Friday, 8 April 2016

Where's the fun in knowledge management?

I've often thought that humour is a vastly under-utilised management tool. Of all the ways we communicate, having fun is often, as my kids say, well 'the funnest'. Oh, the irony that when I looked into studies of humour in the workplace, they are as dry as dust (if you really must look, citations are at the end). 
Storytelling is a well established organisational learning tool. Anecdote do a brilliant job of training managers in the art of narrative in the corporate world. Funny stories are always the most memorable.
In the Knowledge and Innovation Network workshops, we always include a high degree of 'purposeful socialisation', the planning of which is transparent to participants. The purpose is to connect people and get them to get to know one another. We are a pretty competitive lot, so we play to that, and include 'serious gaming' over dinner. A free bar before dinner is always a great knowledge lubricant. If you can put some of your knowledge management budget behind the bar, it is money well spent.
Another favourite of mine is 'destructive brainstorming'. Rather than figuring out how to develop something that's going to be successful, get 2 teams to independently brainstorm everything that's going to make it fail. Great fun! You can get some real energy going. You then get them to swap lists and figure out mitigations.
How much more effective if we incorporated fun into our other knowledge interventions? What are your favourites?
As for using humour in organisational learning...
 Top 10 Reasons why we don't need Knowledge Management*
10. The corporate expertise 'Yellow Pages' is bang up to date, isn't it? Anyway, why would I admit 'I don't know' to someone else?
9. Organizing to share know-how isn't compatible with our culture and anyway the last thing we need around this place is change.
8. All our projects are easy, and  we learned all about the mistakes last time around.
7. We aren't smart enough to implement a knowledge sharing platform without stifling creativity and offending our technical geniuses (who want us to use Office 2010)
6. We might have to understand where our knowledge is at risk and get involved, and that is such a bother.
5.  Knowledge management requires integrity and courage, so someone senior would have to actually admit we aren't actually 'a learning organisation'.
4. Our bosses won't provide the support needed for knowledge management; they want us to get better results through magic.
3. We learn for this  about operational excellence from our whiz-bang successes (who wants to apply lessons from those nasty operational failures, let alone mention them)
2.I know there is a well-developed body of knowledge, but I can't find it under this mess on my desk.
1. We figure it's more profitable to have 30% redundancy in our operations than to spend 10% on exploiting our know-how to improve them.
* With thanks to, and David Letterman, the inspiration behind this list

OK, if you really must look at some research into the use of humour in organizational management:
  • Duncan and Feisal, 1985. 'No laughing matter: Patterns of Humor in the Workplace'
  • Collinson, 2002. Lancaster Business School, Journal of Management Studies. 'Managing Humour'
  • Romero and Pescosolido, 2008. Journal of Human Relations. 'Humor and Group Effectivness'
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