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Dr. Dan's Knowledge Management
Dr. Dan's Knowledge Management
Knowledge Management viewpoints and curations by a world-wide recognized Knowledge Management Expert and Consultant: President/CEO of Knowledge Management Professional Society (KMPro) - the world's largest KM professional society; Creator of the first KM certification program and remains today after 21 years as the world's longest serving provider of Knowledge Management training and certification with more than 6,500 individuals certified and more than 3,000 in other KM training.
Curated by Dr. Dan Kirsch
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Dr. Dan's Knowledge Management Quotes - Ikujiro Nonaka on Ba

Dr. Dan's Knowledge Management Quotes - Ikujiro Nonaka on Ba | Dr. Dan's Knowledge Management | Scoop.it

Dr. Dan:  Learn about Ba, and understand its implication to the organizational knowledge creation processes.  Knowledge creation fosters innovation, and Ba is the place (context) in which the tacit knowledge is converted, and the place (context) that enables the organization to utilize the new knowledge to discover new products, or ways to improve upon existing products, and so on.

Dr. Dan Kirsch's insight:

“Knowledge needs a context to be created.  Contrary to the Cartesian view of knowledge, which emphasises the absolute and context-free nature of knowledge, the knowledge-creating process is necessarily context-specific in terms of who participates and how they participate. Knowledge needs a physical context to be created: `there is no creation without place'.  Ba, (which roughly means `place') offers such a context.”

(Ikujiro Nonaka)

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Kayak's Why “no innovation happens with 10 people in a room.”

Kayak's Why “no innovation happens with 10 people in a room.” | Dr. Dan's Knowledge Management | Scoop.it

Dr. Dan:  Sorry, but this is an epic FAIL with regard to both Knowledge Management and Innovation Management.

Paul English, co-founder of @KAYAK, on why “no innovation happens with 10 people in a room“: http://t.co/gWHzDb34EO

Dr. Dan Kirsch's insight:

Wow.  I'm probably one of the 12 people on the planet that hasn't yet used Kayak and after reading this, frankly, I still may not ever use it.

Why?  I believe that this quote from Paul English, co-founder of Kayak, provides a pretty clear indication that there is a fundamental lack of understanding at Kayak of Knowledge Management, and that knowledge feeds innovation.

How so?  Well consider this -- intending to use an organization's knowledge to drive competitive advantage and to feed innovation only works when you actually use that knowledge.  If you don't actually use it...it's going to very often then be a fairly frustrating journey with a not so great ending to the story.

Yes, I know that sounds rather simplistic, but let me 'esplain.  

We've all heard (no doubt) stories about how organizational knowledge wasn't actually utilized.  Stories centered around painful discussions that would have been a whole lot easier if only "Bob" (or whoever hadn't been there).  Meetings where you weren't able to make a decision -- or didn't make the right decision -- because "Rita" was yet again absent.  And on and on.  Or how about the meeting where a manager shows up instead of the employee with the actual technical knowledge -- to protect their flanks from anticipated heated discussions.  Been there, done that, bought those t-shirts.  And I'm confident that you have as well.

In Knowledge Management one concept that we can and should draw from when considering KM implementation is Nonaka's application of what is referred to as the concept of "Ba" to introduce the concept of a shared space for knowledge creation and sharing.  

Specifically, there is what Nonaka refers to as "Interacting Ba" which overlays onto the "Externalization" cycle portion of Nonaka's "Knowledge Spiral Conversion" model.  Now here's the important and relevant point that needs to be made:  Interacting Ba is about selecting the right people with the right mix of specific knowledge and making sure that they are where that knowledge is needed.  In short, the right knowledge needs to be in THE ROOM.  And that is critical.  

Failure to have that right knowledge "in the room" may well result in making a bad decision.  In that sense then, I suppose that it's "good news" if instead of a bad decision you simply weren't able to make ANY decision because of Bob or Rita or whoever not showing for the meeting.  But you get the point.

So, how does this then connect to Paul English and Kayak?  Allow me to connect the dots.  

If you truly understand both Knowledge Management and Innovation Management, then you would quickly come to terms with the fact that it is simply not relevant whether there are either three or 10 people in a room.  The goal of having the right knowledge available is to improve decision making, for example.  

So no, it's not instead a matter of there not being "three of you smart enough to do this" (from his quote).  It is however a matter of having the right knowledge in the room.  

If that "right" knowledge enters the room with individual #4, that's a good thing.  Or with #5.  And so on.  Practically, yes, I understand limiting the size of meetings as a function of ensuring that you can actually reach a decision (too many cooks and all that).  However, if you find that you have "too many" folks in a meeting, perhaps you're having the WRONG kinds of meetings.  Break it down into smaller chunks, focused on specific areas.  And ensure that you have the RIGHT knowledge that is necessary to effectively make a decision....in the room.

English's approach to try to make all decisions with just three people (or such) as a way to streamline meetings is a misapplication of concepts. He's trying to streamline meetings, and suggests that you cannot reach consensus with for example, 10 in a room.  If they are facing urgent needs to streamline and can't do so with more than three in a room, then it seems to me that they need to learn how to hold the right kind of meetings.  Or at least better meetings.  Or come to terms with the simple fact that innovation doesn't necessarily happen during schedule meetings (which says so much about an organization that believe that they need to schedule a meeting for that).  Or learn how to be better leaders and managers so that they lay the groundwork for building consensus prior to locking themselves into the cathedral while the rest of the organization stares at the chimney for white or black smoke.  You get the idea.

To instead blissfully chide a group about what is effectively, removing knowledge from a room, simply to arbitrarily reduce the number of folks in the room (based on a desire to what, to then reduce the cost of making a bad decision? or based on what, being "bitten" by a meeting with 10 in it somewhere in the past?) is akin to holding your airlines of choice and their ontime arrival goals....to the same standard as a pizza delivery that "must be delivered in 30 minutes or less."  I frankly don't want the pilot of any plane in which I'm a passenger to feel a compelling need to "must" be on the ground in 30 minutes.  If it takes 40 to do it correctly and safely, please, feel free to do so.  Take all the time you need.  Yupper, I'm quite good with that thanks.

That's an example of misapplication of concept -- equating ontime arrivals in the airline industry to ontime pizza delivery.  Not the same concepts, not driven by the same issues, and certainly not going to have the same outcome metrics.

So it seems clear to me that Kayak's leadership lack a fundamental understanding of the value of their organizational knowledge.  And/or at least how to run effective meetings.  If you have "too many people" in the room....consider first before you remove bodies whether there was a decision made BEFORE the meeting regarding the goals of the meeting and what specific knowledge was critical (and who was supposed to bring that).  And then do that managerial thing, those leadership things.

And as an added thought....if I worked for a "big giant head" who seemingly had little better to do than to monitor the number of folks within a meeting...I'd probably be making a reservation to go somewhere else.  Yeah, reservation...that was intentional.

Michelle Gilstrap's curator insight, August 3, 2013 1:13 PM

Very interesting, makes you understand the process.

Pablo Mayorga Bueno's curator insight, February 14, 12:28 AM

"I just hate design by consensus. It’s very easy to be a critic and say why something won’t work. I don’t want that because new ideas are like these little precious things that can die very easily...” - Mentorship panels are good enough validating innovation from new entrepreneurs?

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Keep Calm - Knowledge Management Series: Building Ba

Keep Calm - Knowledge Management Series: Building Ba | Dr. Dan's Knowledge Management | Scoop.it

Dr. Dan:  Does your Knowledge Management Strategy incorporate methods of building and utilizing Ba as part of your organization's knowledge creating processes?

Dr. Dan Kirsch's insight:

“Therefore, the knowledge-creating process is necessarily context-specific in terms of time, space, and relationship with others. Knowledge cannot be created in vacuum, and needs a place where information is given meaning through interpretation to become knowledge. The importance of place in human cognition and action has been discussed by many philosophers.  Plato called a place for a genesis of existence as Chora.  Aristotels called a place for a thing to physically exist as Topos.  Heidegger called a place for human existence as Ort.

Building on the concept that was originally proposed by the Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida (1921, 1970), we define ”Ba as a shared context in motion, in which knowledge is shared, created, and utilized.”

“Ba provides the energy, quality, and places to perform the individual knowledge conversions and to move along the knowledge spiral. In other words, Ba is a phenomenological time and space where knowledge, as ‘a stream of meaning’ emerges (Bohm, 1996). New knowledge is created out of existing knowledge through the change of meanings and contexts.”

“Although it is easier to consider Ba as a physical space such as a meeting room, Ba should be understood as a multiple interacting mechanism explaining tendencies for interactions that occur at a specific time and space.

Ba can emerge in individuals, working groups, project teams, informal circles, temporary meetings, virtual space such as e-mail groups, and at the front-line contact with the customer.

Ba is an existential place where participants share their contexts and create new meanings through interactions.

Participants of Ba bring in their own contexts, and through interactions with others and the environment, the contexts of Ba, participants, and the environment change.”

“Ba is a way of organizing that is based on the meaning it creates, rather than a form of organization such as hierarchy or network.
A firm can be viewed as an organic configuration of various BA, where people interact with each other and the environment based on the knowledge they have and the meaning they create.

When we see a firm as an organic configuration of Ba instead of an organizational structure, we can see what kind of knowledge should and can be created, who are the ‘right people’ with embedded knowledge, and what kind of interactions are needed among them to create knowledge without being restricted by the existing organization structure.”

Knowledge Management Research & Practice (2003) 1, 2–10 & 2003 Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. , Nonaka I. & Toyama R., The Knowledge-Creating Theory Revisited: Knowledge Creation as a Synthesizing Process

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