KMGN Newsletter. Issue 2
October 2022 Issue #2
KMGN’s latest news, views and insights
The View (Editors Letter)
Dear KMGN members,
The KMGN summer school of 2022 included an extensive program facilitated by Arthur Shelley and his team over 8 weeks to learn about ACE – the Accelerated Collaboration Experience. It turned to be crucial to review some known concepts, challenge “known knows” and identify new ways of thinking, learning and, of course, collaborating.
One of the KMGN-culture assumptions relates to “no negative feedback”, which should, of course, secure an open-minded dialogue, support weak and insecure participants to contribute their ideas, and avoid patterns of justification in the line of “that never worked before” (and therefore will not work now). This culture of collaboration shall be in the focus of the KMGN HacKMthon, a new format that connects KMers over 8 hours and several time zones from Australia to Austria – and beyond. Please register to contribute to one of 4 challenges already identified in the Pre-HacKMthon.
The successful application of KM, the collective review of knowledge development, exchange and refinement was the core element of a multi-year project in an international alliance of early pedagogic network covering four nations with four very different languages. The program focusses on how to establish language development at the early age of 2–6-year old’s and make them aware of their neighbor’s tongue. Reviewing, assessing, and improving the shared Intellectual Capital among more than 60 experts representing this network is a major KM activity and helps to continue their work.
A strong organization is usually considered a resilient one. Kristina Mirchuk presents insights on the connection between knowledge management and resilience in a turbulent context. She reflects the general idea then focuses on the value added that is provided if organizations consider developing resilience in time.
Interesting discussions emerged in the ICKM 2022. Pavel Kraus from Swiss Knowledge Management Forum shares his insights of the recent event in Potsdam, close to Berlin, where more than 120 people presented their academic and applied insights to KM.
Collaboration between strangers and regular participants not-so-strange-anymore constitute the essence of the GfWM organized BarCamp GfWM Knowledge Camp GKC. Andreas Matern drives this major event of the German speaking KMers as organizer for many years and shares his recipe to make it a continuing success story.
A culture of friendly conversations and collaboration among very different fields of research was a trademark for the historic Vienna Circle. Karl Popper influenced this circle and established a new view on science. His long-term impact on KM is elaborated in “who is who”.
This Newsletter was sponsored by the Germany Speaking Communities in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland – GfWM and SKMF with guest input from Spain.
Author: Dr. Manfred Bornemann - GfWM
Article of the Month: Intellectual Capital Report BIG_STEM+
by Eva Huber and Manfred Bornemann
How can we measure the impact of investments on the intangible assets of a region? How can we assess if the expected strategic outcomes are accomplished? And where would further investments yield the highest benefit? The Office of the Lower Austrian Government, Department of Kindergartens faced these questions in their long-term vision project to improve the language skills of very young children aged 3-6 in a cross-border network project with Hungary, Slovakia, and Czech Republic. The official name is “Educational Cooperation in the Border Region”, it was funded by INTERREG, details can be found here.
The first of a series of 15 projects started as early as 2011. Over a timeframe of 10 years, the network expanded, additional partners were involved. The original focus on strengthening language skills to literally establish “better cultural understanding” among children from very different backgrounds shifted eventually to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). But the “core” of the project remained remarkable stable: How can kindergarten teachers better share their experiences among each other – not only within a region, but among 14 different ones, with 4 official languages, different legal contexts, and different conceptional ideas on the purpose of a kindergarten? The “product” of their core processes is an intangible one: educating the next generation has a very long-term impact, not only on the individuals, but on the regional mobility, and, ultimately, economic performance measured financially as GDP.
Up to 64 representatives of 4 nations, 14 regions, from kindergartens, administrative experts, universities who educate kindergarten teachers to name only a few, met to identify the crucial capabilities necessary to accomplish their joint long-term task. They identified a set of 11 drivers and put them into categories of Human Capital, Structural Capital, and Relational Capital.
“Intercultural Competence” is one of them and defined as follows:
Under intercultural competence as a part of social and communication competence we summarize the skills to enter into dialogue with each other respectfully, to communicate, to discuss constructively, to promote trust and to enable a pleasant cooperation. This also includes consciously dealing with criticism and conflicts, as well as accepting and promoting ethnic, cultural plurality and respectful interaction with people regardless of their worldview, religion, and culture.
This definition is the first step to establish a shared understanding on an otherwise rather abstract idea. It therefore supports dialog among participants with different mother tongues and different interpretations of concepts.
The next step is the assessment of the status quo of this and other dimensions. Two questions help to differentiate potential interventions later:
- Do we have enough teachers with intercultural competence to accomplish our strategic objectives?
- Is the quality of “intercultural competence” good enough to accomplish our strategic objectives?
These questions help to assess the current situation. Scores between 0 and 100% help to quantify the status. More important are qualitative reasons that justify the assessment. If, for example, one participant argues the details why his or her peers in a certain setting are not yet “good enough”, specific measures to improve this competence could be implemented. It is controlled by a third question, which has a quantitative and a qualitative element:
- Do we manage “intercultural competence” systematically enough to accomplish our strategic objectives?
The questions follow a strict structure, so the results can be compared, even though the drivers might differ substantially.
Results can be broken down for regions and countries and dates – the following chart shows the network status of 2020. The x-axis shows the average values of the three questions above (quantity, quality, and systematic management – QQS). The y-axis shows a similar assessment of relative importance to accomplish the strategic objectives. Fields of prioritized intervention are in the upper left sector with high importance, but not yet sufficient status (low average of QQS). Intercultural competence is coded as HK2 in this chart and represents a strength of the network.
Figure 3 illustrates two points in time (2016 and 2020) with a substantial improvement in most drivers of the networks Intellectual Capital. This was possible because of systematic development in the past as well as a continuing plan for the next years. While quantity of a driver might change because of a business cycle or random events – e.g., a changing political situation with different priorities on budgeting – measures to leverage systematic management usually have the most substantial and long-term impact. In our example of “intercultural competence”, one measure was “stronger anchoring of the content of intercultural competence in the training courses for kindergarten teachers”.
The team collectively identified 65 measures, 29 of them focusing on systematic development of intellectual capital for the network. Some of them are already implemented, other in the process of implementation. One relates to “cross boarder training” of teachers. Here is, what the person in charge narrated:
“For me, it was always important to “think outside the box” throughout my service as a teacher/ director. So, it was a coincidence that I was allowed to participate in a cross-border seminar in Hungary as part of the Interreg project BIG AT-HU. Not only did I get to know the school system in the neighboring country, but I also learned about the possibilities of teaching Hungarian at my school. In the meantime, around 30 children learn Hungarian for three hours a week, and to establish contact with children in the neighboring country, a school partnership with a Sopron school has also been established. This development was a real enrichment for us, and the children always look forward to the cross-border meetings.”
A follow up of the assessment not only identifies new priorities, but reveals lessons learned and energizes the team to keep working on the intangible assets of the network.
Article of the Month: Business Operations in Turbulent Contexts
by Kristina Mirchuk
Globalization, technological development, climate change and human actions have contributed to transform the context in which the organizations operate into turbulent environments. These environments are characterized by a series of attributes, known under the acronym VUCA. Each of the VUCA attributes has different consequences on the daily operations of organizations, provided in Table 1 .
Table 1. Characteristics of turbulent operational environments
While operating in turbulent environments, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) are exposed to specific challenges not experienced by large enterprises : 1) financial difficulties; 2) lack of time; 3) difficulties in the recruitment of specialist staff; 4) less experience & knowledge on change management; 5) lack of market knowledge; 6) bureaucratic hurdles; 7) intellectual property management; 8) smaller network of partners; 9) knowledge & technology transfer.
Resilience has been repeatedly identified as the most valuable characteristic for organizations operating in turbulent environments. This characteristic, an emergent property, is the ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, and respond and adapt to everything from minor everyday events to acute shocks and chronic or incremental changes . Resilience is a strategic objective intended to help an organization to survive and prosper. It is inherently relative, thus achieving absolute resilience is impossible. It involves dealing with disruption, uncertainty and change with clear intention, coherence, and resources.
Resilience consists of a combination of maintaining continuity through disruptive challenges on the one hand, and long-term viability against a backdrop of strategic change and the changing external environment on the other hand .
Every organization of any size, but specially SMEs, operates with a web of interactions with other organizations. Therefore, it is essential to build resilience not only within an organization, but across its networks and its interactions with others.
Organizational resilience should be seen as an endless process of adaption which can support organizations to being able to withstand a crisis and use the opportunity of turbulence to thrive in a new strategic context. This adaptation process, shown in Figure 1, consists of five stages, in which organizations focus on different aspects [ 4]:
Figure 1. Stages of the resilience loop
Table 2. Benefits of resilience for organizations
The roadmap into developing resilience within an organization consists in a transformation process at all levels of the organization, which yields several benefits for the organization as well as for its environment . The most important benefits are relevant during the presence of a disruptive event. However, there are benefits which provide added value to the organization permanently in their daily operations, as summarized in Table 2.
Knowledge management and resilience
Knowledge is defined as a human or organization asset enabling effective decisions and action in context . Knowledge is acquired though learning or experience and can be individual, collective, or organizational.
Knowledge management is a holistic activity, focused on managing and using knowledge in an active, conscious, and systematic way to obtain competitive advantages. Knowledge management is based on a culture of continuous learning in which knowledge is being acquired progressively based on needs and in which the experience gained, and the lessons learned are internalized to learn.
Knowledge management has a very strong contribution to resilience both at organizational level and at business ecosystem level, as shown in Table 3.
The contribution of knowledge management to organizational resilience takes place across the whole resilience cycle, as shown in Figure 2.
Table 3. Contribution of knowledge management to resilience at organizational and Business ecosystem level
Table 4. Contribution of resilience and knowledge management to cope with challenges faced by SMEs
Value added by knowledge management and resilience to SMEs
The establishment of knowledge management and the development of resilience in organizations is fundamental not only for ensuring their survivability in highly VUCA context but also for gaining competitive advantage against the less resilient organizations and against organizations who do not manage knowledge. In the case of SMEs, as shown in Table 4, resilience, and more importantly, knowledge management play a strategically important role when coping with the challenges faced by these kinds of organizations.
VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) calls for high resilience in SMEs. Resilience is the ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to such changes. KM contributes on two levels (organizational level and business ecosystem level) to achieve resilience by supporting recruiting specialist staff, better management of IP, business networks and technology transfer.
 Bennett, N. and Lemoine, G. J., "What a difference a word makes: Understanding threats to performance in a VUCA world," Elsevier Business Horizons, vol. 57, no. 3, pp. 311-317, Jun. 2014.
 Stephanus J., (2020) SME focus- Long-term strategy for the European industrial future, European Union, Luxembourg
 Guidance on organizational resilience, BS65000, British Standards Institutions, 2014
 Patzwald, M. et al: Resilienz im strategischen Management produzierender Unternehmen. Konzeptpapier. Fraunhofer. 2021. DOI: 10.24406/ipt-n-640932 Available at: https://www.ipt.fraunhofer.de/resilienz-im-strategischen-management
 Knowledge management systems — Requirements, ISO 30401, International standardization Organization, 2018.
October 12, 5AM – 1PM UTC (8 hours- people can join partially) – Led by Faiz Selamat, Singapore
First global KM hackathon marathon – experts, professional KMers, business leaders and KM lovers co-create the solution for main KM challenges. Registration form
KMGN News & Events
October 12, Knowledge Management Conference (Virtual) SIngapore
Sustainable Knowledge Management is about addressing knowledge retention in organisations and addressing the global KM challenges.
October 19 – 1November, 30 – Leading The Blind/Sighted Enterprise by International Institute of Knowledge & Innovation
Virtual education series: change the innovation in a hyper-turbulent enterprise environment
More information and registration form here
October, 27, 2.00–3.30 PM UTC (90 minutes) – SKMF Online
Together with colleagues from KMGN, we will discuss a mix of approaches based on practical experience from KM projects at Roche and Novartis.
More information here
Organization of the Month: GfWM Knowledge Camp As An Event to Stimulate Conversations
by Andreas Matern, Manfred Bornemann
What is the best “agile” format for a regular event to stimulate interaction of participants? Most organizers eventually face this difficult question. GfWM found an answer with GKC (GfWM KnowledgeCamp) that regularly attracts between 100-200 participants over two days, on site, online and, since 2022, as a hybrid format.
The defining element is the participants driven content. The second, almost equally important element is the location. It should be inspiring and supporting all forms of communication – sufficient bandwidth is taken for granted. Architecture that provides a central lobby to share coffee and more as well as several breakout rooms and some smaller, private places is more appropriate than an old-fashioned office layout. One of the best locations in the history of GKC was in the show room of a large office outfitter, who invited all participants to experience the “new work environment” firsthand.
BarCamps usually start with a networking and introductory session where the rules are explained, and all participants present themselves with their name and three key words. Thereafter, a session plan is established, giving plenty of freedom to all participants to find a room that support their purposes. New requirements relate to social developments, such as ecological and / or social sustainability of the location. Public transportation, availability of vegan food or inclusive labor conditions gain priority among growing stakeholder groups.
One innovation of GKC relates to the traditional format of meetings that usually present plenty of formal inputs. Contrary to the self-organized BarCamp content, a series of key notes - by invitation only – cover to a topic in detail and allow for extensive Q&A.
The format allows to integrate different motivations for KMers to attend and collectively drive the agenda of KM:
- It serves the social function to “meet and greet” and connect to people working in the same domain. With already more than 20 years of operations of GfWM, long established friendships are renewed regularly.
- And it serves the needs of a “professional association” to advance KM with new practices, learnings, case studies or methods. Experienced professionals meet students or beginners, usually with very different expectations: recruiting high potentials and learning about new approaches on one side, finding opportunities to test ideas and advance a career on the other.
- New friendships and networks are developed, new projects for collaboration over the next period are identified. And, of course, some business proposals emerge to not only have “a nice chat”, but a productive value adding event.
Serving these different needs sustainably secures the next GKC.
Organization of the Month: SKMF KM and Value Creation – Active or Passive Choices
Dr. Pavel Kraus
In recent years, SKMF had organized a series of online roundtables. The main topic was how KM contributes to value creation. The relationship between KM and practical results was discussed, for example, in relation to project management.
The basis for these discussions was the 3 Sphere Model, which depicts different techniques and methods in relation to knowledge and information. The basis for the model was the KM glossary, which was jointly developed by 6 KM communities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and published in 2020.
The 3 Sphere Model proved to be very useful when the first ideas for a KM project are discussed. Usually at the beginning there are many wild ideas about what could or should be done and how. The model helps to align stakeholder expectations and ensures the KM project starts well.
During the ICKM in Potsdam, some key concepts of KM were challenged, such as the notion that knowledge can be transferred using databases or wikis. While the 3-Sphere Model shows that these methods only passively contribute to success, this heavy information-based approach persists.
Dave Snowden demonstrated in Potsdam how this bottleneck can be overcome. The basic idea is to start with informal networks of subject matter experts and evolve them into strategic communities of practice. They will eventually assume an official role in keeping business-critical knowledge alive and passing it on to the next generation of, for example, project managers.
SKMF will explore how this can be implemented in upcoming discussions.
KM’s Who’s Who: Sir Karl Popper – Inclusive But Clear On Falsification
Dr. Manfred Bornemann
Karl Popper was a second-tier member of the “Vienna Circle”, an exceptionally productive gathering of historic figures over a timeframe of 12 years, until most members emigrated because of the beginning of the second world war. The Vienna Circle practiced a culture of pluralism and aimed to establish scientific methods and empirical observations to advance what was known as “age of enlightenment” or “knowledge”, as it is in the focus of KMGN.
Popper, who died in 1994, was a philosopher of science and established critical rationalism. His approach was the rejection of the historically established idea of “justification” and replacement with “falsification”. While inductivist views ad evidence “for” a particular theory and therefore contribute to its dominance, Popper radically transformed the idea of science and asked the authors of a hypothesis or a theory to provided sufficient context that allowed to prove the idea wrong.
This was a major revolution in science and brought great improvements in theory building, as it allowed to free resources and improve the economics of science (efficiency). Instead of “proving right”, which is often extremely difficult, “falsification” could be done empirically by delivering just one (correct) observation that counters the theory. The Europe-focused (“old world”) science used the reference to the rare observation of “black swans” to reject new concepts. Until they were found in in Australia – the then new world, and biologists had to accept the falsification of the argument “all swans are white”. Nicholas Taleb gave it new meaning in 2001 with the “black swan theorem” – to be elaborated in another article. KM and digital communication certainly brought “old” and “new” worlds, the whole planet, closer together and allows for radically new insights.
Interacting in a global setting and searching for reliable methods for knowledge management makes Popper more relevant than ever. We – all involved in KMGN as practitioners, advocates, and students of KM – are busy developing methods and instruments that support the professional knowledge managers. Popper builds on empirical evidence (facts) to challenge a concept – something, we too shall collect, refine and review based on surveys and good case studies that eventually help to formulate stronger concepts and theories. The currently most promising concept – ISO 30401 – needs to be tested. And the faster we find limitations or claims that are better served with a different approach, the faster we develop our professional field of knowledge management.