Introduction to the Knowledge Cafe
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  • 1. The Knowledge-Caf é If only we knew what we know By David Gurteen and Dan Remenyi
  • 2. What is a K-Café?
    • A knowledge café is a means of bringing a group of people together to have an open, creative conversation on a topic of mutual interest to share ideas and to gain a deeper collective understanding of the subject and the issues involved.
  • 3. What are the objectives of a K-Caf é ?
    • To gain mutual understanding of a complex issue
    • To gain a deeper understanding of other people’s perspectives
    • To gain a deeper understanding of one’s own views and thinking process
    • To flush out issues which need airing & exploring
    • To help build a consensus around an issue or topic
  • 4. Where is it used?
    • We have used this technique many times in public forums and within companies to explore complex issues
    • The Royal Society for the Arts are using a form of K-Café in conjunction with a coffee house in the UK later this year all over the country to discuss social issues relevant to the societies aims
    • I have also recently used it in the NHS to explore how people might better communicate and work together
  • 5. When would a K-Café be run?
    • Knowledge share
    • Develop a Code of Practice
    • Get Networking going
    • Gain new perspectives
    • Gain new ideas
  • 6. What is the history?
    • How long has it been around & where did it come from?
    • The term knowledge-café has been around for the last 7 years or so
    • But only in the last 2 or 3 years has it come into more common use
    • Has its roots in work of David Bohm, William Isaacs, Juanita Brown
    • Also has roots in OST (Open Space Technology) which goes back to 1989
  • 7. How is it different from OST?
    • It is quite different
    • The OST process is more complex
    • OST is used for purposes other than gaining mutual understanding e.g. problem solving and defining agendas
    • OST meetings tend to be larger - often 100s of people compared to dozens for K-Cafés
    • OST meetings tend to last longer - often days rather than hours
  • 8. Is it a talking-shop?
    • No its NOT a talking-shop. A talking shop is normally used pejoratively and it implies no useful outcome other than the airing of ones own ideas
    • A K-Caf é is different in that everyone leaves enriched by a deeper level of understanding of the subject in question
  • 9. Why is the K-Caf é important?
    • The world is a much more complex place than it used to be - at times even chaotic - it is not always clear what is going on - we need to take time to UNDERSTAND
    • We do not find the time these days to have open conversations, we are under pressure to make quick decisions
    • KM for example should not be about creating and sharing ever increasing knowledge but understanding more fully the knowledge that we do have!
  • 10. What does a K-Café do for the individual?
    • The K-Caf é operates on the assumption that people really have within themselves a greater level of insight than they are often conscious of. The K-Caf é can tease this out.
    • You hear yourself say things in k-café conversations that you did not know that you knew
    • A k-café kind of crystallises your knowledge
    • New ideas are sparked
    • Fresh perspectives emerge ...
    • And with increased observation and reflection comes understanding and this paves the way for change
  • 11. What does a K-Café do for the individual?
    • Some people just have problems expressing themselves
    • Sometimes you just don’t know what you think until you have said it!
    • Learning how to hear and to understand yourself
    • The K-Café is a little like an anti-inhibitor and thus stimulates discussion
  • 12. What resources are needed to run a K-Caf é?
    • Not a lot to run to a simple format
    • A group of people
    • A facilitator or host
    • A room with plenty of space
    • Tables and chairs - ideally round tables to seat about 5
  • 13. Do you need anything special in the room?
    • Some K-Café formats have special requirements such as round tables, paper table cloths, felt tip pens, flowers on the table and coffee
    • The aim being to create the right ambience
    • An unthreatening and hospitable environment
    • Everyone must feel save to free express themselves without any potential recriminations
    • But the K-Cafés that I run need none of these props but of course you could add them if available
  • 14. How do you run one?
    • K-Cafés can be run in a number of different ways. Some formats are very simple others are more complex
    • I use a very simple format and it’s the one I am going to describe
    • A K-Caf é runs for 90 minutes to a couple/few hours
    • They work best with between 20 and 30 people
    • But they can be run with as few as a dozen or as many as 100 people
  • 15. What's the process?
      • 1. Explain the k-café concept
      • 2. Set the theme and questions
      • A facilitator or host introduces the K-Caf é and the subject under discussion. The optimum time for this less than 10 minutes
      • The purpose of the K-Caf é is made clear to everybody
      • The facilitator poses one or two key open ended questions.
      • The participants group themselves into groups of 4 or 5 and are invited to discuss the subject for 45 minutes.
      • The whole group re-assembles for an exchange of ideas as a whole for 45 minuets
  • 16. What subjects are can be covered?
    • Any subject can be addressed
    • Explore questions that matter to those who are participating in the K-Caf é
    • Remember the K-Caf é is not a debating forum
    • A K-Caf é would normally explore only one theme
    • A K-Café is NOT about decision making.
  • 17. What is the Role of the Facilitator ?
    • The facilitator need not be a subject specialist. If not you might use a subject specialist to introduce the question/s
    • Nor disciplined in facilitation
    • Simply a good listener and chairperson skills
    • The facilitator should not take a lead in the discussions. He or she should wander around and listen into the groups but should not lead them .
    • Should listen out for problems and remind people gently of the rules of ‘dialogue’
  • 18. What’s the role of the individuals?
    • In the words of Theodore Zeldin : to be prepared to emerge a slightly different person
    • To see people with different views not as adversaries but as sources from which you can learn
    • To enter into open conversation
    • To listen more than speak
    • To welcome differences
    • To withhold judgment
    • Position taking should be avoided
    • Minimum political correctness should be followed
  • 19. How do things work within the small groups?
    • Don’t appoint a leader or chairperson
    • Everyone should be equal and fully engaged in the conversation
    • Don’t appoint a note taker either
    • Anyone can make their own notes if they want to
    • Everyone reports back their own perspectives to the final group if they want to
  • 20. How does the large group sit?
    • If possible bring everyone back into a relatively tight horse-shoe shape group so that every one can easily see each other as well as hear each other
    • Only use microphones if absolutely necessary as they inhibit the natural flow of the conversation
  • 21. Describe the large group discussion?
    • Individuals are asked to remember that their comments are for the whole group and not for the facilitator. They are not reporting back to the facilitator!
    • The objective is the hold a ‘group conversation’
    • The facilitator needs to work at encouraging this
  • 22. How does the facilitator work with the large group at the end
    • The group should be doing the work with minimal intervention from the facilitator
    • Facilitator needs to encourage participation
    • Facilitator needs to ensure that no one person or group dominates the discussion
    • Connect diverse perspectives
    • Facilitator needs to keep time
  • 23. How do you record the outcomes of a K-Café
    • The real outcome is what people take away with them in their heads and the new connections with other people that they may have made
    • What ever you record things you should avoid disrupting or influencing the conversation in anyway
    • You record it (audio or video) but I would advise against it
    • Best to appoint an outside person to take notes
    • Participants should not be burdened with routine recording as they need to be fully engaged in the conversation
  • 24. The Outcomes of a K-Caf é
    • The real outcome is what you take away with you in your head
    • New connections with people
    • A deeper understanding of the issue discussed
    • A deeper understanding and insight into other people’s perspectives
    • A better appreciation of your own point of view and how it is seen by others
    • A better knowledge of what you know and don’t know and what others know and don’t know
    • In a position to make more informed decisions
  • 25. Other Formats
    • Flipcharts/flowers/table cloths/pens etc
    • Can get in the way
    • Need additional cost/budget
    • If have that luxury then ok
    • Groups can move around
      • takes longer
      • ok if you can afford the time
  • 26. Where can I learn more about K-Cafés?
    • That’s simple
    • There are a lot of resources on the web
    • A good stating point is
    • Where you will find a link on the home page to other resources including