How to turn “lessons learned” into “lessons applied”

One of the key features of knowledge sharing is the lessons learned technique. It is an obvious thing to want your organisation to be good at, but it is a surprisingly difficult thing to do well.

Here are some of the reasons why, and what you can do about them

  1. People’s attention moves on. Once the activity or project is over, people have other things to do, and going back over old work seems as much fun as cold rice pudding. Instead, make sure the questions you are going to use to elicit the lessons are known from the start. It makes the burden less at the end, enriches the participants’ experience, and the mixture of work and reflexion usually makes the activity/project go better


  1. It’s hard to convert people’s experience into lessons anyone else wants to learn. Find the best conversational writer in your team, or think about making the record an audio visual one instead of textual. Above all the lessons need to be engaging: fun to read, and relevant to apply later.


  1. People tend to prefer to ask for help than to read ready-made answers. When I worked at the Motor Neurone Disease Association I was amazed to find that discussion forums were much more used than databases of solutions, and at a KM conference I found the metrics on this were exactly the same for Shell with thousands of staff as for the Association where we had barely 100. If the extra cost of making the experienced people available is too great, go for a hybrid solution: make the recorded solution as personable as possible


  1. A lesson learned can become fossilised very quickly. Instead let it breathe by allowing comments from future users – what happened when they tried to apply it later? There are environments (health and safety, regulatory and so on) where lessons have to be urgently formalised as rules, but keep them “juicy” where you can


And here’s my mnemonic for increasing the lessons’ chances of having value – FARE.

  • make them Findable
  • when people know where the lessons are make them want to go there by making them Accessible
  • make sure when they get there the lessons are Readable – fun to read or view and think about
  • record them in a way that Encourages the reader or viewer to apply them.

The Lessons Learned technique is one of the building blocks for good knowledge management: the effort, applied selectively, pays dividends for the whole organisation!

For more help with lessons learned exercises contact me at

+44 (0) 7540 659255

+44 (0) 1604 686797

or direct message me on twitter @dionl

Best wishes and good km-ing!





Tooling up to contribute to making improvements stick

Libraries and Information Units have a range of entry points when looking to move into the knowledge services space.

One such is helping make sure improvements stick when they have been sourced in published external research. In many cases the future of LIU acquisitions budgets, for example, depends on the value their funders place on the material they acquire, and the “stickability” of the change that can be attributed to the material is one very good indication of that value.

In commercial environments these changes centre around delivering innovation to customers, and at London Info International Conference last December I discussed how sure we can be that published information contributes to innovation1 .

In public health environments, the pressure is on to contribute new knowledge to the drive for continuous improvement. Stephen McMillan, Head of Knowledge Mobilization, Department of Health and Social Care, Wales, has generously drawn my attention to the work IHI is doing in this area. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement is based in Cambridge Massachusetts and published a short 3 page paper this February on making healthcare improvements stick. It makes great background reading for anyone in the Knowledge and Information Management arena who wants to understand this important area.

In very clear language it proposes 6 principles driving the sustainability of improvement which they have observed in leading healthcare systems.

To encourage stickability of practical improvements at frontline management levels, the paper proposes that organisations should do the following:

  • standardise what makes good sense
  • develop systems that promote routine review of standardised work
  • introduce visual management techniques, such as visual boards or walls to display success
  • ensure staff are following problem solving tools fluently and collaboratively
  • provide clear escalation processes for non-standardised problems
  • integrate these 5 principles right across the organisational hierarchy

The paper goes on to explain how to realise these principles – all in all it makes clear and purposeful reading for any Knowledge or  LIS manager wanting to step up into the contribution that knowledge and information can make to making improvements stick.

  1. 6th December 2016

2.    Mate, K and others (2017) Ensuring healthcare improvements stick: six key principles aid in continuous quality improvement. Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Cambridge Mass.

What counts as knowledge management software, and why?

When I ran my Advanced KM: Strategies and Digital Implementation course in London on 24th October (1) we discussed what count as knowledge management products. The issue is not as simple as you might think.

  1. KM is a discipline which finds expression in different ways in just about every organisation which adopts it.
  2. The needs of the organisation seeking support from knowledge management need to be carefully planned for, with education, analysis and testing. Making document management/storage systems (however configurable they may claim to be) available to all staff and saying “Now you have knowledge management: get going” and waiting to see what happens has a case history of failing.

On the supply side no supplier claims to cover all of knowledge management. And there are products with knowledge management potential for which the supplier does not make that their number one claim.

To illustrate, here is a selection of products we used as the basis for a quiz on 24th October.

Feel free to suggest additions , but be sure to say which knowledge management function your suggestion supports. The answers we came up with for matching the product to the KM function are at the end of the post.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

(1) I’ll be running another in Spring 2018: contact below for advance details

Dion Lindsay

Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)

Mobile + 44 (0) 7540 659 255

Telephone + 44 (0) 1604 686 797


twitter: @dionl

KM Functions

Use this list to organize the KM products in the next section in a way appropriate to your enterprise’s needs and aspiration

A. Connecting people with people – so people can collaborate and discuss, interact and interact in real time and face to face

B. Capturing and publishing new knowledge – so users can generate and access new lessons, customer solutions, in print, audio or video formats

C. Organising, synthesizing and structuring knowledge – so that established good practice, guidance notes, rules and heuristics can be stored for easy access

D. Connecting people with documented knowledge – so people can find externally and internally created knowledge at the point of need

E. Assisting specific tasks – so that in-house experts and function leads can push knowledge to the user during each task

Digital products


listed by Gartner, Inc. as a leading enterprise search engine in its Magic Quadrant for Insight Engines September 2017. Mostly deployed in organisations as Intelligent Search Platform but, like many KM products, going increasingly cloud-based

Engage intranet software

Intranet design software by Sorce, a supplier offering intranet software or various stages of bespoke design

MediaWiki free and open source wiki software which can use relational database management systems such as MySQL or Oracle. Famously used to create Wikipedia


A leading Enterprise Content Management system which organises and stores an organisation’s documents and increasingly other sources such as transactional data.

Pega Express

The lead product of Pegasystems, which enables organisations to design workflow systems, including the knowledge needed to complete tasks. An early and enduring example of automated workflow process is annual reporting in the HR environment

Rapidminer Studio

A highly regarded data and text mining product. Available on-premises or as cloud service. Text mining platforms can be used in innovative environments to discover and “push” ideas to the user. From free to US$10,000 pa depending on size of database.

Vanilla Cloud

provides an internet environment for enterprises to create, contribute to and manage discussion forums connecting staff, customers and suppliers. p.o.a.

YouTube private and corporate channels

used to create videos for viewing only by employees or supplier/customer communities. The comments facility can make these easy and lively discussion formats.

Zoom Video Conferencing Service

includes instant messaging and breakout room functions. Priced £10 to £130 pm depending on functionality and number of participants


(Answers: Coveo D; Engage B D; Mediawiki B; Opentext C; Pega Express E; Rapidminer Studio D; Vanilla Cloud A; YouTube private and corporate channels B; Zoom Video Conferencing Service A )




Is an asynchronous knowledge cafe possible? Part 3

Hi all

This is a much longer than usual blog. Apologies for that but not for the very interesting message from Juanita.

I had an exchange this morning with Juanita Foster-Jones about asynchronous cafes in another medium. I’ve reproduced it here with Juanita’s permission. Comments?


From Juanita

Interested in this. I haven’t participated in knowledge cafes but I have participated in asynchronous communities of practice – which I think is quite similar. One example of this is SCOPE community of practice. This is a group of educational learning technologists led by Sylvia Currie who would have themed asynchronous discussions. Format of these has been along the lines of

  • A discussion topic is announced, with a moderator that is set to run over a finite period of weeks
  • Moderator may make a presentation, either live webinar or recorded or just put some resources in the discussion area with notes
  • Questions may come from the participants or moderator and are discussed over the period of the topic
  • Participants can join in to the bits that interest them, share resources, and their may be live events throughout
  • Group wikis and resource banks have been created as a result of these

What makes this work is the clearly defined time. Yes it is asynchronous but you have a limitation on this. This means you get a body of people together over a set period, so have posts coming in and chance to interact with a known group and know you will get a response. This helps build the community, you have shared understanding, a common purpose to the discussion.

In terms of knowledge cafes isn’t the whole point that it is real time? That it is face to face?  If it is just about knowledge sharing that can be done online, asynchronous ways, but maybe not in the same format that you have for a face to face or video based online gathering.

E.g. Break out rooms – these might be break out discussions over a period of a few days within the larger programme. Different discussions in different rooms. The point with break outs in face to face is to break a large group into smaller ones so every one can talk. But in an asynchronous discussion then it is easier to have your say, because you can think, write and post and not be talked over/have a short time to get it all in.

Coming to a consensus and feedback into main group – again in asynchronous if you assign people roles e.g. for/against/moderator/note taker you can all come up with an agreed summary of the discussion. Or this could be done on a wiki page which is then shared with wider group.

As with any activity that you are taking from face to face into online I would say focus first on what you are wanting to achieve from it, and then think about which technology would best allow that. You may find it is a combination.

Juanita Foster-Jones

My reply

That’s fascinating, Juanita – I really like the idea of a hybrid feature in a community of practice. Beyond that:

1. You’re right that breakout room discussions are one of the key features of knowledge cafes. But there are many aspects of the breakout rooms, in either the face to face cafes or in the digital cafes that David Gurteen has been running this Summer. The trick seems to be to identify all those aspects and imagine/discover whether they are critical to the success of knowledge cafes (which are synchronous). Without them (as we would have to be in asynchronous) would knowledge cafes work so well?

For example:

  1. Spontaneous – it might be that not knowing until seconds before you start having the conversation who it is you’ll be talking with means you are relaxed enough to access or communally create ideas which don’t come if one thinks too much.
  2. Face to face – it might be that body language as people react in the moment during the discussion provides inspiration to the participants. Interestingly,  the David Gurteen digital cafes allow even more observation of body language than is possible in the full discussion that happens after the breakout sessions
  3. No record – In face to face the conversations aren’t recorded, which again might remove some inhibitions and the temptation in the second etc round of breakout discussions to check what exactly was said earlier and build on that

2Answers to  “what are we trying to achieve” are usually deliberately absent in face to face or digital knowledge cafés other than perhaps “to have an inspirational conversation”.  You would think that would make it unattractive in a work environment, but in fact they have been really well appreciated onsite (see David’s website), with plenty of evidence that they turn out to be very useful in unpredicted and thoroughly business- like ways. It’s hard enough to keep a strong sense of purpose from arising in face to face cafes – it would be next to impossible in asynchronous, I think.

3.     It isn’t even the purpose of knowledge cafes to reach a consensus: it can be just as valuable to come up with a variety of ideas and recognise them.

Best wishes and thanks


Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)

07540 659255 / 01604 686797

twitter: @dionl

Is an asynchronous knowledge café possible? Part 2

Thanks everyone for contributing – it has been a really interesting discussion so far, and of course the opportunity to comment is still there for everyone!

Effect of asynchronicity on café breakout/table discussions

So far we’ve concentrated on the effect of asynchonicity on the breakout/table discussions. We think that contributions to the conversation would tend to be more thoughtful and refined, and less spontaneous, with the extra time asynchronicity would provide us (David, RobR, Mike). That might mean this alternative model would be more appropriate for discussions that need tangible advances (RobR) rather than “pure” conversation. Mike also wonders whether we need a name other than café for this kind of interaction, and that makes me think this might be where the value of the café as a process could start to be defined, if we wanted to do that. RobS wonders whether the more considered nature of the asynchronous would make people less interested in contributing, and whether that’s a hint towards what holds people together in discussions.

I’ve been wondering about the other stages as well.

  • In asynchronous the participants probably wouldn’t hear the presentation/talk at the same time. Does it make a difference to people’s appreciation of what is said, and the value of their later contributions, if they are aware of others listening?
  • What if the participants chose not to listen to the talk? That would surely devalue the post talk discussions?
  • Would participants in each breakout room have to be aware of who else was going to be there, and would that change the nature/value of the discussion, with issues of deference, ego and so on? It might be possible for participants to be anonymised to avoid that!
  • Would a participant’s experience of contributing be devalued by not being heard while they were doing it?
  • Would the existence of an audio/visual record, which participants in later rounds could refer to, spoil the effect of open-hearted discussion?

Some (Mike and Chris) have suggested we might give this a go in real life. Well I hadn’t intended to, but why not?

But before that

I wonder if there’s anything more we can get out of this as a thought experiment. Does the imagining we’re doing right now help gently work out what is so unique, and so valuable, about the synchronous digital knowledge cafés most of us experienced earlier this year?

Very best wishes all


Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)

07540 659255 / 01604 686797

twitter: @dionl

Is an asynchronous knowledge café possible?

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


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 .

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?

  1. Gather 12-24 people to have a conversation
  2. Have someone make a 15-20 minute presentation to the participants on a topic that matters to them
  3. 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
  4. After an appropriate time (in synchronous mode this would be 20 minutes or so), rearrange the conversation groups and invite them to discuss again
  5. Repeat at least once more
  6. 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

twitter: @dionl

New Public Commentary dates for British Standard on Knowledge Management (updated 20170913)

I promised in my last post about BS ISO 30401 Human resource management –Knowledge management system (2 September 2016) that I would blog with any updates I spot.

For most of the time since the draft ISO 30401 was passed to National Standards Organisations for review, the public commentary dates have been showing on BSI Standards Development site as 10/08/2017.

In fact that has been delayed while the ISO working group consider the pre-consultation draft: it seems the date for release of the draft for Public Comments in the UK is now 7 December 2017.

The publication date has been moved now to 4 January 2019! Let’s hope it has been waiting for. It bothers me that such little public sense of urgency signals that a sense of enthusiasm is missing. Not among those of us who teach, consult or implement Knowledge Management – come on committees!

On the plus side, there will still be an opportunity for public comments in the winter and early Spring, which we all thought had passed.

Here’s the link to the appropriate page on BSI’s website

Dion Lindsay
Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)
07540 659255 / 01604 686797
twitter: @dionl

New public comments dates for British Standard on Knowledge Management

I promised in my last post about BS ISO 30401 Human resource management –Knowledge management system (2 September 2016) that I would blog with any updates I spot.

For most of the time since the draft ISO 30401 was passed to National Standards Organisations for review, the public comments start date has been showing on BSI Standards Development site as 08/02/2017, and finishing in April 2017.

In fact my great contact at BSI’s great Knowledge Centre has emailed me to let me know that was an error: it seems the date for release of the draft for Public Comments is 10 August 2017, with public comments closing on 11 October.

The publication date for the standard has been moved now to 5 September 2018.

So though the eagerly awaited release of the final, approved standard is put off by a few months, there will still be an opportunity for public comments, which we all thought had passed.

Here’s the link to the appropriate page on BSI’s website!

Dion Lindsay

Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)

07540 659255 / 01604 686797

twitter: @dionl

Kwik Fit and Knowledge Management: a morning in the life

A great experience this morning combining Kwik Fit Plus, observation windows, and Rhem KMAnthony Rhem’s Knowledge Management in Practice. Time for new tyres so off to Kwik Fit Plus Northampton 10 miles away, to beat the rush with a 9 am appointment

KM and the art of Car Driving

As I often do, musing on how experienced driving does mirror elements of knowledge management that I teach and use in helping organisations.

  • Data: what I’m reading on the dashboard
  • information: gantries telling me traffic conditions ahead
  • knowledge: anticipating that the car in front is driving too fast for the bend he can’t yet see

Kwik Fit Plus and team work

Lots of signs of team work and flexibility: staff in badged fleeces, receptionists Kwik Fit Plus Northampton

moving in and out of the service areas to keep communication going, able to answer my questions about the quality of the tyres I’m having fitted.



Serious KM Questions

Settle down to read The Case for Implementing Knowledge Management (Rhem, Anthony (2017) Knowledge Management in Practice. Boca Raton: CRC Press , pp 19-33). Like a lot of the book it’s an addictive read with sometimes a breathless pace and enough knowingly left unsaid to keep me engaged.

By the time I’ve read 6 pages I have some questions I’m desperate to find answers for (index annoyingly little help – in a book about KM!), and ideas for at least a couple of blog posts:

  • how close can we convincingly get to calculating ROI for KM? (always closer than I thought)
  • are that many KM initiatives software based?

Observation wall

To give the ideas a little settling time, I watch the Kwik Fit fitters through the observation wall.

A mesmerising mix of technology, process and humanity. A small screen tells each fitter what’s the next process (and prevents moving on until the last one is performed). Everything – tools, car, tyres, screen are ideally placed to keep the momentum up.

And I get a view of my car from the ground that bonds me better with the beast that I drive every day. I’m sure that kind of familiarisation speeds the adoption of information to useable knowledge!

The fitters are working in quite a small space, but never even look like in holding each other up. Each tyre goes on like the last one.

Job done.

My FocusI make up a mnemonic to remember the questions I want the answers. Back at the office. I know – I’ll write a blog post – it’s been a fruitful morning already of practical KM thinking…


Dion Lindsay
Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)
07540 659255
01604 686797
twitter: @dionl

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