KM Singapore 2015: Unlocking the Knowledge-Ready Advantage

KM Singapore 2015: Unlocking the Knowledge-Ready Advantage

by Madanmohan Rao
Editor, The KM Chronicles
Singapore; September 1-4

The twelfth KM Singapore conference, one of my favourite annual KM events, kicked off this September with the theme ‘Unlocking the Knowledge-Ready Advantage’ ( (See my earlier articles from KM Singapore 2014, 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
Special conference edition of GLOBE magazine launched; editor: yours truly!
Twitter hashtag: #KMSG15

Day One: Site visits

A new feature at this year’s KM Singapore conference was the three site visits: to Nanyang Technological University (which has an MSc programme in KM), HSL ( and IPOS (, winners of the 2015 KRO awards.

The visits provided deep insights into the role of knowledge leadership, space design, creative architecture, planning, evolution, heritage + knowledge. The general reaction of the audience was: “Reading case studies is one thing, visiting the offices is even more insightful!”

The HSL KM initiative is powered by the framework of the 6 Ps: people, philosophy, philanthropy, projects, profits, premises. KM headed by sustainability & philanthropy division. The Knowledge Interchange Committee helps drive KM. The organisation makes a difference between culture and character, and between information, knowledge and wisdom. The ‘tree’ metaphor is used for leadership – a good strong leader (trunk) anchors a tree with many branches, flowers and leaves.

At NTU, Prof. CK Lee explained that the term ‘knowledgeable’ is used to describe people, not books! KM gives XYZ benefits, but it can also be implemented wrong. Topics of interest at NTU include jugaad innovation, wisdom + intelligence, smart cities, human capital, SNA, expert performance.

IPOS launched its KM initiative in 2007. For formal process/compliance reasons, emails are very important knowledge assets in its architecture, which now includes social media as well. Next steps include BI, data analytics and agility.

Day Two: Masterclasses

Four one-day masterclasses were held in parallel, on KM strategy, leadership, value and agile. John Girard provided a terrific 20-year review of KM literature, case studies, anecdotes and strategies, all in one day. He shared how the newest technology is not always better than old in every case. He cited books like “Tribal leadership,” with five types of culture:
Innocent wonderment – Life is great (team)
Tribal pride – We are great (stable partnership)
Lone warrior – I am great (personal domination)
Apathetic victim – My life sucks (separate)
Undermining – Life sucks (alienated)
He has also published a book on Native American proverbs (or ‘microstories’). Videos he shared included one by on the growth of social media.

Conference Day One

Congrats to the KRO (Knowledge Ready Organisation) Award winners – HSL, IPOS, NCSS, SCM!
KMSG15 is run by a volunteer team – the event has ‘soul,’ unlike by a full-time commercially-run event company!
Terrific coffee break-time gizmo – FOMO! (instantly print colour photos taken by smartphones!)

I. JohnGirard – Keynote: “BigData – friend, phantom or foe?”

John = professor, storyteller, adventurer!
John Girard cites book on BigData by Tom Davenport – see my book review
KM 1.0 – info centric; KM 2.0: SECI flow; 2.5: proverbs.
Seek wisdom, not knowledge. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future. – Lumbee Proverb
Knowledge -> understanding -> wisdom
Big Data case studies – WalMart, Slamtracker (tennis Grand Slam stats), US baseball.
Which country is doing the most searches on Google for Big Data: India, Singapore, South Korea, HK, Taiwan, US, Kenya
Check out for uses of BigData
Assumption: people searching for ‘flu medicine’ implies there is an outbreak of flu (can be used in countries which don’t collect this data)
Caution – don’t use big data to make a big mistake! (FT magazine)
Gartner takes away its earlier hype cycle (maybe some of its earlier predictions were wrong?!)
Business big data – each aircraft engine generates 10 TB of data every 30 minutes (1 billion lines of code)
Michael Jordan cautions on the ‘delusions’ of Big Data, lots of white noise and false inferences
John Girard shows hilarious examples of idiotic correlations – Miss America age with murders by steam!
Wearables will change industries like insurance
Insights from two books on BigData contributions, strategy

II. Bill Kaplan: “Agile Knowledge Management”

Social media can help kids learn by collaboration and discussion in realtime
Sustainability – keeping KM going even when managers change
Pilot projects are a way of testing KM initiatives, direction and assumptions
KM challenges today – keeping up with Operational Tempo (OpTempo), adjusting/creating behaviour change, new metrics
KM is a long-term journey but you also need to show quick wins
Assessment -> Analysis -> Design -> Roadmap (strategy, framework) -> Program (perform: pilots first). Takes about 6-12 months to launch pilot, 6 months to get results
If employees see that KM works (testimonials from colleagues), they will use it. Results change mindsets and behaviour.
Agile KM is not the same as Agile SW Development, but it borrows the concepts of speed, pilots & continual refinement. Reflect regularly. Proof of KM – solving problems.
Agile KM – 3 sprints (3 weeks each): New possibilities, New mindsets; New capabilities
New possibilities: learn before doing; awareness. New mindsets: fast learning, sharing. New capabilities – better best practices
User stories provide context for problems and challenges that drive pilot selection
(User stories connect storytelling, Design Thinking and knowledge management)
Outcome of Sprint 1 (training, interviews, pilots, daily scrums): clear line of sight between KM, work and value
Outcome of Sprint 2 (peer assists, AAR – visible results, value, trust): changes in knowledge sharing behaviour, performance
Outcome of Sprint 3 (retrospects, sensemaking, shared learnings, socialisation of findings): PPT framework, roadmap, content
Tip 1: Meet people where they are, not where you would like them to be

III. First four parallel workshops: best practices / culture from China, agile, IPOS case study

Nicole Sy, HongKong Polytechnic
Sy has consulted for 100 KM projects, runs the MAKE Award for HK, China
It is not enough to promote knowledge sharing culture, need to promote learning culture
KM trend in HK – blending KM with innovation management
(1) China Light Power – utility company, MAKE winner. Lessons learned – just filing reports is not enough, need interactive sessions. Each employee has his/her own self-learning materials page.
Wiki used for knowledge sharing in call centre.
KM metrics vary with maturity stage, eg. user adoption, sharing, user benefits, customer satisfaction
(2) MTR (metro train) – hilarious video of MTR Creators rapping video about its KM features!
Idea Jam – within 72 hours feedback received for a good idea
MTR has its own video channel called M-Tube – knowledge sharing between employees via video (training provided)
Retired people are also asked to stay in touch and share knowledge
MTR also consults for overseas metro networks, eg. Singapore, Australia – based on its internal knowledge share/capture assets
(3) Architectural Services Department, HK. KM/innovation/design via gamification. SCAMPER ideas workshop.

IV. Second four parallel workshops: HSL case study, PAHO, HR practices, agile

Dr. Calabrese, IIKI
KM challenges at Pan American Health Organization connecting the dots in a meaningful way; eliminate stove-piping (silo)
PAHO KM: LLOT (leadership, learning, organisation, technology)
Ref. the book The Adaptive Enterprise – Stephan Hackel
Meet the founders of the International Institute of Knowledge and Innovation –
Traits of the adaptive organisation – open, inquisitive, networked, collaborative, responsive to change
“You can’t stop learning!” – passion and desire to learn are lifelong – I wrote my PhD at 65!
Storytelling is not enough – you need organisational conversation and dialogue
If you think starting KM is tough, try starting it in two languages at the same time! (PAHO)
Forefront (docs), Background (emails, PostIts), Out of sight (stories, knowledge: discussions happen here). Online: best practices (published here)
Acknowledge and identify ‘backroom’ knowledge sharing in informal clusters
Success metrics – improved quality, productivity, reduced rework, faster innovation

V. launch of the Knowledge Management Global Network (KMGN)

Karuna Ramanathan, President of IKMS: KMGN is a movement, not just an association/organisation. Collaboration, beyond coordination
Aim – uniting thought leaders, academics, practitioners. Helping re-invention of KM around the world
Mission – building knowledge societies through knowledge creation/sharing, creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship
KMGN is like the Star Alliance peer network of airlines!
PLANES focus: Platform, Leadership, Assets, Network, Expertise, Sensibilities
Outcomes include Global Locator Network for KM experts
KMGN will help aspiring KM practitioners connect with and learn from established experts across the network
Inaugural KMGN conference will be in Singapore in 2016. KM tools exchange: Russia, Japan.
Infographics on State of KM in 9 countries: Thailand, Australia. Case study sharing: India, Russia. KRO Awards structure: Singapore, India, Russia
(1) Vadim Shiryaev, KM Russia society & KM Club: We started our KM journey in 2013, with global conferences.
FYI: My article on KM in Russia – (KM World Magazine)
KM Russia Club’s events gather over 1,000 participators.
(2) Rudolf D’Souza, Lassib Society, India: Lassib is Arabic for ‘fountain of knowledge;’ we have 1K+ members
It is fitting that KMGN is being launched in Singapore during SG50 commemorations!
(3) Francesco Calabrese, IIKI, USA Our network includes innovators, incubators
(4) Katsuhiko Kume, Executive VP, KM Society of Japan (KMSJ): We were formed 17 years ago (1998).
(5) David Williams, President, Australia Society for KM (AusKM): 29 days old!
Australia has 5 regional KM organisations (!), now with an umbrella organisation
Our next event: KNOWvember
(6) Vincent Ribiere, Founder, iKlub (Innovation and KM Club), Thailand: KM is a core component of innovation management
(7) Jean-Louis Ermine, France: French KM Club: founded in 1990 by four companies. Members also from Belgium and Canada.
We have developed useful KM tools to share, eg. maturity models for innovation, knowledge communities; strategic tools for critical knowledge
(8) Les Hales, HongKong KM Society
(9) Karuna Ramanathan, President, IKMS, Singapore
A historic moment – launch of the Knowledge Management Global Network!

Conference Day Two

Day Two kicks off with photo recap of site visits, workshops, keynotes, tweets, app feedback!
Karuna Ramanathan, president, IKMS, kicks off reflection session with table charts for what was learnt by delegates, what are some concerns in KM
Activity – post on the wall (after group discussion) what are your (i) learnings (ii) concerns in your KM initiatives
Interesting observation on creativity: some people draw out their points on charts, not just write them!
Video lecture now by Alex Bennett, sneak preview of her new book “Leading with the Future in Mind”
We now have a global social capability that we have never had before.
Launch of KMSG15 special issue of KM quarterly magazine GLOBE – by yours truly! :-)

VI. Arthur Shelley, “Knowledge Succession”

Innovation can come from picking up someone’s ideas and stretching them somewhere else. The holy grail: What knowledge drives innovation? How to contextualize it and power it?
3 Qs: What, So what, Now what?
Innovation is at the intersection of local knowledge, organisational knowledge, academic knowledge, stakeholder knowledge
Getting ideas is good start – but need to convert potential into value.
Do you engage people in aligned conversations that matter? Build strategic capability, don’t bleed knowledge!
How well do you ‘make sense’ of emergent complex situations? Do you ask questions that matter?
Superb illustration of knowledge flow and loss in an organisation
Great style of presentation by Arthur Shelley – “Read my slides and check out the photos while I ramble on!”
Importance of frames: “upside down” map of the world – shows how to see things from a different perspective
Great activity – show a picture/graphic and ask people to discuss what they see. Aggregate the stats across sessions/countries
Curiosity, Courage, Adaptability drives effective performance
Dont mix Capability and Capacity. You might be able to do something, but that doesnt mean you have the time & resources to do it? KMSG15

VII. Stuart French: “Collaboration as Strategy: Impact of Relational Capital on Organisational Resilience”

Heritage relationship – you knew someone before the project begins, eg. org chart of the Manhattan project.
Advantages of virtual teams: geographic dispersion (but lack of shared context), e-dependence (but less richness), structural dynamism (but less organisation), national diversity (but also culture clash)
Weak tie = access to novel knowledge and information. Strong tie = transfer of the innovative idea
Self-motivated people don’t need recognition, achievement climate, cohesiveness in a team
Cultural dichotomies: formal/informal; hierarchical/egalitarian; risk-averse/risk-taking (ref: Richard Gesteland)

VIII. Vadim Shiryaev: “Co-Creation with SAVA methodology”

KM Russia conference and business clubs
Co-creation is usually with a smaller group than in crowdsourcing; active involvement of customer. Goal not known in advance
Colourful creative exercise under way with six thinking hats – using coloured balloons!

IX. Activities

1. Activity: Write down the (i) tipping points (ii) tripping points that you are facing or may face in your KM initiatives; paste the sheets of paper on the wall
2. Unconference: two rounds of hosted parallel discussion at the tables, on topics chosen by the attendees, eg. social media, strategy, impacts, leadership.

X. Expert Panel discussion

Final panel discussion: “Dragon’s Den!”
Audience asks questions to keynote speakers (via PostIt’s, app, Twitter, direct)!
John Girard:
KM is not dependent on a centralised store
KM and data analytics are connected – new ways of thinking out of the box.
See the book “Tribal Leadership” – great examples of some of the perils and challenges in knowledge organisations
Vadim Shiryaev: Companies should overcome their fear of innovation; a collaborative culture + craziness will help!
The simplest form of KM, and very effective: DTT! (Drink Tea Together)
Stuart French: KM initiatives will falter if people confuse knowledge with information; skills with expertise
Bill Kaplan: KM can help companies solve critical problems, but don’t forget the contributions of the simple act of conversation!
Arthur Shelley: My previous company gave a Turkey Award for the dumbest mistake of the week – great tool, built on trust and humour!
The future of KM is us
Panel: Future trends in KM: emphasis on collaboration, alignment with strategy, blend with analytics, multi-generational workforce
Panel: Which culture best gets KM – one where communication and leadership are valued, where scale is an important objective

Karuna Ramanathan, President, IKMS – next year KMSG15 annual conference will be accompanied by Global Knowledge Week!
KMSG15 conference wraps up; hats off to entire team of volunteers of IKMS, and to speakers, attendees, re/tweeters! :-)


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