New Year, New Beginnings

Happy New Year Every so often, it’s good to surprise the people you know. This year, it’s my turn.

I came to New York City to work as a first-year associate in a fabulous firm. The deal I made at that time with my family was that I would try the practice of law for three years — one for each year spent in law school — and then I’d move on to something else. Nearly 22 years later, I’m finally moving on. In the intervening time, I’ve had the good fortune to learn from and work with some of the best lawyers in the country, and I’ve had the opportunity to serve some terrific clients. In that period I also shifted from a full-time legal practice to the challenging discipline of law firm knowledge management.  And that shift provided even more opportunities to learn — about the business of law, about the opportunities and challenges presented by technology and, most importantly, about how and why people share knowledge.

Now it’s time for me to take that learning and move outside a single firm and industry. In fairness, I had been engaging externally for some time through this blog, via Twitter and by speaking at or organizing various knowledge management educational sessions, most notably those offered by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA). In particular, the opportunities provided to me by ILTA to develop innovative session formats that improved the educational experience of attendees opened my eyes to the possibilities of helping others connect and learn in new ways.

So what’s next? To begin with, I’ve decided that for the next little while I’d like the flexibility of a portfolio of projects rather than a single employer.  I also know that I’d like to stretch some muscles and use some talents that haven’t always found an outlet in the legal industry. Accordingly, I’ve lined up several projects that will allow me to build on strengths and learn some new skills.

  • Technology. For years I’ve talked to technophiles about the critical importance of the people and process elements of knowledge management. I know some have thought this means that I’m a technophobe.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, I’ve simply been frustrated by what can appear to be a blind faith in technology solutions implemented without due consideration for the human elements.  Now I have a chance to put my learning (and rhetoric) to the test. I’m teaming up with a wonderful group of designers, developers and entrepreneurs in this country and abroad to create some new knowledge sharing tools. As we get closer to a working prototype I’ll tell you more about it here. For the time being, suffice it to say that we’re exploring new ways of making social media relevant and useful to segments of the business population that are still waiting for their social media road to Damascus moment.
  • Education. I’ve been given the opportunity to help teach a class that is part of the Masters of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy at Columbia University. It is an innovative hybrid program that combines brief residency periods with online learning. I’m very much looking forward to learning more about how this combination of face-to-face and distance learning contributes to a rich educational experience for the students. I expect it will provide a glimpse of how the education sector is reinventing itself to remain relevant. Again, more to come as I learn more.
  • Writing. Since I began writing this blog nearly five years ago, I’ve discovered that writing is critical for me. It forces me to stretch — I read more and I think more. The reflection that good writing requires gives me an invaluable opportunity to learn and develop. So my plan is to write even more in 2013 than I have over the last few years. Expect more blog posts here and elsewhere.
  • Facilitation. You only have to attend one pointless meeting to understand the value of good meeting facilitation. Over the last 15 years I’ve done a goodly amount of facilitating critical meetings, strategic planning efforts, retreats and workshops. For me, the joy in this work is seeing the attendees uncover their own truths. I don’t supply the answers, they do. And in the process they identify the strategic path they need to follow. This is hugely rewarding work and I plan to do more of it this year.

All of this adds up to a comfortably full plate. That said, if you see any interesting projects in which I might be helpful, please let me know.  (You can always reach me at KMAdvice@gmail.com.)  As I have discovered, I have only two speeds — fully engaged or resting. For the next few years, I want to be fully engaged.

2013 promises to be exciting. I hope you have a rewarding adventure this year as well.

Happy New Year!

[Photo Credit: Photon Bomb]

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