Avoid a Darwin Award

Charles Darwin The stories are awful, but you’ll find it’s hard to pull your eyes away the text. In fact, each story seems worse than the one before. After reading them, you can’t help but ask yourself: Can anyone really be that dumb?

What stories are these? They are reports of the exploits of the recipients of the annual Darwin Awards. To win a Darwin Award, you must have done something truly spectacular — spectacularly stupid, that is:

In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.

So what qualifies for a Darwin award? Here is a sampling of the feats that have justified an award:

  • juggling live hand grenades
  • jumping out of a plane, to film skydivers, without a parachute
  • crashing through a window and falling to one’s death in an attempt to prove that the window contains unbreakable glass

One would be hard-pressed to come up with a comparable list for knowledge management professionals. There isn’t much in the KM toolkit that is life-threatening. However, there is something we often fail to do that makes it harder for our work to reach a more highly evolved state. What’s this common lapse? We too often fail to conduct an after action review.

What’s involved in an after action review? Start by asking three basic questions at the end of every project or phase:

  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t work well?
  • What should we do next time to improve our process and results?

By focusing on constant improvement, by eliminating the incorrect or unnecessary, you approach the Darwinian ideal of survival of the fittest. By failing to take this step, you threaten the upward trajectory of your work. It’s that simple. Yet for many of us, taking the brief moment to review and revise can seem too hard.

The next time you’re tempted to skip an after action review, ask yourself the following question: If there were Darwin Awards for KM work, would any of your projects win?

[Photo Credit: Shehal Joseph]


Knowledge Sharing Toolkit

The ICT-KM program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research has created a Knowledge Sharing Toolkit that provides guidance and resources for organizations interested in developing knowledge sharing among their employees and constituents. Nancy White at Full Circle Associates asks that readers take a look at the Toolkit and send in their feedback. They are particularly interested in feedback from nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations and international development organizations. But even if you work outside those areas, it would be well worth your time to consider the materials provided by the Toolkit. You’re sure to find information on tools and methods you haven’t yet tried in your organization.


KM Library: Tools, Techniques and Case Studies

Hat tip to Caroline de Brรบn at Talking Knowledge Management who found this UK government site sponsored by the Improvement and Development Agency (I&DEA), KM Library: tools, techniques and case studies. It provides overviews on a wide range of KM tools including:

– After Action Review
– Case Study
– Communities of Practice
– Gone Well, Not Gone Well
– Knowledge Cafe
– Knowledge Exchange
– Knowledge Marketplace
– Peer Assist
– Rapid Evidence Review
– Retrospective Review

According to I&DEA, these “knowledge management tools and techniques are designed for use in everyday work to improve the way we find, use, create, manage and share knowledge.” As with some of the other KM resources I’ve mentioned before (e.g., Dare to Share’s Knowledge Management Toolkit), I pass this along with the suggestion that you take a look to see if you find a tool or technique you haven’t tried before that might be appropriate for a KM problem or opportunity you are facing.


Dare to Share: Knowledge Management Toolkit

KM4Dev recently featured Dare to Share’s Knowledge Management Toolkit. Beginning in April 2007 and running until December 2008, Dare to Share will highlight one proven KM and/or learning technique per month. Thus far, they have focused on:

– After Action Review
– Collegial Coaching
– Yellow Pages
– Good Practice
– Knowledge Fair
– Exit Interview
– Storytelling
– Experience Capitalization
– Mentoring
– Visualization
– Peer Assist
– Briefing

For each technique there is a definition, followed by a brief description of how to implement the technique. Dare to Share also provides a link to a much longer discussion of the approach for readers who want to delve deeper.

Not every one of these techniques will work for you or your organization. Even still, this is a great resource if you’re looking for new ways to expand knowledge sharing and learning with your colleagues.