Friday, October 30, 2015

KM and Design Thinking

Some thoughts generated by a meeting of the Knowledge Management Association (KMA) - DC Chapter on October 30th with a presentation/discussion with Arno Boersma and Barbara Bitondo:


  • The session was titled "Why Design Thinking Will Save KM".  I was reading “design thinking” and my brain was registering “systems thinking” until the day of the event. Essentially, we’re talking about a different way of thinking about KM.  KM could benefit from both design thinking and systems thinking if they were integrated in some way.  That will require more percolations. For now I see design thinking as an interesting way of applying a new way of thinking to get us possibly unstuck from the general “KM is dead” malaise. KM has been supposedly dead or dying for as long as I've been in this field (close to 20 years) so I'm not too concerned. Sometimes as a cadre of professionals, we may need to unlearn, get rid of our assumptions and what we believe we’ve learned.
  • What’s special about design thinking? The focus on the people, the end-users.  The term end-user suggests that there is a KM “system” to be used.  User experience also suggests a system or tool to be “used.”  If we want to focus on people, I think we need to focus on how people think, how they use their brains, not how they use any specific tool or system.
  • If design thinking can help KM folks understand how people behave around information and how they create and share information to generate knowledge, that’s great.  I’m a little skeptical about simply observing what people do because there is a lot going on in someone’s head that doesn’t necessarily show up in observable actions.  There would be added benefit, however, in asking people to think about how they handle information and how they share their knowledge.  Can we apply cognitive task analysis (CTA) without making it all about how they navigate a website? In the end, the task may not involve “using” anything other than their brain and their voice in a valuable conversation over coffee (See Chris Collison’s article “Is this Knowledge Management’s most effective tool?”).
  • In the spirit of learning from other disciplines and cross-pollination, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look again at theories of adult learning/andragogy.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel there either by starting from scratch with design thinking.
  • Agile this, agile that, and finally, agile KM.  Is that not the same as applying the rapid results methodology to KM?
                                                            
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Here is the corresponding map for this post.  Unfortunately, I can only publish the maps as images at this time and therefore the links embedded in the map will not work.
Click to open in a separate window and enlarge.



Thursday, October 29, 2015

Change a Tire and Learn a Thing or Two - (Mapping to Reflect and Learn)

I had a flat tire a few days ago.  Luckily, it happened (or at least I realized it) while the car was parked in my driveway.  That was convenient for a number of reasons:  1) I could go back inside the house and change into my "garden" clothes.  It turned out I also needed more sturdy shoes to get the lug nut wrench to do its job; 2) I could go back inside the house, turn on my computer and google a couple of videos on "how to change a tire?"  It's not that I had no clue about how to do it but since I'd never done it before, I thought it would be good to do it right and not improvise.  Of course, with my smartphone, I could have done this anywhere.  It was just more comfortable and less stressful to do it at home than it would have been on the side of a highway.

The car is more than 10 years old and as far as I know the donut tire has been used once before but I wasn't the one who changed it.  It did occur to me as I was struggling to unstuck the lug nuts that the replacement tire might not have enough pressure in it to take me anywhere.  My target destination was the gas station/car repair shop that is literally at the end of the street.  Their car repair folks had left for the day but at least I'd be able to get some air pressure into the donut.

I'd like to see a woman in heels try to replace a flat tire!  I had to go put on my extra sturdy hiking shoes to kick the wrench without hurting my foot.  I'm surprised I managed to do it.  I seriously doubted I could do it but I had to try.... and it worked.. with some effort.

It was the jack and attached lug nug wrench that gave me the most trouble.  First, dislodging the wrench from the jack wasn't obvious.  It required some thinking about how on earth the mechanism worked. Then the wrench wouldn't open up because it's only been used once in 10 years.  I ended up using a screwdriver as a lever and there was nothing to it.

What can or should I learn from this experience?

A self-confidence lesson:  Changing a tire isn't rocket science but if you've never done it before, it can be a little intimidating.  I decided I would try and success boosted my confidence.  I was able to figure how the whole thing, from taking out the flat tire, putting on the replacement tire, getting some air into it, and driving to a place that could either fix the flat tire or replace it. And it only took about 90 minutes for the whole thing.

Paying attention to warning signs:  I know why I ended up with a flat tire.  A week ago, I had a small collision, resulting in a misalignment of the front wheels.  Driving with the misaligned wheels essentially destroyed the front tires.  When I had the collision damage repaired and wheels realigned, I might have paid attention to the car repair folks' suggestion that I replace the tires.  I chose not to, probably because I didn't sufficiently understand the connection.  Had they shown me the tire damage, I would have considered the replacement more seriously.

Slow down the thinking:  When I couldn't figure out the jack and wrench for a couple of minutes, I didn't get frustrated.  I saw it as a challenge. It was obvious that there was nothing wrong with the jack and wrench and all I needed to do was figure out how they were supposed to be disconnected and then used properly.  Slowing down to just sit and observe the jack and wrench, identifying the moving parts and eventually the bulb lights up and it's obvious and pretty smart.

How often do we take the time to reflect upon simple experiences like this?  I'm not suggesting that we should sit down every night to document the lessons of the day, but there is definite value in taking the time to think it through.  It can be empowering!

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Two days after drafting this post, I decided to see what it would look like as a map  (see below).  Can you tell from the map that I had more fun doing the map than writing the post?  After years of mapping, I think my brain prefers mapping to writing.

Click to enlarge.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Insights, Tips, Lessons and More

This is a map I developed based on my experience at the Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival out of Staunton, Virginia. Beautiful countryside. It was my first experience with this type of group bicycling event and therefore a great learning opportunity.  As you'll see from the map, I started thinking about the difference between lessons, insights, recommendations, observations, and tips.


Click to enlarge.




A tip is a piece of practical advice.  Tips are great for the novices.

An observation is something worth noticing, a relevant piece of information, usually related to the context for key insights and recommendations. Observation is the first step in reflection.  It's the "what did I notice?"

An insight is a kind of "aha moment", often triggered by reflection and supported by observations.  It's the answer to "what did it mean?"

A lesson is what we tell ourselves we'll do differently next time.  Lessons occur to us most often when we realize we made a mistake that was avoidable and we could have done things differently. Note that even though riding mid-day instead of early morning to avoid the colder temperatures is common sense, I will most likely not learn that lesson.  I'm a morning person and waiting for mid-day to ride makes no sense to me whatsoever.   This is typical of lessons I'm afraid.  Just because we note the lesson does not guarantee we'll learn it and do things differently next time.

I didn't include any "best practice" on the map.  Perhaps a best practice would be something that avid bicyclists do out of habit and novices like myself need to be reminded of, something like "stay hydrated, drink before, during and after the ride."  How is that different from a tip?  Perhaps a best practice is something that applies to everyone whereas a tip is simply advice to address challenges you might encounter as a rider.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Exploring TiddlyMap (while waiting for my car to get a tune-up

Very impressed with what I can do with TiddlyMap.  I've posted before, probably several times, about TiddlyWiki. I've used TiddlyWiki extensively in the past but I've also used various concept mapping and mind mapping tools.  All I needed was a tool that would combine both.  It turns out that someone ( Felix K├╝ppers, aka felixhayashi) developed a mapping plugin for TiddlyWiki.

I downloaded it a couple of days ago to try out and since I've been sitting in the waiting room of the car dealership for a few hours now, there was no better time to play around with it and see what it can do.  I am impressed.  It's significantly different from tools I've previously used for mapping.


  • I've used CmapTools extensively in the past as a mapping tool but I have not really used it as a concept mapping tool per se. I was putting entire sentences rather than distinct concepts in each node and not using the linking phrases.  CmapTools is very flexible and can be used in ways that it wasn't intended for, and so I did.  TiddlyMap doesn't have that flexibility YET since each node is attached to a tiddler, it allows me to connect a node to a great deal of information, including links, images and entire paragraphs of text if I need to.  That's also possible with CmapTools but more awkward.  Going back to a mapping approach that sticks to main concepts and linking phrases has been easy but that could be because of the simple types of maps I was working with for practice. 
Here is a little practice example: 
  • I've made extensive use of the ability to link maps built with CmapTools.  I've developed knowledge systems that have hundreds of maps linked and cross-referenced in every possible direction.  TiddlyMap is meant for a single map.  The trick is that nodes can be tagged and views created so that only nodes with a specific tag are visible.  This allows me to show high level maps without all the confusing details, yet also only the details of a particular topic when I want to.  In the case of the map above, I tagged all the nodes that you can see as "tools" and the map is based on a subset of nodes with that tag, yet part of a much bigger map.

    Technically, it's one canvas but there's nothing preventing me from developing completely separate maps on that one canvas.  Each view can be a completely separate map.
  • I also like the ability to embed a map (or specific map view) in a tiddler.
  • The nodes and links have many styling options (nothing much is pre-populated), but as with anything TiddlyWiki-related, it's good to have a little bit of a coder's brain.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Just thinking...

When I read a non-fiction book, I often take notes.  I've brought out of the closet a dozen notebooks of various sizes and color and as I scanned through them, I wondered:  If I read a book again, by chance, would I remember that I've read it before?  Would I take essentially the same notes?  Would taking the same notes suggest I didn't really internalize anything from my first reading of the book?  It would seem to suggest I'm stuck.  Or, does it simply reflect the fact that we need refresher courses in everything.  We forget!

Just thinking!  

There's more to this.  I'll need to come back to it.  I've barely scratched the surface of my questions.