KM Asia 2012: From Knowledge to Innovation

KM Asia 2012: From Knowledge to Innovation

by Madanmohan Rao
Editor, The KM Chronicles
Singapore; November 6-8, 2012

I am back again in Singapore for one of my favourite annual knowledge management conferences, KM Asia! I will be conducting a workshop on creating knowledge-sharing cultures on Thursday ( See some of my posts from earlier conferences (

Here are my tweetnotes, will massage them into a Top Ten Takeaways piece later! In addition to the keynotes, it’s always great to meet the delegates, this time from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Nepal, Fiji, UK, Nigeria!

Feel free to DM questions/comments to me via Twitter.

1. David Snowden

David Snowden tore into KM myths and practices in his trademark witty and controversial style.
Some nice quotes cited by David (see also my earlier post on KM from Indian Proverbs:
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Mark Twain
“One must learn to listen to one’s own humanity.” Hugh/Gaping Void cartoon
“Intuition is compressed experience.”  – Lawrence Prusak
KM has focused on static assets, but should focus on creating an ecosystem where knowledge can be discovered.
“Sharepoint is to knowledge management what Six Sigma (sick stigma) is to innovation”
Resilience, strategic surprise are important in knowledge strategies
Knowledge is contextual, situational. Can’t over-script it. KM departments are highly vulnerable during recession – especially if under IT department!
Ideational cultures are more resilient than scripted cultures
Too many shared values in an organisation is a dangerous thing; need a lot of diversity
Messy coherence – whatever structure you build today will be out of date or irrelevant or ineffective in shorter and shorter periods of time
Go beyond algorithmic search – build human sensor networks and not just information systems
Dissent is far better at weak signal detection than consensus
Human networks that are messily coherent are more effective than CoPs, taxonomies, etc.
Shared values and common purpose may be more comfortable but they damage resilience
Obliquity and serendipity are more important than purpose
Serendipity can give you something more valuable than what you were originally looking for
Early detection, fast recovery, speedy exploitation (great ‘when shit hits the fan!’)
Urban planners in the UK are looking at 18th century homes to learn about local design, local materials – new methods have not worked out well
In Agile, systems are built for resilience and not original specifications, since client may change his specs along the way
You need to plan for a future you cannot anticipate
Scenario planning is based on hypotheses which often are invalid over time
“From Good To Great” Jim Collins book – causation is confused with correlation.
Snowden showing intriguing chart comparing “probable, possible, plausible” – from anticipation to anticipatory awareness (derived from Max Boisot
When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.
External rewards can actually undermine employee motivation.
KM has been creating recipe books – not chefs. Have destroyed ability to innovate
Snowden takes a dig at Deloitte delegate. Deloitte = “do little hassle and sell”!
Q: All this ‘free flow of knowledge’ talk is fine – will it work in structured organisations like MNCs, with risks of IPR, confidentiality, etc?
You need a ‘resilient boundary.’ Too much reliance on one system makes you open for risk. Restraints only where you have to, only where resilient
You need rules about when to break the rules. Heuristics to be able to re-assess rules when context changes
Chefs also have recipes – but they know how to adapt when the situation changes
My question to Snowden: What are the limits to the size and quality of human sensor networks, and how to work around them? Snowden: You can use software here. Not to be confused with social networks, these have limits
US manufacturing culture from the last decade is a failure in the present context, no point in adopting it to the present context

2. Patrick Lambe: High Stakes Knowledge Management – Black Swans, White Swans (case study: SMRT breakdowns)

I disagree with Snowden – it is not all about mess, but structure to succeed
(Snowden responds: I didn’t talk just about mess, but messy ‘coherence’!)
SMRT got Twitter account only after the breakdowns! And then it was only from 9 am to 5 pm; radio DJs tweeting about the accidents were told not to do so!
Black Swan incidents can’t be predicted. Happens often in situations like war. Need rapid learning networks.
US Army – Lessons Learned took several months, need faster ways to respond to terrorist methods. Informal sharing network –
Can’t depend only on recipes and standards
Need Lessons Learned integrator networks – embedded KM analysts who pick up faster lessons
White swan – some mistakes happen and you accept it, eg surgery risks.
Nancy Dixon: some percentage of heart bypass surgeries will not be successful. New England hospitals began to compare data. White swan becomes a bit gray.
Nancy Dixon: Knowledge sharing in New England hospitals in 1991-2002 helped halve mortality rates for heart bypass surgery
You need good data quality to share and compare and benchmark data
Another white swan – deaths during stampedes in concerts, matches.
SMRT breakdowns last year were embarrassing, they were not supposed to happen. Dec 14, 15, 17. Dec 15 problems were still unresolved on Dec 17. Crowd control and public communications was disastrous. Preparedness: emergency equipment unreliable, roles of different stakeholders not understood or rehearsed,
Singaporeans get very angry if aircon does not work!
In Singapore systems are over-standardised. Functional silos inhibit collective sensemaking.
Need more predictive maintenance, better sharing of technical knowledge
KPIs sit only at functional levels, at the expense of collaborating across boundaries. No sharing, not even curiosity about the big picture
KM should help address incident planning, sensemaking, situation awareness, customer communities, social media
Can’t always put your bets on one plan. Need leadership commitment to learning across boundaries
Problem is that just sharing and having conversations will not scale, easy to argue with hindsight #kmasia12. Curiosity is a key point

3. James Mann, Financial Times

Having a research mindset can open the doors to new knowledge, insights, strategies, markets
Data in digital environment unearths new insights about customers, eg. reader behaviour
FT Intranet is called ‘Neo’ (‘Working as One’). Global social channels drive FT consumption. Shares top bookmarked content
Knowledge is the catalyst to innovation. “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” Red Adair
My question to Mann: How is mobile affecting your innovation and strategy?
Mann: We pulled out of iTunes and switched to HTML5. More readers now, two-thirds on mobile devices

4. Ron Young: “Driving #Innovation through Knowledge Creation Activities”

Great to hear Ron Young connecting #KM with #innovation – here is some of my writing in this area:
Need to bridge the gap between knowledge creation and innovation. Vision for “Innovative Asia 2020”
Young’s book (2003): Knowledge Asset Management
Young cites his work on KM in Asia: “From productivity to innovation”
Young’s books: KM facilitation, tools, case studies, SMEs. Next book: KM in the public sector
How can KM and innovation help realise the vision of ASEAN in the knowledge economy?
Dimensions of Knowledge and Innovation – communication, collaboration, processes, creation/innovation
My Q to Young: Is this connected to TRIPS, patenting, etc?
Young: These old instruments are outdated and restrictive, we need a better understanding of the global knowledge economy #KMasia12
Lifecycle, shelflife of saleable knowledge products is becoming much shorter than it used to be

@ShobDecloitre  We have to learn to better trade our knowledge, not just share: Ron Young #kmasia12
@giechew  Ron Young:  #kmasia12
Countries need to understand competitive collaboration and effectively trade their knowledge assets internally and externally
@snowded Trading model and ‘what’s in for me’ are bad ways to think about knowledge flow. Asset thinking. #kmasia12

5. Ku Yuen Wah, OCBC Bank: Customer Insights

KM is not a common term in our organisation, but we interpret it as using customer insights to design a great customer experience.
“Outside-In thinking” knowledge flow: Acquire, Analyse, Capitalise
Customer-centric innovations: full-service Sunday banking, eAlerts, offsite cheque deposits, experience labs, children-friendly banking on Sundays!
Diary research – analysing customer behaviours (“moment mapping”
Amazing insight: customers are much more relaxed on Sundays in our bank branches than on weekdays!
@giechew 5Cs from Ms Ku, OCBC. Customer think, Challenge, Change Mgt, Collaboration, Core to the business #kmasia12
My Q to Ku: What about learning and competitive intelligence? A: We learn from other industries and not from other banks #KMasia12

6. David Galipeau, UNDP: “Knowledge, Innovation and Capacity Approach: Hybrid CoPs in Afghanistan”

UNDP: Empowered lives, Resilient Nations
@ShobDecloitre David Galipeau from @UNDPasiapac presenting at #kmasia12
KM used to happen only at the end of a project/cycle. Need to push it to the design phase.
KM has to help governments become inclusive, real-time, integrated (mixed social modes), customer-based
Case studies: KM for government of Thailand, Afghanistan
Knowledge goals: awareness, influence, knowledge sharing, dialogue/outreach
Unfortunately Arab Spring has made many governments afraid of social media and the Internet
UNDP Solution Exchange KM phases of communities – Connect, Grow, Generate Impact
Prototyping can help you bring flexibility into the KM rollout. Focus on results-based sustainability
Focus on communities of practice/experience, not just communities of opinion
Metrics: faster plan-to-action, better response time, increased resilience, challenges identified by scenarios
Indian government has given UNDP a US$1 million to accelerate knowledge sharing for decision-making

7. David Gurteen, Knowledge Cafes

Knowledge cafes are about better understanding, decision making, innovation – and thus tangible outcomes. They can unlock the value of work in organisations.

Theodore Zeldin:
Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits.
Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards.
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

David Weinberger:
KM shouldn’t just help us know more, but understand better. Through stories, conversation

David Bohm:
Principles of dialogue: welcome and explore differences; slow the discussion; search for underlying meaning; do not judge; listen to your inner voice

Fiji delegate: We have conversations around kava (western Pacific pepper drink)
@ShobDecloitre Just shared the eg of the talanoa around the kava bowl as the Pacific’s model of Knowledge Cafe

How to run a Knowledge Café – David Gurteen #KMasia12
In some K-Cafes, the conversations go all over the place, which is fine if as they provoke new or interesting thoughts!

8. David Snowden: Innovation: Managing Your Organisation to a Future You Couldn’t Have Predicted

“For the last few decades the ‘norm’ in management practice has been to define an ideal future state (in numbers, market position, values, etc.) and then attempt to close the gap between the two. A new emerging paradigm in management challenges both the theory and practice of this. Many of the organisations we most admire today have, at key points in their history, muddled through, adapting quickly to changing contexts to arrive at a destination that they could not have anticipated two or three years in advance but which has turned out to be more advantageous. Entrepreneurs seize half understood opportunities with the result that their markets become redefined. Nation states such as Singapore have, in less than 50 years, grown from a fragmented and incoherent ‘start up’ position to become one of the world’s major economic players. Sometimes called managing for serendipity, this new approach to management seeks to create the conditions under which such opportunities can not only be spotted and exploited, but also deliberately and purposefully created.”

Service environment is open-ended, as compared to manufacturing. Managers need to be ‘contextually aware’
My background is in physics and philosophy – gave me a contempt of social science and a love argument!
Snowden shows example of Thai ingenuity – car owner drives car into huge plastic bag to keep it dry during 2011 floods!
Apple are brilliant at taking at things from other domains/examples and connecting them
@leahdarby In US left & right wing is essentially 2 wings of British right wing (Conservative party) = no left wing, @snowded at #kmasia12
Key to maintain serendipitous open environment during exploration. Purpose, goals, direction are important for exploitation.
Spider web is coherent in general but broken in parts.
System is any network with coherence.
(i) Ordered: system constrains agents (6 Sigma, Waterfall method)
(ii) Chaotic: agents unconstrained and independent of each other (Wisdom of Crowds)
(iii) Complex: system lightly constrains agents; agents modify system by their interaction with it and each other; they co-evolve and enable exaptation
People will share knowledge on their own if the culture is right. You can’t ‘create’ it or ‘trade’ it
Good example of complex adaptive systems – drivers in Italy and India (but I haven’t tried driving in India yet!). Also see the “children’s party” metaphor (video)
Problem with KM has been over-engineering. “Centralised cognition”
Build on natural flows and architecture, reinforce the good behaviours and disrupt the others
Simple systems (sense, categorise, respond): Best Practice
Complicated systems (sense, analyse, respond): Good Practice
Complex systems (probe, sense, respond): Emergent
Chaos (act, sense, respond): Novel
Need to absorb complexity rather than reduce it.
Need not just daily reports but regular streams and alerts
Wisdom of crowds is not crowdsourcing. Crowds and herds are different. Crowds are people with deep knowledge; factors: how much do they know of each other’s current activities
Kinds of Ideas and their Lifecycle in Organisations:
Unknowable. Unknown. Knowable. Known.
Experiential. Falsifiable. Empirical.
Gut feel. Abductive. Inductive. Deductive.
2 dimensions: level of consensus, level of coherence. From evidence to buy-in. Radical new ideas ‘oscillate’ in the beginning; later – groupthink. Galileo effect – no one believes your new idea.
You can’t train people when the event happens, but before. Need ritual (even dress code), not just niceness.
Complex adaptive systems: highly sensitive to small changes. Proximity and connectivity to the system and agents are key. Fail-safe to safe-to-fail design.
Don’t confuse correlation with causation and simulation with prediction.
Hindsight doesn’t always lead to foresight
Managing in the ‘situated now’ – in the here and now. Not in a sanitised past or clear view of the future.
US Army had good knowledge gathering but worst dissemination. Now they are getting better: blogging instead of reading doctrine
Risks of using Twitter – can’t be trusted fully due to fake messages and faked IP addresses
CAS are not causal but dispositional. Need to identify outliers also.
KM people have to get strategic fast otherwise they will be fired!
@leahdarby #km not considered essential by 99% of orgs, do it cos every1 else does. get strategic fast, solve real problems instead @snowded #kmasia12
KM should address real world problems, solve operational and strategic issues
Human sensor network, usable databases. Don’t ask people for an hour of their time unless they get three hours back
My Q to Snowden: How does this knowledge and innovation flow happen in startups?
A: Startups manage knowledge well because the number of employees is small, they trust each other and communicate often. As they grow, politics (after 15 people) and structure come in, (after 150 employees)

9. David Gurteen: The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems (Pascale and Sternins)

Social innovation: let the community define and frame the problem, and seek and own the solution
If the project is repeated in another community, then start again. Don’t give people the solution, let them discover it themselves.
Avoid the concept of best practice – NIH syndrome
Be a catalyst or facilitator, not a consultant selling solutions
It is easier to change behaviour by practicing it rather than being taught about it
Q: This works well when time is on your side, but not under conditions of pressure and time constraints

10. David Ludlow: A Decade of KM – The Schlumberger Journey

KM connections – people to people, communities, information, solutions. Schlumberger has been doing this since 1930
@ShobDecloitre #KM in organisations starts with management commitment: Schlumberger’s David Ludlow #kmasia12
KM especially important in orgs where there is a big age gap between large group of retiring experts and new employees
“We need to create companies that learn quickly and do not forget.” Andrew Gould, CEO, 2002
KM: Share collective wisdom to make good decisions
KM components: InTouch Support, kPod, SPeedia, BlueTube, Coll@borate
What’s hard: including dynamic activities without losing the ease of use and autonomy of self-authoring; keeping older vetted information fresh; pushing right info to right people; deciding balance between standardisation and freedom to be innovative.
Schlumberger KM metrics: knowledge items (tickets and content), views, tickets, logins; reduction in time to resolve tech queries, update engineering modifications
Worldwide survey revealed that many people think some info is old and unusable (response: re-visit info every 3 years at least)
The Hub: Structured Knowledge Portal. Centralise ownership of infrastructure, distribute ownership of content
One Schlumberger, One Customer: CRM system. Rollout and training are critical
Speedia community glossary and encyclopedia (like wiki). People like to share, especially while a contest is being held!
Eureka: CoPs. Source of innovation ideas, white papers, tech roadmaps. Challenge – ensuring that leaders are active and effective
KM challenges: incorporate knowledge of new employees after company acquisition; inter-cultural differences; maintaining the human sensory networks (talent pool shortages)
My Q to Ludlow: How do you share knowledge with partners?
A: There is a clear line. A lot of the knowledge sharing happens in person-to-person meetings, and not online. Info is shared only with committed business partners after a deal is struck
David Gurteen – I wonder why so many speakers in #KM are named David! Me: David and Goliath syndrome?!  :-)

11. Ramesh Narayanaswamy, Chief Information Officer, Singapore Post: Transformational Knowledge – Transitioning What Your People Know to Make it Relevant in the New World

“Globally, postal services are at a major crossroads and Singapore Post is no exception. The increase in e-substitution has led to a decrease in the number of letters being sent and, with many banking, government and service functions going digital, the industry is undergoing a major transformation. There is a wealth of knowledge in long-standing employees so the challenge is how this knowledge can be captured, changed and utilised in the new business.”

Singapore Post also runs a regional logistics company
It is as important for people and organisations to re-learn and un-learn as to learn on their knowledge journeys
Ramesh shows interesting tag cloud of ‘knowledge’ – education, links, relevant, media, quality, reputation, social, and “etc!”
Ramesh narrates superb anecdote – his son does not know what is ‘digital camera’ – all cameras are digital to him, didn’t know analogue/Polaroid cameras
KM challenge today: dealing with VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity
Ramesh jokes that he never sends letters, but sent one anyway to see if his postal system works!
Singapore Post has greeting card apps (bringing together people with card + e-card skills)
Ramesh: Belief transformation and habit transformation are key for us in this transitional era
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” Jim Rohn
Very good table discussion on ‘the cost of unlearning’ in an organisation. And how will massive re-training fare in a blue-collar organisation?
My Q to Ramesh: Will we see the day when mobile operators buy out the postal services of the world?
Ramesh: Unlikely, no one wants to own the last mile! But maybe DHL will buy all the postal services of the world?!

12. Nikita Tete, Vice President, Knowledge Management, Deloitte, India: Social KM at Deloitte

Nikita runs through her life/events/name through numerology!
Social KM at Deloitte: Internal crowdsourcing, corporate presence on external tools, minimising reputation risk
Library view of knowledge (validated knowledge, records, stocks, just-in-case storage) is becoming bazaar view of knowledge (flows, engagement, wisdom of the crowds, engagement, just-in-time access)
Deloitte has full suite of internal social media tools (on SharePoint): DeloitteNet, DStreet (“one degree of separation”), EdgeFolio (blogging), Deloitte Media Portal (team sites), D.Think (crowdsourcing innovative ideas – Innovation Quests), YamJams (microblog discussions). Mobility: 49,900 mobile devices supported (as of Sep 2012).
Nice visual: ring of inter-locked safety pins
CEO has supported our external presence on all social media. We were named as one of Top 5 B2B companies by OneForty
@LifeAtDeloitte talks about a day in the life of a Deloitte professional. There are 12 Deloitte US Twitter handles
Facebook: Deloitte University reaches experience hires. Green Room – talent advisors
Managing social media risks: Social Media Working Grooup – NDAs, regulations/guidelines, moderation dashboard. Mix of talent, KM, risk, innovation, brand, IT
We have a mandatory social media e-learning course, supplemented with guidance and policies. Required within 90 days of joining
Deloitte’s KM journey with social media continues: learning, streamlining, integrating
Gen N or Gen C – networked/connected, very open to sharing knowledge. These are lucky times for KM
Table discussion: what is a good metaphor for a KM system? Library, bazaar, cafe, jazz
My Q to Nikita: Do you have restrictions on what hours are permissible for social media usage in the office?
A: No, but there are guidelines on what topics are off limits, tone of voice to use.

13. Pee L.G., Assistant Professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan: Encouraging Knowledge Contribution in Organisations

Knowledge contribution by employees is an important basis for other value-adding KM activities such as knowledge reuse and knowledge creation. This presentation discusses the findings of an academic study addressing questions such as:
Are monetary rewards more effective than intrinsic rewards in encouraging knowledge contribution?
How can we design jobs to facilitate knowledge contribution?
Do organisational values matter in promoting knowledge contribution?
Some suggestions for fostering an organisational environment conducive to knowledge contribution will be provided.

Q&A: Refer to the book ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ by Daniel H. Pink

14. David Yeo, Senior Project Officer, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), and Research Fellow, Institute for Adult Learning (IAL), Singapore: 21st Century Military Learning

At the turn of the 21st Century, there is a paradigm shift occurring in human and knowledge capital development efforts, driven by social-cultural-economic and technological imperatives. This change is particularly pertinent for the military, where the human dimension is key to operational success. This talk will explore how the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has developed a learning transformation masterplan powered by an ambitious organisation-wide Learning Network (LEARNet) programme. Your speaker will share with you how SAF has studied similar efforts by organisations such as Singapore’s Ministry of Education and the US military, to develop a unique interpretation so that it can become a “Learning SAF” with “Thinking Warriors”. Finally, the talk will give a glimpse into the future of knowledge and learning, with specific applications for the government sector.

KM has to be tied to personal growth and development, organisational leadership – not just performance improvement
Paradigm shift: story first, then parts; trainers are also learners; learning should be not just effective and efficient but also engaging
“The state that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting by fools.” ? Thucydides
Digital learning can make manuals come alive. AR, mobiles. Workplace learning at time of need. “Learn faster, fight better”
SAF LEARNet: Learning transformation: methods and processes + belief, attitudes and competencies
Focus on results, not just details. “It’s the outcome, idiot!”
There are three sides of the coin. Heads, tails, the side! Don’t ignore the human side!
My Q to David: How different is Gen Next in the armed forces?
A: They have different learning behaviours. Weakness – they talk more online than face to face, even when sitting next to each other! We must allow this culture to exist in the workplace. Collaboration is good, but they need to know which things they cannot say.

15. Mukund Prasad, Director – Group HR, Business Transformation and Group CIO, Welspun Group, India
“Overcoming the Barriers to Implementing Knowledge Management in a Manufacturing Organisation”

Is KM isolated today? Why is KM not seen as strategic in many organisations? Why did it become just another tool or jargon? KM needs repositioning, should it need another name in that case?
Organisations lose their relevance when the pace of internal change lags the pace of external change.
KM capacity – passion, creativity, initiative; expertise, diligence, obedience. Intrinsic motivation is more important than external/hygiene factors. Intrinsic rewards matter the most.
People want to find meaning in their work. Underdevelopment, underutilisation and ineffective management are key problems
Employees are dissatisfied not because work sucks but management blows
The Internet has accelerated self-formation of groups, networking among dissenters
My Q to Mukund: How to go beyond extrinsic to intrinsic motivation?
A: Need to go beyond cost structures, KRAs. Cost is not the best way of managing an organisation, though we have been trained to do that

16. AW Siew Hoong (ASH), Knowledge Management Advisor, Shell Global Solutions, Malaysia
Case Study: Maximising the Value of Lessons Learnt

“Lessons learnt is a KM tool that is commonly used, across many organisations, but, since 2009, the KM team at Shell has reinvented lessons learnt to be more than just an online database. Elements from structured interviews, technology, and people engagement are combined to make the lessons learnt more human and business relevant. The pilot project for this new, improved lessons learnt process has already contributed USD 100 million of savings and cost avoidance to the bottom line. In fact, the valuating of lessons learned is also a cornerstone of the new lessons learnt process.”

Barriers to KM: info not relevant, tools too cumbersome, not enough time to ‘do KM’
@ShobDecloitre “If you want teams to do KM, do it for them 1st, show the value”: ASH, KM Adviser Shell Global Solutions, Malaysia #kmasia12 & I agree!
Knowledge is expensive to capture but cheaper to re-apply!
Measuring RoI on lessons learnt: we improvised, and measured how much risk was avoided

Day Two of #KM Asia 2012 wraps up; see my updated tweetnotes at #KMasia12

Workshops tomorrow: CALM programme (a mashup of Complexity, Agile and Lean) by Dave Snowden; Knowledge Cultures by – me! #KMasia12



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