From the Twitterverse: The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills

Capture Okay. I admit it. I love Twitter. I often find out what is happening in the world by following news and information threads.  See #RedSox, for example. But not this week.

The Twitterverse is teaming with inspirational quotes, opportunities to peer quickly into the minds of others (for good or ill!) and creates a place for community and conversation.

The other day I caught this quote from Einstein posted by a Boston University professor:

Told of Edison’s view that a knowledge of facts was vitally important, Einstein disagreed. “A person doesn’t need to go to college to learn facts. He can get them from books. The value of a liberal arts college education is that it trains the mind to think. And that’s something you can’t learn from textbooks.”

Einstein’s quote was never more true in this age of burgeoning information. Replace the word “books” with “the internet”, then replace the word “textbooks” with “a search engine”, and it is obvious that this sentiment is truer today than when it was spoken nearly 100 years ago.

This dramatic uptick in information is evident in the way companies choose  which information to store and transfer, and affects the types of skills and training that the modern corporation must encourage to grow and prosper. Today, a company’s money is well spent on teaching discernment about the relative merit of almost limitless information and on educating employees about the application of the relevant to the task at hand.

Translation for your corporate knowledge management plan:

1. Discern what information is critical and particular to your organization

2. Spend your finite resources to preserve and transfer that information to your employees

3. Spend the rest of your training dollars teaching people how to think, discern, and apply what they know to your challenges

Take it from Einstein.

[Thanks to Boston University Professor of International Studies Vesko Garcevic for the Tweet. Follow @VeskoGarcevic ]

 

Until Robots Make Humans Obsolete, What’s Your Plan?

davide-ragusa-277

According to futurist Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, he estimated back in 2001 that knowledge will double every 12 months in this century. With such rapid proliferation of knowledge, it begs the question how long experts remain so and what bits of information are important, essential, need to be captured and carried on – or really have 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.  Research is making the leap so 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. However, 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, we need to continue to contend with the issues of human knowledge capture, retention and transfer between generations of workers for the ongoing success of your enterprise. What and how you capture, preserve and transfer information will change over time, which is a different discussion. For now, consider that you have knowledge under your roof that is the lifeblood of your organization today and preserving it against an imminent loss of expertise remains crucial.

Making a Plan to Retain 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 their 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 you can do about these issues in your organization today:

  • Raise awareness. Speak to your organization’s decision makers to help them analyze their risk of losing valuable expertise
  • Get a plan. Explore methods to help you dissect your organization for areas where you are vulnerable to losing your critical experts
  • Work your plan. Identify and capture intelligence from individual experts in your organization

Think about it. Until the robots take over, you still need to rely on the humans that got you where you are.

In my book Finding Your SMEs: Capturing Knowledge From Retiring Subject Matter Experts in Your Organization Before They Leave, I lay out a pathway to dissect your organization, find your experts, decide where to spend your finite resources to preserve knowledge and explore options for preserving and transferring knowledge in an age of rapid change in technology and the way we learn.

Contact us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com to schedule a call to discuss capturing expertise as part of your knowledge management plan.

Photo courtesy of Davide Ragusa 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.

 

 

Mass Layoffs and Your Knowledge Capture Plan

bench-accounting-49908  Yesterday, I had the privilege of presenting a webinar to ITMPI, an organization that provides project management support for IT professionals. Our topic was Three Strategies for Capturing Retiring Expertise, and as is always the case, I learn a lot from the participants. Yesterday, the questions gave me a glimpse into some of the challenges they face.

In particular, some companies need to capture knowledge from large groups of people at the same time due to anticipated layoffs. When one company is encountering an issue, I expect other organizations face it, too. That makes it a ripe topic for discussion here.

Several large organizations I have spoken with over the past few months are doing mass knowledge capture assignments, one with 6,000 internal research scientists and another with engineers across a national system. These knowledge transfer challenges require process and standardization to make sure the work is done consistently and catalogued in a logical way. Most of this work requires tedious planning and particular execution.

The issue presented by yesterday’s webinar participants goes beyond those of systemized planning, organization and execution because the question is: How do you gather knowledge from experts en masse in anticipation of a round of layoffs? No matter how well you plan your knowledge capture efforts, you will encounter some resistance and resentment due to the nature of their separation. Most likely, some of the experts you are working with under these conditions are unwilling and unhappy.

In Working With SMEs, we discuss ways to handle The Reluctant SME and other experts who do not have the time or inclination to share their wisdom. But the problem of capturing knowledge from a group of people who are being separated adds a layer of complexity to the interaction.

While you can’t overcome the feelings of employees who are being laid off, you can implement a few strategies to help you work with them in a manner that is sensitive and respectful of their situation. They are, after all, facing at least a job change and at most a period of unemployment. They aren’t happy campers, but you can help set up a campground that smooths their transition.

Here are a few common sense ways to deal with capturing knowledge from a group of employees who are facing layoff:

1.       Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening by avoiding the obvious, but don’t dwell on it either. You can’t solve the problem but you can empathize with workers. “I know this is hard for you. I (or my wife) was really scared when I (she) was laid off a few years ago.” Feeling understood helps reduce the sting for anyone who is angry, depressed or fearful.

2.       Try to structure their remaining weeks or months to allow for some dedicated knowledge capture time so you don’t add the burden of another task to their regular workload while you are expecting them to continue to do their jobs effectively. Adding one more straw to the camel’s back can only increase their resentment and reduce their willingness to participate in your knowledge capture efforts.

3.       Consider adding a bonus for working with the company to capture information about their role.

4.       When the laid off group is large and concentrated, implement a corporate communications plan that informs employees about the company’s knowledge management plan and any other relevant information they need to know about their remaining time with the company. When people know what is going on, it reduces the rumor mill’s ability to cause strife and increases trust with supervisors and managers with whom the worker has relationships.

5.       If, and only if, the workers may be called back, remain positive about keeping the company functioning and vital during their layoff period so it has the greatest chance of success. 

When you are capturing information from experts who are not just reluctant – but being reluctantly separated from your organization – you face special management issues that go beyond implementing a good process for knowledge capture. If you have faced a similar challenge in your organization and would like to share your experiences, please comment below.

The World’s Oldest Profession

janko-ferlic-302273

The world’s oldest profession is not what you think! Training is actually the world’s oldest profession. When the first human babies popped out of the first human mamas, the mamas immediately ramped up knowledge, skills and attitudes transfer. I wasn’t there and haven’t actually seen this documented, but it is a fairly safe bet. If mama didn’t transfer her acquired wisdom to her child, the species would not have survived. And therein lies the foundation for my assumption.

You can eat this, it’s safe.

Stay away from that animal, it’s dangerous.

Put one foot in front of the other like this.

And don’t forget to put your napkin in your lap and start with the silverware on the outside of your place setting.

Mamas have been keeping babies safe and viable in their environment by imparting acquired wisdom from the beginning of time. So I rest my case. Training is the world’s oldest profession.

Extending this example, critical just-in-time information is the heart of training.

Early childhood learning is all about see one-do one: Tie your shoes by bringing this loop around.

Early childhood learning is about immediate feedback: I told you not to touch the stove!

Early childhood learning is about mentoring: Next time she teases you, tell her how she makes you feel.

Just-in-Time Learning Works

Early childhood learning relies on these strategies in the moment because they work. Those same methods have served industrial and business knowledge, skills and attitudes transfer since we hammered out the second wheel. Again, I wasn’t there but it is a safe assumption that the human who smoothed out the rough edges on the first wheel figured out a plan for replicating the process and told the next person. And it became the way it was done.

Early childhood education from mother to child is about the value of short, demonstrative, and immediate learning opportunities.

In the fashion of the watchful caregiver, the uptake of just-in-time educational videos and smartphone reminders allows employees to have tutors and mentors at their fingertips all day long. The training industry is learning how to take advantage of this development in on-demand learning. Short video and electronic smartphone snippets of on-the-job training and reminders are sophisticated extensions of the old fashioned paper job aid posted in a work station.

These electronic job aids provide heretofore impossible access to experts. No matter what your experts do for you, whether she is the best assembler on the floor or he is the best accountant in your department, make sure they are documenting their actions using short, transferable snippets because all the pieces of their aggregated wisdom becomes the bedrock of knowledge transfer.

You can build larger and more intensive learnings from these pieces, but it is important to collect these learning components in situ.

Humans learn best in the moment, when they need it. Capturing and preserving information from experts to be accessed on an as-needed basis is the foundation of knowledge transfer for your organization.

What is your experience of using JIT learning? We welcome comments below.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Janko Ferlic, Koper, Slovenia

 

When Accuracy Counts: Talking to Experts with Differing Opinions and Preserving Truth

640px-Colosseum_in_Rome,_Italy_-_April_2007

In my book Working with SMEs: A Guide to Capturing and Organizing Content From Subject Matter Experts,  I tackle the issue of what to do when competing experts tell different stories and, most troubling, when agendas among stakeholders obscure factual information.

The answer is: the when you are writing training for a client, the stakeholder paying the bill gets the last say. It is their company and their money; it isn’t your call to decide what gets captured and preserved as official knowledge within their organization. Of course, some knowledge is an undisputed matter of science or math and you can’t undo the realities of gravity or 1+1. But in any matter open to question, the payer’s perspective wins in a matter open to expert opinion.

Which leads me in a somewhat circuitous way to discuss a very sensitive topic on the minds of many people: Whether a society should manipulate evidence of its history to bend to the will of those in power or if a different standard applies when preserving the knowledge of human history.

Most rational and loving people (and I include all my readers in this group!) want to give everyone a fair shake. We work with and socialize with and have relationships with people of all backgrounds. The beautiful array of people in my universe has much more in common as leaders, coworkers, entrepreneurs, parents, lovers, friends and neighbors than they have differences. Our 24/7 global social network makes sure of that. My Mastermind group originates in Denmark and has members in at least a dozen countries with people of almost every background and, lo and behold, we are much, much more alike than we are different. We honor our uniqueness and the individual skill each of us brings to that party in no small measure because the group’s leader is vigilant about the generosity of spirit of each member.

Let’s face it, though. Human history demonstrates that not everyone in every time has been as accepting of others.

When Passions are Inflamed, Reason Flees

Human history is awash with stories of armed conquest, atrocities and man’s inhumanity to man. The evidence remains intact at the Colosseum in Rome, at the crematoria that stand as testament to the horrors of WWII death camps, and, yes, in the bone-laden killing fields around the world where despots wreaked death on millions of people in the name of some ideology. Those horrible monuments stand as silent screams to those events. The United States has some violent and inhumane history we do not want to repeat. When passions are inflamed, reason flees. We need to be reminded where we’ve been so we can avoid retreading that bloody ground.

As vendors of accuracy (ah, a new meme!), those who are tasked with recording knowledge and information for preservation are called on to record it all. Just the way it happened.  To the best of their ability. Representing all points of view and all versions of events. That way we can reproduce what works and avoid what does not work in the future. We can do more of the right thing and less of the wrong thing. In a recent blog, I discussed Henry Ford’s statement that he fired the experts because they knew all the ways things couldn’t be done. While we want to put new, fresh minds to work on innovation, it is a good idea to keep the old heads around to tell you where the landmines are, too. So it is with preservation of historic fact.

We have important books in our literature, books like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and  1984 by George Orwell where we are warned of the perils of obscuring or rewriting history. People with agendas who burn books are in a position to tell a new, albeit inaccurate and incomplete, story. As we are told, those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Despotic rulers and invading armies destroy the histories and culture of the places they invade so the people cannot retrace either their roots to preserve their strengths or remember their tragedies. The victors write the history books. To have a just, whole and open society, people need to have an accurate knowledge of all that has gone before – the good and the horrific.

By destroying or masking terrible truths, we doom ourselves to repeat them – and to be controlled by people who want to rewrite history for their own ends. Because we have ample evidence of the sordid underbelly of the monsters in history, we know what happens after the books are burned and history is obscured. Without those reminders, we are vulnerable to bad information and bad outcomes.

In writing training for a company, the stakeholder with the checkbook has the last word on content. As for the story of human history, each individual is an equal stakeholder so we need the most complete story we can assemble for a 360 degree view of reality. History tells us and literature warns us to beware of any group that wants to control the historical narrative.

Sunlight is a disinfectant. Let history stand as its own witness.

What do you think? Should all historical artifacts be preserved for accuracy? Or, do you think preservation of history suggests de facto approval of our most unsavory events? Please comment.

By Diliff available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colosseum

Valuable Knowledge Worth Preserving

neven-krcmarek-246988

From the turn of the 20th to the turn of the 21st centuries, humankind experienced the greatest leaps in technological advances in recorded history. From horse-drawn buggies to space travel, human intelligence and creativity took us from a plodding, linear existence to soaring, exponential possibilities. Books like Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock first chronicled this geometric explosion of knowledge to Peter Diamandis’ Bold and Abundance took us the rest of the way toward the melding of humans and machines to remake the humanity that brought us here.

No need to recount those books or to re-tread that ground here. Rather, recognize that the same human knowledge and creativity that got us here will get us there. So with the rapid acquisition of new knowledge – some estimates say knowledge now doubles every two years – it is important that we identify our journey and catalogue it individually and collectively.

We live in the greatest transfer of knowledge in all of human history.

The whole of human knowledge is a big bite for anybody, especially you and me operating in isolation. However, taken one person, one company, one organization at a time, we can preserve what we’ve done so we can replicate it. To many practitioners at the organizational level, that is a training function. But a full knowledge capture goes beyond the practical and immediate application of developing a training program for employees to continue best practices. Each organization has a history, a culture and knowledge that went before that may have lost its current relevance but not its importance. It is that broader vision of knowledge capture that this book addresses.

As we rapidly move toward artificial intelligence and computer-generated activities that simulate human functions, it behooves us more than ever to preserve the knowledge, skills and attitudes that makes us essentially human if for no other reason than to create an accurate history.

Having defined your vision and the mission, preserve corporate knowledge, assess your circumstance and judge the value of what you would labor and spend valuable resources to capture.

What valuable knowledge are you preserving?

Please comment below and tell us about your contribution to human wisdom.

Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

Are Traditional Experts and NextGen Experts Different?

 john-mark-kuznietsov-174918 1950s: The astrophysicist of yesteryear studied in relative isolation, probably in an exclusive school gleaning formulae from weighty tomes speaking almost exclusively among (usually) his limited universe of peers. Very few understood or related to his comprehension of relativity.

Today: The astrophysicist delivers online classes from MIT widely available on MOOC platforms watched by your curious and precocious 12-year-old. Your son or daughter jumps on social media to post a cool link to the lecture.  Friends “like” it or comment that s/he is a nerd or a rocket scientist or give your child some other widely acknowledged nod of approval. The NextGen astrophysicist is in the flow of like minds.

Two radically different cultural and educational milieu are going to produce two very different individuals. An experience of isolation and exception versus an experience of community and commonality will affect the human personality, both how they see themselves and how they see their place in the world.

A Traditional Expert will carry the experience all his life of being exceptional, being misunderstood and being isolated from the mainstream. A NextGen expert swims in the social flow connecting easily with peers from the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and Germany.

Not All Experts are Astrophysicists

The above example is extreme. Your experts will come from all backgrounds and fields of study. Your Traditional Expert may be the nurse who has been there for 30 years, the machinist who has run that lathe since he graduated from high school or the chemist in your lab who hasn’t looked up from his beaker since Reagan left office. All of them grew up in the same environment of relative isolation and exclusivity in their domain. That is, relative to the widely available, global and instantaneous communication and education of the NextGen of experts who will carry the torch of knowledge forward.

Due to the instantaneous communication and rapid proliferation of ideas, it is estimated that knowledge now doubles about every two years. That, too, changes the nature of experts because no expert remains one for very long.  

These changes have implications for learning, teaching and working styles that impact the way you collect and transfer expertise in your own organization.

Expect a few things from  NextGen Experts:

·         knowledge is widely dispersed and they are open and generous with their knowledge

·         experts commonly explain what they know openly and share it widely

·         expertise is not exclusive

·         knowledge not widely shared is not valuable

·         transfer of knowledge is open sourced and curated

·         learning is tailored to the task, the learner and the environment in which they apply it

What are differences you see between the Traditional Expert and the NextGen Expert? Please comment below.

 

Tag It and Carry On: Categorize and Simplify Complex Knowledge

ashton-mullins-138190

Experts know so much, so deeply, how could they ever explain it to you?

Fact is, your expert not only can explain it but when you guide them systematically, they can drop bread crumbs all along the learning path for you.

As training specialists, instructional designers or any other content developer tasked with capturing expertise, you can help your expert lead you toward a logical and easy-to-understand learning path. Some experts are hard wired to think sequentially and teach what they know, but others aren’t and that is where your guidance comes in handy.

In the beginning of your knowledge capture adventure, get a feel for the whole body of knowledge that you are wrangling. Lay out what you think is a logical path, and check with your expert. When you both agree on the parameters of the topic, create milestones, subcategories or some other measure that breaks up the material into easily digestible bites.

After you have agreed on the full scope of work and the units of measure, create a common language – or tag – for each part based on symbols, numbers, words or some other descriptor that allows both you and the learner to have a frame of reference for the sequence and internal relationship of the material to the whole. The tags create stationary markers or a taxonomy to guide you.

Create Tags

Ah, what did I just say?

I just said “create tags.”

When you and your expert have agreed upon the general scope of the content, create content tags to categorize the material. These tags, determined early in the process, give you both a way to know where something belongs as you collect information from your expert. It will also help you figure out what is most important and what kinds of information are secondary “nice-to-knows”.

Often your expert will think something is more important than you do. Your expert may insist certain things be included that will make the curriculum too long or too complicated for the level of learning expected. Your tags help you categorize and create a hierarchy for what is most essential to stay on the direct learning path.

You can always take secondary or non-essential information and add it to an appendix, glossary or pop-up. When you have created a learning path, it will help you both remain clear on what is most important and what information is supplementary or can wait for the next level of courses that you develop.

So, Tag it and Carry On.

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

gemma-evans-136507

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.