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

From the blog

Shell All of That Knowledge, Please!

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes in WinterCan video make a difference in Knowledge Transfer? That’s one of the recent thought provoking questions that one of my favourite KM bloggers, Nick Milton, developed further in a lovely blog post he put together out there, sharing the story of a recent article in the New Scientist magazine about a study in Benin which described “how a team from the West Africa Rice Centre was attempting to transfer knowledge to women farmers in West Africa, on the topic of “how to parboil rice””. I am sure that if you have been involved with the fascinating world of narrative it would seem that the answer would be a rather affirmative Yes! Nick actually shares along a few reasons as to why it may well be a rather effective method for transferring knowledge across. And he is spot on with each and everyone of them! But does video really have a place within the corporate world to help facilitate open knowledge flows as well as encourage knowledge workers to connect and collaborate with one another? Yes, of course!

Specially, with senior knowledge workers. And the more mature that knowledge workforce is, the better it will be! For the last few years there has been a huge concern with that senior workforce sitting right in the middle; yes, what some folks have been calling all along, the baby boomers, mainly as they start to leave work and enjoy retirement … taking their precious, extensive and comprehensive experience, know-how and knowledge away with them. This is certainly a growing pain that very few businesses have been capable of addressing and fixing successfully and accordingly before it is just too late. And the clock is ticking… We don’t have much time left, before the vast majority of those baby boomers start retiring and move on to other things…

Thus what we can do, both as businesses and as knowledge workers, to try to capture some of that knowledge, realising that we would never be capable of capturing it all, and perhaps come to terms with the fact that only a fraction of what they know will remain behind? What can we do to provoke what my good friend Harold Jarche has coined as “Frictionless Learning” moving right into the direction of the wonderful world of Wirearchy that another good friend of mine, Jon Husband has been championing for years? Is there anything that video can do to help out?

Yes, there is! And big time! In my role as a social computing evangelist one gets involved in a good number of conversations with other fellow knowledge workers who keep coming up, time and time again, with one inhibitor after another, as the the main culprits that are slowing them down in their adoption of these social tools we keep evangelising on. Things like “I don’t have the time; I am busy”, “These social tools are too difficult to learn”, “I am already working on my email!”, “What’s the ROI of Social Media?”, “What’s in it for me? Do you have any best practices you could share?”, “I am a slow typist. Sorry”, “I won’t use these social tools, because no-one will read what I have to say”, “I don’t know what I can talk about and share with my peers”, etc. etc. I am sure we all have our favourite inhibitors that we all keep bumping into over and over again (Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments, by the way!). However, it’s important to notice how getting involved with social computing and social networking does not necessarily mean, nor involve, typing away behind a computer.

We should not forget that one of the biggest elements from social networking is the nifty introduction of rich media in the shape of podcasts or vodcasts, amongst several others. And it is in the latter case, i.e. the vodcasts, when video could be huge! And I mean HUGE!! Who, out there, doesn’t like being in front of a camera going through an interview that will get recorded and shared across at a later time? Who, out there, wouldn’t like to be sitting in a comfortable chair, enjoying a cup of coffee (or tea), perhaps even a lovely glass of wine, pretty relaxed, having the right ambiance, talking to another fellow colleague, sharing stories about whatever the topic that comes to mind, whether work or non-work related, and record them as the end result through video and publish it all to a larger audience at a later time? Who wouldn’t like that? Probably not many folks, right?; quite the opposite!Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes in Winter

By using video and recording those interviews you right away eliminate the friction provoked by having to sit in front of a computer to type a whole bunch of text away and focus on remembering what you know, as if it weren’t hard enough already! Yet, we should not forget, nor underestimate, how poorly we, human beings, tend to be when trying to document our knowledge in paper. We are just awful at doing that effectively. We just can’t! However, the whole game changes when we need to talk. We are certainly not perfect either! But we do a much better job at it, specially if you feel you could talk faster than you could type.

So right there you have got the perfect use case for introducing video within your organisation, and while baby boomers can surely become your gateway into vodcasting the reality is that everyone can do it! Whether from your smartphone, or from your camera enabled PC / Mac, or whatever else (Very soon from your iPad v2, too!! Can you imagine what potential the iPad 2 has got just with Facetime and dual cameras? I just can’t wait for the first iPad App that would allow me to record such video conversations on the fly!), we have just got a unique opportunity to take advantage of rich media to try to capture some of that knowledge before it leaves us for good.

And perhaps we could illustrate that with a video clip. Actually, a very short video clip that Nick himself, once again, also shared in his rather insightful KM blog under the heading “Ask Learn Share, KM video from Shell“. The clip itself does last for a little bit over ONE minute, but yet, if I would ask you to deliver the same messages the video clip portraits, I can surely guarantee you that it would take much much longer. If not, judge for yourselves:

SHELL ASK LEARN SHARE from studionx on Vimeo.


We are visual animals, after all, and we get to learn, perhaps even while at work, much more effectively through images and visualisations than through text itself, as it is a much more natural way of engaging, connecting, reaching out and collaborating with fellow visual animals. Us humans. So next time someone throws out there on the table the question whether it is a good time now to introduce video in your overall knowledge sharing, collaboration and social computing strategy, think about it twice, because it could well be your next big massive breakthrough. Even all of the way to the top! Executives love being featured in videos! Ask them!

No longer an excuse to try to capture and retain some of that knowledge that’s just about to leave the workplace. Get busy while you can! And get those video cameras rolling!

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  1. Hi Luis! This is an interesting topic. Interesting you point to Shell. I know they have (had?) a project to retain critical knowledge of retiring employees. It was called the ROCK program (Retention of Critical Knowledge). And one of the key elements was videoing interviews with older employees, indexing and sharing them. What I understood is it was highly successful.
    I’ll also leave a comment on Nick’s blog.

    1. Hi Samuel! Thanks much for the wonderful comments and for the great contribution! Indeed, I, too, was aware of that video program as well, although not at the level of detail you share above! Indeed, I am more and more convinced that narrative, via videos or audio (i.e. podcasts), is going to be huge over the next few years as we help prepare the transition of the various generations at work and certainly using something so simple like recording a conversation is always going to be much easier and much more effective than having to put it all in text.

      That’s why I think smartphones as well are going to be huge, because they would allow you to use your favourite App to hit record and starting capturing that conversation that you could work on it further on at a later time. I got a couple of those Apps and I love them to record informal conversations when talking to other knowledge workers. It’s awesome!

      Thanks again for the lovely feedback! Much appreciated! 🙂

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