Re: Improving our monthly calls #monthly-call

Andrew Gent <ajgent@...>

I want to go back to one of our previous topics. But before I proceed, let me warn everyone that I am getting on my soapbox. Be forewarned...

I really appreciate the thought people put into the discussion of how to improve the SIKM monthly calls. I sensed a waning interest in the meetings, but figured it was specific to my own situation, since my work is not 100% involved in KM at this point. But it is still a topic of great interest to me.

However, my reaction to the question -- how to improve our monthly calls -- has been somewhat different than those of others. A lot of the discussion so far has been from the perspective of the presenters: how do we make the presentations more interesting, more interactive, more compelling... The question that occurred to me was: do we, as members, need the SIKM calls any more and if not, why not?

You can't make presentations more interesting or compelling if the audience doesn't feel... well... compelled. Sure, there may be one or two presentations that strike a chord unexpectedly. But unless we perceive a fairly close tie between the content and things we personally need or want to achieve, the calls will be at best a diversion or form of mental exercise.

So my question would be: what is it we, as KM professionals, need to know? This is what ought to be driving what and how we do presentations.

Now, the answer will obviously be slightly different for each of us. But there is a good possibility that there are common threads here.

Looked at historically, the SIKM community and calls started as a way for people involved in KM for system integrations organisations to share experiences and practices. Initially the meetings were very exciting because it was a unique opportunity to validate our own approaches and learn new techniques. At worse it gave us a chance to share war stories with professionals in similar circumstances. An opportunity that was not available anywhere else.

Over time, the group has expanded both its membership and scope. The focus is not so much on SI any more and more on general KM practices. This is good because many of the techniques used by SI organisations can be equally valuable to other businesses, and vice versa. However, there are also two possibly negative impacts:
  • As the focus expands, presentations can lose the immediacy of their impact on individual members.
  • The more generalized the focus, the more overlap the group has with other communities and less uniqueness in its value.
We all know communities evolve and change. And I think this topic is a sign of just such a turning point in this community. I certainly am not suggesting we move backwards. I still believe there is a lot of unique value in the SIKM calls. But rather than randomly tweaking the format of the calls, I think we should try to identify what that unique value *is* at the moment, then think about what format best suits that value statement.

I think part of the unique value is the monthly nature of the calls. There are plenty of annual or semi-annual KM conferences  and get togethers that provide a venue for similar sorts of presentations about KM. But there are very few such regular meetings which provide a chance to get into the nitty gritty of making KM work.

But even as I say that, I also treasure some of the more philosophical discussions we've had; presentations that have challenged traditional approaches and made me reconsider some deeply entrenched habits. So another unique value of the SIKM calls is the diversity -- ranging from detailed experiential how-tos to theoretical how-shoulds.

What is lost, as a result of the expanding circle, is a direct knowledge of and personal admiration for the members, and more importantly, the presenters. Please, I'm not demeaning newer members. I just don't know them personally. So the automatic interest I might have in a talk because of the speaker -- even if the subject had no intrinsic appeal -- is diminished. This is more a fault of my own than that of the group. But to be fair and help understand why interest in the calls has dropped off, I have to admit my own failings.

I don't have any specific suggestions to make. But perhaps Steven Weineke's recent questions might help point the way. What are the questions you want answers to? What do you wish someone could tell you? Even if it might not be the applicable to your specific situation, hearing how others solve problems can be incredibly enlightening.

OK. I'll get off my soapbox now.

--Andrew Gent

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