides.

As there are lots of pictures, some of the slides may not be clear without the voice over (which maybe I’ll add to SlideShare later).  The initial point is explaining my initial perceptions of creativity – influenced by the paintings of both my mother and my sister.  (See the post “Moving mountains” on this site for more of this story.)

The next section refers to the material in this post on creativity in leadership, and briefly touches on my thoughts on Change Management. I then go over some of my past experiences with a Knowledge Management Toolkit, and how we went about developing it.  The final part of the presentation picks up on a recent post on story at Anecdote, which includes a link to the story of “the one-armed boy”.

With that explanation, I hope it all makes sense, and that you enjoy this as much as I did!

KM Strategy Slide pack available

Keith March 11th, 2009

The slide pack I presented at the recent BrightStar conference – 7th Annual Information Management Summit, in Wellington, New Zealand – has now been loaded to SlideShare.

There is a brief synopsis of the presentation on a previous post.  Summary points as follows:

  • Developing a knowledge sharing toolkit
  • Keeping content up to date
  • Dealing with knowledge hoarding
  • Using multiple media and applying Social Media principles 

As I also chaired one day of the conference, there is also a bonus introductory slide pack, featuring photos of New Zealand!

The theory and practice of communities

Keith March 8th, 2009

Without clear thinking, valuable work may grind to a halt

The following is the introduction to an article that I wrote, published in the November/December KM Review.

Despite everything that the modern KM practitioner knows about communities, collaboration and technology, communities of practice (CoPs) often fail and collaboration often breaks down. In order to establish an effective CoP, it’s necessary first to think about the nature and structure of a community and recognize that it’s an entirely different entity from a work group or a project team. As such, it must be treated differently, too. In this article, author Keith De La Rue examines the pitfalls associated with CoPs and why helping them to grow and flourish requires a better understanding of three words: “community”, “practice” and “technology”.

Read the full article.

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