K Street Newsletter :: Directions

July 2019    |    VOLUME 17, ISSUE 7

The Humble Checklist

In the world of Knowledge Management, there's a lot of talk about KM systems, which tend to fall into two camps. First, there are knowledge repositories, designed to help users find information related to a given topic. In this kind of system, you're talking about search tools and information taxonomies. There are also tacit knowledge systems, designed to help users connect with human experts. In this kind of system you're talking about corporate yellow pages and social media platforms. But these aren't the only tools available when it comes to managing knowledge. A simple checklist is a KM tool in the purist form: a device to codify best practices in the most condensed form possible.

It's an interesting area, and one that has been deeply explored by Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Harvard Medical School. He did a study of ways to improve surgical outcomes, and discovered that a two-minute, pre-op checklist made a dramatic difference. The idea, as described in this NPR interview, is simply that doctors are human and can make mistakes. And it led him to become a full-bore crusader for the concept, as he describes in The Checklist Manifesto. Something like KM can seem awfully high-fallutin, but it's really just a new way of looking at the ways in which people approach complexity and problem solving. We all do it all the time, whether or not we think of it as Knowledge Management. And for further reading, here's a list of ten reasons why you need checklists.

Our Selfie Society

The selfie has become an inescapable part of modern life, and with a tool like Google, you can explore them in all their infinite variety. You can search for car selfies, gym selfies, pet selfies and selfies gone wrong. They may be harmless fun, but might also reveal uncomfortable things about the subject's personality. A study at Ohio State University found that men who posted lots of selfies on social media sites scored higher on measures of psychopathy. Not a surprising result perhaps, but it's the first time a link between selfies and narcissism was confirmed by a study.

Some argue that selfies are a source of empowerment, since they give individuals control over how they present themselves to the world. But they also imply a need for self-gratification and approval. And the subjects may feel rejected if they don't get a sufficiently positive response. According to this article at Forbes, there's a side phenomenon know as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). It's a cause for anxiety and depression among users whose Instagram accounts aren't sufficiently wonderful and photogenic. If you haven't given the matter much though, read this feature from The New York Times. Interesting.


Street Smarts 189: Show and tell.

Research shows that people have different learning styles, with the primary being auditory, visual and kinesthetic. Most of us, about 65%, learn best by seeing, and another 30% learn best by hearing. About 5% are kinesthetic learners, who learn best through motion. There's a great deal of evidence showing that most people remember things they've seen more than things they've only heard, and retention is what learning is all about. So in corporate training, you want to double down by using both words and images for every content point you're trying to put across. Training that sticks is particularly important because business information now has such a short shelf-life.

You can increase engagement and retention by combining words with pictures, making movement a part of your delivery and trying to wrap the whole thing with an element of fun. People remember better when the information is associated with a pleasurable memory. So fun is good! Thanks to the Association for Talent Development for this month's tip.


Taking a Real Vacation

You probably know a colleague who never takes time off. In fact, maybe YOU are that colleague. If people ask how you are, and your answer is "busy," you may be overdue for a vacation. According to this article, busyness is more and more mistaken for productivity. Thanks to mobile technology, workers often stay tethered to their job even when they're supposed to be recharging their batteries. If you're stuck in a company with an always-on work culture, posting Do Not Disturb messages is a waste of time. It's a serious problem, given that eight in ten Americans report feeling stressed either frequently or sometimes. Four in ten feel they don't have enough time in their day to do everything that needs doing.

It may seem that the workaholics are more likely to get ahead, but that is not the case. Research shows that folks who take advantage of their time off are more likely to get promotions. Be that person. Find ways to unplug and let the company get along without you for a while. That's especially important if you have a leadership role, because you want the benefits of real time off to percolate through your organization. Technology can help, but it needs cultural reinforcement. German automaker Daimler has a mail setting that auto-deletes incoming messages during a vacation. Senders are given the option to contact someone else or told to re-send their email once employees are back in the office. And marketing firm Acceleration Partners offers bonuses to employees if they really stay offline during their vacation. That's putting your money where your mouth is.

How to Pack a Suitcase

Once you start thinking about "knowledge" you may start to wonder what separates knowledge from know-how. Are they in fact the same thing? A bit of Googling suggests that most people think of know-how as practical knowledge on a particular subject: knowledge of how to do something. Wikipedia equates know-how with street smarts, which supports our use of that term for our monthly tips and tricks. Know-how is knowledge at the level of a recipe card, in which a recipe box becomes the repository and categories like Sides, Entrees and Deserts provide the taxonomy.

Given that it's the start of vacation season, here's a timely bit of know-how you may think you already have. Tips from The New York Times on how to pack a suitcase. The authors suggest that a properly-packed suitcase can be the difference between a relaxed vacation and a harried one. Their first tip is to point out that the bigger your suitcase, the more you'll pack. Stick with a hard-sided suitcase that will work as a carry on. Try to fill every inch of space, but forget about packing things that fall into a "just in case" scenario. Unless you're trekking into the rain forest, you can buy most anything if you find you absolutely need it.




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