KMWorld 2012 Workshop W5: Exploring the Flow of Insight, and the Future of the Learning Organization

By now you know I have lots of say about the future of KM.

I’m more excited than ever to be hosting a 3-hour workshop on TUES 10/16 at KMW12, in Washington.  It’s Pre-Conference Workshop W5, and seats are still available.  I’m on right before Dave Snowden, so perhaps you can come out to see us both.

In my last KM post, I shared my ideas on how KM might evolve.

That discussion, which became the outline of Chapter 19 in The DNA of Collaboration (now on Amazon), is also the foundation for my upcoming KMW12 Workshop.

What are the big ideas?

As I looked at how information moves in organizations, I found that it tends to get stranded more often than not.  The metaphor of a river loomed ever larger for me as I wrote. Senge cites David Bohm’s “leaves on the river” metaphor in The Fifth Discipline, and the more I reflected, the more it became a grounding concept for me.  John Hagel has contributed much re: moving from stocks to flows. And I was intrigued when Beth Noveck, former Deputy CIO at the White House, mentioned rivers in her recent TED Talk.

Potomac River, Leesburg VA

Ultimately the concept of flow is where we need to be, because it stands in stark opposition to the prevailing business paradigm, the hierarchical silo.

Flow opens the floodgates of possibility, so to speak.

We can move around barriers, choose new channels to follow, and adjust to the environment as needed. How can we make insight flow faster in organizations?  Here are some key themes:

  • Collaborative Cultures – that foster trusting behavior and learning, in all its dimensions
  • Room to Take Risk – as the path to learning (it’s ok to be wrong)
  • Framing and Messaging with Rigor – focusing on semantics and critical thinking to best define our problems and solutions  
  • Intention – as foundation for focusing our vision and the baseline for demonstrating integrity

We’ll touch on all of these themes in our workshop, and they flow (quite literally) throughout my book.  They are essential aspects of what it takes for KM to be successful. They are core enablers of learning, and central to effective collaboration.

We need to get better in all of these areas, if we hope to start solving tougher and tougher problems.

What’s most exciting of all?  When we apply our new metaphor … when we let our insights flow .. the feedback and new perspectives can be rapid and unexpected.  I’ve had this experience at #SMCHAT #ECOSYS and #CDNA.  As we begin to communicate and connect more easily, our ability to learn from our learning networks gets better. The pace of learning compounds at an accelerating rate.  It’s pretty exciting actually.

Here’s a quick look at some KMW12 W5 Highlight slides (PDF), pulled from my W5 master deck.

Again, I’d love to see you in DC at KMW12.  If you can’t make it, watch for takeaways at the event hashtag #kmw12 or at the workshop stream #w5insight.  As I say in my book, we’ve got lots to cover, and the current is strong. Let’s get started.


6 thoughts on “KMWorld 2012 Workshop W5: Exploring the Flow of Insight, and the Future of the Learning Organization

  1. There are other challenges as well. Among them: bandwidth and focus. Part 3 of the article this discussion on innovation is based on raises the fabulously classic story (some of which I was unaware of) as to how PARC came about and why their brilliant innovations were not capitalized on by Xerox, but did lead to the empires of Apple and Microsoft (one of the original team members, local to me, has shared his perspectives how he was a witness for Microsoft when Apple was trying to sue them for the ideas they had both gotten from PARC).

    There are different facets of this challenge: macro and micro innovation. I fundamentally believe that flow is more important for micro innovation: changing the way things are done, than for macro innovation — creating new things.

    This is why most ‘innovation’ software fails — it’s is attempting to apply throughput for macro results and is best suited for micro results — which the companies leveraging same almost always completely ignores.

    The point being — the throughput isn’t that the idea go somewhere ‘through’ to someone else — there is no magical ‘they’, but that it gather the relevant resources and energy along the way to ‘happen’.

    The Indian goddess of knowledge, Swariswati, is about flow, but if you pay close attention to various versions of this myth, you will find the significance of the river and that there are things that glisten and sparkle on top as it flows. Those are the pearls so to speak: the relevant ideas. The point being that different things will ‘sparkle’ to someone depending on where they’re standing and what they’re paying attention to. All of the stuff coming out of PARC offered no ‘sparkle’ to Xerox because they were struggling for their own survival and could not afford the resources to focus elsewhere. But Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did see the sparkle.

    • Super feedback, Paula, great to hear from you. I agree the river-flow metaphors are local, on the ground… gathering relevant resources as needed .. which of course crosses into John Hagel’s thinking on “pull” ..

      Also love the sparkle reference to “pearls” re: missed chances at Xerox PARC vs. those pursued by Microsoft & Apple.

      Classic case of being stuck in your old paradigms.

      Looking to see where else this thread might .. dare I say? .. flow. Will post updates from KMW12 W5 here, after (or maybe during?) the conference.


  2. I recall when we ran the MA in KM program that we had some good conversations about water metaphors: not only flow, but also implications of the three states possible for water of solid, liquid and gas. And I used a watershed metaphor (rivers being part of that) in my dissertation.

    Wish I could attend KMWorld and I am sure your workshop will stimulate thought. I am curious about your thoughts behind the framing topic. As you know, framing and semantics are ongoing themes in this field. They creep into taxonomy vs. folksonomy; #open vs. IP; best practices vs. emergent, contextualized practice; etc. To me, one of the bottom lines is the huge amounts of learning and relationship-building that can occur in the negotiation of terms and frames.

    Have a great time, Chris. I hope there will be a tweet stream.

  3. Great post and thread here. As much as I love the river or stream as metaphor, I also note the fact that rivers are typically bounded in clear and set ways. While we can not predict the exact patterns of eddies and laminar currents, we can know source and mouth and shorelines.

    I like to use other metaphors as well. Metaphors that suggest larger fields of phase, or “possibility” space. I also think about dynamic toopologies- where both nodal structure and flow are inseparably relevant. So, for example, a partly-inflated balloon, on which we draw a simple network map. Inflate it more, or squeeze in various places, and we can see the ways the system reponds to that pressure. I also like to use a Hoberman sphere (see the giant motorized one in the atrium of NJ’s Liberty Science Center), which suggests some of the “enfolding and unfolding” that Bohm considered, and which maintains the network steucture even as energy expands the system as a whole. So too souffles, whose mix of ingredients doesn’t suggest the emergent framework of supportive molecules that hold the expanding, airy whole together.

    Just different ways to think about structure and flow. Thanks for the work and posting!!

  4. Thanks Alice and Bruce, such great additions to the base post. That’s what I love about the blog format as a place to share and learn .. so many ways for the basic premise to evolve. The emergence of ideas.

    Alice – I love the water/ice/steam extension .. brings to mind Kurt Lewin and his Action Research model (from the 50’s?) .. unfreeze, change, refreeze. Team building from co-creation is huge. Semantics can be a turnoff to some, but creating something new usually brings them back around :) Sad you can’t make it to KMW12, but we’ll definitely be tweeting some takeaways .. watch #w5insight

    Bruce – I’m sure we could talk metaphor for hours, it’s one of my favorite topics, and I devote a chapter to it. The river metaphor does indeed have limitations, but to emote ‘flow’ in general I think it serves. I like your alternate ones, they are a bit more expansive (pun intended?) lol. Will you be in DC? Would love to meet IRL at long last ..

    Grateful for your ideas and contributions, guys .. looking forward to more ..


  5. Pingback: KMW12 Workshop W5 in Washington DC: Book author Chris Jones will be discussing the Flow of Insights | The DNA of Collaboration

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