09:50 – 10:10 Business is a Conversation (20 mins)
10:10 – 10:30 Knowledge Café Process (20 mins)
10:30 – 11:00 Coffee (30 mins)
11:00 – 12:00 Run a Knowledge Cafe (60 mins)
12:00 – 12:15 Applications (15 mins)
12:15 – 12:30 Review (15 mins)
Business is a Conversation
Business is a conversation Business is a conversation because the defining work of business is conversation - literally. And 'knowledge workers' are simply those people whose job consists of having interesting conversations. David Weinberger The Cluetrain Manifesto
Conversation is central to all that we do
Its our job!
Conversation is a meeting of minds Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don't just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn't just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards. Theodore Zeldin Conversation
Theodore in an Oxford Historian
Conversation is creative
KM is about understanding For all our knowledge, we have no idea what we're talking about. We don't understand what's going on in our business, our market, and our world. KM shouldn’t be about helping us to know more. It should be about helping us to understand. So, how do we understand things? It's through stories that we understand how the world works. David Weinberger, The Cluetrain Manifesto
Its about understanding & sense making
Through conversation & storytelling
Conversation “A mechanistic and unproductive exchange between people seeking to defend their own views against one another” “A frank exchange of ideas or views on a specific issue in an effort to attain mutual understanding” Debate or dialogue?
When we engage each other in dialogue
we enter into a conversation with a view to learn from each other
rather than impose our views on the other.
The kind of conversation I’m interested in is one in which you start with a willingness to emerge a slightly different person. Theodore Zeldin, Historian
Principles of Dialogue
Suspend assumptions, do not judge
Observe & listen to one another
Welcome differences & explore them
Allow taboo subjects to be raised safely
Listen to your inner voice
Slow the discussion
Search for the underlying meaning
Dialogue is based on the work of the physicist David Bohm
Business is a conversation
Conversation is creative
Understanding is more important than knowing more
Dialogue is the key to quality conversations
Gurteen Knowledge Café Process
Coffee Machine talks
My dislike of ‘chalk & talk’ presentations (chicken chicken)
My desire for people to engage with the subject and to learn through conversation
What is a Knowledge Café?
A knowledge café brings a group of people together to have an open, creative conversation on a topic of mutual interest to surface their collective knowledge, to share ideas and to gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved.
Ultimately leading to action in the form of better decision making and innovation and thus tangible business outcomes.
What are the outcomes?
Real outcomes are what you take away in your head
A deeper understanding of the issue discussed
A deeper insight into other people’s perspectives
A better appreciation of your own point of view
Better position to make more informed decisions and to take action!
What is the history?
The term Knowledge Café has been around for the last 7 years or so
Only in the last 2 or 3 years has the term come into common use
Roots in work of David Bohm, William Isaacs, Juanita Brown
Roots in Open Space Technology which goes back to 1989
Is it a talking-shop?
No its NOT a talking-shop. A talking shop is normally used pejoratively and implies no useful outcome other than the airing of ones own ideas
A Knowledge Caf é is different in that everyone leaves enriched by a deeper level of understanding of the subject in question and is often inspired to act
Why is the Knowledge Caf é important?
The world is a 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 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!
What does a Knowledge Café do for the individual?
The Caf é assumes we have within ourselves a greater level of insight than we are conscious of
The Caf é helps tease this out
You hear yourself say things in Café conversations that you did not know that you knew
It crystallises our knowledge
New ideas are sparked
Fresh perspectives emerge ...
With increased observation and reflection comes understanding – this paves the way for change
What resources are needed to run a Knowledge Caf é?
Not a lot!
A group of people
A facilitator or host
A room with plenty of space
Tables & chairs to seat about five people per table
What do you need in the room?
Some formats have special requirements such as round tables, paper table cloths, felt tip pens, flowers on the table and coffee & biscuits
Gurteen Knowledge Cafés need none of these props but of course you could use them if available
Aim is to create a good ambience
Unthreatening and hospitable environment
How do you run one?
Knowledge Cafés can be run in different ways
I use a simple format
Runs for 90 minutes to a couple of hours
Work best with between 25 and 35 people
Can run a dozen people or as many as 100
But with some modifications
What's the process?
Facilitator takes 5 - 15 minutes to introduce the Knowledge Caf é and the theme
Purpose of the Knowledge Caf é is made clear
Facilitator poses an open ended question
Participants form into small groups of 4 or 5 to discuss the subject for 30 - 60 minutes.
Change tables 1,2 or 3 times
The group re-assembles for an exchange of ideas as a whole for 15 - 30 minutes
What subjects are covered?
Any subject can be addressed
Explore questions that matter to the participants
Normally explore only one theme
And pose only one question
What’s the role of the facilitator?
Facilitator need not be a specialist
Nor disciplined in facilitation
Simply a good listener and chairperson skills
Facilitator should not take a lead in the discussions
Should wander around and listen into the groups
Should listen out for problems and remind people gently of the rules of ‘dialogue’
What’s the role of the individual?
Theodore Zeldin : to be prepared to emerge a slightly different person
To see people with different views not as adversaries but as resources from which we can learn
To enter into open conversation
To listen more than speak
To welcome differences
To withhold judgment
To avoid position taking
To avoid being too politically correct
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
People share their perspectives with the group only if they wish to
How does the large group sit?
Bring everyone back into a relatively tight group so that every one can easily see and hear each other
Only use microphones if absolutely necessary as they inhibit the natural flow of the conversation
How does the whole group work?
Individuals asked to remember that their comments are for the whole group and not for the facilitator.
The objective is to hold a ‘group conversation’
The facilitator needs to work at encouraging this
Plays a low key role – not the expert
Turn away, even hide!
How does the facilitator work with the whole group?
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
Connects diverse perspectives
How do you record the outcomes of a Knowledge Café?
The Café is fundamentally about the transfer of TACIT knowledge – not about making tacit knowledge explicit but
If you record things you should avoid disrupting or influencing the conversation in anyway
You could make audio or video recordings but I would advise against it
Participants should not be burdened with recording as they need to be fully engaged in the conversation
Best to appoint an external person to take notes
Lets run a Knowledge Cafe
Café Conversation How do we encourage more conversation in our organizations?
Applications of the Café
ISN Knowledge Café The knowledge café has led to a dramatic improvement in terms of inter-team dialog, collaboration and knowledge sharing. Many internal work processes are now being overhauled for the better as a result of these knowledge cafes and we have seen an explosion of new ideas and initiatives on the part of staff at all levels of the organization. Simply put, the knowledge cafe format has empowered all our staff to speak up and take the initiative in ensuring the successful development of the ISN. Chris Pallaris, Chief Editor ISN, Zurich
Café for a UK government body
Day long workshop
3 presentations on social tools
A knowledge Café
Future leaders in the group
Future leaders determine an action plan
Canal Boat Café
On canals in Amsterdam
At end of week of workshops & visits
To help summarise the week
And develop plan for action
Trinidad & Tobago Oil and Gas
Series of Cafes to bring experts who were leaving together with younger members of organization to transfer knowledge
In a café on an allotment
Discussion of preferred technologies
Exchange views on experiences
But not called a Knowledge Cafe
Tips and techniques
Topic that everyone feels passionate about
Only ONE question
Open ended question
The question is only a seed
OK to go off topic
Conversation as close to a conversation at the pub or over dinner
Speaker and facilitator need not be the same
Facilitator: involved/not involved
Speakers can be controlling or dominant
Often run over time
Need to brief and handle carefully
Important to be yourself
Do not control
Experiment a little
Take some risks
Don’t be afraid of silence
If you let people talk and leave them alone you cannot go far wrong
Need not be a room
Boat on Thames
Canal Boat (long boat in Amsterdam)
Knowledge Walk/BBQ (Greenwich)
Outside under sunshades (Scottsdale)
An actual café (London & Barcelona)
Small round tables
Paper/toys on tables
Holding in a lecture theatre
Difficult but not impossible
Problem of moving between groups
Problem of whole group conversation
Need for microphones
Avoid if possible
Will need them if group larger than 40
Maybe less if poor acoustics
People hold on to them
Kills the flow of conversation
One for yourself and at least 2 roving mikes
Avoid fixed mikes (Jakarta)
Not as difficult as it seems
Ask people to sit with others they do not know
Change groups once, twice at most 3 times
People do not like changing groups
Don’t force them!
Kuala Lumpur story
Where you need facilitation skills
People will report back out of habit
Or ask you questions
In some cultures best to let them
Even for some groups let them
Central bank librarians story
Unless in expert mode do not join in too much
Tolerate silence – pause and wait
I have run the Cafes in many different countries
UK, Spain, Norway, Moscow
Won’t change tables
Won’t go for coffee
Ideally one common language
Let people speak in their own language in small groups
Can’t listen in!
Common language (English) in whole group
Even own language in whole group
Use of translators
Serial or concurrent
If expert mode then join in
If facilitation mode then try not to
Wander around and actively listen
Observe for issues
Watch, think, be prepared to adapt
No need to summarise at length
Keep it short and simple
Where can I learn more about Knowledge Cafés?
There are a lot of resources on the web
My website contains a vast amount of material
The World Café
Book The World Café: Shaping our futures through conversations that matter