After a period of experimenting, David Gurteen ran his first commercial Zoom Knowledge Café in April 2017. I was fortunate to be involved in the experiments and the commercial Café, and they set me wondering.
Ten years ago, with just about everyone else, I didn’t believe a knowledge café could work digitally – there were too many technical and psychological features that were suited only to face-to-face conversation. And yet now the digital café seems to work very well. Here’s my blog post about the April event to demonstrate that https://nkmtblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/is-it-possible-to-run-knowledge-cafes-digitally/
So while we’re in the mood to be surprised, what about synchronicity – is that essential, the way we thought face- to- face was?
Today I’m pretty sure an asynchronous knowledge café just wouldn’t work. Surely people couldn’t join in, leave and re-join whenever they wanted, and record their contribution even if there was nobody in the café right then? And that’s what an asynchronous café would be.
Wouldn’t it break some of the principles from which knowledge café benefits derive, and anyway technology wouldn’t support it. But those are the same class of objections I had to the idea of digital knowledge cafes, and they work now!
Wouldn’t it be good if asynchronous did work?
Just think: with digital cafes we don’t have to get everyone together in the same place – with asynchronous cafes we wouldn’t even have to get them together at the same time.
I want to be very clear about this: I’m a great fan of knowledge cafes, and I don’t want to make things awkward with the outlandish idea of asynchronicity. In fact, it’s because I like them so much that I want to understand them better, and this sort of thought experiment seems very unlikely to do them any harm, while helping us explore them.
Would you like to join in thinking about this?
Here are the essential stages of a knowledge café, extracted from http://knowledge.cafe/knowledge-cafe-tipsheet-english/ .
What truly would NOT work in a digital asynchronous mode, where people could come and go, listen and contribute as their own time priorities allowed them?
- Gather 12-24 people to have a conversation
- Have someone make a 15-20 minute presentation to the participants on a topic that matters to them
- Divide the participants into smaller conversation groups of 3 or 4 and invite them to talk amongst themselves about a question set by the speaker
- After an appropriate time (in synchronous mode this would be 20 minutes or so), rearrange the conversation groups and invite them to discuss again
- Repeat at least once more
- Have all the participants come together for a further 20 minutes, where they continue the discussion
Let’s see if each step could be arranged so participants could join in when they wanted. And if anything needed to change to make that possible, would it destroy the effectiveness of a café?
Please contribute by commenting below, and let’s see if we can explore the essence of a knowledge café by discovering what “harm”, if any, the asynchronous challenge would do.
Best wishes all
Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)
07540 659255 / 01604 686797