Collaborate, Create, Communicate

There’s wisdom in waiting: the CGX 2.0 Coaching Strategy a month later

Last October 29, the CGX 2.0 team (Tania, Michael and myself) attended “Knowledge Sharing: Getting Together to Do It Better“, at IDLO Headquarters in Rome. The event was jointly organized by the KM4Dev Rome chapter and the Rome-based organizations that had already collaborated for the ShareFair in January 2009.

The day was exciting and exhausting. Nobody dared putting up a slideshow, post-it notes and index cards were shuffled on the carpet and attached to walls, colored markers traded, pictures taken, tweets sent out, carbs suitably provided to sustain the brainstorming and physical activity… so you’re warned: if you ever get invited to an event where knowledge sharing methods are going to be used, wear trainers and comfortable clothes.

The CGX2.0 session was run as a world cafe’. Two colleagues from Bioversity (Cristina Sette and Adriana Alercia) kindly helped us as hostesses of the table discussions. We were seeking contributions into a strategy to support broader and more effective use of the online collaboration tools available at CGX2.0.  In particular, our focus was on the Google Apps: we have just recently implemented single sign-on that allows CGIAR staff to sign in with their local network username and password. This is also relieving the burden of user management and aligns the Google Apps on CGXchange with existing corporate systems.

At the end of the discussion, I promised I would post the summary of the session on the blog. At record speed, Cristina, Adriana, Michael and Tania contributed their notes, and I finished off the document in a matter of days. Everything seemed ready to go online: the report was edited and pdf’d, the blog post drafted but I had the feeling that the report looked dry, cold, even slightly bureaucratic, and that it wasn’t doing justice to the energy and the substance that had emerged during the session.

I put it on hold, blaming a lack of inspiration but also feeling guilty for not keeping my promise. Until today… something has clicked. Here in the office, our small team is planning the core activities for next year, many opportunities to be at live events are popping up at the horizon, so we went back to the world cafe’ notes and all sorts of bells started ringing.

The session report (PDF download, 90Kb) is a great memorandum of the key ingredients that we need to keep in mind during the design of any activity aimed to demonstrating the efficiency gains of using online collaboration technology, and getting colleagues on board.

As you’ll see from the report, we were looking for positive experiences of adopting online collaboration tools, so that we could expand the range of entry points into existing processes that can be effectively supported with online collaboration technologies. We were also looking for examples of pleasant learning experiences: now, there’s a huge literature on adult learning and learning styles. Nonetheless, listening to preferences, and stories of what makes adults learn effectively was an inspiration and a useful reminder. For example, the social and fun factors play a big role…this is a particularly inspiring finding for me.

Participating in the Knowledge Sharing event has eventually been a time saver and a profitable investment into our team work. At the end of the event, the participants contributed their observations and thoughts to the Democracy Walls. Two are particularly worth noting:

  • KS is not about feeling good, i.e., it is not about charity
  • Knowledge sharing must be aligned with work goals
Words of wisdom captured by chief Enrica in May 2009
Words of wisdom captured by chief Enrica in May 2009

Participatory design methods are time savers: it has taken us another month to fully appreciate the great ideas that emerged from the session, but the session itself saved us a month of research work. Reflection is sometimes discounted as procrastination: particularly in small teams, usually overworked, action takes priority over strategising. But there’s wisdom in waiting: more things need to be experienced for the full meaning of a plan to emerge and be aligned with action.

Download CGX 2.0 Coaching Strategy – Findings from the world cafe’ at the KM4Dev Rome event, 29 October 2009 (PDF, 90Kb)