Is it possible to run Knowledge Café’s digitally?

I was privileged to be one of the participants in David Gurteen’s experiments with Zoom video conferencing back in January 2017.

David is famous for having designed the Knowledge Café process, teaching it and running Cafes around the world.

David thinks Zoom ( ) might be the answer to the urgent “how do we do Knowledge Café’s digitally?”

And judging by the pilot training course he ran last Thursday, I think he’s right.

I and 15 other invited participants, from 3 continents, took part using our own laptops. The activity took place on the cloud, with a small software download to each person’s laptop to make the communication work.

Mimicking a face to face Knowledge Cafe

In the initial interactions, the Zoom functionality will be very familiar to anyone who has taken part in a webinar.

But the familiarity soon fades. At first look Zoom’s overwhelming difference is that it allows the key features of a Knowledge Café to be mimicked faithfully in a digital environment:

  • Mimicking the speaker presentation: in “gallery” view, each participant can see and hear the speaker and all the participants, each in their own video window, displayed simultaneously
  • Mimicking small group conversations: the host (David in last Thursday’s case) can allocate participants to groups of 3 or 4, and the gallery view is replaced with a view of the “breakout room” the participant is in – the room consists of 3 or 4 simultaneous video windows with full interactive video and audio
  • Mimicking the whole group conversation – gallery view again

Can digital provide an even richer Knowledge Café?

I said that Zoom’s key difference AT FIRST LOOK is it’s ability to mimic a Knowledge Café, and the point is not that it might not be able to live up to it – I’ve taken part in 4 hours of digital Knowledge Café’s now and the technology seems robust and reliable (the only likely limiting factor is the broadband uploading minimum speed of 1.5 mbps which shouldn’t be a problem in most business environments).

The point is that there are extra features that might make a digital Knowledge Café even richer than the face-to-face variety. To name only two for now:

  • In the plenary sessions every participant gets to see each of the others in face-on mode – each in a separate video box in a “gallery” array. For anyone interested (as I am) in body language this means it’s possible to see everyone’s reactions equally – which can’t be done round a long table or in a conference hall
  • There is a chat facility which runs alongside the video conferencing, which in our experiments in January and our training last Thursday we used pretty thoroughly. We were able to share notes and ideas without disrupting the flow of the plenary sessions


This was excellent training in running digital Knowledge Cafés: as a participant I had very little to learn to make it work, and I gather from David as the host it was the same for him.

None of us knew of any other video conference service with the same “gallery” and “breakout room” facilities, which are so essential to a digital Knowledge Café.

I am keen to blog more about my experience of digital cafes, and would love to read your questions.

Please comment/post questions below or get in touch at

Dion Lindsay

Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)

07540 659255 / 01604 686797

twitter: @dionl

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