“Do Not Hurry; Do Not Rest” – On Acquiring New Knowledge.


How it begins

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Josh Lobel to speak at KA Connect. Josh is an architect with a deep interest in the impact that digital  tools have on architectural practice.  A mutual friend had introduced us and had mentioned to me that Josh was a big fan of “The Craftsman” by Richard Sennett. I checked “The Craftsman” out from the library and have been recommending  it to people to ever since.  Here’s what the New Yorker has to say about it:

“Sennett considers an array of artisans across different periods, from ancient Chinese chefs to contemporary mobile-phone designers, in this powerful meditation on the "skill of making things well." The template of craftsmanship, he finds, combines a "material consciousness" with a willingness to put in years of practice (a common estimate of the time required to master a craft is ten thousand hours) and a strategic acceptance of ambiguity, rather than an obsessive perfectionism.”

Sennett discusses the history of knowledge transfer throughout the book. Organizations have always wrestled with best practices for educating the next generation of craftsmen, whether they be the  guilds of medieval Europe or modern design firms. In addition to exploring the history of organizational learning, Sennett explores what humanity has gained (and lost) from introducing machines into our workshops. Sennett specifically focuses on the impacts of using CAD tools in architectural practice.

Josh and I started our conversation by discussing “The Craftsman.” Our conversation was energizing and fun. As we jumped from topic to topic – discovering that each of us had been thinking about history and process and tools  and practice from different perspectives – I kept thinking one thought to myself:

“Damn I wish I was recording this.”

Interviews as knowledge assets

I sent Josh an e-mail the next day to pitch him on the idea of conducting an audio interview for the KA Connect blog. He wrote me back to say that he was in. Awesome. We’d produce it as a podcast, perhaps the first in a series. The wheels were turning now. I thought of all the other people I could interview, the sponsorships, the glory.

As the days went by I kept thinking about great having a podcast series would be – I’ve advocated interviewing as a great knowledge management technique for years. A good interview helps to tell someone’s story. If you ask the right questions,  your interviewee will often share insights that they had not previously articulated, even to themselves. (The knowledge management intelligentsia calls this “Latent Knowledge.”)  Best of all, you can capture an interview and leverage it as a reusable asset – whether as a blog post, podcast, or video.

Perfect. I’d lined up the essential elements for a new knowledge management initiative  – create knowledge, capture it as a reusable asset, and then share it via multiple channels. There were only two problems with my plan:

    1. I didn’t have any experiencing interviewing people.
    2. I had never put together a podcast.

How I acquire new knowledge

Most of the writing I’ve done on this blog has focused on organizational learning, not personal learning. In addition, I’ve focused on leveraging existing knowledge, neglecting acquiring new knowledge.

My desire to create a series of interview podcasts got me thinking about how I learn new skills. Unlike the apprentices in “The Craftsman,” I’m not in a guild.  There is no master to pass down knowledge honed over generations. In addition, many of the skills I want to acquire (i.e., podcasting) were invented in the last few years.

Founding Knowledge Architecture has required me to develop the ability to rapidly acquire new skills. When I reflect back on jumping into sales and marketing, accounting and finance, product marketing and development and the countless other new things I have begun to learn over the last year – I can tease out three sources of knowledge which I repeatedly target :

People. Books. Blogs.

People – It turns out that I’m lucky. Josh’s sister Mia is an audio producer and journalist who specializes in podcasts. She and I talked last week and she gave me a wealth of advice and pointed me towards a long list of resources. (Talking to as many people who have knowledge on the topic in question is always my first step in learning a new skill.)

Books – I’m headed to the library this afternoon to pull a couple biographies of interviewers. I’ll probably also pick out a couple “best practices”-type books. (In general, I tend to prefer biographies to best practices books. The insights tend to stick with me better.)

Blogs – I’ve already started adding blogs about podcasting to my Google Reader. Blogs are a particularly good tool for learning modern skills such as social media and emerging technologies. However, blogs work equally well for learning “old-school” skills like marketing, business development, and writing. (The evidence of prior  knowledge acquisition sprees is clear in the image below.)


“Do not hurry; do not rest” – Goethe

Once I’ve gathered some interviewing and/or  podcasting experiences from other folks, books, and blogs, it will be time to to just try it. Record my first interview. Share it. I can refine and tweak from there. I’ll probably even write about podcasting and interviewing to help me crystallize my thoughts on the subject.

I like what Goethe says about pacing yourself in life – “Do not hurry; do not rest.”

I think his quote also applies to learning a new skill. Take a bit of time to do some research – but get on with it. The doing is where the real learning happens.

What about you? How do you acquire new skills? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Posted: January 31st, 2010 | Filed under: General, Most Popular | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Blog of the Week: Seth Godin.

This is not an AEC blog.

This is not a Knowledge Management or Business Intelligence blog.

But it is one of the most interesting blogs that I read.

I don’t think you can exactly describe what Seth Godin does, but it doesn’t matter. Start reading him now. You’ll be glad you did.

Posted: August 20th, 2009 | Filed under: General | Tags: | Comments Off on Blog of the Week: Seth Godin.

Blog of the Week: Extranet Evolution.

I’ve been following Paul Wilkinson’s blog on construction collaboration technologies, extranets, and social media, Extranet Evolution, for almost a year. A couple interesting things to note about Paul and his blog:

  • He’s based in the UK. I think it is always interesting to keep up with AEC technology developments from the UK since the best ones usually find their way to the US. (Think OpenAsset.)
  • He’s positioned his consulting practice and his content at the intersection between Web 2.0 and the AEC industry in something he’s calling “AEC 2.0.”
  • He has been posting steady, thoughtful updates and critiques on the leading software tools and emerging trends since at least September 2005. (That’s how far back his archives go.)

I recommend adding Extranet Evolution (www.extranetevolution.com) to your blog/RSS reader of choice today. It is great source of knowledge that many of us aren’t aware of in the US.

Posted: August 11th, 2009 | Filed under: General | Tags: | 1 Comment »

Blog of the Week: AECbytes.

I’ve decided to implement a new weekly post on the blog called “Blog of the Week.” I’m a pretty avid consumer of blogs. My morning routine usually involves popping open Google Reader with a cup of coffee and catching up on the latest industry trends, product updates, opinions, and more. I’ve decided to start sharing my favorites so you can benefits from their insights. And please feel free to share your favorite blogs with me. (If you aren’t using Google Reader or some sort of RSS aggregator to follow blogs, I highly recommend it. It makes keeping up with blogs as easy as checking your e-mail.)

My inaugural Blog of the Week is Lachmi Khemlani’s AECbytes. Many of you have probably been subscribing to Lachmi’s monthly e-mail newsletter for years, I know I have. Lachmi’s blog is a perfect mix of product reviews, guest viewpoints, conference and tradeshow summaries, and profiles of firms and individual AEC technology leaders.   Her content is refreshingly clear and always relevant.


In short, there is a reason why I chose to put AECbytes as my inaugural post – if there was only one AEC industry blog that I subscribed to – AECbytes would be it. Go subscribe today. 

About Lachmi

Lachmi has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling. Her other credentials include a professional B.Arch. (Honors) degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India, and an M.Phil. in Architecture from the University of Cambridge, England. She has worked on numerous design projects as a practicing architect and taught CAD and 3D modeling for several years at UC Berkeley. She gives frequent presentations before both professional and academic audiences, serves on juries for technology awards, and continues to stay closely involved with the research community, serving on the editorial board of the journal, Automation in Construction.

Posted: August 5th, 2009 | Filed under: General | Tags: | Comments Off on Blog of the Week: AECbytes.