KM: Engaging People Emotionally

Following a meeting this morning about KM implementation I thought I’d share some thoughts on this instead - notably a focus on engaging people emotionally and inspiring them. Advice, feedback on any of this are most welcome!

Originally, I did a technical degree (Engineering related) which was fine when I worked in the technical area concerned. The emotional side of things wasn’t so important then as things seemed to be more black and white.

This changed when I started work in KM (around 20 years ago) which is after all, provided you do it fully and strategically, more than anything a culture change initiative. I learned that facts and figures weren’t so much of the answer, I had to get people onside through inspiring them and meeting them at their point of need. This is partly because it’s hard to quantify the benefits of KM at least at the outset, it’s often quite a hard sell. Also, knowledge touches on peoples' beliefs and esteem which is an interesting area to work in.

How do you encourage people to try KM and overcome resistance to committing to it in a sustainable way?

What have I learned? A few thoughts follow:

a/. KM needs to be communicated as a clear and compelling vision that shows it to be credible, practical and achievable. This took me a long time but when I cracked it, it made a huge difference. After a lot of trial and error I had found a way to communicate KM and what it could look like in 60 very interactive minutes using 4 Flipchart diagrams and energetic discussion (no Powerpoints!). I found that even in the most technical environments, this process engages people emotionally as well as logically and apparently inspires them. I have done this many times over the years, and every one is a learning experience for me too.

b/. KM Piloting needs to happen at two levels – strategic and tactical – and pilots themselves need to be selected carefully. Strategic piloting typically means setting up and running a KM Plan (for a Project and / or Function) led by an open and visionary leader, while tactical means choosing for example Learning Reviews (which even technically minded people find to be emotional events) on successful activities so that some of the positivity rubs off on KM itself.

c/. Really inspiring, energetic and interactive KM training courses. These are two-way in the sense that the participants can influence the shape of the ongoing KM implementation through their stories and experience. These are not normal “lecture style” training courses but intended to develop the participants as well as the KM approach that informs them – everybody learns. As someone who has designed and facilitated such courses this kind of open two-way approach can be quite surprising and even quite scary at times - quire risky!

d/. In parallel with the KM Implementation there needs to be a very effective Communications Strategy that is aimed at key Stakeholders as well as the broader staff population. It’s about communicating with people in a way that they find compelling and makes them curious and supportive. Crucially this also means getting senior staff to set the KM expectation as well as getting participants to talk about what KM has done for them and the benefits it has brought – both top down and bottom up communications are needed as the KM approach matures. The KM lead needs to find a way both face to face and by email to get people inspired and bought in, not so easy.

Any feedback on this most welcome, I hope the above makes at least some sense - even after 20 years I find I am still learning! Thank you