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More Than a Feeling: Emotions and Knowledge Management


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Presentation by Matt Moore to the SIKM Leaders Community on October 20, 2020

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More Than a Feeling: Emotions and Knowledge Management

  1. 1. More Than A Feeling: Emotions and Knowledge Management Matt Moore 20 Oct 2020
  2. 2. Matt Moore • An Industry Fellow at University of Technology Sydney. • Over 20 years of experience working in knowledge management with organisations such as PwC, IBM, Oracle and ASIC. • Also worked in Learning & Development, Marketing, IT Management, Sales Operations, Project Management. • NOT a psychologist.
  3. 3. Agenda • Some talking • Breakout discussion 1 • Breakout discussion 2 • Wrap up
  4. 4. Back in the pre-history of May 2019 The thing I want to find out is: "What is the most confronting and challenging question for the knowledge management community? What is our biggest fear?" Now "Is KM dead?" is not allowed. That question has reached a similar stage to the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch for me ("probably pining for the fjords"). I am interested in opportunities. But I am also interested in fears. Because people don’t want to talk about them and yet they are hugely important, and they drive a lot of human behavior. I often think that people are more defined and driven by their biggest fears (of being poor, being alone, being incompetent, getting sick, dying) than their biggest hopes. So it is important to acknowledge and understand these powerful impulses rather than deny them. I don’t want to stay with fears (and I do want to talk about hopes) but I do want to start there. So here are a few to get things started. Some KM fears: • No one powerful cares about knowledge and what we do any more (if they ever did). • The technologists are actually right and people don’t actually matter. • We end up in cycle of applying the same partially successful techniques to the same organizational problems forever (like Groundhog Day). “In general, Americans prefer high arousal, pleasant states.” – Lisa Feldman Barrett
  5. 5. The SIKM discussion group Many thanks to: Robert Bogue Aprill Allen Denis Thomas Nancy Dixon Murray Jennex John Lewis Patrick Lambe Rezwan Alam Denise Senmartin (KM4Dev) Stephen Bounds Nirmala Palaniappan Mahrukh Hasan Chris Collinson Chuck Georgo Thomas J. Froehlich Bill Kaplan Tom Short Arthur Shelley
  6. 6. Why are we doing this? “I’m not clear that emotions are what you’re after here, Matt. To what end does exploring that add to our understanding as practitioners?” “I have to say that I somewhat disagree with the assertion that emotions are "rarely talked about" in KM. Is that your experience? In mine, most facilitation and KM related strategies and activities take into account emotions, including our own, to connect, build trust, and from there share/manage knowledge.”
  7. 7. 3.25 knowledge human or organizational asset enabling effective decisions and action in context Note 1 to entry: Knowledge can be individual, collective or organizational. Note 2 to entry: There are diverse views on the scope covered within knowledge, based on context and purpose. The definition above is general as to the various perspectives. Examples of knowledge include insights and know-how. Note 3 to entry: Knowledge is acquired through learning or experience.
  8. 8. Emotions “An emotion is an organized system of feelings, physiological responses, bodily expressions, and action tendencies that flow from an almost instantaneous appraisal of a current situation’s relevance to the individual” (Fisher 2019) (Scherer 2005)
  9. 9. Terms • Affect – Related to emotions – sometimes a simple state of feeling. • Mood – Longer term, diffuse emotional states. • Valence – Pleasant vs Unpleasant (happy vs upset) • Arousal – High vs Low (elated vs peaceful)
  10. 10. • Emotions are “constructed” by our brains and bodies. • Emotions are not discrete things. • Emotions are not separate from reason. • Culture impacts how our emotions are formed – and how we make sense of them. • Multiple physical systems and brain areas are involved in emotional responses. • There is not a one-to-one match for a part of the brain and an emotion (e.g. fear and amygdala). • We are worse at reading emotions in others than we think.
  11. 11. “We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason. Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”
  12. 12. Emotions in Organisations “For many years emotions in the workplace were ignored altogether or were regarded as irrational. Hence, they had no place in organizations that were thought to be bastions of rationality, or they were considered merely a source of annoying unreliability in the reporting of more stable work attitudes and perceptions.” (Fisher 2019)
  13. 13. Emotions in Organisations • Emotional Intelligence (EI) as “a thing”. • Happiness / Wellness / Positive Psychology • Awareness of mental health issues (RUOK Day) • Employee Engagement • Behavioural Economics / Naturalistic Decision-Making • Social Media - changing our public performance of emotion
  14. 14. which-do-you-need-to-work-on
  15. 15. •Visceral – an initial reaction to a design •Behavioural – function, understandability, usability, physical feel •Reflective – retrospective memory and reassessment
  16. 16. What does the literature say? Hornung & Smolnik 2018
  17. 17. Hornung et al 2020
  18. 18. What has my experience been? • Knowledge manager as emotional laboror (Hochschild). • Reading emotions in terms of debriefing teams to collect knowledge – and the importance of negative space. • Managing the emotions of a community – giving people permission to feel. • Managing anxiety during times of change. • Knowing who will “click” with who to create and share knowledge. • Saying what everybody is feeling. • Not saying something in front of other people. • Forging connections with people and alienating others.
  19. 19. How might we manage the emotions of others as knowledge managers? •Think about the time you witnessed a display of emotion in the workplace (or surprising lack of emotion). •What was the context? •How did you react? •What did you learn from that?
  20. 20. How might we design our KM products and programs to account for emotion? •Think of a work initiative or a software tool that has provoked an emotion in you – good or bad. •Why did it provoke that emotion in you? •What did you learn from that?
  21. 21. Extra References • David Hume. Treatise on Human Nature. • Alan S. Cowen, Dacher Keltner. Varieties of reported emotional experience. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sep 2017, 114 (38) E7900-E7909; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1702247114 • Fisher, C. D. (2019). Emotions in organizations. In R. J. Aldag (Ed.), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Business and Management Oxford University Press. • Scherer KR. What are emotions? And how can they be measured? Social Science Information. 2005;44(4):695-729. doi:10.1177/0539018405058216 • Hornung, O., & Smolnik, S. (2018). It’s Just Emotion Taking Me Over: Investigating the Role of Emotions in Knowledge Management Research. In Proceedings of the 51st Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. DOI: 10.24251/HICSS.2018.512 • Hornung, O et al (2020) Inspired by Emotions, Guided by Knowledge: Which Emotional Cues Dominate Knowledge Management Research? In Proceedings of the 53rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. DOI: 10.24251/HICSS.2020.573