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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Conversation on Conversations

Through blog comments and blog posts, an interesting conversation is emerging around – Conversations as Part of Concept Work.   It somewhat started with my post Reduce Searching Start Talking where I suggest that there are points in our concept work where we need to be ready to move from search to conversation.  In the comments there …

Maria H tells us - I think there is time and purpose for all types of information transfer (for lack of a better phrase) and helping people learn when to use the right one is our challenge.

Ken Allan really somewhat crystallizes it as a question of "Knowing WHEN to switch?"  Or more broadly, when is each kind of method appropriate given a specific concept work need.

In Conversation Questions, I pushed this a bit further based on Nancy Dixon - What Do We Get From Conversation That We Can't Get Any Other Way? – looking at the areas of value, but also left it with the challenging question of not only knowing when to switch, but also knowing who to ask and how to ask the right questions.

In Love the Conversation – Ken Allan discusses the complexity of helping concept workers with the skills around this:

The question here is where to start. It is likely too complex for a practical guiding taxonomy to be drawn up and be of any use. Drafting a program to teach adults to use the right means of knowledge transfer is probably at least as difficult as teaching children to be discerning about information accessible on the Internet. There are no hard and fast rules for this. Yet there is no doubt that discernment forms a large part of selecting efficient and effective means for knowledge transfer.

While this is complex, it's very important.  There are very specific limits to using codified knowledge and that Conversation Learning is essential.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure that we really are doing much to address this important Knowledge Worker Skill Gap

What's nice is that Ken has helped me to get to these core questions:

  • When
  • Who
  • How

Part of the Who and How question, we've discussed before in the Big Question – Network Feedback – where we discussed different places to reach out for help from your networks.  There was certainly no clear answer and some suggestion that we should be aggressive about reaching out to many of your networks.  I've also discussed it in I've talked about it in Leveraging Networks Skill and Networks and Communities.

Codified Conversations

Separately, Harold Jarche provided some interesting thoughts around issues of codified knowledge, individuals and conversations.  He reminded me of Dave Pollard experience with knowledge management (and it's a conversation I've had directly with Dave):

So my conclusion this time around was that the centralized stuff we spent so much time and money maintaining was simply not very useful to most practitioners. The practitioners I talked to about PPI [Personal Productivity Improvement] said they would love to participate in PPI coaching, provided it was focused on the content on their own desktops and hard drives, and not the stuff in the central repositories.

Dave basically went through a transition from looking at KM as big central codified knowledge bases to going out to individuals and work teams in the organization to figure out how they could be helped on a tactical level. 

Dave provides a very interesting picture of information flows in 2025.


While his focus still seems to be more on codified knowledge, look at what his first item is: conversations.  There is, of course, a really interesting question of how that conversation is captured.  Dave certainly looks at that in his post – the scattered electronic conversation that occurs today.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Tony!

I really like how you are developing this. I read what you say about the importance of conversation learning despite its complexity and I agree.

One human characteristic that I find fascinating is diversity, especially as applied, in this instance, to interpretation and in discerning what aspect of a conversation is important and what is less so.

There are similar parallels in how a person interprets a video, a talk/lecture/podcast, or an essay come to that. Studies in English literature show us how this diversity can be illuminating.

BUT . . .

. . . getting the wrong end of the stick from a conversation is something else, albeit another diversity. I guess this is one part of how conversation learning is complex, as you say.

Catchya later

Wendy said...

Having some of the same thoughts. I've found that for myself - I switch from a need for static codified resources to fluid conversation when I am starting to look for context / ways to apply the information beyond a simple, single-task how-to.

Admittedly - I'm much more inclined to hide out with my books and texty things until the last minute....

What could be promising is figuring out ways to track that conversation. We see some of it in case studies. Some in the conversations on Twitter. Or blog comments. What have people tried? What parts of their context make or break a particular solution? The almost real-time conversation digs out variables that may not have been considered before....

It seems to be part of 1 big cycle. Look at the codified info, get to a point where I have questions and need to figure out ways to apply the information, find answers through conversation, codify the info again, rinse, repeat.