How to understand knowledge sharing conversations

One of the best things about being a Knowledge Management consultant is that it requires me to look deeper into some of the questions that practicing Knowledge Managers never quite have time to.

One of these is how knowledge sharing actually works – the mechanics if you like. And that’s how I came across Discourse Analysis. It’s a way of micro-analysing conversations to identify why speakers say what they do, and the social consequences of what they say, within the conversation.

The micro aspect means it can hardly be applied in broad scale across the discourses that happen all day at work, but DA is a cracking way of working out what is happening in particular and, the analyser hopes, significant examples of un-self-conscious conversation.

Knowledge managers/consultants are likely to want to use it to
• analyse those conversations during which knowledge is shared
• analyse how the conditions for successful knowledge sharing are established
• create good habits in themselves of really attentive listening

Here’s a small example (1) of how such conversations are transcribed for analysis.

EXTRACT 1 130520_003 COMPANY A
1. Chair: A::h I-I did ↑wonder about that actually
2. when you were talking about it
3. so I’ll – I’ll probably talk to you
4. about that one off-line ( ) find out more about
5. that one heh=
6. Sam: =I’ll fill you in later – in on
7. that ]one
8. Chair: [O::K↑ then ]OK
9. Sam: [same subject – same
10. subject, different client, different
11. Technology [heh]
12. Chair: :Yes – yeah. [heh]. OK. Different world

Table 5 Transcript conventions
• Inserted colons indicate word stretching
• Square brackets used between lines, or bracketing two lines of talk, indicate the onset and end of overlapping talk
• Upward/downward pointing arrows indicate increase or decrease in intonation
• Underlining indicates emphasis
• Use of round brackets denotes unclear speech
• Heh or hah indicates laughter
• The use of the equals sign at the end of one and the onset of the next indicates no interval between utterances

Clearly in the typical situations where knowledge managers/consultants operate, it’s not always possible to record or remember the exact wording or inflections of a conversation of any length. But there will be spot-lit situations when discourse transcription and analysis will be valuable techniques.

In other circumstances a habit of discourse analysis on the fly will help us spot clues and achieve “ah-hah” moments about how the knowledge sharing environment is actually working!

(1) Crane, L. (2016). Knowledge and discourse matters: relocating knowledge management’s sphere of interest onto language. Wiley, pp. 198,288.

Dion Lindsay Consulting Ltd
New Knowledge Management Techniques
07540 659255
01604 686797
Twitter: @dionl

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