Sharing Hidden Know-How's Origins: Childhood Curiosity

Blog Topic: 
Sharing Hidden Know-How
While running outside in the spring air, I picked up a shiny bottle top. As I discarded it, I remembered, as a kid, picking up things like bottle caps, shards of sea glass, and rings of plastic. My parents looked on with horror as I filled the kitchen sink with “art materials” from my wanderings and cleaned them for their next act. I’d imagine them as my future Barbie mirror, collage, or puzzle. By Katrina Pugh, March 13, 2011

I often stared, mystified, turning an o-ring in my hand, wondering whom I could ask about why it had a fine grove or ragged edge from its last act. I didn’t see myself as a pure “collector”—I was connecting the found object with some art project or new game. And, I felt a certain urgency to understand where it came from, to connect its new purpose with its past.

Knowledge Jam shares that sense of intention and curiosity. Deciphering the origins of know-how is an essential part of making it reusable. By having conversation among knowers and seekers, and not just doing serial transfer (for example, through expert interviews or documents), we decipher the originator’s know-how and the context for that know-how. Conversation allows new contexts for re-applying the knowledge to be explored and managed. As a result, ideas arrive at their next act appropriately costumed and rehearsed.

These benefits come at a surprisingly low price tag. Practically speaking, Knowledge Jams take between nine and sixteen total person-days across all participants, with the facilitator investing the bulk of those hours (60 to 80 percent). So, Knowledge Jam is highly leveraged: time-starved originators and brokers1typically invest only 15 to 25 percent of the hours. This is partly because of facilitators work behind the scenes. What’s more is that Jam conversations, what I call “discover/capture events” in Sharing Hidden Know-How, are not marathons; they are generally one to two hours of highly efficient facilitated interaction. Jam cycles can take a few days or be spread out over a few months, depending on the perishability of the knowledge (such as reassignment or retirement of the originators) or upon the urgency of the seekers (such as the moment of the receiving-projects’ development cycle).

Now it's time for Sharing Hidden Know-How's next act.  Please join me in diggin deeper into the concepts in Sharing Hidden Know-How. With this blog channel, I'll explore what it means to package the process (Knowledge Jam), with a set of disciplines (facilitation, conversation, and translation), and with cultural change (intention, openness and stewardship), and bring them to bear on one of the most exciting opportunities in our organizations and networks today: channeling insight into action.   

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