Can Experts Teach? Well, Sometimes…

aaron-ang-61849   Yesterday I met for coffee with an expert in operational efficiency. He runs workshops, and he observed that the experts he has met have trouble teaching what they know. He said the best teachers are people who are middling performers – people he described as performing at 60 to 80 percent of someone who is excellent.

Because middling performers have had to work so hard to be good enough, they understand how to acquire their craft, skill or knowledge. They know the steps so well because they figured them out so they could attempt to replicate greatness.

Greatness, on the other hand, just is. And people who are great, just are. They can’t tell you how they do what they do because it is instinctual and innate. Therefore, my coffee companion concluded, it is pretty hard to get a great person to teach a class or teach anyone anything effectively.

This observation is the basis for the Working with SMEs book in which I describe the innately great person as an unconscious competent, they don’t even know what they know, so they have trouble telling others. The book explains why the conscious competent –  the person who knows what they know and how they learned it – is the best teacher of a craft, skill or knowledge. In their struggles, the conscious competent has put the building blocks in place to acquire something valuable.

We can probably all think of exceptions to this situation, but for the most part, he was correct.

Mel Torme – arguably one of the greatest jazz singers of all time – recorded a master class for PBS in the early 1960s where he described some of his technique. On the other hand, when you observe his face and mouth, and listen to his tone, you know how much of what he did was purely instinctive and based somewhere in his soul.

Imagine Picasso teaching someone how to paint. Then look at Guernica and imagine the mind that conceived those images. That greatness came deep from within his soul, and went far beyond paint, brush and canvas to the very meaning of existence.

For a genius in the world of science, read Ray Kurzweil who imagined artificial intelligence and leads humanity to the next level of possibility through technology.

Hard to teach that kind of inspiration.

To find a teacher, look for someone who has broken down the components of a piece of greatness into replicable chunks.

To find your own greatness, look deep inside yourself and find your truth. Everyone is a great something, and your soul knows what that is.

Photo by Aaron Ang on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

Vantage Point of the Expert Takes You Out of the Instructional Design Box

ben-white-197668  Twice this week, experts around me reminded me about the unique way they see the world and how it impacts the way their knowledge gets passed on.

In fact, twice this week I faced experts with important lifetimes of knowledge within them who had thought deeply about how best to package and move that information beyond them to others who can benefit from it. In both cases, their solutions are unique and complex but necessary to the tasks they have set forth.

Touchy-Feely

One communications expert is searching for ways to teach his very unique skill set to the several generations behind him. Like any skill, acquiring and mastering it takes physical practice. The value of his method has been proven over decades and he is recognized for his system by world-class organizations. But beyond the one-on-one practice sessions where he teaches his system, the long view requires setting up a practice pattern among participants until the habit is engrained in the students and the system is part of a culture.

In a world where we communicate mostly via smartphones and computers, it is increasingly difficult to engage people for extended periods of time in face-to-face human interaction. Yet in a time of increased human-to-device interface, the human interaction required for interpersonal skill practice has never been more important.

The basic skill set requires two humans –  not a human and a computer-based role play or a human and a disembodied AI voice. While those two options were my first thoughts, this expert makes it clear that the lessons to be taught and the skills to be learned require human beings involved in the process over time.

This expert’s dilemma highlights that learning technologies won’t fit all needs, and we are faced with the limitations of moving this type of skill to an online platform.  Only the expert understands his system well enough to transfer it, and he has come to realize that he will need something akin to 12 disciples who can carry the practice forward by geometrically dispersing the interpersonal skill practice required.

By the Book

The second expert is a process genius. Quite simply, he sees patterns in numbers and relationships where others only see isolated data. He has a lifetime of imposing order on what others perceive to be random information, and doing it in a way that saved and makes corporations many times over his value as a consultant.

Today, as he considers retirement, he is assembling his lifetime of knowledge into a searchable database of information. Each individual business insight is broken down into steps. The project will involve 100 or more related experts before it is through.

This challenge is more about organization than content, as the actual content is straightforward. However, each bit of information relates to the whole in several ways which creates an interwoven matrix of content that must be easily cross-referenced.

The Expert Knows Best

Two experts. Two radically different areas of expertise. And two completely different approaches to capturing, storing and transferring knowledge.

Proving once again, working with experts is as individual as their knowledge, their backgrounds, and the unique characteristics of what they have to offer. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions when you are working with true experts with a lifetime of knowledge, skills and attitudes that led to great success. They have put a lot of thought into developing their areas of expertise, many hours teaching others, they know what works, and it pays to follow their instincts when you are capturing it for posterity.

Sometimes your expert is the best source for how to transfer what they know. Best not to try to squeeze them into an instructional design box because their expertise just won’t fit.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

The Ultimate Knowledge Management CQI Process for Organizational Leaders

imagesQC7VSL6F.jpg     Knowledge management is an ongoing, living process.

Ideally, it is part of the knowledge management component of your larger business continuity strategic plan. Using the concept of continuous quality improvement, these six-steps reinforce the idea that your knowledge management process is iterative; you will revisit your decisions in the future, make new ones, and change your tactics to align with evolving business strategy.

Also, it is helpful to recognize that parts of the cycle are always in play somewhere in your organization. As you think about your knowledge management plan, consider the 6 Steps of CPI Knowledge Management framework to review the value of the assets you will dedicate your finite resources to preserve.

6 Steps of Continuous Process Improvement Knowledge Management

  1. Discover and uncover KSAs. Drill down to identify the knowledge, skills and attitudes that make your company unique by uncovering your Competitive Advantages.
  2. Categorize critical information. Distinguish among critical information that makes your company, product or service unique in the marketplace, essential information that is general to your industry but necessary to operations, and non-essential information that is nice-to-have. Identify critical KSAs for business continuity.
  3. Search for internal experts. Find your internal experts who are the keys to your success and possess your critical information.
  4. Capture and preserve critical KSAs. Work with your internal experts to capture your critical knowledge, skills and attitudes using methods that authentically capture them and preserve them in a way that they can be transferred and replicated later.
  5. Transfer critical KSAs. Choose the best methods for transferring specific types of knowledge, skills and attitudes to others, especially relying on technology that you can reasonably expect will be available and usable in the future.
  6. Evaluate and refresh. Review your current critical KSAs against the backdrop of your long-term strategic plan considering the rapid pace of change. As you identify new critical KSAs, repeat this process to capture, preserve and transfer updated assets with the aid of your internal experts.

No, execution of this plan is not easy. However, your discipline in capturing your internal expertise is the lifeblood of your current and future success.

Each of these steps is more fully explored in the book, Finding Your SMEs.  Workshops and consulting are available to help you integrate this process into your strategic plan.

If you would like a copy of the 6 Steps of CPI Knowledge Management diagram, write to me at workingwithsmes@gmail.com and I will email a copy to you.

Please comment below and share your knowledge management challenges as we are always learning together.

 

 

From the Mailbag: Working with Generation Z or Post 9-11 Babies Go to Work

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In this space, we usually focus on the knowledge capture part of your knowledge management plan, specifically working with your soon-to-be-retirees so their expertise isn’t lost to some golf course in Tampa. The flip side of knowledge capture is transferring that information to generations two or three removed. That brings us to the realization that babies born after the year 2000 are entering the workforce this year.

And yes, they are different.

One of our faithful Working with SMEs tribe, Hal Alpiar from bucolic Cookeville, Tennessee, sent us an article entitled “What You Need to Know About Generation Z” with seven helpful tips for maximizing your Gen Z workforce. The article is from AMAC Small Business Solutions dated July 11, 2017, and Hal popped it in snail mail along with one of his cute refrigerator magnets “Are You Breathing?”. Hal is a marketing and training guru who occasionally pitches in around here with advice and support, including his business mentoring.

Here is an excerpt from the AMAC article which you can read in its entirety at this link:

“Much as Generation X didn’t get the same attention baby boomers did, [Generational expert David] Stillman believes the current focus on millennials could leave Generation Z feeling ignored and misunderstood…Stillman says the main thing to know about Gen Z is that they’re not like the millennials.

1.       They want frequent feedback. ..Quick check-ins can be plenty for Gen Z workers.

2.       They seek security…They’re willing to start at the bottom and work their way up, as long as they can expect job security in return.

3.       They’re very competitive…Generation Z employees are more likely to prefer working on their own.

4.       They want to personalize their jobs…The more flexibility and customization your company can offer these workers, the better.

5.       They may be entrepreneurs as well as employees…The ease of starting a side business today appeals to Gen Z’s desire for financial security…Try harnessing Gen Z’s entrepreneurial spirit to create new ideas , products or divisions for your business – and rewarding them for it financially.

6.       They suffer from FOMO. Constantly scanning social media to see what everyone else is doing, Generation Z is suffused with “fear of missing out”…Gen Z may prefer trying out many different jobs or moving laterally to gain new skills…

7.       They’re “phigital”…They expect your business to have the latest technology (just like they do in their personal lives). If you’re at all behind technologically, they’re not likely to want to work for you.”

As you create your knowledge management plan and consider your methods for information and data transfer, look at your youngest workers’ styles and preferences when you shape your knowledge management plan for Gen Z.  After all, they will be fully in charge of your business by the middle of this century.

Thanks to Hal for thinking of us. If you want one of Hal’s “Are You Breathing?” magnets, email him at hal@businessworks.us and tell him you heard about him at the Working with SMEs blog.

We look forward to your comments below.

Do Your Experts Have “Beginner’s Mind”?

203714“None of our men are ‘experts.’ We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job. A man who knows a job sees so much more to be done than he has done, that he is always pressing forward and never gives up an instant of thought to how good and how efficient he is. Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible. The moment one gets into the ‘expert’ state of mind a great number of things become impossible.”
Henry Ford

Henry Ford is also the entrepreneur who said if he had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said they wanted a faster horse.

Inventors, engineers, and designers around Ford had the luxury of the support of a boss who believed nothing is impossible. That frontier spirit imbues technology and business now. The world is awash in Fords.

The question is whether the world is also drowning in experts. And the answer is no. A true expert remains cutting edge, and we are accumulating knowledge at such a rapid pace the edge continues to move as you approach it. Your background, education and experience only qualify you for asking good questions in a world where knowledge doubles every two years.

Encouraging Beginner’s Mind

The beginner’s mind sees things as if for the first time. A new approach lives in the novelty. While Ford imagined his customers as the uninvolved and passive consumer, that is not the case today. What’s changed in the last 100 years is that we now encourage our developers and designers to stay close to the buyer and listen carefully to the voice of the customer. The consumer of the 21st century is educated, sophisticated and trained to challenge the status quo.

Your customers experience your products with beginner’s mind, and use them in some contexts you may not have imagined. Employees from sales to delivery to design and engineering are encouraged to stay close to the customer and listen for their responses and recommendations.

If your experts are truly living up to their name, they know less every day. But they are smart enough to know it.

Once again proving that Ford was a man quite a bit ahead of his time.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: One of our Working with SMEs tribe writes to me to relay the following: “The quote that leads your most recent SME mail. . .(t)hat is usually attributed to Roshi Suzuki, the guy who bought Zen to the US, with his book, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.” And “Beginner’s Mind” is a Zen concept.” Thanks, Joe! Nice to hear from you!

Preserving the Spark: Downsizing, Mergers, Buyouts and Other Knowledge Capture Triggers

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It’s one thing if your valuable employees leave you for another job or for retirement. That one thing is that you really had no control over the event. The decision and probably the date was the employee’s decision and your company had little control over the timing or the circumstances.

It is quite another thing when you plan your employees’ departure through downsizing, mergers and acquisitions, buyouts, cost-cutting, or some other self-imposed staff reduction. That other thing puts you in a position that gives you some control over timing and circumstances. When it is your decision, you can give yourself time to ensure an orderly off-boarding or separation that includes preserving your valuable knowledge assets.

If you are in a position to control your employees’ separation, take the opportunity to put organization-wide knowledge transfer plans in place. The day of the exit interview is not the time to find out what you need to know from them for business continuity.

When you are organizing a mass layoff or initiating any other planned employee departure:

  1. Create a list of mission-critical employees and dates of separation.
  2. Determine what they know as far in advance as possible – at least 3 to 6 months before their departure – so you aren’t blindsided by having them take two months of accrued vacation before their official departure date.
  3. Have a standardized plan and best practice for working with departing employees that includes collection methods, who is responsible for working with them, what assets you need based on their role, how and where the knowledge will be stored, and how it will be transferred and used by others.
  4. Ask departing employees to review and sign off on the knowledge.

Just because your organization is in a position to put a knowledge transfer plan into place does not necessarily mean that it will. Often, it is an individual employee who feels a sense of obligation to the company and sees the need for knowledge collection and transfer that may institute their own knowledge management plan.

Two Stories

Here are two stories that came to me recently of employees who took personal responsibility for knowledge management in their divisions.

Story One

One woman who read my book Finding Your SMEs: Capturing Knowledge from Retiring Workers Before They Leave several months ago said she told her brother about it who had just retired from a division of a global food manufacturer and distributor. He told her that he had seen the problem first hand. Before he retired last year, he took it upon himself to survey the knowledge within his division, collect and preserve it. He came up with his own plan to make sure he left his employer with the critical knowledge they would need to find after he was gone.

Story Two

I just spoke with another woman last week who said she oversees the knowledge management plan for a division of the federal government. She’s been traversing the country working her multi-year plan to capture what the unit will need long-term. Her plan and practices are confined to her division and we talked about the potential of standardizing her methods to other divisions.

“I started out in reactive mode,” she said. Now she describes her knowledge management plan as “an ecosystem. I’m always tweaking it.”

Her plan is all the more important now as the federal government is looking to reduce the workforce by 15 to 18 percent in the next year through attrition and buyouts. She said her 25 years with the department makes her eligible for a buyout, but she wants to stick around and finish the job she has started. She expects to stay with the division about five more years to put something solid in place.

“I am trying to leave a legacy to help the agency after I’m 10 feet under,”  she said.

Wow.

Good as Gold

When you have employees who are looking out for your business continuity, those people can be the lifeblood of your business tomorrow.

If you don’t have a standard approach to knowledge management, support the efforts of those people who are looking out for you and doing the hard work of putting your knowledge management plan in place. Consider adopting and adapting their best practices to the rest of your organization.

These people are good as gold. Mine them.

 

 

Strategic Planning, Strategic Thinking and A Zen Mind Trick

Last week, we talked about critical thinking as a type of expertise, one that you can teach and grow quickly within your organization. One of the greatest values that a true critical thinker can bring to the organization is the ability to look without fear or favor at all parts of your business. That requires turning a bright light on a series of questions that will illuminate where you are and where your business is headed.

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Your big picture thinking about your business and industry needs to include your knowledge management plan or, more specifically, what expertise you need to bottle and preserve to keep your organization running.

When it comes to your knowledge management plan, you need unblinking honesty about the state of your business and industry. Because, quite frankly, not everything or everyone that got you here will get you there. The future is moving faster than the average long-term plan, which is why long term planning has fallen out of favor to agile product development and rapid prototyping. Plans be d*****d. Your competitors have something coming off the proverbial drawing boards that can send your product off in another direction, or off the market completely.

A Zen Mind Trick

An article in SmartBrief this week, Learn the Art of Avoiding Action for the Sake of Action, highlighted the difference between strategic planning and strategic thinking, and author Adriano Pianesi states, “Perhaps we’re ‘in the know’ enough to recognize that many consider the discipline of strategic planning to have long gone the way of the dinosaurs.”

Instead, he advocates strategic thinking as a response to the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world in which we conduct business and live. It’s a world that requires a bias toward action, informed action, but action nonetheless. Let me suggest it is informed action that still requires the type of long-view thinking more characteristic of strategic planning than agile rapid-response iteration.

I am a fan of rapid-response iteration within context. And it is that context that is driven from a deep understanding and analysis of the factors driving your business, your industry and the larger environment that is characteristic of strategic planning.

Critical thinking skills among leaders produce good decisions made within a framework that makes sense based on everything you know, and takes into consideration all the things you don’t know which is a Zen mind trick. And the list of things you don’t know grows longer every day, making those critical thinking skills even more critical.

Pivot and live to see another day.

Strategic Planning for Knowledge Management Course for the Working with SMEs Tribe: This is a Test

In our ever-expanding quest to spread the Working with Subject Matter Experts gospel, we test platforms beyond the blog  to get the message out. This week, we created a test course, Strategic Planning for Knowledge Management.

As a writer, I love to write so that is my go-to communication method. But you absorb information in different ways, so we like to play with other formats to help reach you and teach you where you’re at. We enjoy creating the podcasts and will probably keep them going in some fashion after our first season. In the meantime, I am developing a series of online courses and thought I would share a 10-minute sample of an introductory course with you here for your feedback.

Because this is a test, I realize the lighting and framing of the video is poor. That is the fault of me, the user, and my Internet connection. The actual platform and technology is really cool  and if you like the idea, I will refine it and spend some time improving the video on my end.

Content: Is this information helpful?

Audience: Will leaders in your organization find the information useful?

Format: Would this online course suffice in place of live workshops?

Value: Would you like to drill down in this topic of strategic planning for knowledge management and learn more about how to find your experts using this framework?

Platform: How about the platform? Do you like the slides plus video? Would it be helpful to add the text so you can follow along and read it (Of course, we will make formal courses 508 Compliant)? Would slides plus just audio voiceover be better?

We continue to welcome your comments and feedback. Some of you choose to reach out directly to us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com and that works for us, too. We read everything and respond.

Thanks for following and sharing this information with others.

 

Training Coordinator, Project Manager and Instructional Designer – Who’s Who?

As a project matures, roles may become blurred. Often, it makes sense as the strengths of some bleed over into related roles, and other team members reach capacity. Smart teams are flexible and adapt to get the job done well no matter the role to which each person is officially assigned.

For teams who are building training programs, often team members grow from one role into another so they can overlap  serving as writers, designers, graphic artists, project managers, team leads and client managers.  The Training Coordinator is a person who has often walked in many of those shoes.

A Training  Coordinator combines several roles and goes beyond them.

A project manager plans and conducts events, coordinating  the people and the schedule to accommodate tasks and mitigate risk. An instructional designer oversees responsibility for the way a program will be executed to meet the needs of the client. A Training  Coordinator does all those things – and more.

A coordinator works closely with the client to conduct the needs analysis and is involved in planning how to meet those needs, understands and oversees all the roles involved in the project, and can work with the designers, artists, writers and experts who are working together to create a great program. A Training Coordinator is the main client interface, and the role goes beyond management and building training to acting as the conductor of the movement.

The coordinator has strong people in each role, and it is a task that requires laying your reins on loose so everyone can excel at their jobs. In fact, we might posit that a Training Coordinator is almost invisible but has a strong vision.

If you have used the role of Training Coordinator in a project, we’d love to hear from you.

What worked? What didn’t? What could you have done better or what could you have eliminated from the role? What is the best background for someone acting as the Training Coordinator?

We’re learning together, and we enjoy hearing your experiences.

Thanks for reading! Please comment below.

If We Develop Artificial Intelligence, Do You Still Need Your Experts?

 

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The writer in me loves to read everything, and especially books. Last weekend, I read Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money by Nathaniel Popper about the origin and history of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain. It is a well-written and fascinating read by the New York Times reporter, and is full of tales about Internet legends like Reid Hoffman and the Winklevoss twins.

Here’s the interesting part for people like us who are worried about capturing current internal expertise for future business growth. One of the major concerns of workers is that they will be replaced by robots, and it is a legitimate concern because it happens every day. Business owners are always looking for ways to do things more consistently, efficiently and cheaply, and robotics solves that problem. However, when you replace humans, you also introduce the problem of displaced workers. The social implications are astounding so we won’t go there. But we will look at two things to think about as the uptake of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) affects capturing internal expertise:

  1. If you plan to “hire” robots to do the jobs of humans, you may conclude you don’t need to capture human knowledge. Human skills are so “Encyclopedia Britannica”. Those companies looking toward the future are living in the gap, waiting for the next wave of industrialization that antiquates their current business model and their need for training humans.
  2. If you eliminate human workers, how do you pay robots? I figured robots are a capital expense like buildings and machinery but believe it or not, economists are now working out how to pay for the “labor” of robots which puts them in the category of “worker”. AI robots may be your experts of the future.  This is where cryptocurrency comes in. You can “pay” robots in cryptocurrency. It’s right there in the book Digital Gold on page 294.

“Like many [Silicon] Valley firms, Andreesen’s was thinking about intelligent robots, and Bitcoin seemed like a perfect medium of exchange for two machines that needed to pay each other for services.”

Breathe.

This caught my attention because it is clear a lot of the forward-thinkers who are instituting new systems of work, the economy, the social structure, and so on are pondering these questions. If they succeed, theoretically it frees the rest of us to be creative and pursue our passions while being supported by a basic income supplied – I assume – by the robots’ productivity.

Seriously, people are having these discussions right now. You may have heard Mark Zuckerberg called for Universal Basic Income (UBI) in his Harvard Commencement address last week. It’s a real thing. The robots work, get paid in cryptocurrency, are potentially taxed on their labor and we get paid from the labor of robots to take macramé classes. I don’t know about you, but I’m bored just thinking about it.

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I Don’t Digress

You may think I digress from our regularly scheduled topic of capturing and retaining your corporate subject matter expertise. This actually is not a digression at all. This discussion is essential to our topic of whether human knowledge is important, essential, needs to be captured and carried on – or really has any value at all – in light of the rapid progress in robots and artificial intelligence. For those of us who follow developments in the training world, you know that we are learning how to train robots. I think they have made the leap that robots can now acquire learning that builds on prior knowledge – you know, the same way we silly old humans learn.

If you believe the future is here, you are right. If you believe you still have to operate in the present, you are also right.

For those of us still living in the pre-AI world before we all receive a Universal Basic Income, we need to continue to contend with the issues of knowledge capture, retention and transfer between generations of workers for the ongoing success of your enterprise.

Retaining Human Knowledge Until the Robots Take Over

If your experts flee to retirement or leave your organization for any other reason, you are still vulnerable to losing valuable knowledge, skills and attitudes to fulfill your mission effectively, efficiently and in a cost-responsible way today.

What are you doing right now to make sure you keep your expertise under your roof even if your experts leave?

Here’s what I can do to help you raise awareness about these issues in your organization:

  • Speak to your organization’s decision makers to help them analyze their risk of losing valuable expertise
  • Explore which workshops can help you dissect your organization for areas where you are vulnerable to losing your critical experts
  • Help you identify and work with individual experts in your organization

Think about it.

Until the robots take over, you still need a plan!

Are you vulnerable to losing valuable human expertise? Is your company living in the present, the past or the future? Please comment below.