February 28, 2010

Probably the best way of demonstrating the value of knowledge management in the world

Bird Island has played an important role in my life for over ten years. In very many locations around the world for a huge variety of clients I have used it to demonstrate not only that you can manage knowledge but that it produces enormous performance improvements. All of us in Knoco have our favour story about the impact that it has or about running the workshops. I think amongst my favourite was the time when one of our consultants was working in a location where they had to travel in an armoured car with close body protection (armed guards) at all times. During the workshop the close protection staff sat in the room in case their special skills became necessary. The consultant explained to the manager the impact that managing their knowledge could have. It has to be said that the manager who had been educated in a management style that is no longer widely practiced since a certain wall came down didn’t believe him. By the end of the Bird Island exercise the benefits of managing knowledge had become clear to him.

I have copied below the text that was in the February newsletter as it contains the links that will allow you to obtain further information. All of us at Knoco believe that making Bird Island available in this manner will drive forward the performance of many organisations around the world, far more than we could as a company, even taking account of our franchise structure could hope to reach. We look forward in the coming months to sharing with you some of the success stories of those who licence Bird Island and the significant impact that it has.

The power of Bird Island – now available to you!

Engaging people in the value that Knowledge Management can bring is a perennial problem. How can you show people that KM is really valuable? How do you turn sceptics into believers? Simply, you allow them to experience the value that KM can bring, through an interactive and measurable way.

We have been running the Bird island exercise now for over a decade. It is an amazingly simple, yet extremely effective simulation exercise that gives people a real KM experience in two short hours. It demonstrates three separate KM processes, each of which delivers an obvious and measurable performance benefit, and it includes at least two key moments at which "the pennies drop" for people. We have found it to be the most powerful sales tool for engaging people in Knowledge Management we have ever found. It's the nearest thing to "Knowledge Management Proof" that you could hope for.

You can read more about Bird Island in our article “(Probably) the longest running KM experiment in the world”.

So to give our clients and customers better access to this world-class engagement tool, we have decided to licence the exercise to your in-house trainers. We have created an online reference area for licensed facilitators, which includes a set of agendas for Bird Island workshop, full instructions for the exercise, an equipment list, all the handouts you will need, a complete knowledge asset for building Bird Island towers, the set of historical data, the PowerPoint slidesets you will need as a facilitator, and videos from key points in the exercise so you can see how it works in practice. In addition we have a discussion area for Bird Island facilitators, and an image gallery for you to share pictures from your winning teams.

Contact us for more details, or go to the bird island page http://www.knoco.com/bird-island.htm

Knoco Ltd

February 17, 2010

Human Knowledge Verses Machine Knowledge

I spoke to human being this week. It took me a considerable amount of time and effort to actually get to that human being but in the end I spoke to them. Until that point I had been a victim of voice recognition software operated by call centre.

The company in question has a website but it failed to give me the data that I was looking for. After much searching on the web pages I eventually found the telephone contact for the said company. I called the company and of course it was a premium charge number. So the website had not worked and here was I paying a lot of money to speak to company to find out something they should have been able to give me for free.

I have to admit that I have had excellent experiences with call centres and some very, very poor experiences with call centres, but when I discovered that this one used a voice response system my heart sank. I don't know how many people there are in the world with an accent. Am I a minority? I happened to be someone who has an accent in this case a Scottish accent. I don't know which was the worse, paying a premium phone line charge or try to speak to a computer that was ignoring me. In the end I think the computer gave in and after 20 min it connected me to human being. Now I am sure some of you will think it couldn't possibly have been 20 min but please be assured it was 20 minutes. The choice was simple; hang up and start all over again hoping that I got a different computer, one that could understand my accent this time or battle the one that was on the line at the time. I chose to fight the machine and eventually after 20 min the machine give in.

The human that I spoke with had nothing but sympathy for my plight. It transpired that I was not the first one and they did not expect me to the last one who had fought the voice activated system and had not been pleased with the experience. It probably took the human between 1 min and 2 min to entirely answer my original question. If there is anyone out there reading this who has anything to do with call centres or any other activity that requires a human to speak to a computer please, please, please remember that not all the world speaks like a BBC newsreader.
What has this got to do with knowledge management? Well it could be that the company has the knowledge i.e. how do we prevent people contacting us who may be a nuisance. They get them to call a premium charge line directed to a call centre that uses voice activated software. The vast majority of the population will hang up long before they've got to human being and will just write it off as a bad experience. This system avoids them having to employ and train operators to handle the calls from customers.

The last time this happened to me was with the well-known train company that I was trying to purchase tickets from. I failed to successfully navigate their voice activated software system and have never bought tickets from them, indeed I have never even attempted to buy tickets from them since that experience.

I like technology, I enjoy using it but sometimes it is preferable to deal with the human being.

Knoco Ltd

February 6, 2010

Always Thinking About Safety

First an apology. I have been traveling a lot and have gotten out of the habit of writing this blog and material for the web site. I was at a meeting at the end of last week and at the end of the work session someone from the client's knowledge management team stayed behind and then proceeded to thank me for my blog and the material that we had been making available via the web site. They had used it not only during their formal knowledge management studies but also in their role within the knowledge management team. Suddenly all the work of writting case studies and blog became worthwhile.

Those that know me well know that safety is very important to me. I have worked with HSE teams around the world and assessmed how they use knowledge on many occassions. Being safe and ensuring the safety of those around us is part of our personal responsibility but today taught me just how easy it is to slip up. Today I found myself in a potentaily dangerous situation, a situation that I should have been able to avoid.

It was mid afternoon and i was sitting in a hotel room working when there was a power cut. It was still very light in the room so I decided to put my shoes on and go shopping and pick up some of the things that I needed. I was on the third floor and while I knew exactly where the fire escapes were I wondered if there as a public staircase that I could walk down to reception. As I came out of the room I saw one of the staff with a hand held radio and asked them how to walk down the stairs to reception. They said "follow me" which I thought was very helpful and surprise, surprise they took me to a fire exit.

We entered the staircase and it was brighly lit but importantly it was lit by sunlight being let into the stairwell while the door was open. That wasn't immediatley apparent. We started off down the stairs but when the door closed behind us, there was no light. There were no emergency lights in the emergency fire exit stairwell.

At that point I should have insisted we turn back, we were only about 9 or 10 step down into the stair well but for a reason I don't quite understand myself I continued to follow the memebr of staff. I normally carry an emergency torch with me on my keyring but guesss what, it was safely back in the hotel room.

I continue to follow the member of staff down the stairs who was now lighting the way using the light from the display of thier mobile telephone. They even had to hold the mobile telephone up to the wall to try to read what level we had reached.

I am not afraid of the dark but I can reassure you when the mobile telephone when out, it was VERY dark in that stairwell. By now I knew that I couldn't find my way back as it wasn't possible to read the stair level without having a mobile telephone swiched on. I had mine in my pocket but didn't want to risk taking my hand off the hand rail (and losing my orientation on the stairs) so relied on the very dim light several stairs below me.

As we reached the bottom I sensed an object blocking our exit from the stairs. Someone had pushed a hotel porter's luggage cart into the emergency stairwell. We had to navigate our way around it and then open the door into reception.

I am typing this having returned to the hotel after my shopping and can see the emergency tourch that I carry in my luggage sitting next to the bed. I can even see my small emergency tourch lying next to my security pass but where were they when I need them!

This incident reminds me of how while I have access to the best practice in hotel guest safety, I didn't use it. I knew there was a power cut in the hotel hence the lights and elevators would be out of action. It was highly propable that there would be no or reduced lighting somehwere between my room and the street. Why didn't I pay attention to the best practice of hotel guest safety? To be very honest it was becuase I was going to spend a sum of money that I wasn't entirely comfortable spending eg my mind was on trying to justify to myself that it was OK to spend that much money when it should have been on my safety.

When you want to transfer best practice and ensure that someone impliments it, you need to think about what else in happening in their environment at that time, just assuming that they will impliment it because it is best practice might not work.

And in closing, an emergency tourch is only useful if you have it with you when you need it. It might be great to have it on your security pass during office hours but where are you going to carry it once you in a hotel room / out for dinner etc etc.