Global Knowledge Review March 2005www.globalknowledgereview.com
A few months ago, I was given a golden opportunity toengage Centrica’s executives in the topic of knowledgemanagement. I had a two-hour slot at one of their twiceyearly top management events, to educate, inspire andgain the support of 60 of their top directors. How couldI maximise my chance to engage this diverse group?In the ‘80s, psychologist and author Howard Gardnerpioneered the idea of multiple intelligences. Gardneridentified seven different kinds of intelligence, each onelending itself to a different learning style, and hence apotential executive hot-button.Linguistic, Logical-mathematical, Musical, Visual-spatial,Kinaesthetic, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal.We each possess all seven of the above intelligences toa greater or lesser degree. In principle, a well-designedlearning event will address several of these intelligencesto maximise the overall levels of engagement in a group.It seemed like a good theory – now to put in into practice– although achieving all seven would be a bridge too far!
Designing a multi-faceted executive event
For those with linguistic orientation, I provided an “exhibitionof KM-related quotes” drawn from business leaders,philosophers and writers, and asked them to walk around,reflect on and discuss which ones were most meaningfulfor them.For the logical and mathematically-minded, I providedthe statistical outputs from a survey of Centrica’s top1,000 senior managers, including their assessment of thepotential value available to the company if we shared andapplied knowledge more effectively.The visual-spatial thinkers were in their element withthe wax-crayon exercise “draw a large (A2) picture whichillustrates the state of knowledge-sharing in the companytoday”. This activity yielded pictures of silos, barriers,mazes, walls, hot air balloons and even flying pigs!For those with well developed interpersonal and intrapersonalintelligence, I had prepared some video recordings of youngchildren describing how they feel when asked to share toys– with their friends, and with people they don’t know. Thefact that the video included some of their own childrenheightened the interest! Hannah, my three-year old providedthe cute-factor with the line “I don’t like sharing with Lillybecause she be’s bossy with me!”Having stimulated the multiple intelligences of the groupfor 90 minutes, they used the remaining time to agreesome actions. I have to confess, I was feeling prettypleased with myself at this point, Howard Gardner wasright! However, I’d forgotten the “power of the practical”
“Tell me what I need to do differentlytomorrow morning.”
As he was leaving the room, a finance director turned tome and said – “You know Chris, this is good stuff, butwhat I really need is something simple to challenge andremind me tomorrow morning what I need to do differently.Something which fits on the back of a postcard.”With the help of my team, I proposed a set of personalchallenges below for that director to stand on his deskthe next day – they have since been shared with the entiresenior community.
When encountering a business problem, I reinforce theimportance of learning from others - rather thansimply providing an answer.
I personally demonstrate that “asking for help” is a signof strength rather than weakness
When reviewing a project proposal, I challenge to ensurethat it brings to bear knowledge from other projects.
Does my team see failure as something to learn from,or something to hide?
How much time this week will I spend thinking andlearning, rather than just reacting?Creating these simple, practical challenges for leadersproved to be a highly effective way of describing a visionfor knowledge management in Centrica, and engagingthe senior team in a more sustainable way.So if you could send a postcard to your board of directors, what challenges would you identify?
Answers on the back of a postcardplease…
Chris is Director of Change andKnowledge Management at Centricaplc, responsible for building capabilityin the areas of change management,knowledge management and e-learning across the company. Prior to joining Centrica, Chris was at theheart of BP's knowledge managementand operational excellence activities.He is co-author of the best-sellingKM fieldbook Learning to Fly. Duringrecent years, he has advised a rangeof business leaders, government andnon-government organisationsranging from the DTI to the UnitedNations. Chris is based at Centrica'shead office in Windsor.
We need something quick and simple to remind us what todo differently