A belated write-up of my talk on Thriving in a Disrupted World at the Knowledge Management Australia 2017 Conference, which took place 1 to 3 August 2017. The conference was well-attended with fantastic speakers and was wonderfully organised by Steven Oesterreich @kmaustralia and the team at Ark Group who have been running the conference since 2004.

Attendees and presenters were drawn from global private, public and third sector knowledge management practitioners and researchers including representatives from Australian Defence, NATO (Andy Anderson provided an overview of KM in practice in NATO, their concept development & experimentation group seems particularly interesting), Arup (Kim Sherwin @misskimsherwin a fellow member of #TeamLibrarian shared a remarkable culture and collaborative approach in this cooperative communally owned organisation – particularly loved Arup’s Foresight futurism team’s Arup Inspires database tracking interesting multi-disciplinary research globally), Dubai Police (IIbrahim Seba Al Marri @ibrahimseba shared his extraordinary achievements and pragmatic approach, I will no longer be content with KM achievements less than having a Crown Prince set up a KM centre for me), Stemke Consulting (Jeff Stemke shared insights into how to think like an expert and made solving hydrogenation reactor problems interesting), South Australian Government Financing Authority (Paul Fechner on knowing when to ‘fight’ and knowing when to ‘plant’ knowledge… to later reap the rewards of ideas sown/shaped ), Service NSW (Bryan Williams who urged us to become the corporate agitator, shape it, and be formidable in the knowledge ecosystem) World Vision International (Jack Merklein @jmerklein2 shared his vision for KM at World Vision and his time at Xerox which was fascinating), KPMG (Christian Gossan provided a case study example of his great internal game demo boosting learning while cautioning that gamification is a tool not a silver bullet), conference educational partner Charles Sturt University, Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers (Alison Jones @alisoninlibrary identifed the oft-overlooked value of ad hoc conversations & a central location as all walk by – coffee, conversation and knowledge support, what more could you want?!), and the US Navy (Michael Hill @MichaelCTPMntr shared principles for the knowledge manager framed by his common operational picture expertise past and present). The ‘let’s talk about AI debate’ with Laurence Lock Lee (@llocklee) of Optimice, Eric Tsui of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, & the University of Sydney’s Brian Bailey (@briney001) and Michel Harre provided great ideas for AI future application. The conference closed with the impassioned Brett Leavy (@LeavyBrett) walking us through his quest to simulate Australia before 1788 white settlement via the virtual reality platform and immersive experience Virtual Songlines, his inspirational life work.

The congress was chaired by Brigid Costello (@consult_Cambrai) who not only held an interactive module with Simon Terry of Change Agents (@simongterry) and organised a lovely speaker’s dinner, but did an exceptional job of connecting insights and stimulating discussion which continued on Twitter, on which I found the complementary commentary provided by fellow attendees such as the entertaining Lyn Murnane (@boffin66), @miladyred (I love the idea that KMers need a batman style utility belt, tools that are fit for purpose, aligned to enterprise strategy, we need to create a visual of that!), Jo Hicks (@joannahicks), Jeremy Scrivens (@jeremyscrivens), Angela McCormack (@angemccormack) and Arthur Shelley (@metaphorage) and of course @ArkGroup, all of whom collectively wove together threads of broader insights including those from trail-blazers I’ve known such as @gapingvoid and @stangarfield. It’s a privilege and pleasure to connect with similarly impassioned practitioners in the field of knowledge and information science at this time in history; a time when the world is recognising the potential that can be derived from harnessing the power of information to obtain insights, respond and innovate, deliver communal benefit, and drive enterprise growth. These interactions help in building awareness of challenges and potential solutions beyond organisational boundaries, and glimpse beyond the horizon.

‘Thriving in a disrupted world’ explored the role of knowledge practices and practitioners in catalysing invention, creativity and innovation to support and stimulate the agile enterprise, it explored the origin of the term innovation, inventors and knowledge facilitation in history, characteristics of effective knowledge professionals of the future, and the innovation mindset. With the unrelenting pace of change in today’s complex and dynamic world it’s all the more vital for enterprises and knowledge managers to continuously monitor, prepare for, anticipate and manage the power of disruptive innovation which brings with it opportunities, depending upon how we respond to such disruption. Given the number of international visitors, I thought it might be helpful to give a safety brief on how deal with the wild, unpredictable natural forces of beach rip tide water currents as guided by Beach Safe Australia, an approach which might be equally effective when dealing with the wild, unpredictable forces of disruption!

  1. Get out of your comfort zone and dive in, but when doing so don’t swim alone (true story: we lost a serving Australian Prime Minister that way) – just as you would swim on patrolled beaches between red and yellow flags similarly don’t try to deal with disruption alone; though there are great individual thinkers and inventors, they have historically and continue to depend on a supportive ecosystem including the vital role played by knowledge management.
  2. Keep lookout and watch the patterns – rips are complex and can quickly change shape and location, look for deeper, dark-coloured water, fewer breaking waves, a rippled surface surrounded by smooth waters. Similarly, keep lookout for disruption and innovation patterns. Read widely and adopt a multi-disciplinary mindset, train yourself to recognize patterns in thinking and keep an eye on the visionaries who are often years if not decades ahead of the mainstream.
  3. When caught in a rip or amid disruptive innovation –
  • Don’t fight the current or disruption, it’s futile, you’ll waste energy (or as one of my favourite thinkers, Buckminster Fuller, expressed it ‘don’t fight forces, use them’)
  • Stay calm and consider your options
  • Raise an arm to seek help if needed
  • Try floating with the current which may bring you to shore or bring clarity
  • Swim parallel to the shore or towards breaking waves and use them to help you in
  • Reassess your situation
  • If what you’re doing isn’t working try one of the other options until you’re rescued or reach your destination

All in all, a wonderful experience, enlivened by the attendance of delightful colleagues including Brigitte Wharton (@BrigitteWharton), the inclusion of colouring-in books, lego put to great use as a KM image with KM sentinels, no less, by my table-mate Chris Hein at Defence, and a convivial community. And how pleasant it is to occasionally attend events where when asked what your specialisation is people’s eyes don’t glaze over at minimum, but they actually GET IT. On which, questions in relation to the presentation or associated topics are welcomed, do get in touch!