May 21, 2011

Help My Brain Is Leaking!

I am currently in the Gulf Region (Arabian Gulf not Gulf of Mexico) and went for a walk yesterday. I like to walk as you get a better impression of the area; you hear the sounds, you smell the smells and see those minute things that you miss if you are travelling in an air conditioned car. Sure you get sweaty but believe me it is a richer experience.

I found myself at the international bus terminal. I bought a cup of coffee and sat and people watched. The sights and sounds were incredible. Airports tend to be sanitised places now, security has made them dull, lifeless places but train stations and bus terminals are alive, bustling places. There were people of different sizes, colours, dress, a whole myriad to sights and sounds. If you find yourself near an international bus terminal, treat yourself to a cup of coffee and be amazed.

I was walking back along the road when I realised that my brain had leaked.
Just in front of me was the most amazing four wheel vehicle. It was beautiful. It was a work of art, it gleamed in the sunlight. It had probably never been on a real road (it looked as if it had just come out of the showroom) never mind a desert but what caught my eye was the stainless steel jerry can (petrol or gasoline can) that was on the back door next to the spare wheel. It was polished to a mirror like finish. Then my mind got to thinking.

I was within 2 metres (six feet) of a can filled with petrol (gasoline) which was sitting in direct sunlight when the temperature in the shared was 41 deg C. I must be at risk!

Now being an engineer I knew about effect of sunlight on stainless steel, how it heats the metal and how the heat is then transferred to the liquid inside the container. I knew that the container was sealed so as the liquid inside the container got hotter the liquid would turn to vapour and the pressure would increase inside the container. If the pressure was high enough the container would burst. If the temperature was hot enough the vapour would ignite.

But I couldn’t remember any of the numbers. I couldn’t remember the temperature at which liquid petrol (gasoline) becomes vapour. I couldn’t remember the temperature at which petroleum vapour ignited. My brain once had those details, I had participated in numerous HAZOPS studies while working as an engineer but they had leaked from my brain. My brain was leaking!

I decided the best course of action was to get my leaking brain out of there as fast as possible which isn’t very fast when it is over 41 deg C in the direct sunlight.

When I was safely out of the way my brain came up with something else. Did I really understand the context of what I had seen? I had assumed because the container was on the back door of the vehicle with the spare wheel that it contained petrol and hence a potential hazard to me. It could after all have contained water.

What is your strategy to prevent brains from leaking key knowledge?

Knoco Ltd

May 18, 2011

Is This Knowledge True?

I live in Scotland and know that when the leaves fall of the trees that it is autumn (Fall) and the long, dark days and nights of winter are just around the corner. It is a fact, I know this.

I was in Saudi Arabia last week and found the pavements (sidewalks) covered in fallen leaves. Now for me that signals autumn. Leaves on the ground equals autumn, equals winter is just around the corner. It is a fact, I know this.

Now if someone had said to me before I arrive in Saudi Arabia in June (remember it is 40 deg C in the shade) that it was autumn I would have instantly dismissed them and not trusted the knowledge they were trying to share with me. I probably wouldn’t trust any knowledge they tried to share with me in future.

What is missing in the above story is the context or detail. Yes the pavements in Saudi Arabia were covered in leaves and it truly reminded me of autumn in Scotland but on closer inspection I noticed that the leaves all seemed to come from one type of tree. It wasn’t a generic and hence seasonal thing, it was something to do with this specific type of tree. Perhaps it was something in the design of that tree that caused it to shed its leaves when the temperature in the shade reached 40 deg C.

It’s important when transferring knowledge to understand that the receiver needs to be able to validate it for themselves. Thus when if I was told leaves would be on the ground in Saudi Arabia I would compare it against my existing experiences from Scotland and dismiss it as untrue. Whereas if I had been told that one type of tree in Saudi Arabia shed its leaves when the temperature reached 40 deg C and it would give the appearance of autumn in Scotland I would most probably believe them.

If you are considering a knowledge transfer program, keep the above in mind.

Why was I walking in Saudi Arabia in 40 deg C? That’s a whole different blog entry.

Knoco Ltd

May 5, 2011

Does Your Company Have A Future?

The following is based on a real life example.

Imagine you are sitting in a training session, it could be an in-house training course or it could be a business school session. The tutor then provides you with the following information and asks you to answer the question at the bottom.

You are market leader in your chosen industry. Your company is the benchmark in your industry and universally known within that sector, you are considered the one to beat. Management have set aggressive growth targets and want to double the profitability within two years. However you have recently discovered that 70% of your workforce is over the age of 50 and three of the board directors who have steered the company to this enviable position will retire within two years.

The question
Should the question that this company asks itself be a) what is the value of knowledge management to our company or b) what is the future of our company without knowledge management?

I know that you will think that no company who is in such a dominant position within its chosen industry could allow itself to be in such a precarious position but trust me, that is exactly what one company woke up to find.

The Knoco family
I am currently working with Stephanie from Knoco Canada and Abdulhameed from Knoco Gulf. The depth of understanding of knowledge management, the industry we are working with and the local culture resulted in the client describing the piece of work when it was delivered as ‘brilliant’. The photo shows the three of us enjoying coffee (I am the ugly one in the middle).

Knoco Ltd