KM Russia was much more than an event – it was a happening!

Even after a weary flight and arriving home late last night, I feel compelled to write today, following my attendance at KM Russia 2016, Moscow, last week on 15th – 16th December. I wish to write that it was far more than a great event worth writing about, but it was even more,  a happening!

Let me explain my thoughts.

I have had the great privilege and pleasure, since 1995, to speak at, and often chair,  international conferences on knowledge management.

The first ‘happening’ for me was in central London in 1995, with over 200 senior corporate executives and decision makers buzzing with enthusiasm about the better ways that managing the key knowledge assets would impact the business and profitability (although we simply called it KM at the time). This followed with Knowledge Associates spending 4 years working with the European Commission and european collaborative research partners on knowledge asset management (KAM). The proceedings for that research was published in 2003 in the book ‘Knowledge Asset Management’ by Springer, and many of the principles that we uncovered are still most applicable today despite the amazing change in the technological landscape since then.

The second happening for me was in Singapore in 2000 with over 400 senior corporate and government executives and decision makers, again buzzing with enthusiasm. Since this event, Asia has become my second home working across 20 Asian countries with the Asian Productivity Organisation since 2007 on knowledge asset management, knowledge working productivity, for individuals and teams, and increasing knowledge productivity for the organisation. We have just finished the collaborative research and book ‘Enhancing Knowledge Productivity’ to be published by APO in early 2017.

The third happening for me was working with several UN agencies from 2004/5 on using KM strategies and approaches to help with, at least, the elimination of extreme poverty, and to, more proactively, help with natural disaster management and healthcare.

So I have seen much good work done in better knowledge management, with much enthusiasm over the last 20 years, in corporate, government, and humanitarian sectors. I thought I had seen it all!

As a result of this work we expanded Knowledge Associates from Cambridge in the UK, to Knowledge Associates LLC in Boston USA, to Knowledge Associates Japan Ltd in Tokyo. But last week, I personally realised that there is still much more to come and so much more for me to learn.

For the past 5 years our work in Russia has been increasing with several very large organisations like Russian Railways and Russian Telecom. This has all been due to our Russian team, led by Vadim Shiryaev.

Vadim completely understands, and gets, the strategic importance of managing knowledge assets. Each year he has been the primary organiser of the event  KM Russia, and I have been very happy indeed to be invited to speak and participate. Many of my KM speaker colleagues have attended these events from all over the world.

So what is the new happening this time?

It is an electrifying enthusiasm to learn, at a level and scale I have not witnessed before at similar KM conferences and events.

At previous events I have witnessed multinational corporates making rational decisions about KM to increase profit, I have witnessed developing countries making both rational and hopeful decisions about KM to increase quality of life, I have witnessed the strong desire to save life through better KM, but what I have now witnessed in KM Russia is the very very passionate enthusiasm to simply learn better through better KM, especially as individuals and teams.

It is infectious and very moving. At the team dinner afterwards, to celebrate the event, dear friends were actually crying with emotions of the joy of learning. I am not exaggerating at all, as I am sure Arthur Shelley from Australia and Madanmohan Rao from India who attended and participated as thought leaders, will testify. This was sincere and real. It was truly very moving and infectiously emotional for me to see people so appreciative of sharing ways to better create and apply knowledge. Furthermore, as any teacher in workshops would agree, with participants with such positive enthusiastic attitudes to learning,  it inspired me to give even more, to share at my best.

I now better realise that 20th century business was too much concerned with who gets the best deal (the competitive winner and loser mentality) and 21st century business must be even more concerned than they are today with understanding and able to share the feelings of each other (the truly collaborative and co-creative, empathetic win / win mentality of moving forward together).

I have never seen such a visible display of empathy, to this degree, at any other KM conference in the world! In this regard, I consider KM Russia 2016 to be more than one of the best events in KM but, for me, it was also a happening!

This has made me realise even more that the key part of any aspect of knowledge creation, collaboration, co-creation and innovation, is empathy, and not just the best strategies, processes, methods tools and techniques, which will naturally follow.

Peter Drucker taught us in 2000 that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ and we have all found this to be so true.

May I respectfully add to this my comment that empathy, together with enthusiasm and the joy and high value of learning, will ‘naturally’, as a principle, lead to effective collaboration, co-creation and innovation, better than any other way.

I sincerely thank Vadim Shiryaev for his strong passion, empathy and determination, and to all his hard working team and collaborative partners, for such a ‘great happening’ at KM Russia 2016.

Ron Young

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