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Ladies and gentlemen, as we come to the end of this Summit I must say that I hope that when we come together again, we have some very different conversations. We’re still talking about obstacles, we’re still talking about “knowledge management isn’t receiving enough attention”.

Which is a tragedy because the World Economic Forum has in February identified Knowledge as one of the key things for the world to be competitive, and the global environment to be competitive. The work of the world is evolving is such a way that knowledge, and knowledge skills are going to be paramount in being competitive in our careers. And it seems to me that top management is not yet paying enough attention to this.

There are articles written about how knowledge is the new capital – three or four years ago the previous president Thabo Mbeki wrote an extremely interesting article and delivered a keynote speech at Stellenbosch University about the value of knowledge and the importance of knowledge. And it seems to me that we are not really advancing.

At least, what I can say on a positive note, is that we’re not just taking about it anymore, at least there are some companies that are doing it – as you can see from the case studies presented to us. So at least we are talking from an action stage – what we think is knowledge management – and at least we are doing it.

Herman van Niekerk & Ryno Goosen at the Summit Dinner.

Ryno Goosen & Herman van Niekerk at the Summit. 

Which brings me back to a key question for this conference – have we maybe not lost focus on what is knowledge management? I spoke to Patrick (Lambe) last night and he quite interestingly referred to the article where he was talking about the antecedents of knowledge management, where knowledge management was coming from. And I’m wondering, is knowledge management not becoming everything for everybody? We tried to bring business intelligence under knowledge management, we tried to bring competitive intelligence under knowledge management, everything is being drawn back to knowledge management. Are we not losing the roots of knowledge management? Isn’t it maybe time to revisit knowledge management and see, what are those traditional roots?

Knowledge management – before document management came into the picture – was all about the capturing of tacit knowledge – the people aspect of it. Which now has obviously been made much easier with the use of technology that can enable that – like we’ve seen with the use of SenseMaker today – where we can start capturing that tacit knowledge. I’ve heard very little about that in terms of how we are going to move forward in capturing and using tacit knowledge. Isn’t that the key thing where we should focus on and keep our focus on?

The differences between knowledge management and business intelligence and competitive intelligence – the process is the same for all three – but the tools and techniques and the values for each of those disciplines differ fundamentally. Business intelligence is more about structured data, where CI and knowledge management traditionally was more about your unstructured data, your tacit knowledge. So I think it is time that we all sit back and reflect and see how can we all move forward, and emphasise the learning aspect, using technology to make us more competitive.

Because that is what we essentially need to do. I’m worried about South Africa, because I think as companies and as a country, we are lagging behind, every single day. We are not talking about the skills that people need to work with knowledge. I’ve recently become very involved with critical thinking – I don’t think there is even a university in South African that has included critical thinking in their curriculum. I’m not being negative – it’s about those cues that you are getting and those are the cues that are worrying me. So I’m not talking about this in a critical way – I’m talking about it in the sense that we need to tackle these issues and these challenges.

Let’s move knowledge management forward. It is of extremely strategic importance… I think that top management underestimate the strategic importance that knowledge assets in the organisation have – and how those knowledge assets should be optimised to make organisations and countries competitive.

The theme of the 2015 Southern African Knowledge Management Summit was the value proposition of Knowledge Management as a competitive strategy – an idea that is relevant for individuals, teams, organisations, sectors, countries and even for the whole Southern African region.

Our context and reality are all too clear – South Africa has fallen from 45th globally (in 2010) to 53rd last year and to 56th in 2015, out of the 144 countries measured in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. Low rankings in basic primary maths and science education, higher education and training, labour market efficiency, unemployment and low levels of research and development lead to a slipping ranking in this and other productivity and competitiveness surveys. (Source: Africa Competitiveness Report).

Furthermore, our economies are outsourcing innovation and high-value industries, rather having most of their population engaged in low productivity sectors such as agriculture and commodity processing, which offer a little leverage in an increasingly competitive world. As one delegate commented on the Sensemaker journal: “(It is) really concerning that R&D funding is decreasing when 99.7% of all R&D happens outside of SA.”

The solutions to these national and regional challenges will not be solved by business, or government, or by the development sector alone. The 2015 KM Summit brought together voices from across these sectors, to explore the role of KM in Southern Africa’s quest for competitiveness…

The South African National Development Plan seeks to tackle many of these challenges, eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030, as highlighted by Dr Tshenge Demana, Chief Director: Industrial Development Division, DTI, in his keynote on Industrial policy as a platform for competitiveness.

The NDP includes:
• a 2-year National Infrastructure Plan with 18 strategic integrated projects, including green electricity generation, expanding access to communication technology and public transport;
• a Human Resource Development Strategy to maximise the potential of citizens to acquire knowledge and skills to be productive and competitive at work;
• a Technology Strategy that includes training 5000 PhDs annually, increasing R&D spending to 1.5% of GDP and encouraging donor funding of research and development;
• an Industrial Policy to provide extensive support to value adding manufacturing activities, to diversify economy away from primary resource dependence, and to diversify the economy to include historically disadvantaged people and regions.

This National Development Plan poses significant challenges to our country’s capacity, particularly as relates to the scare and critical knowledge demands it creates. For the NDP to succeed, “building people is as critical as building physical assets” and becomes a strategic national imperative” according to Philip Marsh of Knowledge Management Institute-Africa in his case study on Preparing for the scarce and critical knowledge demands of the much vaunted National Development Plan.

Davis Cook, CEO of RIIS, highlighted the need for Open Innovation – innovation practices that cross traditional institutional borders and facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing across a broad stakeholder network. Open innovation offers both as a tool for knowledge exchange as well as a source of competitive advantage.

“Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology”. Chesbrough, Henry William (2003). Open Innovation: The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Open innovation is particularly critical in regional and national development needs that cross traditional corporate/government divides, such as the open innovation platforms RIIS has built for The Innovation Hub in Gauteng and the East London Industrial Development, as well as Africa’s first cross border open innovation platform, Regional Connect, in partnership with the University of Namiba and the National Technology Business Center in Zambia.

Our case study exchange offered another two tangible examples of this paradigm of innovation and knowledge management.

Dr Gretchen Smith of Knowlead Consulting & Training offered a case on Implementing KM in a Provincial Government: Case study of the Limpopo Province. This story focused on the introduction of KM to a Limpopo Provincial Government “under siege” and the resulting significant benefits to competitiveness, including organisational learning, access to strategic information, increased process efficiency & improved service delivery.

Hanlie Turner (PPC) & Lucien de Koker (Firestring) offered a tangible example of this attitude to innovation in their Case study: Exploring the digital journey of the PPC Cement & Concrete Cube (C3)In the spirit of open innovation, this innovative ‘Cube’ platform facilitated streamlined collaboration and information sharing for industry stakeholders across the Cement & Concrete Industry. “PPC recognised the importance of information and knowledge management beyond traditional boundaries, to avail open platforms for collaboration.” – Lucian de Koker

The message of all of these speakers was clear: Southern Africa is a place of great challenges, but also great opportunities. To tackle these challenges will undoubtedly take cooperation across sectors to share knowledge, experience, resources and ideas… embracing emerging models such as Open Innovation into how we tackle our national strategic imperatives.

Sustainable competitive advantage for Africa will take increased sharing, collaboration and cross-boundary innovation – and who better to guide and lead this than the KM community!


Related links:
The role of the Knowledge Leader: a roundtable discussion

Once again thank you so much for organising this summit. The need for something like this was long overdue! I returned to work this morning inspired and filled with new ideas to implement in the organisation I work for.

As promised – herewith the feedback from our table as was discussed during the Knowledge Café:-

It started off with a very important question – is training / learning the task of KM or should it reside with HR / a Training department. We came to the conclusion that formal training should reside where it is ‘plotted’ in an organisation but it is still the task of KM to allow them the tools to learn and to distribute what they have learned on formal training sessions or seminars (TWAP- Travel With A Purpose).

Our table also felt that training (learning) through KM should be fun and that we should implement KM principles throughout the organisations we work by working closer with areas that claim to do training /learning.

From here we moved into practical examples of how KM is implemented in our own areas. I invite (challenge) my table to elaborate on this part as sadly I did not take notes and unfortunately I cannot remember everything in this regard!

identity-683963_640Knowledge Management has always sounded like a bit of a misnomer to me…  How do you “manage” something as organic, contextual and “nebulous” as knowledge?  Management always conjures up ideas of top-down, mandated processes; whereas knowledge (in the words of Dave Snowden) can only be volunteered, not conscripted.  The two concepts have just always seemed to contradict each other.

Time has proven me both right and wrong in different ways, and it’s been interesting to watch from the sidelines as the field of KM has evolved over the years.  At the same time I’ve also seen business evolve: especially in recent years concepts that business used to find hard to accept such as Complexity and Narrative have become part of the normal discourse.  Dave Snowden, my long-time mentor, will even be teaching an MBA elective on Complexity and Sense-making at Stellenbosch Business School later in the year.  The business context is changing, and therefore so should we.

My own journey has led me deeper into the fields of complexity and narrative, specifically as applied to culture and change.  I find myself focusing more and more on how human beings make meaning of their contexts and experiences through narrative.  I’m also realising anew how deeply that links to knowledge.  Much of what we’ve come to see as knowledge is part of rich meaning-making processes that human beings engage in all the time.  Some scholars see narrative as basically a linking of cause and effect in ways that allow us to make meaning of our life events. Over time this meaning making becomes the way we see the world and ourselves. These narratives of meaning don’t emerge in a vacuum, they are informed and co-authored by those around us, as well as larger narratives that inform our daily realities but are largely invisible to us.  For example, we might have stories about our identities as parents, whether we see ourselves as good/bad parents.  These are heavily influenced by the stories we hear from peers, our own parents, what we see on television etc.  But they’re also influenced by larger narratives such as the role of women and men; what success means in a capitalist society etc.

So in light of this, it is interesting for me to reflect on the field of Knowledge Management through this lens.  What are the stories of identity that we tell and privelage in this community?  What are some of the other subordinate stories that are seeking prominence?  What has the impact been of some stories gaining pre-eminence over others?  What are the unquestioned beliefs and assumptions that are almost invisible to us, yet has a tremendous impact on what we believe and the stories we tell?  These are some of the themes we will explore during the Re-authoring Knowledge Management session on the last day of the #2015SAKMS conference.

If these thoughts have stimulated some ideas or reflections of your own, please contribute those to our e-journaling tool, powered by Sensemaker.  You can access it here:  or you can download the Sensemaker Collector App from the iStore or Playstore and use the activity code 2015SAKMS to access it on your Apple or Android mobile devices.

“The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” —Mary Catherine Bateson, anthropologist

besigheidskaartjieThe 2015SAKMS team are pleased to introduce SenseMaker®, leading edge software created by Cognitive Edge, as one of the ways we will harvest and make sense of our experiences and learning through the Summit.

This powerful tool offers a simple way to capture, self-index and share small stories or micro-narratives, to help make collective sense of a particular theme or topic. At the 2015SAKMS, SenseMaker® will help us capture and weave together our shared exploration, and we invite you to share your stories, insights, ideas and reflections around Knowledge Management – both before and during the Summit.

Watch creator Dave Snowden introducing SenseMaker® in this video:

Share your stories

Whether you will be a SAKMS2015 delegate this year or not, we invite you to be part of the Summit experience by capturing your stories of insights, learning moments, encounters and shifts in your own KM journey. Please also share this opportunity with your colleagues, clients and other KM stakeholders to help us gather a broad range of stories!

There is no right or wrong way to share your stories, and it is better to share a number of smaller fragments than to try to create one long story. The tool offers you a range of options – including capturing audio or images to support or tell your story – and the process is designed to be simple and intuitive, needing no more than a few minutes per story. A full report will be published after the Summit for you to see the results.

Sharing your stories and knowledge is key to the development of our KM community. By using this tool, you will enhance the summit experience  and contribute to new insights in the field of KM, so please journal often!

Start Now

Download the SenseMaker® Collector app (from CognitiveEdge) on the Android or Apple Store.

  • The first time you open the App, it will request some information in a User Profile. Your entries are anonymous, but this information enables demographic analysis.
  • Once your profile is complete, go back to the app menu and select ‘Download Activities’.
  • Use the Collector App Code ‘2015SAKMS‘ to download our Summit survey template.

Begin to capture your stories of insights, learning moments, KM breakthroughs and challenges!

As an alternative to the app, you may use SenseMaker® online.

Read more about SenseMaker® and its applications on the Cognitive Edge website.

When we approach people to suggest that they share a case study or a presentation at a summit, many of them respond the same way. “Oh, no.” they say. “I don’t have a case study or a story to tell”  – And why not? Surely every KM professional must have a story to tell?

Many of us hesitate to share our stories because we are stuck in the idea that a case study should be a shining example of best practice, and when we look at our own experiences we see the ‘failures’, the things that didn’t work out as planned, the disappointments. Intellectually, of course, we know as KM professionals that failure leads to learning and insight, but when it comes to measuring ourselves against others, we pull back.

It sometimes seems that we have all become experts in framing and showcasing our lives, our stories and experiences in a shiny, edited way. While we can’t really blame Facebook and Photoshop, but they offer a good example of how this plays out in the personal sphere – just think of how many photos of smiling families on the beach you see, and how few of the same family later that day when both kids are having a tantrum! Read the rest of this entry »

The Playback Theatre Master Class on 27 May 2015 will provide an opportunity to experience and reflect upon the power of theatre practices to facilitate knowledge sharing and sense-making.

In the video below, Destin (of YouTube channel Smarter Every Day)  shares his story of how he learned to ride his bicycle after the engineers decided to fasten the handles backwards. This backwards brain bike turns right when you turn left, left when you turn right. Easier said than done.

It took Destin eight months of dedicated practice to override his memory of riding a bike. And then again 20 minutes to ride a normal bike again. His toddler could ride the backwards bike within two-hours.

This story reminds me of the stuckness we often experience when we need to unlearn to learn. The challenge is that knowledge can become so embodied, like riding a bike, that we cannot access it in a rational manner to be able to change it. How can we access such embodied or encultured knowledge.

One method that we could use is Playback Theatre. Playback is a form of theatre Read the rest of this entry »

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 Read the rest of this entry »

Complexus offers you lessons from the field and new tools to manage challenging change, in their pre-summit workshop – “Using KM tools to improve Enterprise Change, Project Outcomes & Business Capability Maturity”

The speed and volume of technology based change in today’s digital enterprise is faster and larger than ever before. According to the 2014 PMI Pulse report, organisational change continues to be a challenge for the vast majority of businesses, with only one in five organizations reporting highly effective change management.

As business leaders and knowledge practitioners embark on enterprise and systems transformation the pressure for these projects to succeed and for investments to show a positive ROI increases year on year. With 70% of major change implementations yielding sub-optimized results and the average time taken to develop mature business capabilities exceeding 5+ years, how can the transformational leader of today deliver a successful change program on a finite budget in an ever more complex information and collaboration landscape?

Lessons from the field – “The Change Challenge”
In 2014 Complexus conducted an assessment in our local market of South Africa with 100 respondents. The research was performed using their best practice SharePoint App, ReadinessPoint. The App asks a series of questions to assess organisational, people, process and technology readiness for any given change program in the Enterprise. The results presented a remarkable set of findings:

  • 60% had challenged or highly challenged projects.
  • 13% were recommended to stop their change project.
  • Poor process readiness scored highest as the most common issue.
  • Only 10% had any form of maturity plan in place.

Provide the CxO, PMO, Change & Knowledge Practitioner with something new

Read the rest of this entry »

According to Aldu Cornelissen, co-presenter of the workshop about Informal Networks and Social Network Analysis –

“Most organisations are well versed in the art of managing the formal, that which can be committed to paper, be defined and managed. Due to this bias towards the formal, for most organisations, the informal is normally seen as unwanted, the source of risk, unpredictability, unmanageability and inefficiency. However, a surge in research on social networks and a subsequent network theoretical description of organisations and how they work, we are now equipped with tools, concepts and theories to help us understand the informal organisation and use it to our advantage. When I say ‘our’ I intend to point out those in management who want to understand and improve the organisation further through understanding the informal. “

A key dynamic in knowledge management is the relationships and patterns of interaction in informal networks. Social Network Analysis provides a way to visualise these patterns of interaction. Such maps provide answers to questions such as Who communicates to who?, Who is the most trusted?, What are the real roles?, Where are the blockages?, etc.

In this video, Rob Cross discusses how a network perspective helps managers and leaders to see where ideas are flowing, where best practices are transferring, etc. This understanding impacts how we nurture innovation and cross-functional collaboration.

Managers and leaders can leverage the insights gained from understanding the informal networks in their organisation to  –

  • accelerate the flow of knowledge and information across functional and organizational boundaries
  • identify the thought leaders, key information brokers and bottlenecks
  • target opportunities where increased knowledge flow will have the most impact
  • inform smarter decision making during mergers, acquisitions, restructuring,  and the need to retain people who are vital in the knowledge system
  • plan for the development of communities of practice.

Join the workshop about Informal Network & Social Network Analysis on Wednesday, 27 May 2015. The purpose of the workshop is to introduce individuals from various organisations – both private and public– to the idea, and subsequent value, of surfacing, understanding and using informal networks within their organisations. Participants will also learn about the tools of the trade for conducting social network analysis and discuss real-life examples.

Click here to download the Pre-Summit Workshop Brochure and Summit Agenda.

Find out more:

  • An authoritive summary on SNA: Borgatti, S.P. et al., 2009. Network analysis in the social sciences. Science, 323, pp.892–895.
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