K Street Newsletter :: Directions

March 2017    |    VOLUME 15, ISSUE 3

Building a Learning Culture

The late great Peter Drucker is known (among many other things) for the observation that "culture eats strategy for breakfast." Many studies have shown a direct correlation between the health of an organization's culture and its actual bottom line, despite the fact that relatively few companies do anything about it, at least directly. We've done a fair amount of work over the years on organizational change initiatives, but most of them tend to run out of steam at the end of the budget cycle. They're just not taken as seriously as research, development or marketing.

Most of the executive attention goes to developing a business strategy, but according to this article, strategy, capabilities and culture need to be designed together. Maintaining cultural coherence across a company's portfolio is essential when developing a corporate strategy. It's also the real key when it comes to building a learning organization. This article offers some practical tips for making that happen, drawn from Edgar Schein's Organizational Culture and Leadership. One tip is to monitor how a company reacts to crises and failure. If an organization responds to problems by thinking of them as learning activities, that's a very good sign.
 

What Three Words

What Three Words (w3w) is the kind of visionary idea that initially seems so daffy you can't imagine how anyone came up with it. Then you wonder why you didn't think of it first. It's an addressing system that divides the surface of the earth into 57 trillion squares that are three meters on a side. Then it assigns each square a unique address composed of three randomly selected English words. That lets it provide a simple, global and highly precise way to talk about location. Everybody has an address, and you'll find Knowledge Street World Headquarters at perky.fries.frame. We rather like that. Ultimately, it plans to generate w3w addresses in 25 languages, including French, German, Polish and Mongolian.

We first heard about it in this article about mail delivery on the 170 islands of the Tonga archipelago. It's a place of few named streets, a widely scattered population and an environment where at-home mail delivery is virtually impossible. Instead, mail is delivered to centralized Post Office boxes, where residents are expected to come fetch it. Tonga Post is adopting w3w addressing at the national level, finding it practical, user friendly and cost effective. Mongolia is opting in for the same reasons. It's not a perfect system, since being two-dimensional, it can't pinpoint the floor of a multistory building. But it lays the foundation for a significant improvement in infrastructure, particularly in less developed countries.
 

 

Street Smarts 162: Take risks.

Researchers at University College in London believe that people become more risk-averse as they get older because of naturally falling levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that carries signals from the brain to the body and dopamine levels increase whenever we engage in pleasurable activity, like eating or drinking or listening to music. It's also associated with addictive behaviors like gambling and hard drugs, and causes people to seek out activities that are ultimately self-destructive.

Research suggests that the amount of dopamine in the brain declines steadily from early adulthood onward. So if you find that you're shying away from a risky initiative, it may not mean you've gotten wiser. It may only mean that the risk isn't as exciting as it used to be. We're not suggesting that you take up bungee jumping, but you should be willing to roll those dice from time to time. It may be the best way to keep up with the younger generation.
 

 

Working Out Loud

The digital age has opened the door to all kinds of long-distance working relationships, as well as the possibility for collaboration with people you may never meet. But for all it's given, it has also taken something away. What's missing is direct person-to-person contact, and this author feels the best countermeasure is what she calls "working out loud." It's about sharing your work in a way that helps people understand how they can contribute to what's being done -- putting your work out in the world where you may find unexpected partners.

She also thinks working out loud is the key to building and strengthening relationships, helping to identify the right connections, and having the kind of conversations that open the door to true, meaningful collaboration. That means you can spend less time in meetings and build trusted communities that recognize a shared purpose. She believes it works whenever people are motivated to show up and willing to be vulnerable. And it's not just her, there's actually a Working Out Loud (WOL) movement, organized by author John Stepper. You can buy the book, or watch a TEDX talk!

 

Eat Your Books

Back in the day, we used to explain Knowledge Management to the uninitiated with the homey metaphor of a recipe box. You have knowledge (or "know how") represented by individual cards, some of which might be borrowed and some of which are probably original. They're organized into categories, which are often user-defined, and the intent is to bring the most important artifacts into the foreground. Most people who have a recipe box have cookbooks, too, but the box serves as a kind of filtering engine that personalizes the information. The recipes in the recipe box are the ones most likely to be shared.

Now, you can take that one step further. Eat Your Books is a site that lets you build a master index of the cookbooks you already own, as well as connect to recipes in magazines and blogs. You can search by ingredient, ethnicity or course, add your own notes and ratings, upload original recipes and produce an aggregate index from the more than 150,000 cookbooks and one million recipes in its collection. It's not a recipe site, so it doesn't violate copyright. It's just an index. There's also a social media component (naturally) where you can connect with other culinary enthusiasts. You can get started for free (which lets you add five cookbooks to your virtual shelf), and a premium membership is $3.00 per month or $30 per year. Pretty cool idea.


 

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