E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Knowledge Management – Where Are the Bees?

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As I have just mentioned in a previous weblog post, this article is a follow up from the one I have shared earlier on, detailing some of the highlights from the trip to Somers, NY, to attend IBM‘s Collaboration 2.0 conference event that took place last week. It is another story. And probably a little bit longer than expected, this time around from something that happened on my way to JFK from Madrid and which I will remember for years to come! That is how inspirational it was, indeed. Read on…

To begin with, things got off to a lovely start when I was seated by the emergency exit. Lots of room and space to open up my notebook and do some serious catchup on stuff I have meant to read for quite some time now. Nice! Next to me, a gentleman in the mid-50s, perhaps, very quiet and very familiar with being on a plane. Very good!

We took off and, like it usually happens, specially in those long flights where you are going to be stuck for several endless hours, my next-seat neighbour and myself started up some casual conversation, probably, as a result of both of us wanting to be polite to one another. Remember, being stuck on a seat for 7 hours and 45 minutes is not that very pleasant, is it? Even more if you are travelling on economy.

Anyway. "What do you do for a living?" – He asked. "Me? Well, I work with computers" (Yes, I know, I always start with that one liner. I guess I don’t want to put people off right away saying that I do Knowledge Management. In the past, more than once, I got weird looks from people when I used to say that, so initially I tend to leave it as vague as I can). "How about you?" -I continued. "I am a beekeeper" -he replied.

WOW! "That surely is interesting! So, you really are a beekeeper, eh?" -I commented back, to which he replied he surely was. All of his life, after having learned the job from his father and his grand-father. Goodness! How cool is that? I got to sit next to someone who has been doing something that I have found truly fascinating for a number of years, but that I never got around finding out some more about it, specially given the recent news about those lovely creatures disappearing in the millions out of the blue in several countries. And growing…

Of course, he right away got my full attention and I think he enjoyed it as well getting all of my attention, while we embarked in one of the most incredible conversations I can remember about one subject that surely I didn’t know anything about, but he had enough patience to explain to me all of the inside-outs of how it actually works. Yes, indeed, fascinating is the word that would certainly describe most of what I have learned during that conversation. Too much to describe it over here, I am sure. Perhaps at some other time. Here is though a link to an article (Spanish-only, unfortunately) that would provide you some more background on the nature of some of the conversations we had.

So after a couple of hours of conversations I asked him why he was always travelling so much to various different countries all over the world and he basically mentioned that he is the president of a local cooperative of beekeepers in Extremadura, who tries to keep things organised and under control, so he gets to travel quite a bit to learn from what other beekeepers in other countries are doing and then share that information with other members of his cooperative. And I went and thought … WHAT?!?!?! Why is it that you do it again?

Well, according to him (Paraphrasing his words, of course), he is part of a community of folks, i.e. the cooperative, with a common and shared mission and a set of goals (i.e. Earn their living as beekeepers), who work collaboratively in getting the job done while contributing to the well being of the environment and he gets to travel to all of those different countries to meet up with other beekeepers -from other communities- so that he can learn, exchange knowledge and collaborate with them into fixing some of the different key issues they face (i.e. Disappearance of the bees, for instance, amongst others), so that when he comes back he gets together with his community and transfers all of that knowledge to his colleagues so that they also acquire that same knowledge and therefore are able to do their jobs better, while contributing to fixing a global problem, locally.

And I went … Whoooaahhhh!!! My goodness! He basically just described my daily job as a Knowledge Manager supporting global communities to empower them to share their knowledge and collaborate with others in order to fix whatever issues they may be facing. Pure KM in very very simple terms. How incredible is that? While we are all focused on trying to find out the killer definition for KM, here we go with this travel-mate of mine describing exactly what it is all about in very simple, yet very effective, terms and without causing a single doubt about it.

When I told him that was exactly the same kind of thing I tend to do on a daily basis but in the IT industry (In computers, that is), he right away got it and we came into the equally rewarding second part of our conversations: the impact of technology in our day to day life, and how excited he was about having access to something so vast, so resourceful and so insightful as the Internet, where he could share information with others while reading through those resources that mattered to him the most and, as a result, become a much better informed individual trying to get the job done while collaboratively working with other members of his community. There I was, sitting next to someone who loved being on the Internet, reading stuff about beekeeping, exchanging e-mails with useful and relevant information, listening to his iPod, travelling with his notebook all over the place, in short, making the best out of what IT had to offer him. And that in his mid-50s! Just brilliant!!!

In the end, and for the first time in years, we actually spent the entire 7 hours and 45 minutes talking about a huge amount of topics that made the trip not only quite enjoyable, but one of those life-enriching experiences that would remain with me for years to come! Remember when I blogged about my meetup with Denham Grey (One of the most relevant KM thought leaders) in Cincinnati last year? This one highlight was just as good, if not even more! So much so that we actually forgot to exchange business cards, or e-mail addresses or simply our names!

Yes, I know it happens. But thank goodness for Google, because thanks to some of the conversations we had I found out that the cooperative’s name is Apihurdes and the name of the gentleman I had some really great conversations with was someone called Anastasio Marcos. And look what he is up to now (Link in Spanish, but basically a consortium).

(What a great pleasure, Anastasio! And I do hope to see you soon at some point! Best of luck in your new adventure!)

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  1. Fascinating! I wonder how many other people there are out there ‘doing KM’ in association with their profession without having a name for it. Many, I would guess. And I think there’s a lesson for those of us who ‘do KM’ for a living that if we are to be understood we should stick to practical examples.


  2. Nice one, Luis. Probably because I haven’t been able to come up with or come across a definition of KM, I usually create a definition meeting the needs of the audience. You will find, usually, KM being described by what it does rather than what it is, which sometimes makes me wonder, have got it completely? Secret ingredient, maybe (as you can see, looking forward to Kung Fu Panda 2 :-))

    1. Hi Atul! And @everyone else! for the great comments on this blog post that seems to have re-surfaced again after 4 years being available out there. Gotta love blogging for that!! (I surely do!).

      Atul, I think you have hit the nail on the head, KM should have never been considered for what it is, but for what it does; the outcomes and deliverables that it produces, i.e. the overall improvement of business goals, the delighting our clients with better products, etc. etc. It’s part of the ecosystem and not *the* ecosystem.

      I sense that’s the main difference between KM & E2.0, without touching base on definitions, but just basically how E2.0 seems to be tighter integrated into business processes than whatever KM was back in the day. I think stories like this one surely come to highlight how important it is not just to focus on the means, but the end we achieve through those means, and the story behind Anastasio’s experiences seems to prove exactly that! 😀

      Thanks again for the comments and for dropping by!

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