7th April marks day 1 of the Knowledge sharing workshop in Asia. The third among three different workshops being organised back to back with foci ranging from capturing stories, writing them and sharing , this one focused on the sharing aspect. Primarily geared at IFAD staff in the Asia Pacific, the workshop also has local participants from Nepal who are at loggerheads with participants and resource persons (read facilitators) from FAO, IFAD, KM4DEV, ICIMOD among others. The group is diverse with various nationalities from Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Having missed the “tagging” ice breaker session altogether, I and a few colleagues just made it to Lucie Lamoureux’s presentation on Knowledge sharing, as she came to a close. Surmising from the closing remarks and with further help from my neighbours (at the table) I found out that she touched base on the distinction between data, information and knowledge (not the same as most of us put them to be). She also went further to introduce the concepts of kinds of knowledge –tacit (in our minds), and explicit (that can be codified), and the benefits of sharing knowledge.
In the discussion led by Chase Palmeri and Lucie that followed, participants highlighted that for the private sector, sharing knowledge often has pitfalls. For instance, an employee may be penalised for sharing (read leaking) financial information.
Some reflected that a similar nature is often experienced in the non profit and multilateral organisations as well, where policy ascertains what may be shared internally, what may be made available to partners and what information/data is to be divulged to the public. Other bottlenecks reiterated by participants in knowledge sharing were instances where staff from most diplomatic missions and intergovernmental organisations were discouraged from speaking in public fora as more often than not, their opinion is taken as their organisation’s. One participant questioned whether a knowledge sharing strategy/method exists that has senior management sharing more with the field level staff. The facilitators played it safe, and responded that perhaps the senior management were engaged in tasks that were more important and needed immediate attention as opposed to a briefing to all staff. The briefing can wait! J
The facilitators demonstrated a live “chat/talk show” where an experienced host enacted by Chase, hosted a “chat show” with three participants posing as guests, in front of the remaining participants who played audience. This was a first for me as I half-expected all the participants to be asked to log in to a chat room and type away on the keyboard. J
“Chat shows” are supposedly taking ground over the conventional panel presentations, where the panel chair has lesser control over the extent and length of the powerpoints shared with the plenary. Perhaps a newer (better?) alternative to the panel presentation, I observed the chat show host direct questions, and steer the conversation often interrupting the guests in mid sentence to have the guests divulge our information/knowledge from their projects. We were explained later that such “chat shows” could be hammed and made more dynamic and lively by having the “host” provide comic relief if need be. I did wonder if such a setting was possible, when the host and guests varied greatly in hierarchy within the same administrative structure.
A story telling session, where participants are supposed to share life changing lessons, stories from their lines of work with fellow participants at the table was a stalemate for me, as I had none to share. Furthermore, I was very reluctant about sharing my personal stories with folks whom I’d just met. I made do with the anecdote with my Irish colleague citing cultural quirks.
In the session on social media post lunch, I did feel like I was being administered a dose of “preaching to the converted”. However, we did help out by underpinning the successive discussion with notes of our own, in administering twitter 101 to the majority of the participants who were unordained in social media.
Some take home messages from the discussion that stuck were:
“Most of the knowledge gained is experiential, while some is attained from academia.”
“Knowledge sharing depends upon time, willingness and the tools at your disposal”.
“Knowledge management is perhaps a misnomer as knowledge is contextual and intangible and difficult to measure/manage.”
I come to understand that face-to-face interactions are more effective in knowledge sharing techniques in spite of advances in technology and human comprehension. They are also more social as well. For instance, I was able to share what little Thai I knew/learnt through my brief stint in Thailand with Thai participants and codified that Uttarkhand is a new state and different from Uttaranchal or Uttar Pradesh.
I look forward to observing in person, the world cafe and other popular KS techniques I have read about in the KM4Dev wiki.
“Knowledge can only be volunteered; it can’t be conscripted.” –
is one quote by Dave Snowden that I took upon as my Facebook status for a day some time back.
A rather pervasive comment on my status left by dear Dr. Swar was the following.
knowledge is an illusion that makes our insignificant flash of a life seem like a candle that never goes out.
-the book of indifference