Knowledge workers that count

The Weekend (26th May 2012) section of the Telegraph covered an interesting interview with Eric Schmidt, Executive Director of Google. 

Positioned in the context of the Make Britain Count campaign, Schmidt posed the question “where will the jobs in modern Britain come from?”  The answer? Not from farming; not from manufacturing; but from the service and the “knowledge worker” sector.  And it’s these knowledge workers who will all require some level of mathematic skills. 

Well worth a read – if only for some interesting facts.  Did you know that “Google recieves some 2 million job applications each year” and that “for every 48-hour period, more data is created that in the past 30,000 years put together”!


Change and change management – a process not an event

I gave a short talk (link to my speaker notes below) on change and change management at an event organised by the Special Libraries Association (SLA) Europe on 22 May 2012.  The event was titled All Change!! All Change?? 

The chair for the event was Lesley Robinson, Interim Head of Knowledge Management at BaKer McKenzie and Independent Information Consultant, and the panel included John Coll, Head of Access, National Library for Scotland; Veronica Kennard, Director Rothschild; and Ray Phillips, Head of Information Services Development, The King’s Fund. 

Reflecting on the complex nature of change and change management activity I used Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats (to cut through the complexity) as a framework for my talk. 

You can download my speaker notes via the following link SLAE – All Change – All Change – 22 May 2012 – Ian Wooler – speaker notes ………………..and read what others thought of the evening via

Photo from sludgegulper’s Photostream on Flickr

A physiotherapist’s description of (tacit knowledge) ‘know-how’

Much has been written about tacit (and implicit and explicit) knowledge.  Tacit knowledge was first introduced into philosophy by Michael Polanyi in 1958 and facilitating the exchange of tacit knowledge (e.g. experience, intuition, expertise, and behaviours) is the focus for many knowledge managers today.    

For every knowledge manager, there will be a favourite story or anecdote used to describe or define tacit knowledge – and this is often in terms of ‘know-how’.

In my travels, workshops, and training sessions I sometimes ask others to describe what tacit knowledge means to them.  The following description was given by a physiotherapist when talking about the know-how being used to decide when and where to apply pressure, and the type of movement to use, to ease a tense or strained muscle. 

“You know how to interpret what’s going on under your hands without knowing you’re doing it.” 

What’s your favourite tacit knowledge story, anecdote or description?

When the computer says “no”

The world of sport can provide knowledge managers and their organisations with some great stories and case study material which can be used to support KM activities and internal communications.  For example, many readers to this blog will be familiar with the story about how doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children learnt from F1 expertise

Another such story appeared in The Daily Telegraph last weekend.  The story was of an interview with Sir Chris Hoy, and recounted the “thousands of miles on the bike” and the “hundreds of hours in the gym” Hoy puts himself through in order to perfect his art.  However, the main focus of the story was to highlight the ways in which British Cycling will select the rider for the one GB place available for the men’s individual sprint at this summer’s Olympics – with both Hoy and Jason Kenny being capable of challenging for a gold medal.  As the story reminds us “two into one does not go”. 

The interesting knowledge management angle to the story is that the decision will be informed by the reams of data, graphs and computer readouts, numbers and figures available from the two riders’ performance data.  This includes data and information on power, torque, cadence and speed – factored against atmospheric pressure and temperature; “so that you can work out a good peformance”.  But should a computer ‘make the decision’ who represents BG and who does not?  

You could argue that there is a danger that the decision could be made largely on ‘explicit knowledge’, and that not enough consideration and weight will be applied to each rider’s ‘tacit and implicit knowledge’; for example – judging when to make the final push for the line; dealing with the pressure of the situation; not getting overawed by the occasion; and the ability to bring years of experience and training to bear in an extremely fast-moving environment where split second decisions can result in the difference between success and ‘failure’.  As Sir Chris Hoy points out “it’s not something you can quantify, but they (the performance director and head coach) will take that into consideration, I’m sure”. 

As knowledge managers will know, connecting people together to share knowledge about things that are difficult to quantify and write down is vital if well-informed decisions are to be made.  So, the next time you are about to make an important decision, re-tell yourself this story.  As the interview reminds us, “before conquering the world, Hoy must first conquer the machines” –

Making the right gesture – transferring tacit knowledge

The current edition of The Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management (EJKM) includes an interesting article (pp 142-153) ‘how to characterise professional gestures to operate tacit know-how transfer?’

The article describes an experiment, which was performed at EDF (Electricité de France), in which several categories of professional gestures were studied and were investigated to produce training video material called “MAP” (Multimedia Apprenticeship Platform). 

Worth a read and of particular interest to those using video to help with their knowledge transfer and knowledge retention programmes.  Photograph from quinn.anya’s photstream on Flickr –






Using the “three pounds of meat” inside your head – what’s your brain up to?

This week’s Start the Week on Radio 4 (30th April 2012) with Andrew Marr discusses creativity.  What does it mean, how do we do it, how do we release it? 

Jonah Lehrer (neuroscientist – see link in my eclectic blogroll) talks about his book Image (how creativity works) and unconscious processing.  Worth a listen and a good reminder for knowledge managers that creativity can happen in the most unlikely of circumstances and is social and a collaborative process. 

The podcast also reminded me of the reasons why I chose to call my blog site ‘taking a thought for a walk’.



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