Blog for September 2022 Seminar : Conversational Leadership Café : Is this our Gutenberg moment !

This seminar was presented by David Gurteen who has been running Knowledge Cafés for 20 years. He has a growing interest in the power of conversation. He has written a blook on conversational leadership. He has researched, reflected upon and written about ‘conversations’. Conversation is a potentially powerful response to the problems that we face in the world.
Two questions : What are the roots of our problems ? What role does the individual and conversation play in responding to our problems ?

Now, when did Knowledge Management start ? Did it start in the 1990’s ?
No. it did not. It started 60,000 years ago with a ‘cognitive revolution’ which incorporated a great leap forward and a cultural big bang. Before the cognitive revolution humans evolved slowly. After the cognitive revolution anatomical evolution ceased and and we started to evolve culturally and linguistically. In the cognitive revolution we started to learn from each other through teaching, imitation, and other forms of social transmission. As a result we could pass knowledge on from generation to generation. Thus we see the birth of Knowledge Management (KM). Summing it up :-
60,000 years Before the Christian Era (BCE) – Cognitive Revolution.
10,000 years BCE – Neolithic Revolution.
9,500 years BCE – First Cities.
4,000 years BCE – First Empire
3,500 years BCE – Invention of Writing
700 years BCE – First Library
470 years BCE – Socrates
476 years AD – Dark Ages
1,300 years AD – Renaissance
The Gutenberg printing press was invented in Germany in 1440.

History of Knowledge
1440 Printing Press
1500’s Protestant Revolution
1543 Copernican Revolution
1600 Scientific Revolution
1618 Thirty Years War
1650 Enlightenment
1760 First Industrial Revolution
1870 Second Industrial Revolution
1945 Information Revolution
2011 Industry 4.0

Going to the Information Revolution :-

1945 Early computers
1969 Internet
1981 IBM pc
1989 World Wide Web
2000 Social Media
2007 Smartphones
2011 Zoom

Looking at the impact of the web and social media as a paradigm – 1,2,3.

1) Read / write access to the world’s knowledge (the web/social media).
2) Ability to converse with anyone, anywhere in the world (social media/zoom).
3) Soon different languages will no longer be a barrier (language translation in real time).

So we have four Mega knowledge revolutions. Language led to the Cognitive Revolution. The invention of writing led to the First IT revolution. The Printing Press led to the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.
Is social media (Zoom) leading to yet another Knowledge Revolution ?

A better world

Problems – Capacity to respond
Hyperlinked Complex VUCA world – High degree of literacy / education
Disruptive technology – High degree of awareness / willingness
Global warming / pollution – Cognitive Surplus
Existential crisis – Conversation revolution

Is this our Gutenberg moment ?

The printing press led to the Protestant revolution which undermined the authority of the Catholic church which in turn led to the 30 years war.
But it also led to the Scientific Revolution and the enlightenment.

Social media is leading to a polarization of society and the undermining of the
authority of experts and many of our governmental institutions.
But maybe it is leading to a second Scientific revolution and enlightenment ?

Will social media have as great an impact on the world as the printing press ?

Gutenberg revolutionized the world. Is this our Gutenberg moment ?

Where each and everyone of us can share our knowledge and can converse and collaborate globally ?

We then split into two groups and had ‘conversation’ within our group .
Then the two groups assembled all together and we discussed our ideas in a conversational manner rather than the standard ‘feedback’ mode of behaviour.
These are the salient points made during that conversation which involved every participant. N.B. The points here summarise in a sentence or two what the individual participant said.

• Is it really a revolution if it affects only a part of the population ?
• Many people are excluded from this revolution by powerful people who exploit technology for their own ends.
• What are we not allowed to say on social media ? What are we being dislocated from ? How about ‘mindfulness’. Any technology that encourages you to go out into the world is good.
• It is a complex picture – Utopia or Dystopia.
• More like dystopia when a few financiers can speculate at the expense of everyone else.
• Religion aims at morality and better standards of behaviour. Can social media help us to become moral beings. Is ‘computing’ replacing monolithic religions.
• Small minorities can get a ‘very loud voice’ on social media.
• It is often about gender.
• Marshall McLuhan predicted the world wide web almost thirty years before it was invented. ‘The global village’. ‘The medium is the message’.
• Huge social changes are not done by majorities. Well organized minorities are the most influential.
• Most people in the world don’t live in democracies. What do people who live in non-democratic countries make of their world and what do they make of our world ?
• A sort of tribalism seems to have come back and it is evident in social media.
• ‘Hate speech’ comes from a few people piling into an issue. It is not a real discussion. If your comment gets more ‘likes’ than the original comment then you have won your argument. You have ‘ratioed’ the other person.
• It is difficult to have a conversation in ‘real time’. Real conversation is ‘nuanced’ – digital conversation is not.
• The whole issue of inclusion and accessibility being tackled by ‘a technology’ is difficult.
• There has been a rise in the use of voice messaging which has led to a rise in the use of texting to answer it. Some people are uncomfortable with talking so they rely on ‘CHAT’. This is where moderators are needed.
• Will Zoom be the driving force for this revolution ?
• Most teenagers in the USA cannot read cursive text, so they cannot read letters.
• What sort of future is there going to be for ‘the book’ ? Barrack Obama’s Presidential Library is going to be digital.
• Actually, digital books have ‘plateaued’ at 15% of the market. Books are still being published.
• One participant used a kindle for a few months and then went back to books.
• It is about ‘choice’. Some people cannot access books. Digital books can be used by poorly sighted people. Books will not go away.
• One participant preferred reading digital books on train journeys or when travelling away from home. She has joined Saffron Walden Library. She has read ‘Game of Thrones’ in book form and preferred it to the TV series.
• There is still the issue of book fines with library books. Two participants feel the pressure of reading a book quickly enough to avoid a fine on returning it to the library.
• One participant commended cafes which offer little magazines, poetry to their customers. Perhaps little art exhibitions. People are being reached in these environments.
• One participant has so many books (some of which he has not yet read) that he does not go to the library.
• ‘More of the same’ was one conclusion. We are experiencing ‘information overload’ once again. It is better to read a good novel than to consume ‘threads of information’.
• We all have different forms of ‘information consumption’. One participant subscribes to blogs and other things in magazines. He employs a ‘speed reader’ to flag what he is interested in.
• One participant uses podcasts. The best podcasts are ‘conversations’. This is a different experience from slagging people off on Twitter.
• ‘Little Discourse Project’ was mentioned. One participant attempted to define the spectrum of conversations online. This covered audio and visual. For example :- interviews, debates, podcasts. Polite / aggressive debates etc.
• Is this amazing technological revolution going to improve our world ? There is a desire within us to be taken away from ‘words’. We communicate on so many levels. We communicate via Art, Music. Also, by activities such as digging the garden, riding the bike, going to the Park.
• Everyone sees the home / office duality of working as a good thing. But are we getting out of the house enough ? Are we socialising enough ? Is this a bad thing for our mental health ?
• Yes, this is a ‘Gutenberg Moment’. However, although it may well be a good revolution in the long term so far as the short term is concerned there will be more ‘social turbulence’ and a regression to a form of tribalism or clique mentalities.
• What about the environment against which this revolution is taking place. How much real social interaction takes place in Britain’s towns and cities ? In places like Antwerp and the Netherlands they have a ‘mixed culture’ expressed partly in the built environment which works well. It fosters social interaction. We do not have that sort of built environment here.
• ‘Advertising’ was seen as part of the problem. Advertising helps perpetuate myths such as ‘the earth is not burning’; ‘biodiversity has not collapsed’.
• One participant pointed out that the Chinese government has managed to control the web and social media in China. Many outsiders thought that this was an impossible goal. So totalitarianism can operate within social media.
• We are talking about a tool – social media – it can either be a good tool or a bad tool.
• One participant talked about the very different story he heard from a Chinese guide about the Tienanmen Square protests.
• One participant talked about his parents information on the world way back in the 1950’s. No TV, no internet, no car. BBC Home Service (now Radio 4) and the ‘Daily Mirror’. Any book came from the library. TV came later. Advertising back then was ‘propaganda’. How much ‘power and control’ advertising executives had in those days. However, the internet has undermined this as everything these days is much more fragmented.
• So it is ‘Gutenberg moments’ not a ‘Gutenberg moment’. It consists of spontaneity, different revolutions, different scales and times.
• Scientifically, ‘moment’ has a meaning in physics. It means – mass (strength) x velocity and you apply it across the piece. How important is it ? and how is it changing ? An interesting analogy.

Finally, David Gurteen concluded that it had been an enjoyable session.

He also said that the group had understood how complex it is, how fragmented and difficult it all is and … where are we heading ?

Looking back on the session we were all ‘bubbling over with ideas’.

Resources :-

Grooming, gossip and the evolution of language. Robin Dunbar. Harvard University Press. 2020.
The Printing Press as an agent of change. Elizabeth L. Eisenstein. Cambridge University Press. 1980.
Religion and the rise of Capitalism. R.H.Tawney. 1926 re-published by Verso World History Series. 2015.
The Real England. Paul Kingsworth. Granta Books. 2009.


RR 12/10/2022


Blog for July 2022 Seminar: Sparks into Light. Complexity and the Development Sector

Our Seminar Speaker  was Emma Jones (BSc, MSc) who is a Senior Researcher and SenseMaker® practitioner at the Cynefin Company, and leads the Power, Discrimination and Conflict programme. Cynefin is an action, research and development hub which specialises in the application of anthrocomplexity using complexity oriented tools and applying them across research, government and organisations. They are helping people to do research differently.

Emma introduced us to the Cynefin framework which helps to unpick which system you are in, in order to act. Complex Adaptive Systems Theory posits three systems – order, chaos and complex adaptive. Each system requires different responses.

1) Ordered System – Clear Domain. Clear rules, stable agreed cause. If you do X you get Y.
Sense – categorise – respond. Fixed constraints. Best.

Ordered System – Complicated Domain. Cause and effect relationships
not self-evident. Could be a range of right answers. Sense – analyse – respond.
Expert consultation. Governing constraints. Good.

2) Chaotic System – Chaotic Domain. Relationships unclear, random,
Unco-ordinated. Act first! Act – sense – respond.
No effective constraint. Novel.

3) Complex Adaptive System – Complex Domain. Relationships deduced in retrospect. Lots of connections but all entangled. Probe – sense – respond.
Enabling constraints. Exaptive.

So, it was time to get ‘hands on’ as Emma showcased a live project that she is working on at the moment called ‘Love shouldn’t hurt’. This concerns domestic abuse. The questionnaire is carefully crafted and is aimed at getting individuals to share their stories. They start with a video which shows domestic abuse. Then they ask the individuals to tell their story. They employ ‘triads’ where the individual can precisely match their responses by moving and marking the place which reflects their experience. The interpreter / coder is ‘removed’ and the individual voice is heard.

Checking the responses shows that the main effect of coercive control is emotional / psychological rather than physical. It is long term and much more debilitating but it is not often represented in law, advocacy or charitable support. What was the hardest thing in their experience? Present threat – the need to escape? The experience of social isolation ? The need to reach out to other people? The prospect of reporting it to the Authorities? The answers will help researchers to work out how to offer appropriate support. Where are there struggles. Also, there is an attempt to see where the blame lies. Are respondents blaming the perpetrator ? Have the respondents experienced residual anger? Is there a mental health issue? Is there a lack of justice? Looking for a ‘lay of the landscape’ around these kind of issues.

Intervention design creation. How can events be improved? Do we need to have better people in the world? Do we need better laws to safeguard victim survivors? More inclusive understanding, bit more empathy? Better employment? Better housing? Do they need more resources? Better therapy?

What is the hardest part to rebuild? Mental health, self esteem, confidence? Rebuilding trust in social relationships? Have they lost their job, their house etc.? Are they struggling financially?

Reflecting then on the positive part of the experience.  In Emma’ s story was there Strength and bravery? Was there empathy and understanding? Was there learning and opportunity?

We can then look at (say) gaps in ‘lack of empathy’ and collerate it with the previous triads concerning ‘social isolation’, ‘victim blaming culture’ etc. – how does it look etc.

Looking at the mental health ramifications – anger and resentment,  depression, guilt and shame on the long term outcomes of coercive behaviour. Residual effects.

Looking at justice – is it revenge, reconciliation or deterrence?
This frames whether people are in the past, present or the future.

Do people stay in bad relationships or will they not? This could be a bit of a negotiation between partners concerned.

So, now they do data analytics and look for patterns. Distribution patterns occur. This is the strength of SenseMaker®.  The benefits come through from a contextual richness of stories and the persuasive nature of these stories. Weak ‘signals’ are treated respectfully, smaller clusters of activity are evaluated properly – not thrown in the bin.

Meet people where they are at and see local solutions to local problems.

Emma works with UNDP collecting stories from migrants from Ukraine. There is an underground team in Moldova. Ripple effect of this migration. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – gender inequality among pastors. Hubilo too.
UN Foundation – how plantation workers are able to access sexual health and reproductive health information in East Africa.

Emma finished her presentation and we then had a Q & A session.

  • Is there a Cynefin ‘dummies book’? Well, there is a Cynefin Lego Game at and a book entitled ‘Weaving SenseMaker® into the fabric of our world’ published by Cognitive Edge / The Cynefin Co.
  • ‘You need to re-gear your brain to understand Cynefin’ was a view expressed by a few participants.
  • It is a way of looking at problems akin to TRIZ. Refer to the blog for the Netikx Seminar held on 5th October 2020. TRIZ is a ‘theory of inventive problem solving’.
  • It is a good idea to give the individual time to reflect on his / her experience.
  • Emma asked us ‘where does complexity come up in your life’? – what part of your life have you treated as ordered but are in fact complex. Let us get into those discussions.
  • What does ‘exactive’ mean ? Where something is re-purposed from one end to another end in Complex Adaptive Systems.
  • Probe = prompting questions to get to the narrative. Sense = Sensing through Signifiers and Real Time Feedback. Respond = Initiatives, interventions and ideas and the patterns that come from background iterations.
  • ‘Safe to fail experiments’ can be a probe and you get to see if it works and if you can see it work you can steer away from the complex to the complicated state.
  • There is a big difference between ‘complex’ and ‘complicated’.
  • According to Donald A. Norman in his book ‘Living with Complexity’, The MIT Press, 2016, he defines complexity as something where you can understand the underlying theories and principles behind the thing in question. ‘Complicated’ is something where you cannot work out those underlying theories and principles. One participant instanced Share Point as a ‘complicated’ system and visitor search engines as ‘complex’ systems.
  • People think that they want ‘simple’ but they like ‘complexity’.
  • So, ‘complex’ / ‘complicated’ is a useful distinction.
  • VUCA acronym. Is the complex in the Cynefin system the same? Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. No, it is not the same.
  • How did you devise the ‘triads’? How did you devise the questions? Literature searches and we have a facilitation design workshop. We do pilot testing.
  • Emma was asked about her work and she told us that she had a lot ‘to juggle’. Lately, Cynefin had been working around the Astra Zeneca vaccine ‘stuff’. Also, counter-terrorism and with IKEA. It was very wide ranging.
  • Analytics can be frustrating. Senior leaders sometimes do not want to hear about them. People’s stories are honest. It can be difficult to get senior people to have the curiosity to see things differently.
  • A participant said that it can be difficult to get people to share their stories and to be confident and forthcoming.
  • Emma talked about the importance of visual clues when talking to / interviewing people. It was necessary to ‘play around’ with the narrative structure in order to elicit full responses on issues.

The session ended. It was a very informative and enjoyable seminar.

RR 14/08/2022

Blog for May 2022 Seminar: MS Teams – The Case for Information Architecture and Governance

This seminar was given by Alex Church a Senior Consultant with Metataxis. Metataxis has clients in central and local government; charities and non-profit organisations; the private sector; higher education and much more. Metataxis is in the business of managing information.

What is Teams ?  Teams is all about communication (chat, audio/video conferencing, telephony) and collaboration (content sharing, storage, task mangement etc ).  Teams is only one part of Office 365 – which is a whole set of cloud business applications. Now there is both an ‘upside’ and a ‘downside’. A good thing about Teams is the fact that it can be set up and used straightaway for collaborative working. This fact can also be a bad thing because if you simply turn on Teams and then let everyone ‘get on with it’ – it can very quickly become messy and chaotic. Teams requires an information management strategy. SharePoint underpins Teams. Teams has to have both governance and information architecture.

You cannot permit ‘self creation’ in Teams. An approval and provisioning process is necessary. You can build your own (manual) or use 3rd party apps. Begin with a simplified Teams architecture :- chat can be stored in a personal mailbox and in One Drive up in the cloud. Team can create an M365 Group with a Group mailbox and files can be stored in SharePoint. Every Team has a SharePoint site behind it. Therefore a document library is created by default and a folder is created for each Channel. So Teams Information Architecture imposes a Teams/Channel = Library/Folder Information Architecture. You get a ‘General’ channel/folder which cannot be removed. Do note that Private Channels are accessible only to a sub-set of Team members. Teams need to be ‘named’ so you will need a Teams naming convention – you will need to stop two Teams having the same name. A ‘Group Naming Policy’ can be enforced via Azure AD. Are the teams going to be Public or Private ? Public teams are visible to everyone and can be joined without the team owner’s approval. Private teams can only be joined if the team owner adds you. Public or Private is also relevant regarding SharePoint permissions. Particularly check permissions of a Public Team SharePoint site to prevent unauthorised editing and/or deleting of files.

An important part of governance is managing Teams Lifecycle:-

Expiration Policy –  This applies to the Group and requires Azure AD Premium. Deletes all Teams content and apps. It can be a set time period or be based on last activity. Team owners have the option to ‘Renew’.

Retention Policy – This applies to messages/chat; files. Set at Team/Site level by admins. It can retain content for a certain period or it can delete content after a certain period.

Retention Labels – This applies to files. Admins can set defaults/ auto application. It is applied at a document level. It can retain content for a certain period or it can delete content after a certain period.

Chat and Channel Messages – You can only use Retention Policies not Retention Labels. What is the value of  Chat and Channel Messages ? There has to be a balance between the desire to delete them with the need to keep them for reference or evidence.

Archiving – This can be done by a Team Admin or Owner.

To sum up : Teams is a great tool and is the direction of travel for Microsoft.


Rob Rosset 24/06/22.


Blog Report for January 2022 Seminar : Introduction to Radical Knowledge Management


The speaker (Stephanie Barnes) started from the premise that in this global and digital age we must focus on people, processes and technology. We are all leaders and we must use the knowledge and tools available to us in creative and innovative ways. Therefore we must employ critical thinking, resilience and reflection in a sustainable way to continually adapt to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) in our environment. We are forever dealing with uncertainty and having to learn continuously. We must adopt ‘trial and error’ in our practices. These new practices are drawn from art, artistic practice, artistic attitude, artistic process and, above all, artistic creativity. We will need the space to be creative and analytical.

The new work requires us to be sustainable. The new work requires the whole person to be involved in their work, not just part. It requires on-going learning and engagement; and it requires creativity and self-fulfilment. Many of these things are learned through adopting a creative and artistic approach. Stephanie spoke critically about education. She believes that creativity is ‘educated’ out of us and we must re-discover it. We broke up into small groups and drew images suggested by Stephanie and then showed them to each other via zoom to share our understanding of her instructions to us.

However, the most important ‘take-away’ from this seminar was quite simple – ‘be creative’.

Rob Rosset 05/05/2022


Blog for November 2021 Seminar : Writing for the web – perspectives and practical advice

This blog is the result of the work of one of the ‘break-out-groups’ during the NetIKX seminar held by Teodora Petkova on November 25th 2021 entitled “Writing for the web: perspectives and practical advice”.

For an excellent review of this seminar please start off with a blog written by Carlin Parry which ‘sets the scene’ so to speak

Our group was asked to write a script for a short video of a few minutes. The video was entitled ‘How to propagate strawberries in a community garden’. Teodora asked us for our ‘beautiful first ugly draft’ and for ‘meaningful content’ and for us ‘to think before we ink’, which to us meant being concise. Here is the result :

The Script

An Interview with Conrad who is running a Community Group for gardeners.

Personnel : Conrad – gardener; Anke – tutor; Gerard – dolly grip/best boy/cameraman.

Robert – interviewer

Robert –

‘Here we are in Fareham House garden. Conrad and Anke are going to tell us about propagating strawberries.

Conrad is a student who planted strawberries in May and they have spread all over this raised bed’.

Conrad –

‘We only had 5 strawberries and Anke is telling me what we can do about it’.

Gerard moves camera from Conrad to Anke and also shows the strawberry bed itself and goes back to Anke for her contribution….Anke talks about the proper way to plant strawberry runners, which she regards as the easiest way to propagate strawberries.

How to grow strawberries on the ground – US video.

How to grow strawberries in pots – US video.

Conrad – ‘I think that all members of our community would like to find out about these things and then they could take a strawberry plant home to foster in their own homes’.

[In 2022 Conrad wishes to make a video of next season’s strawberry planting which will supersede the first video above].

Conrad then explains to camera how viewers can join the Community Group.

End of script.

Now, we can open this up and show the idea of ‘the strawberry’ in different socio-cultural contexts. We have foraged the web for information and found the following ‘knowledge bits’ in architecture, art & fabric design, film, food, music and poetry.

Strawberry in Architecture

Strawberry Hill House – Community Garden – website page. Strawberry Hill House is the Gothic Revival Villa built in Twickenham, London by Horace Walpole (1717-1797).

Strawberry in Art and Fabric Design

The strawberry as art in ‘The strawberry thief flower and bird pattern’ by William Morris (1834-1896) – image

Strawberry in Film

‘Wild Strawberries’ by Ingmar Bergman (1957) – video

An old University professor goes on a long car trip to collect an award and he reminisces about gathering strawberries with his girlfriend in his youth.

Strawberry in Food

Strawberries as food – How to make chocolate strawberries – video

Strawberries as food/art – How to make strawberry art decoration – video

Strawberry in Music

‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by the Beatles – original video

John Lennon used to play as a child in a Salvation Army children’s home in Liverpool  called ‘Strawberry Fields’

Strawberry in Poetry

‘Strawberries’ by acclaimed Scots poet Edwin Morgan 1920-2010 – website page























Blog for July 2021 Seminar: Ethical Artificial Intelligence

This seminar dealt with the complex issue of ethical artificial intelligence and ontologies. The speaker was Ahren E. Lehnert, a Senior Manager with Synaptica LLC, a provider of ontology, taxonomy and text analytics products for 25 years –

The central focus of Ahren’s talk was on the relationship between ethics, artificial intelligence and ontologies. Arificial Intelligence (AI) in practice means machine learning leading to content tagging, recommendation engines and terror and crime prevention. It is used in many industries including finance and insurance, job applicants selection, development of autonomous vehicles and artistic creativity. However, we must be careful because there are some outstanding examples of ‘bots behaving badly’. For example, Microsoft’s chatbox, Tay, learned language from interaction with Twitter users. Unfortunately, Twitter ‘trolls’ taught Tay anti-semitic, racist and misogynistic language. Tay was closed down very quickly. Here we are in the territory of ‘ghosts in the machine’ – is that photo really an image of (say) Arnold Schwarzenegger (actor and politician) or is it somebody else who is posing as him or who just happens to look very much like him. More difficult is when you encounter an image of somebody that you know is dead (say) Peter Cushing (actor) whose photo may have been edited into an image that suits a particular project or viewpoint. Are we OK or not OK with these things. It does matter.

Information professionals frequently encounter machine learning –

Now, however much we may want to go “all in” on machine learning, most companies have not worked out how to “de-silo and clean their data”. Critically, there are five steps to predictive modelling : 1) get data; 2) clean, prepare and manipulate data; 3) train model; 4) test data; 5) improve. We must be sanguine about the results. We will not build a ‘saviour machine’ (!). Machine learning basics include : 1) the need for big data; 2) the need to look for patterns; 3) the need to learn from experience; 4) the need for good examples; 5) the need to take time. We can find good and bad examples of machine learning and we can use the examples of science fiction as portrayed in television and film. For example, ‘Star Trek’ portrays stories depicting humans and aliens serving in Starfleet who have altruistic values and are trying to apply these ideals in difficult situations. Alternatively, ‘Star Wars’ depicts a galaxy containing humans and aliens co-existing with robots. This galaxy is bound together by a mystical power known as ‘The Force’. ‘The Force’ is wielded by two major knightly orders – the Jedi (peacekeepers) and the Sith (aggressors). Conflict is endemic. So bad examples of machine learning (where machine learning fails) arise from insufficient, inaccurate or inconsistent data; finding meaningless patterns; lack of time spent by data scientists on improving machine learning models; the model is a ‘black box’ which users ‘don’t really understand’; unstructured text is difficult.

What is the source of biases which are making their way into machine learning ? Well, people generate context and people have biases to do with : language; ideas; coverage; currency and relevance. Taxonomies are constructed to reflect an organizational viewpoint. They are built from content which can be flawed. The coverage can have topical skews. They can be built by a single taxonomist or a team. The subject matter expertise can be wanting.  Furthermore, Text Analytics is ‘inherently difficult’ : language; techniques; content. Algorithms in machine learning models depend on training data which must be accurate and current with good coverage. Here is a quote from Jean Cocteau – “The course of a river is almost always disapproved of by its source”. Is the answer an ontology ?

What is ethical AI ? What does it mean ? It means being Transparent, Responsible and Accountable. Transparent – Both ML and AI outcomes are explainable.

Responsible – Avoiding the use of biased algorithms or biased data.

Accountable – Taking action ‘to actively curate data, review and test’.

FAST Track Principles – Fairness, Accountability, Sustainability, Transparency.

Whose ethics do we use – the ethics of Captain Kirk from ‘Star Trek’ or the ethics of HAL the computer from ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’. We are back with our earlier ‘Star Trek’ / ‘Star Wars’ conundrum. How will these ethics work out in practice ? How will we reach consensus. How do we define what is ethical and in what context ? Who will write the codes of conduct ? Will it be government ? Will it be business ? Who will enforce the codes of conduct ?

What are the risks given AI in practice ? Poor business outcomes; unintended consequences; mistrust of technology; weaponization of AI technology; political and/or social misinformation; deepfakes; skynet.

Steps towards ethical AI. Steps to success within the organization. Conduct risk assessments; understand social concerns; data sources and data sciences; invest in legal resources; industry and geo-specific regulatory requirements; tap into external technological expertise. There will be goals and challenges to overcome. There should be an ethical AI manifesto or guidelines. An ethical AI manifesto will identify corporate values; align with regulatory requirements; involve the entire organization; communicate the process and the results; nominate a champion. Many existing frameworks of AI Ethics guidelines are vague formulations with no enforcement mechanisms. So,to get started on the AI programme we must clearly define the problem :  what do you want to do ? Why do you want to do it ? What do you expect the outputs to be and what will you do with them ? We must seek to ‘knowledge engineer’ the data to provide a controlled perspective and construct a ‘virtuous content cycle’. We aim for a definitive source for ontologies – authoritative, accurate and objective. Pay particular attention to labelling, quality data and training data. Get the data and create trust in the consuming systems and their resulting analytics and reporting.  Use known metrics. Remember that governance applies to business and technical processes.


Rob Rosset 26/07/2021




Blog for March 2021 Seminar: Working during the Covid pandemic

The theme for this seminar was Working during the COVID-19 Pandemic: sharing insights and experiences and was a break from our normal seminar format. We had eight speakers, and each spoke for ten minutes or less.

Paul Corney

Paul’s personal reflection was not necessarily about the pandemic – rather, on the last 20+ years. (He’s worked from home as a base since 1998.) He presented five slides.

There’s something Paul does that he calls ‘a walk to work’. He thinks having a routine is really important. From discussions with people in the last year, he’s observed that those people who have difficulties around social interaction have had the biggest problems. Having a routine gives your day more structure. Secondly, you should go straight for the big tasks – it’s all too easy to do the most banal things to put off dealing with the difficult stuff. That’s always been true, but has been amplified by remote working.

Paul has a concept he calls ‘peripheral virtual vision’. When people gather in the same space, you get a sense quite easily of what is going on in the room, but it’s challenging to do that in a virtual environment. So, we shouldn’t let people wander off camera, because if we see each other, you can pick things up from faces and body language. Having two people running the meeting works better, as he and Chris Collinson experienced during the year.

One ‘trick’ he uses in virtual meetings is to get people to talk about their proudest moments. At the start of any interaction, people are naturally nervous, especially if they don’t know each other. So one practice he’s transferred from the physical to the virtual environment is to get each person to describe something they’re proud of to one other person – and the second person then tells the whole group. Firstly, this makes it easier for the first person to open up; and the second person really has to listen well. Paul finds that listening in a virtual environment is pretty challenging.

Another technique is to get people to talk about objects. When he was doing work at the Asian Development Bank, he asked the chief executive to bring an object to the meeting, and he brought a pebble. Paul asked him to tell everyone about the pebble, and the CEO described in great detail one of the ADB’s dam construction projects.

In the course of the last year, we ‘lost the water cooler’. In assignments in the past Paul actually used to stand by the water cooler and it was a good way of observing how conversations flowed in an organisation. In some work with AstraZeneca, a colleague used this idea of a virtual water cooler for get-togethers around learning. Each week there would be a set time, and somebody would be persuaded to talk about something they had been doing in the field of learning. This got conversations going and revealed deep insights.

He ended by referring to a presentation GitLab made at a CILIP conference on virtual working. They run ‘virtual coffee chats’, which Paul has done as well. You select half a dozen people from around the organisation, who then have ‘virtual coffee’ with a senior member of the organisation. By rotating membership of these groups you develop a cadre of people who can all ask questions of each other.

Finally, Paul said that running virtual meetings means working harder; and you shouldn’t assume that the person who was good at running physical meetings will always be the best to run virtual ones. If you are in a knowledge or information management role, now is the time to brush up on your facilitation skills.


Dion Lindsay

Dion’s theme was Recruitment. But first he remarked that this pandemic has been helping him to react purposefully to changes that he hadn’t seen coming – and how to enjoy the ride!

In January 2020 Dion was on the planning committee for the UKeIG’s annual study day. Because of lockdown, they had to change this rapidly into Zoom webinars. He was so ‘paranoid’ about getting the presentation right in Zoom that he overdid the preparation, invested in bits of technology that he’s probably never going to use, and became a bit of a ‘know-all’. He started to develop a reputation as the person to go to for making a success of Zoom meetings.

He also found himself working in a pool of trained assessors for police recruitment. That was a bit of a surprise, and he finds he is enjoying it immensely. It’s a good example of how in response to COVID the careers that we pursue can become more ‘portfolio’ in nature. Two years ago he underwent a week’s arduous training, and passed; but nothing happened for a long time thereafter. He got security-vetted, then just as he was about to do some assessing in real earnest, he was completely retrained to deliver it online.

The start of the pandemic accelerated the change to online, but that change was going to happen anyway, he thinks, because of the new target to recruit 20,000 new police officers. Dion can’t see how those targets could have been met if the assessors (and those being assessed) had to turn up to physical recruitment centres. He hopes there will be some study of how COVID changed working practices, including in the fields of knowledge and information management.

Dion likes doing this recruitment work in part because he finds the candidates fascinating, in how they work things out, how they present themselves, how they se the world, and what they tell Dion about the parts of the world he doesn’t get to see.

Towards the end of summer 2020 as we slid again towards lockdown, Dion interested himself in digital products for knowledge management. He started with an assumption that the vendors of such digital systems might be misrepresenting knowledge management to sell their products, but he’s more of a fan now, and the two questions seem to be (a) do knowledge managers recognise what we are trying to do in what the suppliers are talking about? And (b) how much can we learn from the start-up and beta versions about what we might want knowledge management to look like in ten to thirty years?

He’s also involved as a ‘critical friend’ for Knowledgeplace which is a meeting place, marketplace and a mini-Wiki for knowledge management designed by Lukasz Rozinski. He’s involved in a lot of the beta-testing and trying to explain concepts. He’s also enjoying designing workshops with David Byrne to help teams discover what non-workplace skills and aptitudes team members have that the workplace will need in the next few years.

All told, said Dion, his experience of the pandemic has been really interesting and sometimes exciting.


Perrine Guy-Duche

Perrine told us how her company changed their entire Intranet during lockdown. She’s been working for two years at CRU, which specialises in market analysis and price assessments within the global metals, mining and fertilisers industries. They have about 300 employees spread around the world, with the HQ in London and offices in seven countries, and major time zone differences.

The intranet platform is the only place where all employees can share knowledge and collaborate wherever they are in the world. The decision to replace the platform was taken for efficiency and cost reasons. They had nine months to complete the project before the contract with the previous intranet supplier ended.

As in any project, it’s important to establish a strict and realistic timeline. At the beginning of 2020 they managed at least to select the new provider, but then came lockdown, and everything since has had to be done remotely, from the signature of the deal in April to the migration in August and September.

Communication was key in keeping everybody informed and involved. About ten workshops were held remotely, and a community of ‘champions’ was engaged early.

On the positive side, it was a great equaliser to have everybody working remotely – easier than having some people in a room and others connecting remotely. The situation also forced people to be really organised, important given the tight timeline. Perrine offered some tips – an online meeting needs an agenda, communicated in advance; teams need to have regular meetings even if just a catch-up for a few minutes. For example during the migration Perrine and two colleagues met briefly each day to see if things were OK, or were there questions or problems.

Being online means that you can record all your meetings, and write up meeting minutes after; not having to take notes during the meeting removes a distraction. Perrine also think it gives you a break to think and focus on your project, by digitally ignoring people! On the other hand, if you can ignore them, they can ignore you.

The technology allows us to act almost as if we were in the same room. A challenge is that people believe they can multi-task, but they can’t, and if people allow themselves to be distracted, you message will be lost in the process.

A final challenge is that one loses in part the human dimension, which may impact your choice of a business partner.

However, the project has gone well, and the solution was delivered six weeks ahead of schedule. By January, three months after launch, 100% of employees were engaged with the new platform. The feedback has been very encouraging and people are saying the new platform has enhanced collaboration in their teams and across the business. Obviously the overseas colleagues are delighted to be able to collaborate regardless of where they sit.

Some takeaways, which should be relevant whether you are in lockdown or not — Keep it simple, the simpler the better; go out and ask the business what they need; and most importantly, be prepared, for it will make everything easier later. This kind of project must be driven by the business and not by IT, because it is not for office automation but for knowledge management. Make use of your team of champions; and communicate – the more the better! (If you feel you are communicating too much, you’ve probably got it just right.)


Yasmin Dubash

Yasmin who is now the knowledge manager at CBRE spoke about starting this job at the beginning of the COVID crisis. She started looking for a new job in October 2019 and was grateful to be offered the CBRE role in November. She was on a three months notice period, so didn’t actually start the new job until 2 March 2020.

The first couple of weeks of the new job were very busy and she was fortunate to meet a lot of people around the business. Her manager was really supportive in introducing her to people, and getting meetings set up.

On Friday 13 March, Yasmin and a colleague started reading and hearing of the developments with COVID, and the possible impending need to work from home, and decided to take their laptops home that day. That weekend, an email came through from CBRE saying that they were advising employees to work from home if possible – that was a week before the Government ‘stay at home’ announcement.

Yasmin has worked from home in previous jobs, but for a few days here and there, normally when she’s had a big project on or needed to do a lot of reading. So working from home was not unfamiliar, but on the other hand, not something she’d done regularly, and especially not when starting a new job.

With a new job you expect an induction process, socialising and getting to know people face to face. Most of the relationships Yasmin built were done over Zoom. Initially Yasmin was apprehensive that she’d not be able to build up rapport with people to get her work done. But everyone was in a similar position, which helped. Everyone has understood that it is still important to cultivate those relationships.

Yasmin feels that when meeting online, it is important not just to get stuck into the work, but getting to know people too, how they’ve been feeling, what they’ve been doing. She’s fortunate that her manager in giving her time with people. She’s now on the Junior Board, which has again given opportunities to meet more people around the business.

The offices re-opened temporarily during summer 2020, and Yasmin jumped at the chance to go in for a couple of days a week. Though that doesn’t sound like a lot, it still gave her the opportunity to see people face to face. As Yasmin lives alone, she especially welcomed the social interaction, and the ability to have those small and casual conversations that you wouldn’t likely do over Zoom, which is geared around half-hour pre-booked meetings.

To start a new job under these circumstances is daunting, but you have to be tenacious, use your initiative, put yourself out there and talk to people. It helps to be self-motivated, but Yasmin confesses she has struggled with that, and she thinks many other people have too. The monotony does sap the motivation, but colleagues can do what they can to motivate each other.


Sophie Sheinwald

Sophie is a photographer. Before COVID came along she worked at personal brand and event photography. She also had a book published, Generation Share, about inspiring change-makers. Last year when lockdown was impending, she went upstairs to sort things out. As she looked through old photos, she discovered documentation of work she’d done 20 years before as a freelance artist in healthcare environments. She also found portraits she had taken of NHS staff.

As the NHS applause events started, this sparked in Sophie an idea which grew into a nationwide photographic tribute to healthcare workers. She wondered, what if she again photographed portraits of NHS staff, and what if it could go nationwide through the participation of other photographers?

On 22 March 2020 she put up a Facebook Live post, and it went viral. The project is called ‘2020 Vision Project’. Photographers joined up – as far north as Aberdeen, also in Northern Ireland, in Wales, all over the North; 100 photographers in all.

The photographers were briefed to book sessions with healthcare workers. Initially she hoped the NHS would make the nominations, but of course they were incredibly busy. However, portrait photographers are used to communicating, and those who had joined the project were happy to contact health workers in their local area. Each healthcare worker was photographed either in a studio or outdoor spaces, and all with social distancing.

This project was created on the go and it took a lot of detailed organising with spreadsheets etc. ‘We have a collection of healthcare workers photographed behind the mask and quite deliberately not in their uniforms.’

Sophie then showed her screen with the online gallery, showing a selection of the portraits. Alongside each is some text in which they tell stories of what has challenged, what has inspired them.

As an example she showed a portrait of a Marie Curie hospice social worker. He had so many difficult conversations who obviously wanted to visit their loved ones, but couldn’t due to COVID restrictions. ‘Telling people that they couldn’t come and visit was really hard,’ he said. ‘I used virtual visiting to help families stay connected. It was a privilege to support the process and to be there to facilitate this.’

Another, from Birmingham, wrote: ‘I’m privileged to work in one of the most super-diverse cities in the country. I have worked with some of the most vulnerable people in the city, but yet they demonstrate heart and resilience. The so-called global pandemic has put the microscope on the historic health inequalities and has put the magnifying glass on some of the systemic challenges that have troubled citizens for decades. The fear, panic, isolation, death, loss, confusion, bereavement, were the biggest challenges we had to face. The invisible virus did not discriminate.’

There was an exhibition is September, in Bishopsgate in London, and to see all those photos and all those stories made them realise that these are worth archiving.


Conrad Taylor

Conrad read from a prepared text and started by saying, oddly, that for him it had been a good year for lockdown and remote working – because computing and communications technologies have evolved to the point where they’ve helped him to get by. Because his work for 45 years has been in graphic design and writing and media, and freelance for most of that, he’s long been used to working alone. And he’s lived on his own for 30 years as well.

Home for Conrad at the moment is a single room in a hostel for homeless people, which accommodates about 80 households. It’s a busy place and keeping a two metre distance isn’t possible in the corridors – plus many people have come to his door asking for help. COVID has let the residents off lightly; people have on the whole been sensible.

Conrad next talked about 35+ years of personal experience with the developing capability of computers and of ‘telematics’, the old name for electronic remote working. But first he cited the philosopher Hegel who in Science of Logic (1812) remarked that a gradual but steady change of the quantitative aspects of a thing can flip over into complete qualitative change.

For about 12 years Conrad worked as a graphic designer and a preparer of publication artwork using such tools as scalpels, rubber cement, technical pens, rub-down Letraset lettering, and galleys of type that had been sent out to a phototypesetting agency. He could not see that computers would be of any use to him. But then in 1986 he and his wife bought the combined toolkit of the Apple Macintosh and Aldus PageMaker ‘desktop publishing’ software.

A few years later he bought a 2400-baud model and started to experience telematic communications, first though GeoNet and then through a university backdoor to the Internet (at the time, the Internet in the UK was open only to academia). ‘I joined a couple of ongoing international online conferences,’ he said – nothing like Zoom, of course, but in the form of email discussion lists with thousands of members. ‘Back then we were acutely aware of limited bandwidth and we behaved ourselves accordingly.’

In the early 1990s, the Internet became something that anyone could join – in Conrad’s case, though a subscription to an ISP, Demon Internet. And things got technically very exciting.

Really, the early 1990s were exciting years in which to have a ringside seat. Senator Al Gore wrote prophetically about an ‘Information Superhighway’. Tim Berners-Lee had just invented the World Wide Web. Adobe launched Acrobat, a way to move accurate images of documents across the Internet. Conrad began to learn and experiment with these technologies.

But fast-forwarding to the present day, Conrad compared then and now. His 5G cellular hub gives him download speeds of over a hundred Mbps – over 40,000 times faster than that old dial-up modem. The Internet protocols (TCP/IP) are the same now as they were back then, but the quantitative change have made qualitatively different things now possible.

‘So I can listen to Corelli concertos, write collaboratively on Google Docs, share large files, update my Web site, check the news and weather, shop online, swap regular emails with Mum,
see loads of pictures of cats [on Facebook], and join this meeting…’

How has this technology change affected how Conrad has worked during lockdown? He gave a number of examples. Conrad offers the service of recording conferences and meetings, and either editing the audio to podcast form, or making a transcript. This year he has not been able to attend events in person with his recording gear. However, he’s received audio files from an engineering company for transcript, and made a transcript of the audio of a couple of Zoom meetings.

For some years Conrad has collaborated with Bob Bater on a number of projects, one involving compiling information about future energy alternatives. Internet-enabled desk research has helped him to study e.g. wind turbine and petrochemical and nuclear technologies, often starting off with Wikipedia and then plunging into the scientific and organisational research literature. Working in a text editor, he’s made Web-page prototypes and used an ftp utility to load them to his Web site for Bob to take a look at.

He’s also done some video editing for a friend’s Indian classical dance portfolio. Riaz sent him the uncut source video via Dropbox, and given that hundreds of megabytes of video data were involved, the 5G download speeds came in handy! Rather than Zoom, for personal use Conrad has a video link account, and Riaz and Conrad had several editorial conferences over that. Conrad posted the finished video cuts to Google Drive for Riaz to retrieve.

The Fairholme House Garden Project is an initiative to build a community food-growing garden space at the hostel where he lives. It has pulled in support from the Lambeth GP Food Coop and from Lambeth Council and construction will start in late April 2021. Conrad hosts a resource page with publications compiled as a rolling log of developments and a knowledge repository: made with Affinity Publisher software, saved as PDF. See

‘Let’s turn to team collaboration in this project,’ he said. ‘Not easy because this thing has gathered more stakeholders than a vampire-hunting party.’ Email and telephone conversations and socially distanced meetings in the hostel grounds weren’t getting everyone together.

Lambeth Council IT is enslaved to all things Microsoft, so the virtual committee aimed to use Skype for Business Meetings on 4 March. ‘It didn’t work – so we flipped to my account. He recorded the meeting with QuickTime, prepared minutes, and emailed them to the others the next day.’

Conrad has also joined a Facebook group for home gardeners and small farmers in Ghana (45,000 members). This brings up some knowledge management issues, as people ask the same questions again and again. He used Google Docs to draft some materials for them about tropical soil improvement strategies, which involved downloading about half a gigabyte of electronic documents for study.

Thirty years ago, very little of this online research and media production and large file transfer would have been possible. Which is why, said Conrad, it’s been a good year for a lockdown. For him personally, anyway, because of how ‘the job’ has gone digital.


Melanie Harris

Melanie, who works for DWP, started by remarking that everybody’s experience of lockdown has been different. She has experienced a lot of changes. For her, the beginning of lockdown was difficult – her late partner Tony died on 9 June, of lung cancer, and in the run up to lockdown there were hospital appointments to cope with. Then in the Autumn, she had a totally unexpected whirlwind romance and now has a new boyfriend and is happier than she has been for ages. They live in separate homes, and meet up at weekends.

In the gap between Tony’s death and the funeral, Melanie learned that she and three colleagues were being redeployed to the team, because the DWP library was offering only a limited library service, which had to be COVID-related. She started her training, which was quite frustration – but she passed it. Through the training, she learned about HTML: the team’s job was to convert PDF documents into HTML.

The team was fantastic to work with; they were so friendly, and it helped her recovery from bereavement. Now they are back in the library, and this is mainly what she wanted to talk about. They were head-hunted by another part of the Department. This started with an IFLA conference (International Federation of Library Association and Institutions) which was held at Caxton House where she works. Trevor Huddlestone, now her boss, was so impressed with it that he was anxious to get the library on board with him. The team used to be in Digital – very nice people, but they never ‘got’ what library and information services were about. But now they are working in the Central Analysis and Science Directorate, working jointly with social researchers. It is such a different atmosphere!

One of the bizarre things is that in this time of COVID they can’t make investment in the library, so they are able to spend more time working on content. They are currently in the stage of working out what everyone’s job will be. So, her experience of lockdown has been interesting for all sorts of reasons.


Edward Jewell

Ed is in public library service in Jersey. Jersey is in a lucky space right now – there are only five active COVID cases, and from 3 February they have been able to open their central and community libraries, and the mobile libraries are also circulating. The offer is currently still fairly limited. People can browse in the library, study there, use the computers, and storytime sessions for children have resumed. They have also started hosting small third-party meetings.

Everything is still carefully managed. There is no casual soft seating; the first floor is ‘controlled space’ so they take contact-tracing details for anyone who comes to use a computer or study. They still have two-metre distancing, and mandatory wearing of face-masks will be in place until at least May.

There were some grim moments during the year. Just before Christmas, they had a thousand cases in a population of 110,000; Ed himself went down with COVID at that time.

He can still remember the first corporate SMT business continuity meeting on 11 March 2020, when their director-general told them everything would be minuted for future judicial enquiry. The expectation was that 50% of the workforce might be ill at any one time.

Twice in 2020 the central library nearly got taken over for other functions; once they almost lost it to Gold Command, and the other time it almost became a temporary morgue.

The first priority through all of this has been keeping staff safe and supported. It’s been interesting hearing people’s experiences of working from home. What Ed and colleagues have experienced has been an all-encompassing and rolling change management process. Comfort zones have been completely swept away. Most of the staff have been working from home for extended periods, and operating rules have been changing day by day.

They have tried to be as clear and as consistent as possible in the communication going out; and although it’s been time consuming, from day one they had daily whole-team meetings and senior team meetings (using Microsoft Teams). Just getting the IT in place was a nightmare, with laptops being carried around the island. Regardless of what was actually on the agenda of those meetings, they were important in breaking down the isolation of people working from home.

They have had to adjust the building plans around scenarios rather than certainties. Moving out of lockdown has been proving just as complicated as moving into it. It’s a challenge for the leadership team because people want some certainty and a solid base to work from, but things are still necessarily quite fluid. It’s quite tiring for those who don’t have much of a say in what’s going on around them.

What they found really useful was getting feedback all the time – talking to the Health and Safety people, talking to staff and customers. Just before they reopened for a while in June 2020, they did a ‘dry run-through’ with volunteers in the library, to see how it worked. They reset that and ran it again and again, so people could practice interacting with the public again, as it had been months since they’d done that.

They got cracking straight away on home deliveries, getting thousands of books out to people during the first lock-down. All the storytime sessions were moved on-line, and they’ve also seen a massive growth in use of other online resources. Lots of Library staff started to support the local government ‘Connect Me’ helpline, which was signposting islanders to practical local help, whether about finances, education, health, all those practical things.

It was the personal stories that had most impact on Ed. The support of library staff was really appreciated by those to whom books were being delivered at home, also parents with small children appreciated the online storytelling as a sort of anchor for their children, a recognisable face.

In the first opening back in June, the library operated what could be called a ‘takeaway’ service – in and out in five minutes to collect a book. It became apparent that people were desperate for computer access. In some cases, people didn’t have the hardware at home; or, they could not afford the data – either way, it turned out that a lot of people hadn’t had Internet access for three months. They’d been out of touch with their families, were unable to search for jobs. So when the second lockdown came around early in December, they ensured that that regulation was changed so that side of the library service could stay open.

The experience made it painfully clear how many of the inhabitants of Jersey live on or below the poverty line. Many callers to the ‘Connect Me’ helpline were having to make decisions between heating, or feeding themselves or their pets. So now, they are thinking of rolling out that telephone service in more of an enquiry-based way while moving out of lockdown, and have been undergoing training for that.

They find themselves having to manage customer expectations. Just the previous week they had been having a discussion about reinstating seating in the library, and expectations from the public are high. It is wearing for the staff – but chocolate helps!

There’s a new book out by Scott Galloway called Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity, based on the proposition that the pandemic has accelerated social and business trends by about ten years. The newly invented services such as online storytelling and the ‘Click, Call and Collect’ service have proved popular and work well, but need integrating into a more day to day framework. Finance is also a challenge, with a 50% loss of room hire charges. Priorities going forward will be around supporting education, mitigating social isolation, extending digital inclusion, and supporting the island’s economic recovery.

Breakout sessions

There had been breakout sessions halfway through the afternoon (and the first five speakers), and in the half hour remaining, David Penfold who was running the session called on people from the groups to comment. Here we note some of the points made, without attribution.

  • It seems clear that things can get done better through remote working; when lockdown ends, will these amended work practices persist?
  • Mental health issues resulting from isolation may be a problem.
  • If there is a shift to remote working, the need for large office space in city centres will decline, which is bound to have macroeconomic effects in the years to come.
  • Paul’s recommendation that in video meetings everyone should be on camera does not consider people’s different situations e.g. those with poor bandwidth or a poor mobile data contract.
  • Will we understand now that broadband Internet is infrastructure as important as, say, roads?
  • Perhaps the pandemic has raised the profile of knowledge management, because you can’t work remotely without efficient access to up-to-date information.
  • How can we learn from these experiences, perhaps by archiving them?



Blog for January 2021 Seminar: Managing Knowledge in Project Environments

How can we manage knowledge more effectively in project environments? This was the question posed in the most recent NetIKX seminar, led by Judy Payne, an independent consultant and co-author of Managing Knowledge in Project Environments .

How do project managers define KM?

Judy began by comparing the 2012 and 2019 versions of the APM Body of Knowledge (BoK) definitions of knowledge management (KM). The 2012 entry reads ‘Knowledge management is the systematic management of information and learning. It turns personal information and experience into collective knowledge that can be widely shared throughout an organisation and a profession.’ Many participants felt that this confused the concepts of information management and knowledge management and failed to cover important aspects of KM such as managing tacit knowledge. The 2019 definition, however, is considerably broader, describing KM as ‘the holistic, cross-functional discipline and set of practices concerned with the way organisations create and use knowledge to improve outcomes.’ We agreed that this was an improvement, but the issue of defining KM to those outside the discipline remains. Judy pointed out that knowledge managers and project managers often have different mindsets, and it can be difficult to integrate KM into the project management body of knowledge.

The KM context within project management can be complex, as much of the KM which occurs within project management is not explicitly recognised as such – and conversely, much of what is labelled KM is often information management. Within a project environment, KM is often treated as a series of separate activities rather than as a tool to help produce better outcomes. There is a widespread belief that KM is simply a matter of capturing ‘lessons learned’ at the end of a project, whereas capturing knowledge is only one aspect of KM. In fact, KM practices can and should be integrated into the way a project is managed and the working environment.

Waterfall or agile? What does this mean for KM?

Judy then went on to compare the linear and iterative approaches to project management: within a linear (‘waterfall’) environment, knowledge is static, knowledge creation and application are separate and knowledge boundaries develop between stages, whereas in an iterative (‘agile’) project, knowledge is dynamic and flows well throughout the project and knowledge creation and application can be integrated. However, KM can pose a particular challenge in an agile environment due to the lack of documentation. One participant noted that although knowledge transfers well from one sprint to another, it is lost at the end of the project. The ‘correct’ approach is often dependent on the organisational culture, with some more traditional organisations being uncomfortable with the pace of the agile approach.

Sharing our experiences

For the breakout sessions, we were presented with three questions: what are your stories (good or bad) about KM in project work?; what are other examples of ‘hidden’ KM in project work? and how might KM thinking help you in future project work? Feedback from the sessions uncovered a number of common themes, including the fact that sometimes projects are ‘hidden’ in KM rather than the other way round – many of us had experience of working on something that could have been approached as a project but was not. Another theme was the way in which project managers focus on a linear progression with a clear outcome that can be measured in terms of material impact, whereas the benefits of KM cannot always be demonstrated so neatly: it was suggested that maybe we need to focus on benefits rather than objectives and on outcomes rather than outputs. Many thanks to Judy and to all who attended and contributed to this informative and highly interactive seminar.

By Carlin Parry. January 2021

Blog for November 2020 Seminar: Framework and ISO standards for Collaboration, KM and Innovation

At first glance it may seem counterintuitive to have standards for innovation and collaboration – these are, after all, things which many people perceive as happening organically and spontaneously:  the myth of creativity as a ‘Eureka moment’ is still prevalent, despite evidence to the contrary. Standards are often viewed as being imposed by authority and making work processes more cumbersome and bureaucratic. In this seminar, Ron Young of Knowledge Associates outlined how standards can in fact provide a framework for creativity and innovation and how they can be applied within an organisation.

Ron began by outlining the need for standards in knowledge management, starting with the 1998 white paper on ‘UK competitiveness in the global knowledge-driven economy’, a high-level strategy for the UK which acknowledged that effective collaboration, co-creation, knowledge and innovation were difficult to copy and were therefore key to global competitiveness and sustainability. As humans, we like to collaborate and share, but trust needs to be in place for this to succeed. Trusted partnerships and a collaborative business model are vital. The development of blockchain technology is relevant here as it provides a decentralised trust model for the exchange of information. Ron reminded us that trusted systems are as important as trusted people.

The importance of collaboration was illustrated by a number of examples of international projects, ranging from the establishment of the first Europe-wide KM team in 1999, the first pan-European KM conference in 2000 and the first global KM community of practice in 2001, through to the publication of the global KM standard, ISO 30401 in 2018. This standard was also adopted by the European Space Agency as the basis for its knowledge management governance framework.

We then learned more about the published standards ISO 44001 (collaborative partnerships), ISO 30401 (knowledge management) and ISO 56002 (innovation management) as well as the way in which these, along with ISO 55001 (intangible asset management) and ISO 27001 (information security) all fit together to form a common framework for knowledge- and information-driven thought leadership. Knowledge asset management (the ‘Internet of Assets’) is fundamental to achieving organisational objectives, but ethical considerations are also crucial, especially as we enter a world dominated by artificial intelligence. This has been recognised by the IEEE in their work on ethically aligned design. Ron pointed out that all ISO standards now ensure that the principles of the standard are embedded in the standard itself. As technologies, processes and people all change over time, principles remain the same and provide a reminder of why we are ‘doing’ KM. We need to make sure that knowledge is transformative and strategic and to build a ‘virtuous spiral’ of knowledge.

As is traditional at NetIKX seminars, the talk was followed by syndicate sessions (replicated in Zoom by breakout rooms) during which we discussed the issues covered in Ron’s presentation, including our own experiences of using and applying standards, the ethical implications of artificial intelligence and the importance of keeping the ‘human in the loop’ in KM processes in which algorithms and machine learning are incorporated. We were all impressed by the way in which Ron made a potentially dry subject so interesting and relevant to everyday KM practice.

Rob Rossett


Blog for October 2020 Seminar: Information as an Asset and the Hawley Report

In 1995, a ground-breaking report, Information as an Asset: the Board Agenda (which came to be known as The Hawley Report) was published. This report called for a recognition of corporate information as a strategic asset and laid out the responsibilities of boards to identify their information assets and to ensure that these are managed appropriately and deployed to best advantage. It was developed by a group led by Robert Hawley, the CEO of Nuclear Electric, and aimed firmly at boards and senior executives. The report itself disappeared from view for several years after publication, but it remained an important milestone in corporate knowledge and information management.

In 2017, CILIP and KPMG launched a joint programme of work to plan and deliver an updated version, which was published in February 2019 as Information as an Asset: today’s board agenda’. This was based on a survey of over 540 respondents who gave insights into their respective organisations. The authors noted several developments in the field since the original Hawley report, including the importance of AI, text and data analytics, machine learning, and robotics; the development of systems which learn faster than humans; the growth of ‘big data’; the increasing need to protect information assets; and the socio-political climate around recognition of the value and management of personal data. In early March 2020, a further report, ‘The Edge of Intelligence’, was published by the Financial Times.

Twenty-five years on from the original Hawley Report, the information landscape has changed considerably, but the need to manage information as a corporate asset is arguably greater than ever.

NetIKX was pleased to welcome Stephen Phillips, an information professional whose experience spans over 30 years and includes having been Global Head of Business Services at a leading investment bank, to provide an overview of Hawley’s legacy and the subsequent developments within corporate knowledge and information management. Stephen took us through the key themes of the three reports and posed the question of how organisations are dealing with the current COVID-19 crisis in addition to those challenges already facing them pre-pandemic. Key findings of Dell’s recent Digital Transformation Index emphasised the importance of knowledge sharing, extraction of insights from data, skills in data analysis and related disciplines and the need to make business decisions based on data in real time. This survey was undertaken in July and August 2020, so reflected concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic more closely.

Although some issues raised in the Digital Transformation Index are specifically related to the current crisis – such as lack of economic growth and the need for increased cybersecurity due to home working – the key themes from The Edge of Intelligence remain relevant.

Stephen went on to explore these four themes, which reflect the areas where most companies lack confidence about their competencies – limited horizon scanning, ‘lost in translation’ (bridging the gap between data science and operational expertise), technical failure, and ‘data without democracy’ (sharing market intelligence across functions). In the 2019 Information as an Asset report, market research was consistently viewed as the most reliable source of intelligence, but there are signs that this may be shifting – particularly in light of the growing importance of AI and the Internet of Things (IoT). The McKinsey COVID Response Center has produced a set of response tools for business leaders which highlight the importance of talent (a factor which was notably ranked low in responses to the FT survey) and supply-chain resilience, as well as cybersecurity and the need to re-evaluate analytics models.

Drawing on the information from these sources, Stephen then invited us to consider a proposed set of priorities for what has come to be called ‘the new normal’:

* accelerated decision-making

* horizon-scanning

* data deluge

* talent

* democratising data

* insight

* intelligence and knowledge

* ethics and integrity

This formed the basis for discussion in the breakout sessions, where we shared our own views and experiences of issues such as the risks of decision-making based on algorithms, the increased role of social media in sharing information (or disinformation!) and the continued need for us as information professionals to convince others of the commercial value of knowledge and information management. As we navigate the ‘new normal’ – whatever that may turn out to be – our skills are increasingly needed.