Where do great ideas really come from? Have you ever noticed how at conferences, sometimes it seems like most of your real insights and breakthroughs come not from listening to a speaker, but from debating and discussing the sessions afterwards, in the coffee breaks?

“We take ideas from other people, from people we’ve learned from, from people we run into in the coffee shop, and we stitch them together into new forms and we create something new. That’s really where innovation happens.” – Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson has explored, discovering that innovative ideas flourish in an environment he calls a “liquid network” – that brings together diverse ideas, people and interests in unstructured sharing, where ideas can jostle together, bouncing off each other.

Watch Steven share great examples of this principle:
Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from
TEDGlobal 2010 · Filmed Jul 2010. Video time: 17:45

This year’s Southern African Knowledge Management Summit features a number of opportunities to freely share and co-create knowledge, allowing the great ideas to emerge.

Join us for the Knowledge Café on Thursday, 28 May after the lunch break. The organisers of this Knowledge Café are Dr. Shawren Singh (University of South Africa) and Hein Spingies (Road Accident Fund)

Background to a Knowledge Café

One of the ways of sharing knowledge is through constructive and correctly directed conversations. Such conversations don’t just happen. They need to be instigated and one of the most effective ways of doing this is through a Knowledge Café. A Knowledge Café may be defined as a gathering of individuals with a common interest who are prepared to explore ideas surrounding a topic through conversation in order to obtain a more complete understanding of the issues involved.

In effect a Knowledge Café can be seen as a networking opportunity for a group of people who have a common interest and who will be able to benefit from talking and listening to each other. The individuals who will benefit from a knowledge café need to have an open mindset, have a common objective and have similar shared values and be people who like to collaborate in their working relationships.

A Knowledge Café is conducted by dividing a group of people into smaller groups and allowing them to converse openly about a topic. There are a few rules about how they converse which are related to the fact that they are encouraged to listen to others before expressing their point of view. A Knowledge Café facilitator will get the event going and after a timed period, normally between 60 to 90 minutes the groups are called back together and their insights are shared.  The group then creates a summary statement as to what they have learnt from the shared conversations.

Why is this interest to you?

A Knowledge Café can open up people’s horizons. It can produce levels of cooperation that has not seen before. Once the organisation has picked up the cultural issues involved they are relatively straight forward to run and can be used in conjunction with or to reinforce special interest groups or communities of practice.