It is great to have been asked to be a guest blogger for Cognitive Edge!

I thought it worthwhile sharing with you my journey into complexity as a starting point for the next couple of weeks.

Up until a couple of years ago I was working predominantly with large professional service firms. The last role I had was as the Director, Knowledge Management for the Consulting division of a large professional services firm looking after the Asia Pacific region. It was during my time in this role that I began to really question where KM was going – especially in large organisations. Whilst I cannot say that my expereinces are representative of all large organiasations, I would hazard a guess that they are not “atypical”.

It is great to have been asked to be a guest blogger on the CE site!

I thought it worthwhile sharing with you my journey into complexity as a starting point for the next couple of weeks.

Up until a couple of years ago I was working predominantly with large professional service firms. The last role I had was as the Director, Knowledge Management for the Consulting division of a large professional services firm looking after the Asia Pacific region. It was during my time in this role that I began to really question where KM was going – especially in large organisations. Whilst I cannot say that my expereinces are representative of all large organiasations, I would hazard a guess that they are not “atypical”.

Anyway, to put a context around KM in this organisation, it was about collecting all the case studies, project materials and reusable documents for projects so that other consultants could look at them and not have to reinvent the wheel when undertaking similar projects. The firm had spend significant dollars (millions) on designing a Sharepoint implementation to cater for this material globally – sound familiar? It was the KM groups role to facilitate the collection of all of this material and indeed we were measured by the volume of material and visits to the Sharepoint site. It was my experience (especially in the Asia Pacific region) that it was a real struggle to not only get contributions, but also to get people to see the value in visiting this KM site. This I believe was primarily due a misplaced view on what knowledge was in the organisation. I think they had one of the pre-eminant information manangement approaches of any organisation I had seen. However, in my book, this is not knowledge – for it to be knowledge, it needed context – and where did that context come from? PEOPLE! The approach had little focus upon the connecting of people, facilitating consultants being able to contact each other and connect over project experiences. I don’t want this blog to be perceived as a “whinge” about this firm, but my efforts to get them to look at consulting in a “networked world” fell on deaf ears. Many times I proposed that we look at the application of Web 2.0 – blogs, wikis, internal versions of Facebook etc but this was all seen to be a threat to the established “tried and true” KM approach. I also undertook several Organisational Network Analysis projects in Australia, China and India which whilst well received locally, were frowned upon at the global level as not being “on strategy” for KM.

So I was getting rather disillusioned with what was happening, and firmly believed people were at the centre of successful knowledge sharing in the future. During this time, I cam across the work of Dave Snowden and was rather intrigued and excited about what he was advocating not only around knowledge, but how to deal with issues in a complex world. I found out (by luck) about an accreditation course being run by Cognitive Edge in Brisbane to which I signed up for. It was at this course I think I had a number of “nirvana” moments and realised that this was what I had really been looking for. To say that the course was like “drinking knowledge from a fire hose” would be a gross understatement! It was also at this course that I met my future business partner Viv Read who already was working in the complexity space and was co-facilitating the course with Dave. We had pretty similar views on the world of people and complexity so decided to keep in touch. About six months after the course, Viv contacted me and asked if I would like to be involved in a pro bono project called “The Future of Volunteering” that involved not only the use of SenseMaker, but also a range of the Cognitive Edge methods. I jumped at the opportunity and even got the firm to agree to support it through providing my time for free. It was during this project that Viv and I started to discuss the possiblility of working together, believing that organisations and groups would benefit from considering an alternative approach to dealing with complex issues. So about 18 months ago, I cut the bonds from the corporate world and Viv and myself formed Emerging Options – the last 18 months has been an adventure, meeting some wonderful people and dare I say it – a lot of Fun!

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