I3 UPDATE / Entovation International News

a free monthly briefing on the knowledge agenda

No. 61 May 2002





David J. Skyrme


David Skyrme Associates


Contents - Main Feature - Next Feature - Knowledge Digest


The One Minute Manager

David J. Skyrme

You know when a subject has come of age when it is packaged for the lay person, as well as the professional specialist. There is already a 'Complete Idiot's Guide to Knowledge Management', which is not as silly as it sounds. It's written by highly respected practitioner Melissie Clemmons Rumizen of Buckman Laboratories who puts the subject across in no-nonsense terms to the non-specialist. Alongside this title I noticed 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to Organizing Your Life', for which disorganized readers of Amazon give rave reviews. As I was browsing our local management bookstore the other day, I found that even the most intractable of knowledge management challenges, that of intellectual capital measurement has now become the subject of a recently published 'pocket guide' - and not a bad one at that. It comes complete with a 10 point plan of action (The Pocket book of Intellectual Capital by Jay Chatzkel). Which gets me to my key point. Can you get over the essence of what you do in knowledge management in one minute?

Less Is Often More

In these information intense (and overloaded) times, there is much to be said for the discipline of packaging information into bite (or is that byte?) sized chunks. No more can many companies and individuals afford the luxury of one week off-site courses. They want the knowledge and learning they need, when they need it, on the job. My rule of thumb is the 2.5 minute learning object. This also seems to be the typical time 'slot' on the BBC morning current affairs programme 'Today'. Similarly, I always remember my training as a sales person - "what's the three minute elevator pitch". This assumes that you are walking into an elevator and have the chance to talk to a senior executive of your target customer. In 3 minutes you will go your different ways, so you have to get the essence of your sales proposition out in that time. Actually, many elevators don't take that long - unless your on a scenic route in a New York skyscraper - so aim for one minute!

So What Is The Essence of KM in One Minute?

Here's my take - perhaps you'll share yours with our readers.

  • Most organizations don't know what they know - their left hands (or brains) don't know what their right hands are doing
  • As a result mistakes are repeated, good ideas are not used and money is frittered away as people struggle to find the information and knowledge they need
  • Knowledge management is about getting the right knowledge to the right people at the right time, when they need it, not when you think of giving it to them
  • One aspect is about identifying the best knowledge in documents and databases and making it easily accessible from an individuals personal computer.
  • A more important part is about creating the environment for people to mix and have conversations to share knowledge, just like I am doing with you now.

Well, that's not all that good, but being a logical and structured person, this is my 5- point bullet approach. You may prefer (and I wish I could do this well) to use an analogue with which most people will be familiar, e.g.:

"Think of when you had a mechanical or electrical problem at home that needed fixing quickly - a faulty washing machine, a jammed CD, a leaky pipe. For example, recently our washing machine overflowed. I struggled for ages to solve the problem, took off the cover, but only made things worse. Along comes my friendly repair man, jiggles a couple of pipes, pours some hot water down my sink (what the hell's that got to do with the washing machine?) - and problem solved. He had the knowledge - I didn't. Now, if I had good knowledge management at home, I would have had a better chance of solving the problem myself, either by using a diagnostic and repair guide or through talking to an expert over the phone, perhaps with a video link."

Or you can use an organizational story, such as the one cited by the supplement to The World Bank's 1998 Knowledge for Development Report:

"A task team leader for the world bank in Yemen urgently needs to respond to client about setting up management information systems in an education Ministry. He contacts the education advisory service in the Human Development Network, which in collaboration with the relevant community of practice (substitute for the uninitiated the words "their network of contacts"), ascertains that there there is similar and relevant experience in Kenya. The material is dispatched to Yemen, so that the task manager can respond to the client within 48 hours, rather than weeks later, after returning to headquarters and searching for the answer."

In a presentation about communities of practice at Shell, one presenter described how experts, initially skeptical about them - after all they "knew all the answers" - actually found that they learnt and gained knowledge by cutting down their knowledge down to size and making it more accessible to the non-expert. ("Learning by writing" as opposed to "learning by doing").

So think about your one minute pitch. Then, next time you are asked at a social gathering: "what is this knowledge management thing you do?", or your company asks: "why shouldn't we trim your budget by 20 per cent next year?" you'll have a ready answer.

Beyond The Sound Bite

The use of such knowledge capsules can result in pandering too much to the sound bite, and not conveying the richness of the subject your are talking about. A good approach here is to apply a the AIDA technique, used in direct marketing. Think of your conversation as taking the listener through the following sequence:

A - Attention grabber - there is one article on knowledge management that starts - "poor knowledge management can kill" - now that's an attention grabber if ever there is one.

I - Interest - this is where you engage the listener with something of interest and relevant to them; relate your knowledge or proposition to the problems and issues that confront them. In other words, don't just show off your knowledge that is looking for a problem to solve. Show how your particular knowledge has solved similar problems eslewhere (such as through analogues and stories as used earlier in this article).

D - Decision - help the person understand that your knowledge is valuable and give them what they need to make a decision in your favour. How can it be applied? What are the pre-requisites? Who should be involved? What do each of us have to do?

A - Action - be clear on the outcome you want to achieve. It may be a series of outcomes - ranging from the optimistic (they will give me a $1 million budget/contract) to the more pragmatic ("at least they know how I can help them").

Thinking of presenting your knowledge and expertise in the framework of the AIDA model gives your knowledge nuggets context. You have to think of the different ways a particular domain of knowledge can be packaged and presented - from the one minute story to the in-depth analytical report, to the Powerpoint presentation, to the semi-humorous video.

So start by thinking of some one minute knowledge packages to support your personal and business goals and explain what you do (and why it is valuable to your listeners). You will then be well on the way to marketing your knowledge, either as small learning objects for sale or as the prelude to entice your recipients to tap into your deeper wells of expertise.

Email: David J. Skyrme

© Copyright, 2002. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.

I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News is a joint publication of David Skyrme Associates Limited and ENTOVATION International Limited - providers of trends analysis, strategic advice and workshops on knowledge management and knowledge innovation®

® Knowledge Innovation is a registered trademark of ENTOVATION International.



Customers: a new twist on knowledge management

Dot com winners and losers

Virtual teaming and virtual organizations: 25 principles of proven practice

Measurement myopia; those who measure and those who act

Portal power: gateways or trapdoors?

Creativity is not innovation

Virtual trust

China: accepting the knowledge challenge

Innovation action for Europe