Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Want to manage tacit knowledge? As the title indicates he focuses on the strength of communities of practice to manage tacit knowledge in a rapidly changing business environment. He writes: A common (but misinformed) strategy is to extract and record what people know-and then store it in a database. The problem is that much of this know-how is not amenable to this treatment. It cannot be captured or converted easily. Much of it is unspoken and unrecorded.
There are 3 types of knowledge to consider:
* Things that are not said because everyone understands them and takes them for granted
* Things that are not said because nobody fully understands them
* Things that are not said because, although some people understand them, they cannot costlessly articulate them
Communities of practice help manage tacit knowledge because they enhance the artefacts like documents and tools, which may take on new meaning for the group. Interaction among members of the group enables members to respond quickly to requests because the community of practice has been in the habit of posing and exploring novel questions. And there is the pool of expertise in the community of practice and through the interaction, tacit knowledge is shared.
Yesterday I met Reni, who has studied online interactions and is fascinated by it. She said that tacit knowledge may surface through interactions with other people, because each person touches different 'buttons'. I fully agree with her. That's why I like and am in favour of working together in teams on complex issues, so that knowledge gets surfaced and blended.
On communication: I remember we had a chatsession with a guest speaker in that workshop, who talked about for the first time about C3. Nobody really asked about the term, and I assumed it was the C of community (after all that was the C word most often dropped in the workshop) till someone checked and he explained that C3= cross-cultural communication. So you checking for correct understanding is very important (but hard in blogs). Let's try if I can trackback to their trackback.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Details about the project copied from their site:
'Recruited from current FLEX students, the young women will be trained in personal citizen journalism to be published on a weblog (a WWW publishing tool, available for public consumption.) The students will post a minimum of once a week on an assigned topic. They may post on other topics throughout the week as well. After the students return home, they will receive a monthly assignment, but may post as often as they like. Each week a blog “mentor” with post early in the week to help inspire the young women. The mentor will be an adult blogger from around the world, with a particular focus on bloggers from developing countries who are having an impact on the dissemination of news from their countries.'
The purpose of the blog project:
- To highlight the similarities and learn about the differences between young women in these neighboring countries.
- To promote citizen journalism in developing countries as an alternative to mainstream media.
- To promote weblogs as a method of democratic expression.
- To expose young women to journalism and technology.
I decided to participate because I'm curious whether and how you can stimulate people to blog. I'd like to see whether other people can become as enthusiastic about blogging as I am. (and if not, why not?)
Saturday, January 28, 2006
* The practice of sending eachother snailmail christmas cards
* The practice of mothers taking their children home from school to have lunch (though now there are some occasional fathers)
* The practice of school pictures: a photographer taking a yearly picture of your child in school. Of course he/she looks so cute that all parents buy them despite all 1860 digital pictures they already possess...
(Any Dutch people reading this who want to add?)
Why does this persist and other practices change?
On the FAO site on ICD (Information and Communication for Development) there is a list of online communities on ICD. Unfortunately I haven't found any methodological background on how they function, are supported, etc. (and why they are perceived as communities of practice rather than interest groups for instance).
Friday, January 27, 2006
(don't know how to translate 'bezieling', the rest means quality in organisations). I worked a couple of times with the core quality quadrants or kernkwadranten in teams. It is very powerful, because it goes one step beyond competences and styles, looking at core qualities a person posesses as really someone's capacity which is so natural to the person that he/she thinks everybody can do it. But it also helps you to look at the shadow side of your core quality by looking at the pitfall (if you are overdoing your core quality); your challenge and allergy. In that sense it is very respectful of the fact that everyone has something to bring and that too much of a good thing becomes a negative quality and that you have to find your personal balance. Sometimes a very revealing exercise! What has been particularly revealing to me is that you have something to learn from the people who match your allergies (usually not your best friends :)). He describes why it's hard to change yourself, and that the best step to take is towards an increased balance is to be aware of and accept your core qualities and pitfalls.
In this book, part two talks about organisational development and states that managers tends to be allergic to chaos, because they don't realise that chaos is the presence of energy without direction. He thinks management of energy will be a huge management theme. I think this links strongly to the power of communities of practice, if they achieve in connecting people who are passionate about their practice (which probably has a connection to their own core qualities) it combines and directs their energy. I see communities of practice as a potential entry point to change the wider organisation and bring it in closer touch with its core quality.
We can also talk about the core quadrant of an organisation (this is new to me). Drawing a core quadrant of an organisation, in a participatory manner, could help to see where communities of practice would fit in or meet with resistance. Including subcultures in an organisation (coupling their core quandrant can make it more visible where they bite eachother!)
I liked the way he revisits project management and 'projectmatig werken', because I'm very tired of projects, after 10 years in Mali, Ethiopia and Ghana. If a project turns into a controlmechanisms which leaves out anything coincidental and spontaneous developments, the result will be forced and will not be sustainable. Nevertheless, this is not a fault of project management in itself, if the essence is co-creation it can be a very powerful intervention. A creative proces can be facilitated as a technique (by formulating objections to an idea as challenges) , but it is also a competence in itself and reflects a philosophy which starts from the premises that everyone's work and ideas have value. Advice at the end of the book: try to be creative and not reactive (something I find easier in CoPs than in organisations or projects ...).
PS in this post I'm not really doing justice to the whole book, I just picked out a few things which resonated with my own ideas.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
1) The purpose of TrackBack is to let a site know that you are referencing them on your on site.
2) The TrackBack URL is different than the regular permanent link URL.
3) TrackBacks are fun. You should use them.
Ok, since they are fun: I go ahead. But it appears blogger doesn't have it. So I installed links to this post instead. I hope it is the same thing? I'm not convinced that this is something that works and is useful to me actually. When I pointed to Nancy's video, I could have used links her post.. oh, then she would know how many people have linked.... I think I get it. (this will replace the part where I normally send an email, and though that might be as fast actually it may not be as visible).
Since then I'm thinking about the space for individual learning versus group learning and group pressure to go in a certain direction. Maybe some people thrive when they are not (or not so much) connected to and influenced by others? Maybe individualistic journeys are more authentic? Do blogs create that space for online communities? Is this a linkbait?
I did not intend to blog it, till I saw the great reaction from Wim de Bie on his bieslog (weblog). He writes down a dialogue between a policeman and someone talking dialect. When the person speaking dialect gets arrested for not speaking Dutch, the policeman starts calling the assistance of his colleague using English terms. (Emurtjensie koll!!). What a great way of making the whole idea of blending cultures and languages clear.
With Meena Wilson and Ancella Livers from the Center for Creative Leadership, we collected short stories describing cross-cultural encounters, to look at crosscultural issues in communities of practice. The term cross-cultural was not restrictricted to national cultures, but included professional subcultures. From the stories 10 important themes surfaced, but the theme on emotions has stuck with me, more than the other themes. I thought about it again because I received two angry e-mails, or rather, I perceived the sender to be angry. Thinking about our stories made it much easier not to get upset and to realize that you don't know what's behind it.
The stories revealed that cross-cultural encounters can induce strong emotional reactions. Behaviour of a person can easily be misinterpreted and emotions are diplayed in cultures in different ways. (this reminds me that my colleague from Ivory Coast yesterday told me the story of a Dutch person reacting very undercooled to winning a huge sum of money, saying, 'oh, that's nice'!). Hence, acknowledging the importance of emotions is an important intercultural competency. The emotions are not only negative, but also positive, excitement and laughter also played a big role in the stories.
The other themes which emerged were:
* It helps to have, find or stress common goals and commitment - common practices and passions like in communities of practice can go a long way
* Attention for communication protocols is important for facilitators of the process (language, translations, explanation of meanings, non-verbal clues)
* Being open and willing to learn about yourself and the others is important personal characteristic which facilitates working through any differences
* It helps to have cultural brokers, people who understand different sides of the story
* Asking for, providing and receiving feedback is important yet perilous. Perilous because also practices of asking and giving feedback may vary.
* Resolving conflicts and misunderstandings is important as they can not be prevented. Hence the ability to work through conflicts is more important than trying to prevent them at all costs.
* Respect and openess for other people and other practices is almost the basis, but goes with developing the ability to suspend (quick) judgment.
* Trust is critical to maintaining intercultural relationships. Trust is difficult to earn but can be easily squandered by incidents that seem insignificant to some, but hugely important to others. Though there is also the concept of 'imported trust', trust people bring along from their previous experiences.
Friday, January 20, 2006
The paper is informed by postcolonial theory on continuous asymmetric relationships between North, South, East and West analyses a practical micro-level process within development cooperation. The micro-level process is a project formulation as a joint effort of Finnish and Tanzanian NGOs for improving the difficult economic siutation of retired professionals in Morogoro, Tanzania. She (is Tiina a she?) takes Foucault's methodological notion of intertwining of the relations of production, communication and power as a starting point.
Since 1980s NGOs in development cooperation have been regarded as representatives of partnerships that include more equal relationships, refering to a relationship of 2 parties that collaborate to meet each others' needs and that includes trust, respect and equality. Another key word in development cooperation has been 'participation'. Projects should be planned and implemented in a participatory manner to ensure 'local ownership' of the project. She argues that authentic and more ethical encountres presuppose the acknowledgement of these historical asymmetries. The whole debate calls for analysis of power and specifically how systemic power is produced and reproduced in the local practices of development cooperation. Hoes does this 'inherent contradiction' in aid (to aim at equality and partnerships in conditions of unequal distribution of resources) emerge in actual development encounters? A constuctive combination of the analysis of constructing a project and power relations will give new insights in the encounters which are both places of dialogue and sites of struggle in project definition.
The project described was an effort to improve the economic situation of retired professionals in Morogoro in Tanzania. A Finnish NGO with over 50 years experience in welfare of aged people in Finland (but not in development cooperation!) worked with a Tanzanian NGO established by a small group of retired professionals, organising group counselling sessions amongst other activities. In 1999, both organisations came together to discuss the planning of a project, through 7 planning meetings with 2 representatives from the Finnish NGO and 5 from the Tanzanian NGO. A draft agreement was produced, and some kind of consensus reached, but interviews raised the question how authentic the consensus was. Both parties had different planning agendas, with the main tension arising between the concept of the project as a training-only project versus a training project with micro-credit facility. Rather than solving the tension, the Finish representatives added a used computer to the project. The question was transformed into : "should we stop the project if a training-only project is not sufficient"?
Even small and trivial acts like discussions on advancing cash or not held importance in constructing the power relationship. The projet budget was not shared and Northern representatives controlled the use of the project money. Furthermore, the processes of divisions, exclusion and inclusion were also going on between the southern actors who might use the project to serve interests in local power struggles.
The conclusion is that the Northern agenda became shared and that the sharedness of the project was contested by continuous manifestations of tensions in the project - even though the project may be beneficial to the retired professionals. The practical difficulty of NGO partnership and participation calls for more macro and structural interpretation of emergent asymmetry. Acknowledgement of historically emerged features might help practitioners in understanding the problems in development cooperation.
Pff. (I'm now budgetholder for a small budget, which makes me feel like a donor for the first time in my life ;)). So what may help is to be clear on roles- and limits like budgets. And don't go for participation where the donor's mind is already set, only go for participation with open ears where you honestly want to listen. And maybe being clear on decision-making procedures, who decides on what? What are the joint decisions? Like in the described case, in fact the Tanzanian NGO's participation was restricted to defining the content of the training and the eligible training participants.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
One of the teacher had worked for two weeks on a database system to keep track of competence development of pupils. When asked if he had so much time at hand to work on it, he answered that he did it partly in his own time, as a hobby. This community meeting was a place where he could share that- partly voluntary- work.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
The analogy with organisations supporting communities of practice struck me. I've seen organisations who continue organising another training and another training in the hope to build capacity, but it may not be within the real learning interests of the participants. The art of cultivating communities of practice is in linking up with natural processes and that sometimes means waiting to see what emerges rather than running around faster and faster.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
In the blogging discussion that I mentioned before, someone talked about obsession with audience and statistics. I think I am a bit obsessed (or thrilled?) by the location statistics you can get from the sitemeter. Amazing how you can follow who visited your blog, from which countries, from which URL (web address) they were referred and how long they stayed on .... 33% from the US, a country I have never been to. (and what is an unknown country? Bush trying to read my blog anonymously?). Though I still blog in the first place to digest what I read and observe, and enjoy the photo and video part, which is more creative, I start to become more conscious of audience. I might review some of the old articles I read on communities of practice as they are still relevant, and would keep my blog on track with its title. Without comments it's hard to know which posts are most appreciated and which direction my blog should take. (the posts I consider my best posts get the least comments).
And.. I discovered my brother-in-law follows my blog so I have to be careful as well what I write about the family :)
Personally, I cling very much to my painting class (and my blog recently). Even though I rarely show my painting works to anyone, it is a very creative, different way of expressing myself. Just recently I started to see the parallels in the way I paint and the way I work (so guess how my paintings look like :)).
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Interesting and practical were the 12 cases shared and discussed and I will probably discuss a few in separate posts. Personally I see the distinction between existing communities of practice who incorporate blogs as a means of conversation, which will shift the dynamics and content of that conversation, as learning logs did during the online facilitation course I participated in. Blogs are more personal, quiet and safer spaces which are open to a slower pace and more reflection. On the other hand, people reported that blogs can create communities of practice because it is a way of finding likeminded people; which can subsequently lead to dialogue en even meeting face-to-face.
A friend, Maaike Smit, commented that she enjoyed reading my blog because it is so much easier to read a personal account than a long, dry article. I thought that's such an important point about the power of blogs in the overload of information on the web that I like to share it.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
I went to the site of feedblitz and the rest is quite self-explanatory (you subscribe and have to copy a html code into your blog's template).
The podcast talks about aggregators a a means of subscribing to RSS feeds. She explains why 2006 can be the year of the aggregator because for instance, it is possible to be informed when a colleague has added something on a project you're working on. There is a basic choice to be made between:
* webbased readers, eg. bloglines, myyahoo, newaggregators
* desktop client readers- to quickly scan what's going on eg. blogbridge is mentioned as a good one because it is java-based, open soure and designed by someone who understands collaboration and can be integrated with delicious.
It's interested that your learning process is very individual, but it can be supported by your community of practice if it coincides with others at the right time. And it can stimulate action and change, my uneasy feeling about google reader will now be transformed into action by trying blogbridge (combined with uploading my own feeds more consciously).
Saturday, January 07, 2006
He argues strongly for cultural contamination as the opposite of cultural protection as defined by agencies like Unesco. Though contamination has a bit of a negative connotation I like his emphasis on the dynamics of culture and the fact that people drink Coca-cola everywhere does not means there is a case of cultural imperialism: 'cultures are made of continuities and change and the identity of a society can survive through these changes. Societies without changes aren't authentic; they're just dead.
And: ' change is more a gradual transformation from one mixture to a new mixture, a process that usually takes place at some distance from rules and rulers, in the conversations that occur across cultural boundaries. Such conversations are not so much about arguments and values as about the exchange of perspectives. ' ...' How much of the shift away from these assumptions is a result of arguments? Isn't a significant part of it just the consequence of our getting used to new ways of doing things?'
I recognise the depicted scene very much, last time when we went to the Ethiopian restaurant, we laughed with the son of the owner because he asked how long we all had lived in Ethiopia and his was the shortest of all (two years). Another Ethiopian friend lives in Ireland and is married to a French woman adopted from Brasil when she was eight. So she was asking us lots of things about Ethiopia because she had never been there. They talked to us about how Irish people interact. At the same time, I realize we are more likely to meet those 'cosmopolitans', as Kwame Appiah calls it in his article, through our work and travels.
It also reminds me of the day I travelled with my Ghanaian colleague to a visit the work of one NGO and we met a female chief in one of the villages in Western Region in Ghana. As I was surprised, I asked her several questions. She explained that she was of the family illegible for chieftancy and had been involved in several community tasks when the former chief passed away. She was then asked to take up the chieftancy by virtue of her contributions to the village, even though this is traditionally a men's role. A strong example of the fact that all cultural practices are dynamic.
To try and relates this to communities of practice: the conversations across boundaries, whether professional boundaries or other 'cultural' differences can contribute to gradual change and transformation. So fostering conversations across boundaries is important to innovation (this is my own interpretation).
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Monday, January 02, 2006
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Through global voices I found this story from Ghana told by Reverend Peter E. Adotey Addo:
ANANSE AND THE POT OF WISDOM..or NO ONE PERSON CAN HAVE ALL THE WISDOM IN THE WORLD
This is a very old story told when the world was young . It is about how Mr.. Ananse the Sly and greedy one among all the animals in the forest outsmarted himself.
As the story goes Ananse, that is still his name , but did you know that his first name was Kweku because he was born on a Wednesday ? One day Ananse collected all the wisdom in the world and decided to keep it all in a large pot for himself. Now he said “I have all the wisdom of the world for myself. At least that was what he thought being such a greedy person.
Kweku Ananse then tied the pot of wisdom around his neck with a strong vine rope and let the pot hang in front of him. But then he was afraid that someone would find the pot of wisdom and steal it.” What shall I do with my pot of wisdom” He thought and thought and at last he said,” I shall hide the pot on top of the the tallest tree in the forest.” So he searched the forest until he found the tallest tree which happened to be the thorny silk cotton tree and brought the pot of wisdom to the tree. While Ananse was trying to climb the thorny silk cotton tree his son was watching him.” Father,” he said,” “What are you doing” “Well” said Ananse , I have in this clay pot all the wisdom of the world and I am going to hang it on the top of the tallest tree away from everybody , then I will be the wisest in the whole wide world.” “I have an idea.” said his son ” Why not hang the pot behind you instead of in front of you. Then you will be able to climb the tree”. Well the sly one Ananse hung the pot behind him and to his surprise; he was able to climb to the top of the tree with his pot.
Finally Ananse sat on a branch of the tree holding the pot of wisdom. “I thought I had all the wisdom in the world” He thought to himself.
“I thought I had it all in my pot but my own son has wisdom not in my pot.” Then he made a statement that we still use today.” No one-person can have all the wisdom in the world.”On his way down he dropped the pot and it smashed into many pieces and scatted all the wisdom all over the world.