The Improv Analyst: Kupe Kupersmith

By: Yadira Y. Caro

Business Analysis and Project Management are not concepts that make us think of comedy – at least not often. For Kupe Kupersmith, these terms are associated, if you want to be better at your BA or PM job that is. As a keynote speaker and coach, he uses his “improv advantage” to teach better methods of collaboration. He knows all of these fields well: aside from working for over two decades as a BA and PM, he was also an improv artist for many years.

In his quest to help make people “more awesome” as he describes on his website, Kupe also co-wrote the book Business Analysis for Dummies, alongside his former colleagues at B2T training. Aside from his training and speaking engagements, he is also a consultant helping organizations in collaboration and strategy.

In this interview, Kupe talks in depth about his “improv advantage” and shares some details about his career.

Did you start at first in the career path of Business Analysis or Project Management, or were you first an improv artist?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do going into college, so my dad’s like, “You like math, you might as well become an accountant.” I wasn’t really excited about it, but I didn’t know what else I wanted to do. So I graduated, thought I should use my accounting degree, became an accountant for an organization and failed the CPA exam miserably. I decided, “This is not for me, it’s not what I want do,” but I still didn’t know what I wanted to focus on. I had this creative itch: I actually tried stand-up, didn’t do that well in it, but then auditioned for an improv troop. They brought me on, trained me, and then I performed in Atlanta for about 10 years. Within those 10 years, that’s when I transitioned.

I was a subject matter expert for financial applications at Turner Broadcasting and I was working with project teams. At the time, we were going from Excel docs and Access databases to an ERP system. I was on the business side helping the IT project team. I really enjoyed working on projects so as there were openings, I kind of slid over into a BA position as being a subject matter expert in Financial Applications. So then I did business analysis, project management and kind of stayed in that space.

How did you realize that you could combine your improv skills with the project management and consulting skills?

In 2006, I decided to join a training company, B2T Training, that focused solely on Business Analysis training. Our goal was to try to help people get better in this role. I thought, “Why did people wanted me on their teams? Why did I enjoy being part of a team and help out?” Then I thought, “Wow, there’s all these improv skills that I’ve learned on stage that made me a better collaborator, that have made me a better team player. They’ve allowed me to be more empathetic.” I started to figure out, “I don’t perform on stage anymore, but how can I bring these skills to the people that we’re trying to train?”

What is a key skill that you have taken from improv that people could apply?

There’s a concept in improv that there’s no denying. Since there are no scripts, in improv you get ideas from the audience and you start acting out a scene. The actors on stage don’t have scripts to go back and forth with, so you can’t deny when somebody says something. If I’m like, “Yadira, let’s go play baseball” and you responded with, “No, I don’t want to,” that would kind of kill the whole scene, it would be boring, right? So if I say, “Let’s go for a run,” and you’re like, “Yeah, give me a second. I got to put on my shoes and yeah, let’s go,” you keep the scene moving forward.

Kupe Kupersmith during a speaking engagament.

How does that translate? One of the games we play to work on this is called “yes and.” The concept is that when somebody is having a conversation with you, you never deny. This happens all the time in the stuff that we’re doing. When we’re brainstorming with people on solutions, people typically will get frustrated, or somebody will have some idea and they’re like, “That’s a crazy idea, that’s stupid, let’s not work on it.” So try to have this “yes and” mentality in the office.

When I do this at keynote presentations and workshops, I have people play this game: I give them a topic, people pair up, then one person will start with a sentence and then the next person will be like, “Yes, and… ” and add to the conversation. I get them in the mode of going back and forth saying, “Yes, and… ” and adding on to what the previous person is saying. In those examples, you can get crazy: for example, you’re going to build a vacation home on the Moon, so have a conversation about that. People start building pools on the moon and they’re coming up with all these crazy things.

In real life, we have real constraints: we have budget constraints, we have time constraints, so we can’t do everything. But if somebody has an idea, you can’t just deny that idea. To them, it’s real. To the person, their idea is not crazy. They wouldn’t have said it unless they thought it had some merit, right? So it’s really putting it back on you that you don’t understand yet enough about that idea.

Listening is the other (skill). In improv we don’t have scripts so if I’m not listening completely to the other actors and what they’re doing and saying, then I might respond with something that has nothing to do with what they said. That’s the same thing with our conversations. If you’re interviewing me and your mind is elsewhere, you’re just hearing me talk and then you just follow up with another question, I’m going to be like, “Uh, did she even listened to what I was saying?”

As a Business Analyst and Project Manager, we’re facilitating constantly. If we’re not focusing on what’s happening in the room, really listening, paying attention, and adapting our style to how we communicate with others, then we’re not going to be as effective.

If somebody has an idea, you can’t just deny that idea. To them, it’s real. To the person, their idea is not crazy. They wouldn’t have said it unless they thought it had some merit.

Kupe Kupersmith

What is another key skill that would be good for either a Project Manager or a Business Analyst?

Curiosity is probably number one, especially in the BA profession where we’re trying to uncover what the real need is and how can we solve it. If you really don’t understand, don’t just take a note and say, “The customer wants a blue button over here.” Tell me what is that blue button going to help us with. How does that get us to our end game?

Being empathetic is the next one. I talk about empathy by comparing it to sympathy. Sympathy is kind of understanding or feeling for someone. It’s like, “Oh yeah, I see your job is really tough. I understand that. We’re going to try to help you.” I think we become sympathetic when we have one-on-one interviews or group interviews where we’re just talking to people. But empathy is about feeling with the person. You actually know what it is they’re going through.

I think especially in the BA profession, we have to be doing the work of our stakeholders or our customers to really understand what they’re going through to come up with good solutions. Being with them, observing, doing the work with them, to really understand what’s happening.

I joke a lot of times that I think people are liars. If you’re just interviewing someone, they’re going to lie to you. If I ask somebody, “What are the steps to do your laundry?,” someone will say, “You get the dirty clothes, put them in the washing machine, put soap in, turn the washing machine on and we’re done.” So I would ask, “Well, where do you get the clothes? Do they automatically just appear in a pile somewhere or do you have to go room to room to get them? How many trips are you taking to get the clothes from all these rooms? Do you sort the laundry that you put in? Does everything goes in? I didn’t hear you say you actually closed the lid? Do you just throw the clothes and put soap in and turn it on. So the lid is open and water is splashing all over?” You don’t know if those gaps are missing.

We have to be doing the work of our stakeholders or our customers to really understand what they’re going through to come up with good solutions.

Earlier in my career, people would say, “wow, you really get us.” I think that’s what as project professionals, we’re trying to go for with our customers: being empathetic because you’re in there with them, you’re doing the work.

The ability to build relationships (is another skill). Everybody talks about what tools and techniques to use. “Do I draw a context diagram? Do I write a user story? Teach me how to write user stories. I need help using JIRA.” To me, that’s table stakes. I could teach you that tomorrow. (Focus on) how are you getting the information. Are you getting the information from the right people?

If we have a good relationship, communication is going to be easy. It doesn’t matter what tool is used: we can do requirements over chat if we had to, because we have such a good relationship and we know each other. If you have a good relationship, the communication, the conversations are going be deeper, people are going to open up more. I think both Project Managers and BAs need to focus on building real relationships with the people they work with.

Cover of the book Kupe Kupersmith co-wrote.

In term of terms of books, resources or podcasts, what are your recommendations?
There’s a number of books by Patrick Lencioni. I recommend all of his stuff. He really has good things to say around team work. Daniel Pink has a book called To Sell Is Human that I recommend. There’s another book called Drive that I recommend as well. More specific to some of the stuff that we do, there’s a book I recently read called Outcomes over Outputs by Joshua Seiden. I am reading now An Elegant Puzzle, Systems of Engineering Management by Will Larson, because I’m working on this agile transformation or how the organization is delivering work. He’s got some good ideas.

The podcasts that I listen to have nothing specifically to do with our profession: I listen to TED Radio Hour, Freakonomics Radio and Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell. I think there’s some interesting things that apply to what we do.

My take on podcasts and books is that as professionals, if we’re trying to improve stuff, read as much as you can and pull out different concepts that make sense, that feel good to you, that feel good for your organization. Don’t look for something that’s the silver bullet and the best practice. I think that there’s a best practice in a particular context. Your context is going to be different than what this person’s context was when they wrote it.

Since you are an improv artist, who are your favorite improv artists or comedians?
I think overall my favorite is Robin Williams. He was a stand-up comedian, an improviser, and he was just unbelievable. Growing up what got me interested in comedy was probably Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, and Jerry Seinfeld. Ellen Degeneres too. I think why someone like Ellen and Jerry Seinfeld are so funny is because they can take everyday moments that you and I do every single day, twist them around and somehow make them hilarious.

At an early age for me what got me into comedy was probably The Carol Burnett Show. It was sketch comedy but they improvised a lot too. They would be cracking themselves up on stage, so they’re trying to hold back their laughter. It was just so good.

Do you have questions, feedback or suggestions of people to interview? Contact me!

Demystifying Agile: “Mo” Hagar

By: Yadira Y. Caro

Being Agile could mean a variety of things to different people. It is a buzz term which seems to be tossed around by industries to demonstrate innovation. Maurice “Mo” Hagar wants to make sure everyone knows the true meaning of Agile and the principles it is derived from. He does this in various ways. Currently, he is a Principal Consultant of Solution-Focused Agile, where he has done coaching and consulting for multiple organizations. Additionally, he host a podcast Agile on the Edge and is currently writing a book on the topic.

In this interview, Mo talks about what drove him to this focus on Agile in his career, addresses some of its misconceptions and his own model, the K2 Transformation model.

You focus on Agile coaching and implementation. Why did you decide to focus on Agile?

My journey began as a software developer for the Boeing Company. I’d been there a couple of months when one sleepy afternoon, suddenly, the CEO—of a 140,000-person, Fortune 50 company—appeared in my little hole-in-the-wall cubicle: “Welcome to Boeing!” he said with a handshake and a smile. I was stunned.

“I love to meet the new people because you’re the future of Boeing,” he continued. “You see things we don’t see. You bring new ideas. So tell me, how are we doing? What can we do better around here?” I was speechless. (He said) “Get back to me on that. Seriously, it’s important. Drop me an email anytime. And I wish you a long and successful career at Boeing.”

Of course, the CEO could not visit every new hire. But I later learned that, wherever he went, this transformational leader asked to be pointed in the direction of new employees. It was his favorite part of the job. And it changed my life forever.

Never again did I experience a sleepy afternoon. Because I was busy looking for ideas to include in that email—that I never sent. I spent half my time developing software and the rest of my time working on the business.

The next few years included just about every job you can think of in IT, including PMO Director and CIO. Since then I have served more than 60 organizations, currently IBM, as an Agile transformation coach. My work, and whatever success I’ve enjoyed, is directly attributable to that ongoing passion for continuous learning and improvement.

Agile is a different way of thinking before it is a different way of working. But changing the way we think is a much harder sell.

Maurice “Mo” Hagar

How do you define Agile?

I define Agile simply as delivering business value by collaborating with the customer and responding to change. This is the Agile Manifesto.

What are some common misconceptions about Agile?

The most common misconception about Agile is that [fill in the blank] is Agile: Scrum is Agile, Kanban is Agile, etc. And, by implication, [fill in the blank] is not Agile: Business Analysis is not Agile, Project Management is not Agile, etc. This has been manufactured, packaged, and sold by the “Agile Industrial Complex” (AIC)—as a member of the AIC I recognize the irony here. Agile is a different way of thinking before it is a different way of working. But changing the way we think is a much harder sell. Yet, when we focus on methodology vs. mindset, all we’re doing is swapping old “processes and tools” for new “processes and tools” vs. changing “individuals and interactions,” etc.

Another growing misconception, on the opposite end of the same spectrum, is that Agile is meaningless and, therefore, means anything and everything. In too many organizations it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a trojan horse for “command and control” management: “I know it takes us six months to deliver a new product feature but we’re Agile now so it’s due by Friday!”

For more on this, see my latest article on InfoQ, entitled Maybe Agile Is the Problem.

How would you describe the K2 Transformation model you developed?

In the beginning, Agile was easy: “Can you stand up a Scrum team for us?” Today we’re leading enterprise transformations, and many of my clients are working on iteration two or three. “Here we go again,” I hear often.

“Is anybody a mountain climber?” I respond. “Tell us about K2, the Savage Mountain, the most dangerous climb in the world. Those who survive it will tell you two things: 1) There is nothing more challenging—we’ll work hard; and 2) There is nothing more rewarding—we’ll even have some fun along the way.”

Now that I have their attention, I begin to unpack the model. The two Ks are Kanban and Kaizen: we want to make everything visible and continuously improve it. Then we scale the mountain by exploring various aspects of the organizational ecosystem. And I begin with processes and tools. Because it’s a good way to learn the landscape. The low-hanging fruit here provides quick wins that execs are looking for. And it gives me time to build relationships and trust with the organization. Before we move on to “individuals and interactions,” etc.

So K2 is an agnostic, fit-for-purpose approach to Lean-Agile, built on a mountain-climbing metaphor, that I’ve developed and honed in over 60 organizations. And it scales both top down and bottom up, beginning with individuals, in a fractal way. Finally, because Agile is a mindset change vs. a methodology change, there is plenty of organizational psychology built in, particularly Dialogic Organizational Development, Solution Focused Therapy, Appreciate Inquiry, and Positive Psychology.

Can you describe a specific project or customer which was particularly challenging? How were you able to help in that case?

Agile practices make work visible and manageable. But how do you visualize and manage the all-pervasive attitudes, behaviors, and habits that make up your organizational mindset? How do you operationalize corporate values like “initiative” or team-level values such as “empathy?” How do you visualize and manage Agile values and principles such as “customer collaboration” or Scrum values like “respect?”

I said earlier that we want to make everything visible and continuously improve it. That includes values statements, social contracts, and other intangibles intended to shape and direct organizational culture. But they’re often meaningless because they’re not actionable. Solution Focused Agile incorporates simple psychotherapeutic practices to visualize and manage the invisible.

After a successful pilot, one of my Fortune 100 clients is now scaling these practices across the enterprise—this will be the focus of an upcoming executive brief in the Cutter Journal. Another client has developed a unique approach to Net Promoter Score follow-up conversations with their customers—see my chapter on this in the recent book Sustainable Solutions for Leaders.

I’m always looking to challenge and push beyond the boundaries of who and what I already know, connecting the dots between unrelated disciplines, and experimenting with new and different ways of working.

You’ve recently launched a podcast Agile on the Edge. What is your goal with the podcast? What are other projects ahead?

Frans Johansson’s 2006 book, The Medici Effect, was a transformative influence on my thinking and work. The Medici Effect, named after a 14th century Italian family that sparked The European Renaissance, refers to the breakthrough thinking and disruptive innovation that often bursts out of the big bang collision at the intersection of diverse disciplines, cultures, and industries. So I’m always looking to challenge and push beyond the boundaries of who and what I already know, connecting the dots between unrelated disciplines, and experimenting with new and different ways of working.

That was my intention for Agile on the Edge: an Agile conversation with psychologists, philosophers, scientists, etc., pushing the boundaries of Agile across the enterprise, into the social sciences, and into the future. I did manage to publish one, very good interview with Alistair Cockburn on the future in what he calls the “post-Agile” age. I have another good interview with Esther Derby about her new book on change that I need to get uploaded. And I’ve got a dozen or so other thought leaders, inside and outside the Agile community, who have agreed to interviews, if only I can find the time.

A big project down the road for me is a book or two. I’ve begun writing a couple times but stay so busy that I just can’t find the time right now—a good problem to have, I suppose.

Which resources (podcasts, books, etc.) would you recommend which have helped you in your career?

I read a lot and have been influenced by far more than I can recall or recommend here The Medici Effect I mentioned above. A recent, transformative read for me was Dialogic Organization Development: The Theory and Practice of Transformational Change by Gervase Bushe (who has agreed to a podcast interview) and Robert Marshak. Other influential books that come to mind are Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline, Don Reinertsen’s Product Development Flow, and The Solutions Focus by my friends Mark McKergow and Paul Jackson. Another good read, which aligns nicely with my own approach, is Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0. And I read anything and everything by Mike Cohn, David Anderson, and my friend Mike Burrows. Mike BurrowsI read a lot and have been influenced by far more than I can recall or recommend here. The Medici Effect I mentioned above. A recent, transformative read for me was Dialogic Organization Development: The Theory and Practice of Transformational Change by Gervase Bushe (who has agreed to a podcast interview) and Robert Marshak. Other influential books that come to mind are Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline, Don Reinertsen’s Product Development Flow, and The Solutions Focus by my friends Mark McKergow and Paul Jackson. Another good read, which aligns nicely with my own approach, is Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0. And I read anything and everything by Mike Cohn, David Anderson, and my friend Mike Burrows.

I’m a big fan of podcasting; here are a few of my favorites: Soundview Book Summaries (subscription), Freakanomics, HBR Ideacast, TED Business, Agile Amped, and Agile for Humans. In addition to books and podcasts, a primary means of learning for me is Harvard Business Review.

Do you have questions, feedback or suggestions of people to interview? Contact me!

Creating Leaders for the Knowledge Age: Douglas Weidner

By: Yadira Y. Caro

In the field of Knowledge Management, becoming a Certified Knowledge Manager or CKM, is a symbol of credibility. It shows the certificate holder has an understanding of the field, which focuses among other things, on managing intellectual assets of an organization, creating a culture of sharing and of course, using tech to achieve this.

Douglas Weidner, Chairman of the KM Institute, has certified thousands of people around the world for over 20 years. Furthermore, he was the one who develop this certification. As a certificate holder myself, I was curious to know what drove him to create a CKM and how he sees its future.

In this interview, Douglas shares insights on his journey, addresses the debates in the KM field and why it is important to be passionate about what you do.

Why did you choose KM as a career?
Good question, applicable to almost everyone. My answer is in two parts.
The first part is more generic – about how to choose a career by paying attention to the drivers of success. The second part is about how I personally chose KM. So, here’s a principle. It’s all about passion, the key driver of success.

I believe that there are many aspects to choosing a career that will become successful for you, if you have the luxury of choosing. By success, I mean you ‘love what you are doing’ and are very engaged in doing it, not that you make a lot of money, though if you love what you are doing you will no doubt outperform your peers in that career field.

The proven drivers of success include: You have a passion for doing the kinds of tasks associated with it. That encourages you to perform those tasks very well. By kinds of tasks, I mean at the granular level of your very personal set of traits. Are you analytical vs not so much so or not at all? Do you crave being with other people rather than independent work? Do you love developing other people? Do you love to learn? Are you very self-confident? There are over 30 such traits, but about five to ten define you. Traits don’t define an industry sector, but do define what types of jobs you will love within any industry.

Another (driver of success) is to have a real passion for what the job allows you to accomplish. For instance, do you really believe in the organization’s mission and objectives? Would putting an astronaut on Mars excite you? Would curing at least some form of cancer satisfy your life’s ambition? Would transforming the world from the computer-driven Information Age into the human (knowledge) -driven Knowledge Age, challenge you?

Douglas Weidner

Those two drivers will enable you to have a good shot at a very successful career.

Now on to how I personally chose KM. The answer to that question is more complex than your followers might expect. It is a story in three parts.

In 1994, I was working for a think tank and designed for the Department of Defense (DoD) a very granular, Knowledge Base Tool (K Base). It housed DoD’s Business Process Reengineering (BPR) methodology, which I had helped define and document. To me, a K Base had the capability to provide a K Nugget to the right person at just the right time. I was doing one aspect of KM, but I didn’t really know it.

In early 1995, when Knowledge Management (KM) definitely rose above the horizon, I realized what I had been doing was at the very core of the systems-oriented KM of the late 1990s. But a granular, process-oriented perspective, which is what I had worked on, was different than a traditional repository/portal, which was emerging as the dominant KM system initiative. A repository is a digital library of the organization’s policies, processes, statutes, regulations, marketing info, etc. Think documents.

So, I joined a large commercial IT consulting firm to lead their KM market entry. The KM consulting team had a staff of one, which was me as Chief Knowledge Engineer. We had some consulting success, not so much in terms of billable hours, but rather as a marketing arm, what I often described as the point of the spear. I was the point of the spear. I introduced KM, after which the profitable spear shaft (IT projects, whether KM or not) often followed.

By the late 1990s, when I might have retired, I had developed an abiding passion to make the KM discipline a real success, to change the world, so-to-speak. I saw a specific need for rigorous KM training, not just a KM101 but specifically a KM certification program, which I first offered as the Certified Knowledge Manager (CKM) in 2001.

It became the core product of the International Knowledge Management Institute, which is now the de facto leader in KM certification.

You started in KM over two decades ago, how has KM shifted since you started? And, is there any misconception you commonly see regarding KM?

When I started in KM in the mid-1990s and long after, KM was all about KM Systems. For many that is still true. In the late 1990s, KM was primarily about repositories and expert locators, which are still dominant applications today. Little was known about other KM initiatives, such as best practices and lessons learned though such techniques had been publicized by Ford Motor and BP.

By 2000, other enterprise wide initiatives were gaining notoriety, such as Communities of Practice (CoPs). But many non-KM Systems applications were emerging as well, e.g., ‘Rethink Learning’, Customer Satisfaction, and especially Knowledge Transfer and Continuity. By the late 2000s, K Transfer was becoming critical to address the Baby Boomer retirement surge.

As to are there any misconceptions, yes! Everyone knows the trilogy “People, Process and Technology.” The KM Systems approach, driven by IT naturally focuses on ‘technology’. The KM Transformational approach, of necessity, focuses on people. So, there is a major divide in KM today. Many still believe or at least act as if KM is all about technology, aka KM Systems. Some believe KM is about an episodic change in human occupations, which requires a shift from traditional change management to a focus on transformational change management.

I believe we will always have better and faster computers, but they are becoming mere commodities in terms of capability, price and especially ubiquitousness. The primary discriminator for the future will come from substantive increases in personal human potential and performance, which we call personal knowledge management..

Douglas Weidner

Let me quickly explain. The world has gone through many episodic changes, but if you think about careers (aka human occupations), there have been five. Humans have progressed from ‘Hunter-Gatherers’ to the ‘Agrarian, Industrial and Information’ Ages.

For millennia, until the Info Age, most all human occupations were labor intensive. As computers emerged, they enabled information management which further enabled its ultimate end-game – the Knowledge Age, and hence ‘Knowledge Management’.

We still grow food, but farms are run by machines, even combines guided by GPS. We still make and move stuff, but increasingly that is being done by robots, drones and artificial intelligence. In the Knowledge Age, human brainpower will dominate, not muscle power.

What are other implications? Here’s one. If KM is just a KM System, traditional change management is applicable – communicate the new system and train folks as to how to use it, preferably before it is installed.

If KM is much more than just a system, transformational change management is applicable. Transformational change management is much more complex than traditional, including ‘Call-to-Action’, quick wins, and much more emphasis on employee comprehension and involvement, and top management’s transformational leadership. But, ultimately, KM’s success will be about a major change in human occupations and motivations, which I call Personal Knowledge Management (PKM)™.

What is Personal Knowledge Management?
In a nutshell, PKM is about both aptitude and attitude. We have always focused on human aptitude, ability to do the task, whether hunting, farming, or on the assembly line.

In the Knowledge Age, we must focus as well on human attitudes, the love of your career and the motivation to do an outstanding job. That is why when answering about my career choice I talked about aligning your own traits with what you do and the resultant passion and high performance you will have.

Most everyone loves new and innovative technologies, but few want to take the time and effort to develop and instill best practices, which is much more difficult than just buying the latest technology.

You teach people in multiple industries and countries. Is there any example of any company or industry that does KM right?

Please understand, I have a high bar for ‘doing KM right’ and there are a number of viewpoints.

First and foremost, since KM is still an emerging discipline, I applaud organizations that started early and achieved some notable financial results. Not many organizations publish their results, though Shell Oil published their 2002 financial results using their own in-house CoP software, when CoPs were in their very formative stages.

I especially applaud those who invented new initiative types. Ford did best practices in early 1990s, BP did Lessons Learned in late 1990s, Lockheed Martin did Knowledge Transfer & Continuity in mid 2000s.

There are many people and their organizations around the world that are doing KM. We’ve had about 10,000 CKM students since 2001, from at least 25 different countries. Of course, the US and Europe were early birds to KM based on their more mature economies, but we saw early interest in many geographical pockets, such as Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, India and Malaysia. The Middle-East is rapidly increasing its interest in KM, often due to central government guidance, if not mandates.

I’d like to report someday soon that many organizations have begun to transition from a traditional KM Systems approach to transformational KM approach; to actually focus on using KM to optimize their personal and organizational performance in the Knowledge Age.

I believe we will always have better and faster computers, but they are becoming mere commodities in terms of capability, price and especially ubiquitousness. The primary discriminator for the future will come from substantive increases in personal human potential and performance, which we call personal knowledge management

What are some tendencies of KM you see coming in the next few years?
Most everyone loves new and innovative technologies, but few want to take the time and effort to develop and instill best practices, which is much more difficult than just buying the latest technology.

For instance, in Learning, which should be of keen interest to KMers because the goal of KM is often claimed to be: ‘Create a Learning Organization’, there are many underutilized technologies. By underutilized I mean, not that the technology doesn’t work, but that humans don’t have proven ways to best use the technology, or worse – aren’t motivated to even use it.

Consider virtual training. The technology capability is obvious, a real-time (synchronous) class, but where everyone is virtual rather than face-to-face. But, the real benefit of virtual learning is not the savings of travel time and expense but the much increased interaction and learning among students. So, to gain the ultimate benefits of virtual technology, it is less about the technology than about optimizing other aspects of the learning process.

Consider K Bases, one of my favorite technologies. From a training perspective, the future should be less about learning processes and methods that could be well-documented in a K Base, and more about learning how and why you should use the K Base, which will teach you what you need to know, when you need to know it. Such an approach could be called ‘Performance Support’.

Consider Mobile Learning. We all have cell phones, but do we have established best practices about how to integrate them into online collaboration and learning?

What three resources (podcasts, books, websites) you recommend which have helped you in your career?

There are certainly exceptions, but I have found my robust formal education was extremely important to my career success. In high school, I loved business, and have an MBA – Business Economics and an MS – Operations Research. So, when I say robust I mean really robust. Getting such an education may be out of the question for some already buried in their careers and committed to their families, but it certainly helped my career.

My next most important resource, which is possible for all regardless of past education, has been books, hundreds and hundreds of books. But that has been over many decades and many disciplines. Note, books don’t have to be new, they can even be used if not too marked up, especially since I like to highlight key insights for future reference.

I love websites, especially informational ones. For many knowledge needs a Google search can provide the answer, especially if your background body of knowledge is robust enough to comprehend and evaluate the content. A typical website feature is podcasts: any multimedia presentation whether a talking head or an animation with voice-over, etc. I love podcasts (think Ted Talks) but have two concerns. I have found that I’m unlikely to be able to commit to a long scheduled broadcast, so being able to replay a prior broadcast is key.

Given my two expressed biases (Granular K Bases and need for transformation to create Personal K Managers in the K Age), I look forward to the future where various knowledge domains will be richly defined and categorized, with both K Nuggets as the leaf nodes, but also the ability to collaborate with others at that level of granularity. As mentioned, mobile technology, and associated K Base, is no longer just for random conversations, but for structured (threaded) conversations around an entire curriculum of brief K Nuggets. That brings me full circle back to K Nuggets, where I started in KM – getting the best Knowledge to the right person at the right time.

Do you have questions, feedback or suggestions of people to interview? Contact me!