KM Singapore 2014: Enabling Innovation through Learning and Knowledge

KM Singapore 2014: Enabling Innovation through Learning and Knowledge

by Madanmohan Rao
Editor, The KM Chronicles
Singapore; October 1-3, 2014

The eleventh KM Singapore conference, one of my favourite annual KM events, kicked off this October with the theme “Enabling Innovation through Learning and Knowledge” ( (See my earlier articles from KM Singapore 2013, 2011, 2010 and 2009: The event is organised by the Information & Knowledge Management Society (
Book based on IKMS KM Excellence awards: “Knowledge Management Initiatives in Singapore” by Margaret Tan and Madanmohan Rao
IKMS has launched the KM magazine GLOBE; editor: yours truly!

I. Karuna Ramanathan, IKMS president

Harnessing knowledge is necessary for Singapore’s workforce competitiveness
KM is connected to learning, growth, strategy – more than systems and technology
Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong KM organisations have collaborated to create KM Global Network; Japan and France will join next!

II. Ho Kwon Ping, Chairman, Banyan Tree

Keynote speaker Ho Kwon Ping, Chairman, Banyan Tree jokes about his introduction: “Flattery can get you anywhere!”
KM is more than ‘massaging facts’ – benchmarking, best practices; responsibility of C-suite as well as entrepreneurs
KM is about understanding and solving problems; strong connection to innovation. Analytics has also become important for interpretation
Banyan Tree has departments dedicated to KM, data mining, projects, etc. for hotel management
KM is ingrained in our culture; knowledge is part of our strategy. Exemplified by the importance of interdisciplinary brainstorming
KM is important even in small organisations, right from our startup days 20 years ago. We embedded innovation along with KM at the very start
You are dead – right from the start – if you don’t create a corporate KM culture irrespective of your brand, size, earnings
It is a myth that KM is only for the big boys and giant MNCs. Startups are uniquely positioned to create a KM culture from the bottom up
We started off with a resort without a beach! So we converted it into an ‘all pool villa’ model – now that is a trend
Innovation begins with “I” – it is everyone’s job
Without a knowledge edge, you will be trampled on. Strategic KM is a critical success factor for startups, SMEs
KM helps empower and inspire employees across the organisation. CEO needs to embrace KM + productivity as part of survival strategy
KM should not fall through the cracks, it should become everyone’s responsibility. Challenge: making it systematic
Senior managers should embed their own unique culture of KM within broader KM culture of the organisation, don’t just follow textbook templates
A small soy sauce manufacturer can also create its own unique KM culture
KM helps succeed in a world of complexity and uncertainty. Helps you learn from your experience and from the outside world
KM is a key to survival and not just a reward for success

III. Alex Bennet, Bangkok University; Mountain Quest Institute
“Stirring Your Creative Juices”

You are a verb, not just a noun. You are not static. It can be pleasurable or painful.
Creativity comes from insights, diversity, individual special talents and multidimensional skills
Creativity = situational / fundamental; personal (inner) + historic (outer)
Creativity helps perceive new possibilities and relationships (DeSousa 2006)
Knowledge is context sensitive and situation dependent. Creativity and innovation are in relationship like information and knowledge. Innovation is an outcome of creativity and knowledge
A practice is a pattern, see the bigger dots and not only the details, that way you can see how the context changes
Creativity is seeing patterns in information. Innovation is creativity connected with opportunity.
Innovation is anticipation of outcome based on past/new knowledge. Knowledge uses information as a building block
Thoughts and images have a profound creative and motivating power within human consciousness
Measure for the future, design your practices and tools and thoughts not just for the present.
Energy follows thought – measure for the future if you want innovation, not the past. Innovation is an outcome, not a capacity.
Special Issue of Journal of Entrepreneurship Innovation and Management (JEMI) on Connecting See Alex’s article in “KM Theory and Practice” (link to free PDF)
Creativity tugs on the unconscious. Pipeline: Preparation – Incubations – Illumination – Verification/Validation.
Conscious probing, Unconscious mind at work, Flash/insight/tug, conscious exploration/testing
Creativity, innovation and knowledge push at the boundaries of comfort, values, environment
#Creativity pushes at thresholds of sense and meaning. Creativity is spurred by associative patterning through the mind, and social networking
We think as individuals and organizations within thresholds: above we can’t comprehend, below dismiss as unimportant
Creativity helps create new scenarios of the future. Brain helps create associate patterns, learn how to connect with other pattern-seers
Cozolino (2006): We are just beginning to understand that we have evolved as social creatures.
The richer your environment, the more potential stimulation of your creative juices. Seek enriched environments
Relationship Network Management: Choose with whom you interact. Practice/participate in mentoring
Patrick Lambe: How to get dissonant ideas? Alex: Marry! Look at how patterns exist in best practices

IV. Arthur Shelley, author, Organisational Zoo
“Learning drives knowledge drives innovation drives learning”
Learning is not the product of teaching. It is the product of the activity of learners. – John Holt
Creative learning comes from collaborative engagement, leads to knowledge creation and learning
Shelley (@Metaphorage): Learning is like a diet – not just about reading, but application; not saying, but doing
Try to engage people in aligned conversations that matter. Juggle physical, social and political aspects of your enviroment
Success steps: interact to learn (face to face + virtual); combine work and learning environments; discover and reflect on patterns; challenge theory; adapt to contexts; focus on outcomes; engage learners in their world
Bloom’s hierarchy: Knowledge (remember), understand (comprehend), apply (do); analyse (sense, critique), synthesise; create
Learning environment design: context, facilitated dialogue, reflections, assessment, ongoing enhanced performance
Growth curve for KM projects: Anticipate, Challenge, Interpret, Decide, Align, Learn (Shoemaker, Krupp, Howland)
Andragogy (adult learning): Learners are not students but participants; learning style is customized/flexible; learners contribute; focus is on problem
Andragogy focuses on design thinking. See for examples of conversation/hierarchy maps
Humour is one of the most under-utilised tools in organisational learning – Edward DeBono
Patrick Lambe: Can we all be leaders together? Shelley: Not all want to be leaders; collaborative leadership requires special people
Hear, hear! Mok/IKMS: We need to focus not just on problem solving, but problem finding.
Me: How to be an effective facilitator for KM? Shelley: Leaders should not just advocate but facilitate ideas
Shelley: When I was KM head at Cadbury, our biggest challenges was training CoP heads to be facilitators

V. Me!
“Next Generation KM: Ecosystems, Innovation and Social Computing”
One-line summary of my workshop: Knowledge cycle = New practices -> next practices -> best practices.
Long term success comes from creativity, innovation and knowledge management (entrepreneurship + intrapreneurship)
Frameworks of KM: knowledge spiral, process maps, Boisot’s types of knowledge, inter-organisational flows [inputs, consultative, cooperative, collaborative, outsourcing, co-creation]
Innovation capacity: idea generation and brainstorming; networking with innovators, partners; engagement with startups and entrepreneurs; learning from failures; moving on to new products and services
Types of innovation: CONFIGURATION: (1) profit model (2) network (3) structure (4) process. OFFERING: (5) product (6) product system or platform. EXPERIENCE (7) service (8) channel (9) brand (10) customer engagement
Social media impact areas on KM: socially-constructed expertise; Web + corporate social media; knowledge mapping; knowledge facilitation; realtime feedback/analytics; alignment
Metrics: Activity, process, knowledge, people, org/business. Align these with maturity frameworks. Use numbers + anecdotes!

VI. Terry Smagh, Qlik
“Humanization with Innovation – The Natural Sense of Things”
[Good branding for an analytics product – Qlik (quick + click!)]
“In a good KM culture, there is no such thing as a bad question.” Don’t let first impressions become lasting impressions
Humanising service – best-selling product of McDonald’s on a morning in the US is milkshakes – the only thing which last for the 45-minute commute
Information is the new oil. Data explosion – machines, social, web. Big Data is too important to be left to the quants
Analytics: not all decision-making has the luxury to allow you to stop, reflect, analyse, act. You need to decide, do, discover almost together.

Terrific parallel workshops at #KMSG14, pity I can’t attend others especially when I am conducting one myself! ;-) #bittersweet
Networking break – great to meet the VP of KM Association of Japan! Please tie up with CII for India partnership! :-)
IKMS conference feedback is not through the usual forms but post-its on whiteboards!


I. Viswa Sadasivan, CEO Strategic Movers
Keynote: “Knowledge Management but not Control?”

Management refers to flow, pace, volume of knowledge in the KM context. ‘Control’ can have negative connotations
There is a profound difference between information and meaning. – Warren Bennis
Viswa draws important connections between information, meaning, truth, significance, facts, beliefs, judgement, faith, trust, values, subjectivity – in context of companies (management) and government (censorship)
Viswa shows how these issues surface in the context of Palestinian rights; identity, history and current reality complicate the picture
Viswa shows graphic clips of Israel – Palestine conflict with views from both sides (and #GazaUnderAttack tweets)
Caution: need to check accuracy of info/images on social media.
Knowledge is power. Authority influences the way people interpret incidents
Persuasion trinity: Logos, Pathos, Ethos (logic, emotion, ethics)
Success factors for knowledge leadership: an attitude of transparency and accountability. Leader should be in constant touch with the people
Singapore should not try to be Switzerland or Japan or London or Silicon Valley – it should be Singapore
If Singapore government wants to ban a movie, it should explain why – and be prepared to keep explaining it
KM cannot be decreed, should be rooted in process and culture (Siemens, MAKE winner)

II. Vincent Ribiere, Institute for Knowledge and Innovation, Bangkok
“Emerging Ideas on KM & Innovation”

Approaches to viewing KM – oil well (drill)
Incremental innovation: Gillette keeps adding blades, but there are limits. Hilarious pic of multi-blade “face fuckerupper” !!!
Practical innovation – French bread with ends split in two! Can we ever invent again something as useful as toilet bowl?
Creativity, imagination, diversity, speed, openness, flexibility are more valued these days (along with rigor, discipline of industrial era)
Balance/tension between KM and innovation – between what we know and what we don’t know
Learn from the past (KM) but don’t be too attached to it, move on (#innovation). Need ‘ignorance management!’
Vincent shows video of how ideas begin with copying, then transformation/variation/tinkering, eg. James Watt’s version of steam engine
English spoken with a French accent is ze best! :-)
Copy, transform, combine: three elements of #creativity
Next issue of our KM/innovation magazine has a book review by @MadanRao (Austin Klein: Steal Like an Artist)
Innovations are new combinations of ideas – tipping point in long process of changes
Bisociation: combination unrelated things to get new ones. Croissant + donut = Cronut!
Vincent showing magnificent hilarious slides of student who wrote “True” morphing into “False” for test answers!
Vincent: 5 steps to creativity: doubt, explore, diverge, converge, re-assess
Vincent: Organisational ambidexterity: exploration + exploitation; deductive + inductive reasoning
Ravi Sharma: Can creativity be taught? Vincent: Yes, but people must be willing to be creative. Education often kills creativity

III. Ravi Sharma, NTU
Smart Cities: A Brave New World for KM?

A smart city should not just have automated cameras for traffic violations but tweak the rules during rains (slipper road – allowance)
We don’t yet know what smart cities really are. Basic automation not as smart as informed context
70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050: WHO #IoT
Narendra Modi has requested #Singapore’s help in creating 100 smart cities in #India
Cohen’s Smart City wheel: inclusive, green, well governed, good use of mobiles.
Geoff Trotter @KMPact: Caution re. Cohen’s model – a city won’t be smart if it is not inclusive of those who have AND those who have not!
IBM’s 3i framework: Instrumentation, Integration, Intelligent (city data streams)
See Global City Indicators – 53 metrics for policymakers and the public, on quality of urban life
Recent smart city studies have been done by Lee Kwan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities; socialisation is as important as #analytics
#WorldBank’s 4 pillars of knowledge economy: Economic regime, Education, ICTs, Innovation system
Knowledge creation v/s adoption: 2X2 matrix of country rankings.
KM is everybody’s business but doesn’t have to be everybody’s job
Steve Leonard, IDA: Singapore has to be big enough to be relevant, small enough to experiment with smart city initiatives
Smart city success calls for integrated planning + coordinated action + shared accountability. Risk: surveillance society
We should be wary of having data about everything but knowledge about nothing
Smart city should not be only for elite; should have inclusiveness, participation, sustainability

IV. Panel
An honour and delight to moderate the panel with Alex Bennet, Vincent Ribiere, Arthur Shelley, Ravi Sharma!
Q: How can humour be used in KM? Shelley: Cartoons, humour, gamification engage people well
Q: What are the similarities of KM in non/military settings? Alex: Settings and environments vary, but motivation is key to success
Q: How to balance vendor push? Ravi: Vendor tail should not wag the dog! Paint the future but don’t own it!
Q: How do virtual environments affect innovation? Vincent: It allows you to go global, allows anonymous feedback/criticism
Q: How do learning and KM reinforce each other? Shelley: By creating appropriate social environments for learning and growth – the “living organisation”
Q: How to overcome mindblock in #creativity? Alex: Don’t acknowledge it! Use stillness, meditation, change your frame of reference
Q: How to create effective learning environments? Ravi: Everyone learns from all! I learn from my graduate students
Q: How to extract value from conversations? Shelley: Map benefits, beneficiaries, in/tangible outcomes + outputs
Q: How to map tacit knowledge? Alex: Embodied/kinesthetic, affective, intuitive, spiritual
Ravi Sharma: Alex has hit the nail on the head: KM should be about rising above process to answer your higher calling

V. Roundtables (musical chairs!)
Leadership, Culture, Policy, Strategy, Sys/tech, Best Practices, Metrics, Social Media, Innovation, Country focus (Thailand)
Chairing the Metrics Roundtable:
Observations: Many companies don’t have clarity on how their KM initiative can be measured; no baselines exist. Many companies don’t know how to balance full-time and part-time KM roles, KPIs
Recommendations: 1. Have clarity on intended impacts, baseline 2. Have passionate champions 3. Persevere (can take upto 3 years for success!)


Masterclass I: Alex Bennet (opera singer, double MS degrees, PhD, US Navy CKO, author!)
“Engaging Tacit Knowledge”

Participant concerns: how to tap tacit knowledge for creativity (individual/group), role of language in knowledge extraction/learning, value extraction, role of the unconscious, documenting/classifying explicit knowledge, personal KM habits, individual triggers, preserving knowledge, capture/transfer tacit knowledge, KM for mentally ill people (!), best techniques
Steps: 1. Connect with yourself 2. Engage your imagination 3. Release your ideas
Build capacity through increasing connections between conscious and unconscious (the road to extra-ordinary consciousness)
‘Flow’ – comes from meditation or activity (eg. running, dancing)
Group activity: “The flashing Energy Ball (UFO Ball) is a very cool device which consists of a 1.5- inch ball with two small metal electrodes”
Left Brain – logic, accuracy, analysis, control, reason, practical
Right Brain – passion, creative, yearning, peace, love, poetry, freedom
When experts get deep into their domain they are sometimes unable to communicate to others who are way below their expertise
5 ways of sharing tacit knowledge: flows (CoPs, teams, fairs), explicit capture (videos, dialogue, scenarios, docs), unconscious access (skills, knowing), boundary management (partnering), mentoring (exchanges, apprenticeships)
Depends on information, context, relationships and culture
Types of knowledge: surface knowledge (captured in notes, doctrine), contextual (social knowledge), deep knowledge
Scenario planning is KM for the ‘edges’ of possibilities and ecosystems
What spaces have you created in your organisation for informal knowledge flow, eg. scenic balcony, water fountain, alcoves?
(ba) How do you create spaces/events where ‘knowledge moments’ occur?
Knowledge dimensions: embodied/kinesthetic, affective, intuitive, spiritual
Knowledge = capacity, Knowing = sensing. Subconscious = memory; superconscious = spirituality
Knowing informs knowledge; knowledge supports knowing. Knowledge facilitators sense energy flows and enable knowledge flows
Wisdom has values for the greater good (unlike knowledge, which can also be use for evil!)
Embodied knowledge (somatic) – sensory (5 senses, eg smell), kinesthetic (movement)
Change management is about embedding new patterns in your behaviour and thinking
Affective knowledge: emotional/feelings, influences your actions. Emotion = external expression of feelings
Intuitive intelligence: almost mysterious.
Look at ultrasound scans live – your inner body is moving all the time
Spiritual knowledge: moral, higher guidance
Surfacing Tacit Knowledge: 1. External triggering (dialogue, external situation) 2. Self-collaboration (internal dialogue) 3. Nurturing (meditation, inner tasking, lucid dreaming, hemispheric synchronisation)
Embedding tacit knowledge: Embodied (patterns, training) Intuitive (exposure, travel, contemplation) Affective (emotional intelligence, sensitivity, self awareness) Spiritual (holistic, respect, purpose, values, dialogue)
Sharing tacit knowledge: consciously, unconsciously. Mentoring, shadowing (imitation, mimicry), group learning
Inducing resonance: amplifying meaning, increasing emotional content & receptivity, shared ownership
Hemispheric synchronisation: reaching the unconscious creative state through the window of consciousness (via binaural sounds)
Creativity emerges from interactions within and without. Be the creator you were meant to be!
Unconscious mind has million times the activity/power of the conscious mind. 95% of brain activity is beyond our conscious awareness

II. Masterclass: Patrick Lambe: Knowledge Audit Revisited
Knowledge audit is about discovery and diagnoistics, not compliance; comparison with self, not others
Mapping of knowledge assets, culture, pain points
Participants’ view: audits are about improvement, fact finding, cost-benefit analysis; systematic and meticulous
Patrick Lambe is writing a book on knowledge audits (send me a review copy! ;-)
Early knowledge audit work was on info assets (librarians; content). There were also communication audits (flows)
Knowledge audit focus: assets, flows, gaps, culture, processes, pain points, people’s skills/experiences/abilities
Surveys should be supplementary instruments of an audit. Interviews are time consuming.
Surveys can be ‘gamed,’ hard to understand context sometimes; people may not reveal all in interviews
Key approach: evidence based.
Six components: documents (platforms, records), skills (easily acquired, soon; good in routine contexts): training, CoPs, mentoring), experience (built over time; good in non-routine contexts: mentoring, storytelling, expertise interviews), natural talent (born winner, find & them happy!), relationships (team, networking, sharing), methods (training, sharing, documentation)
Relationships shape communication and knowledge – a raised eyebrow can have meaning in a specific context!
Case study: knowledge in dealing with hijacking of Singapore Airlines Flight 117 in March 1991. Relationships and experience were critical
Techniques for knowledge sharing/elicitation: stories, facilitation, interviews
Lambe shows great speeded-up video of knowledge audit workshop in action: post-its gathering on boards, sheets. “Gallery viewing”
SMRT train failures – classic example of knowledge failures; objectives, maps, learning AARs were missing, public info flow non-existent (twitter)
SMRT Twitter account opened after the first accident; “This Twitter account is open 9-5 on weekdays!” -> ridicule on Net
Gallery approach for audit has good energy, but transcription/analytics/updates are difficult; need software, also to handle scale and multiple locations/offices
Check out Aithin – knowledge audit and knowledge mapping software

Vincent Ribiere:
Definition of critical knowledge: scarce; useful; difficult to acquire/use
Gaps: strategic (what firms needs to do), knowledge (what firm needs to know)

I use my “8 Cs” framework for knowledge audits: connectivity, content, community, capacity, cooperation, commerce, culture, capital

Thanks to NTU, Prof. Margaret Tan (my co-author) and World Scientific Publishing for booksiging of “KM Initiatives in Singapore!”
THANKS to all IKMS ExCo members for a fabulous unique conference — and a terrific farewell dinner — see you all next year… :-)


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