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Knowledge Creation in Virtual Teams and Communities

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Presentation on theme: "Knowledge Creation in Virtual Teams and Communities"— Presentation transcript:

1 Knowledge Creation in Virtual Teams and Communities
Lisa Kimball, Executive Producer, Group Jazz Braintrust International 2001 The 3rd Annual Knowledge Management World Summit San Francisco, CA February 12, 2001

2 What makes great groups great?

3 How do the best ensembles make room for individual creativity?

4 What can we learn from teams that require extraordinary craftsmanship yet need to work collaboratively?

5 What makes magic happen when collaborative groups perform?

6 What are the secrets of high performing groups?

7 I’ve always loved “jazz” as a metaphor for collaboration
I’ve always loved “jazz” as a metaphor for collaboration. What attracts me is that it has a strong underlying structure – within and around which infinite variations are possible. Different jazz ensembles are totally identifiable – even when playing the same piece. You can tell one saxophone player from another because of the individuality of the artist. Yet players can play together because the underlying rules of engagement for jazz provide what’s needed. What are the rules of engagement for collaboration that could give us the same ability to play with each other?

8 Many of us are working with global groups – groups with different cultures, languages, experience …
What can we learn from groups in the performing arts who bring together diverse artists?

9 Think about an experience you’ve had in a group that was in the “zone
Think about an experience you’ve had in a group that was in the “zone.” What is it about groups that work that makes them special? What can we do to turn up the dial on all groups to make them more productive, more creative … more fun?

10 Secrets of Creative Groups
I’ve been studying some groups that I think of as exemplars of creative collaboration. Groups like Cirque du Soleil, Dale Chihuly’s glass blowing team, improvisational theater companies, and jazz ensembles. I’m looking for principles we could apply to any work group, learning cohort or knowledge sharing community to make it more creative, more alive. Because I have spent a lot of time working with boundary-crossing groups, I’ve also been thinking about how we can apply these ideas to virtual environments where it often feels even MORE difficult to create and sustain energy and magic. This is work in progress. I’ve started to identify some “secrets” that I hope can stimulate our thinking.

11 Stars and Spotters Cirque du Soleil
I LOVE Cirque du Soleil. One of the things I’ve noticed is that the entire ensemble is present for most of the performance. In one act I might be the star on the trapeze (ok – so that’s a total fantasy! <g>), in the next act I’m a spotter for the acrobats. The spotting role requires almost the same amount of skill and practice as the starring role. What would it mean to “spot” each other in a creative work team? What are the skills associated with knowledge support roles? Cirque du Soleil

12 Shifting Roles Louis Armstrong
One of the things you notice about great jazz ensembles and improv groups is how smoothly they shift roles during a piece. The “hand-off” from one solo to the next, the quick switch from leader to follower … In many collaborative teams – especially those that work virtually – roles aren’t very differentiated and we don’t have shared protocols for handing-off roles to each other. Louis Armstrong

13 Situational Leadership
The Beatles In most creative groups different members take the lead at different times – creating the songs, making the deals, working in the studio, being the “front man” with the press. We tend to appoint a leader for the life of a project. Edgar Schein of MIT noted in a study of major project teams at NASA that this practice can damage projects because managers with a particular style and perspective are best suited for one particular stage of a project rather than for the whole thing. Situational Leadership

14 Real Peership These ways of working in a group - with stars and spotters, leadership that shifts depending on the situation, and roles that shift throughout the project cycle – feel to me like the building blocks of Real Peership.

15 Taking Solos A lot of what we have traditionally done as facilitators is aimed at creating balance among members of a group. If someone in the group stands out too much or takes up too much air time we send someone to COACH them to fix the problem. When was the last time we said something like, “Hey Tom – how about taking a solo at the white board?” In creative groups, members have the opportunity to see each other do their best stuff … to show off … to contribute the best of what they have to the production. It creates a different level of appreciation for each person’s unique abilities.

16 Personal Style Monty Python
The thing we love about creative groups is their individuality. The essence of their creativity is having a unique style. Doing what everyone else has done but doing it in a totally new way. “Best Practice Reports” in standard formats? (Dry! Repetitive! One-dimensional) Maybe that’s not the best way to attract people to explore them! Monty Python

17 Master Classes Artists respect each other. They look forward to attending “master classes” with the best in their field. They don’t want someone from the training department to extract information from the experts and package it. They want direct contact with the person and their energy!

18 Individual Extraordinariness
How can we do more to make the individual extraordinariness of group members more present to each other? Maybe, instead of having Jane’s various best practice reports, papers, etc. spread around a library organized by topic – we should also have all her work available as a portfolio so that we could experience more of the WHOLE of her thinking. Perhaps we could take advantage of virtual media to provide more “master classes” with our most experienced people?

19 Sound Tracks You only need a few bars of the great sound tracks to be transported to a completely different place and time, put in a different mood. Hearing them evokes vast, complex, memories … pictures .. Ideas … We need to think more about how to expand our use of media as an anchor to make experience more memorable, more meaningful.

20 Props Jim Hensen’s Muppets
Put a hat on a sock and you have a whole, elaborated character. It doesn’t take much to stimulate our imagination and evoke ideas about the setting … the story. The more “virtual” we become, the more we need to pay attention to creating and using physical artifacts as signifiers for ideas and experiences. Jim Hensen’s Muppets

21 Rich Media Remember when the Wizard of Oz changed from black & white to color? It was magic. We understood that we had been transported to a new place. It peaked our interest. It communicated a lot about what was happening in the story. How many knowledge archives have you seen made up of hundreds (thousands) of topics available all at once, formatted all alike. We think that’s “user-friendly” because we know exactly what to expect – every part of the system will be exactly like every other part. If we log in next week, it will be the same familiar layout. Maybe that’s not always the best choice?

22 Production Values What can we do to increase production values significantly in our work environments? In our online environments? In our training materials? In our knowledge systems?

23 Pattern Language The scripts and scores that guide artists provide maps that group members have in common. We can use them to short-cut the time it takes to do an initial run through, to communicate about things we want to change. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we developed more ways to capture different kinds of collaborative processes?

24 Process Wisdom Underlying most craft work is a set of processes. Although some are documented, most people learn them through apprenticeship. We are starting to document some processes that work to help groups work and think together – Open Space, Dialogue, Appreciative Inquiry, Storytelling, Scenarios to name just a few. To date, we have applied these mostly to special events. In the future we need to discover and develop ways to use these and other processes as part of the daily routine – make them just the WAY we play together.

25 Discipline The Great Wallendas
Collaboration is a “practice.” Just like doing Yoga, or playing an instrument, or riding a tightrope – we need to develop a discipline around collaborative behavior. And we need to practice, to rehearse, if we’re going to get better at it. The Great Wallendas

26 Liberating Structures
It’s a paradox – but the more we can develop the structures that allow a common language around processes and the practice of collaboration, the freer we will be to be creative with each other.

27 Documenting Performance
WPA Project Documents fiddlers in West VA In the performing arts, tacit knowledge is made explicit through performance. The most compelling documentation happens when the performance is captured rather than in “talking about” how to do it. Often, the captured performance is then observed together so the performer and the recorder can reflect on it and talk about it.

28 Publishing The need to express ideas to an audience, get something ready for “prime time,” put it out there to be observed (and probably judged) by others creates a special kind of energy.

29 Programming Season tickets, opening night, the Spring Concert Series, the guest soloist. Anticipating when something will happen in the future is exciting! The community around a performing arts center has a rhythm created by the cycles of programming. During the week of the film festival, we’re there every night and we enjoy running into all the other regulars. At other times our participation is less intense. Community experience happens in time. How can we get better at using time to create the cycles, programs, changes in pace that make community life exciting?

30 Performance Culture These qualities define what I’m calling a Performance Culture. What would happen if we developed more of the qualities of a performance culture in collaborative work teams?

31 5 Secrets of Creative Groups
Real peership Individual extraordinariness Production values Liberating structures Performance culture So how can we find and enhance these elements in collaborative work teams? In learning cohorts? In knowledge-sharing communities?

32 Culture Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock Street performer Venice, CA
The experience of seeing a performance in a huge arena is very different from being in an intimate club. The culture of a group is influenced by the environment in which they work, the nature of the communications media they use, the stories they have to tell about the group, their rituals and celebrations, and their shared language.  Too often, virtual teams are missing many of the elements that are critical to developing culture because we haven’t developed a repertoire of new strategies using the new media. How can we create celebrations virtually? How can we make sure we don’t limit our communications to task-specific exchanges that leave out the all-important storytelling? How can we create the feeling of a mass event? An intimate setting?  Whichever combinations of media you are using to support a virtual group, you need to think through how these media will affect the culture of the group’s environment. What metaphors are you using for interactions? How will these metaphors cue group members to think about where they are and what they’re doing? An electronic space called “Project Database” will invite a different style of communication than one called “What’s Happening Where You Are?” Keep in mind that you are creating an environment to support relationships, not just to exchange information. What norms, styles and behaviors would help or hinder the ambience and create the group culture you want?  What adjectives do we want to associate with the culture of our team? (supportive, deep, fun, fast-moving, reflective, cutting-edge, information-intensive, risky, intense, focused, creative, ???) What do we need to do to create that culture? What strategies can we develop so that we can celebrate group success even when we’re not together face-to-face? Where we will tell our stories? Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock Street performer Venice, CA

33 Continuity Grove graphic guides Continuity
 One of the key things in making a river flow is its banks .. its container. Virtual groups can lose that feeling of flowing in a direction because their container is too weak and the energy of the group seems to leak out into the atmosphere rather than building towards something. It’s hard to keep the group “on the same page.”  Virtual groups also have a hard time maintaining the awareness of the whole that helps them feel like everyone is moving together. They can feel like group in a rowing shell with no idea when or how hard to pull on the oars so the shell jerks around in the water but doesn’t get anywhere. It’s important to facilitate a group process that heightens awareness of what is happening in all parts of the group so that the group begins to be able to sense and anticipate what’s going on around the whole network of group members and can get the benefit of moving together. It’s advantageous to increase and intensify group interactions early in the life of the group. How do all the different parts of the group’s communication – f-t-f meetings, online interactions, telephone calls – fit together? How can we create a shared mental map of the WHOLE of our work together? How can we stay “in synch” with each other as a group so we’re aligned? How will we know when the group is in the flow? Grove graphic guides

34 Conversation Conversation
One way to think about a community is as a network of conversations that cover a broad range of topics and questions:  ·       How is the team doing on its critical strategic goals? ·        How are the group's processes working? ·        How are individuals in the community doing? ·        What’s going on in the organization? ·        What’s going on in the world? ·        What are people on the team reading and thinking? ·        What problems need attention? ·        What should we be doing next?  A community will function best if it feels like everyone is part of a continuous, daily conversation with the whole group. Of course, in a virtual community, this is not achieved easily.  A big danger for virtual groups is that their communications get stale and boring. When we’re together face-to-face we create a lot of variation in our exchanges by meeting in different settings, using multi-media to spark discussion, and changing the style of meeting from presentation to dialogue. It’s critical to keep the group communications fresh and growing - both qualitatively and quantitatively. What kinds of conversations are important for us to have regularly? How can we make sure that everyone on the community is fully involved in our important conversations? Conversation

35 Creative Team Dimensions
Culture Continuity Conversation

36 Choosing Media Strategically
We talk a lot about communication technology. We need to begin to understand it as media instead. The questions we need to be asking are not just about what is convenient, what we’re used to using, or what will allow us to do basic tasks. Instead, we need to be thinking about the affective experience evoked by the use of different media. What kind of attention does it require? How do we process experience in that mode? Think about the different technologies we use to communicate among work and learning groups as media. What different kinds of experience can we produce by using these media differently? Consider media differences in terms of the degree to which a medium is personal, warm/cold, urgent, novel, fast/slow. The group needs requisite variety - change modes for refreshment and impact. Electronic mail Decision making support systems Audio (telephone) conferencing Video conferencing Asynchronous web- conferencing Document sharing

37 What are the new questions raised by the “production perspective?”
? ??? ? ????? ???? ???????????? ? ? ? ? I don’t have all the answers yet. But I’m intrigued by this new line of questions. What if we shifted our framework for thinking about developing environments, processes, and facilitation and leadership strategies for groups from managing tasks and objects to producing experience and performance? How would that change our approach to Design? Facilitation? Use of media? What are the new questions raised by the “production perspective?”

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