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

What counts as Knowledge Management software?

Running a workshop last Thursday on Practical Knowledge Management for Information Professionals reminded me that perceptions of Knowledge Management are changing where it matters – the coalface/workplace. And this is at least partly under the pressure of sales-driven talk about the KM capabilities of just about every piece of business software.

So what counts as KM technology?

The point shared by all Knowledge Management theoreticians (and every practitioner that I know of), is that KM recognises there are more intellectual resources than data and information involved in decision making, and KM tries to make those resources available in useful ways. Those extra resources can include the expertise, experience and the sheer “nous” of the decision maker, and of those people he or she consults.
Knowledge can even wonderfully include what is discovered and used collaboratively before it has time to be documented!

So when I see a platform, or piece of software, claiming to deliver KM benefits, here are 3 things I look for. If it has any of these I (as MD of Real Knowledge Management) tentatively add it to my list of KM products and promise myself I’ll investigate further

1. Does it enable decision makers to access the tacit knowledge of the organisation so they can apply it to the context in which they are working?
2. Does it provide people working together on a particular problem, opportunity, invention or whatever, with the ability to discover more than the data and information already publicly available in the organisation?
3. Does it help the individual, or the team, apply the intellectual resources they’ve gathered, to the particular context they’re working on so that they make better decisions?

In a post in the near future I will be listing some KM products and explaining why they qualify!

Dion Lindsay
Managing Director
Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)
07540 659255/01604 686797

Knowledge Management Standards have an important role to play

There’s good news for Knowledge Managers, HR strategists and Communications experts. The draft ISO 30401 Knowledge Management Standard has completed its work group drafting stage[1]. For the rest of this year it will be reviewed by National Standards Organisations including the British Standards Institution.

I will be blogging about developments in the National Standards Organisations review of ISO 30401 as I become aware of them – let’s hope by this time next year we have a modern BSI publication on KM to add to the current suite!

In the meantime, for all you KM enthusiasts and stalwarts, BSI KM publications (written in the early 2000s) are still available and they still provide fascinating hints and food for thought about what is important in KM:

  • PAS[2] 2001:2001 Knowledge Management was based on PricewaterhouseCooper’s experience, and takes a strongly human-centred view
  • PD 7502:2003 Guide to measurements in Knowledge Management includes a chapter on Return on Investment for KM, and a few pages on linking KM measures to reward, which was a hot topic in 2003 and has never really gone away
  • PD 7506:2005 Linking knowledge management with other organisational functions and disciplines. A guide to good practice among other things reviews the case for treating KM less as a function and more as a competence. Industry experience this century has shown the tendency for KM to be seen as a change management function, with the ‘loss’ of KM departments as KM practices have become established.

It’s a shame that BSI publications remain so expensive (£200-£250 for non BSI members), but for Knowledge Managers and others in organisations with budgets to cope, these are still great scene setters. A full list of BSI Committee KMS1 – Knowledge Management Systems publications is available at

Dion Lindsay

Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)

07540 659255 / 01604 686797

twitter: @dionl


[1] For this news I am grateful to Ron Young of Knowledge Associates

[2] PAS documents are commissioned by industry leaders to satisfy a perceived immediate business need, PD (Published Document) is a catchall category including but not restricted to formal Standards

Drowning in data or waving?

How true is it that we are drowning in data? There is a lot of data which is the incidental creation of processes – if I pay with my credit card a computer somewhere has a record, if I buy a bus ticket the ticket machine will hold the data for a while, if a pupil says “here sir!” an entry is made in a real or virtual roll.

But I don’t think it’s justifiable to say we are drowning in data, however much of it there is. It can lie there, somewhere in cyberspace, without us trying to swim in it. Surely it’s only when we try to do something with the data (viz turn it into information) that we can be said to be drowning – then we find we can make more patterns of the data than we can deal with, and that’s where we have overload.

I understand and share the frustration – yes it would be interesting, and likely enough beneficial, to turn more of our data into information and, with only a brief nod to turning it into knowledge, act on it.

But to say there is too much data is like saying there are too many atoms. So there’s a trace for every action, and probably even for every thought. But the need to do something with it, and therefore the feeling of drowning in it, is at worst a simple restlessness, and at best an urge to understand and predict the future better than we used to, for the sake of business or personal happiness. Either way the solution is in our hands: resist our completist urges on the one hand, and prioritise what we want to use data for on the other.

Don’t let us make an enemy of data!

Dion Lindsay

Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd)

07540 659255

01604 686797



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

How much management do Communities of Practice need?

Four years ago I helped a UK charity with a list of roles a Community of Practice (CoP) might need. They wanted it as part of planning a nationwide CoP network for scientific discovery, peer to peer learning and support.

But the list seems robust enough for other CoP contexts. What other roles have you noticed are needed in practice?

Obviously not every Community of Practice needs all the roles, less obviously some of them can be done by the same person. Least obviously perhaps – some of them definitely can’t!


Dion Lindsay Consulting Ltd

New Knowledge Management Techniques

07540 659255

01604 686797

Twitter: @dionl


Title Description





Often the most actively engaged members. Assume a leadership role by virtue of their interest and commitment, and may adopt an attitude of ownership because they are often the first to contribute and know their way round the CoP. May promote the role of the CoP in the general professional or business community



Community team leader


Coordinates processes of the CoP such as technical and set up support plus eg facilitator(s), moderators, synthesizers, and champions





With research or practical expertise in the area of the CoP.  May either hang back as a source of reference for discussions or engage and become leaders in a topic. In the latter case may need to be managed to ensure that all contributors have a say, and that conclusions are not rushed to unnecessarily.





Coordinates discussion and ensures the CoP’s purpose is adhered to. Helps with discussion and maintains a balanced perspective. Guides questions to experts or considers other support mechanisms (eg support documents)

Makes sure that discussions are within the rules of the CoP and resolves disputes in line with the rules and the published moderation process.

Watches out for jargon and helps the members avoid it or encourages them to explain it.

Encourages “inclusivity” – members often come from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of expertise. Ensures that respect is accorded to all.

May also act as liaison to sponsors and other stakeholders




Temporary members from outside the usual membership of the CoP, brought in to enlighten and enrich particular discussions

IT support


Designs web pages, enables or commissions maintenance and development, troubleshoots technical problems.





Takes overall responsibility for the CoP. Reports to and liaises with sponsors, and coordinates work on the design, maintenance and development of the CoP. In small CoPs, where roles are often doubled up, facilitator sometimes takes this role.





People of the same (properly) profession or craft, who seek and share knowledge with each other.


Membership manager


In larger CoPs monitors size, composition and effectiveness of membership. Where membership is restricted, approves new applications.





Overlapping role with facilitator. While facilitator is concerned with the overall health of the CoP and that its overall purpose is being furthered, the moderator(s) will pay particular attention to behaviour and relationships in individual discussions. May (rather uncommonly nowadays), approve all contributions before they are visible to all readers. A gentle sensitive approach is necessary so as not to kill discussions through over-regulation, while a rapid and firm though graduated response may be necessary to wayward styles and contributors





As alternative name of “lurkers” suggests, may be (unwisely) seen as passive valueless watchers. Not to be undervalued – often 80% and more of those who access the CoP, the dissemination of the learnings and ethos of the community may depend on them. While the right to “merely” read should be respected, a good CoP will enable and welcome contributors





To fund,  and demonstrate organisational/community support for the health of the CoP and the activity of its players, both formal and casual.




Helps produce longer term meaning from the discussions. Provides a sense of historical perspective – of the place of current discussions in the overall purpose and history of the CoP. Can synthesize and extract (k)nuggets of knowledge for allied content and to support collaborative processes