Does your firm use video as a knowledge management tool? (Part 1)


I posted the question above on the KA Connect LinkedIn Group before I went on vacation last month. It heated up while I was away.

One of the themes that emerged was “using low-cost tools with minimal editing to quickly record and publish new insights or share staff expertise.”

Here are some excerpts:

Deven Pravin Shaw:

“Also, from my experience keeping them (videos) friendly, natural makes it more effective. Editing for sophistication, sound effects …etc sometimes dilutes the effectiveness because people don’t see it naturally connecting. It’s more like a friendly conversation around the office corner.”

Mahalie Stackpole:

“Video production can range from quick, cheap and easy to an extremely complicated production and associated costs – it depends on what the application is and what production expectations are. Obviously clicking record to capture a webinar or web meeting is no brainer (nearly no cost at all) that is great for record-keeping and possibly even for training without further production work.

I do agree with Deven and Vik that unedited video comes across as more sincere. A lot of polishing and the video can be impersonal and too corporate. For viral marketing purposes I would recommend a flip-phone video over a big commercial production any day. ”

Brian Frels:

“The 1st (type of video) aims to re-introduce various disciplines and market sectors to each other and would be produced in the spirit of Discover Channel’s “Dirty Jobs.” This series would highlight a cross section of employees and their daily tasks, workflow, and interactions with other disciplines. Informal yet informative video clips would shed new light on fellow coworkers and stimulate a sense of teamwork and camaraderie that would ultimately contribute to a higher level of interdisciplinary collaboration. “

I’d recommend reading the entire thread. Got something to share about how your firm is using video? Please post a comment on the LinkedIn thread or below.

(If you aren’t  a member of the KA Connect LinkedIn Group, you can request to join here. Our team will get you added so you can join the conversation.)

Extra Credit

The video that inspired me to start the KA Connect thread on video is below.

Sal Kahn’s GEL 2010 talk is one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen. He’s also got a methodology for producing “quick and dirty” videos that we can all learn from.

Set aside 20 minutes and watch it.


Posted: September 20th, 2010 | Filed under: Most Popular | Tags: | Comments Off on Does your firm use video as a knowledge management tool? (Part 1)

Want to become a knowledge-driven firm? Build some “T-players” and get yourself a coach.


                                                                Bad News Bears ©

The following post is in response to a comment left by Randy Deutsch on the KA Connect LinkedIn group. Click here to join the KA Connect LinkedIn group and read (or join in on) the full discussion thread.


I agree and disagree with your latest comment about the role of the writer, librarian, and teacher in a knowledge-driven firm. But before I respond, I’d like to share a story with you. You’ll see that the idea of a “T-consultant” is something we have in common. 


“The T-consultant”

My first job out of college was with a large technology consulting practice which served the Fortune 1000 as well as several dot-com clients. We had lots of technical experts on the team — business analysts, database designers, user interface designers, web and software developers, quality assurance experts and functional testers. Of course we also had partners, project managers, and the expected administrative staff.

The western region of our company was about 100 people when I joined. The guy that ran it was named Chris Lord. Chris was excellent at taking the new consultants under his wing and teaching them about the business. One thing that Chris was particularly passionate about was the question of "What makes a good consultant?" His big idea was that the most powerful consulting practices were full of "T-consultants."

Chris explained to me that the advantage that our firm had over many of our larger competitors – Accenture, IBM, and the like – was that our consultants not only had technical depth in at least one area (the "|" in the T) but were also horizontally savvy  (the "–" in the T.)  One of the ways that Chris ensured that we had breadth as well as depth was to make sure that all of our consultants got experience in as much of the full lifecycle of bringing technical projects to life as possible.

Chris felt that the horizontal integration of our teams differentiated us from the rest of the market. Most firms simply reinforced their expert culture and ended up with silos of expertise. Or they were staffed with generalists who had no depth. The truly exceptional consultant could go deep in at least one technical area but also speak intelligently to the whole process.

Chris was the architect of the team and the culture. Another way to describe Chris was as our coach.

Play to their strengths

Your March post on “T-Shaped BIM” was spot on with Chris’s philosophy. Here’s my takeaway:

Each player in an IPD project should bring their vertical expertise (architecture, structural engineering, fabrication, etc.) to the table in a concerted effort to become horizontally integrated through IPD.  The truly successful IPD teams will bring empathy for their fellow collaborators to the project because they have made the effort to experience and understand each other’s roles and expertise. In short,  successful IPD teams will be made up of “T-players.”

I think the same thing is true when it comes to sharing knowledge.

You wrote in your comment that:

"… to play collaboratively we need to wear multiple hats, see from more than one perspective. Our titles and roles become in the process smeared. There’s no time at the table to be "just" a librarian, writer or teacher. You have to nurture the development of all three."

I agree (to some extent) that all of us should have the responsibility to embody the writer, the librarian, and the teacher. Creating, capturing, and sharing knowledge are basic skills that we should all develop and employ in our daily work.  Understanding all three activities is the horizontal integration, the "–" in the T.

However, I also believe in the Marcus Buckingham approach which suggests that one should prioritize playing to people’s strengths over shoring up their weaknesses.

You are going to have folks with communication skills in your organization who will create amazing content.  Those “writers” might not have the “librarian’s” temperament or organizational skills. So focus on getting them writing.

Conversely, there are people in your organization whose organizational talents make them great librarians,  yet they are not strong communicators, written or orally. Put them in charge of organizing content on your intranet or website and/or hounding your writers for more content. Librarians naturally gravitate towards bringing order from chaos, so empower them to do so.

In a "T-organization" we recognize that knowledge management is a team game. The larger the organization, the more opportunities exist to leverage the diverse strengths of the team.

The trick is orchestrating the performance…

Coaches – The missing team member

The good news is that architecture and engineering firms often have their “role-players” in place.  Writers, librarians, and perhaps teachers busily execute their various roles and produce “stuff” on a regular basis. Yet all too often we see that individuals and teams within firms are working in isolation from each other as they struggle with organizing information and sharing knowledge.

In other words, we usually find that there is “knowledge work” going on inside of architecture and engineering firms. Very rarely do we find “knowledge management” or  especially “knowledge leadership.”

The following excerpt from your comment made me realize that I was missing a key role from my triumvirate:

"As much as I love the triumvirate of Writers creating Librarians capturing and Teachers sharing, why is it the most valuable team members are inevitably those who embody all three characteristics in one person?"

I think that the person you are describing is the coach. And most firms don’t have a coach to orchestrate their efforts to organize information and share knowledge. Here’s why they should:

Coaches set the vision for the team, develop a plan, establish roles, and motivate the team to perform.

Coaches channel the “knowledge work” of the writers, librarians, and teachers to makes sure that their efforts align with the organization’s vision and objectives.

Coaches “embody all three characteristics in one person” and can leverage the collective strength of the organization by tapping on the individual skills of the role-players. And the best coaches realize that their best players are “T-players.”

A couple questions

Here are a couple questions back to you. (Not just Randy, the “collective you.”)

Why is leadership missing from most architecture and engineering firms efforts to organize information and share knowledge?

Do you agree that coaches could help?

Are you actively building a team of “T-players?”

Posted: May 2nd, 2010 | Filed under: General, Most Popular | Tags: | 6 Comments »

“Game films” – Our latest knowledge management tool.

Top Gun and knowledge management   © Paramount Pictures

Sometimes writing is just too slow.

A couple of weeks ago I was on a  GoToMeeting session with Bob Batcheler of Newforma. Batch and I were developing content for a webinar called “Transforming data into knowledge: PIM and knowledge management.”  Batch had prepared his thoughts on project information management and I had prepared my slides on knowledge management. Our GoToMeeting session was the first time we had combined our slides and we were working through the mechanics of stitching our complementary narratives together.

I presented first. I quickly found myself scribbling note after note after note in my journal. Every time I would get a bit of momentum going, Batch would interject and throw out a question or build on my ideas. Which in turn lead me to reframe or clarify my thinking in ways in which I wanted to remember for our live performance. Hence the mad scribbling.

The problem with the mad scribbling approach was that it was too slow. In the middle of a burst of new ideas I’d say, “Hang on Batch – slow down, I want to capture this.” 

After several minutes of me imposing a  “burst-capture, burst-capture” rhythm Batch suggested we just record the GoToMeeting session so that I could stop taking notes and focus on producing a stronger story. Because recording a GoToMeeting session captures both audio and video, I could “study the film” later to pick up any changes, notes, or techniques worth incorporating.

Record the GoToMeeting session. It was so obvious.

My first “game film.”

Not only did recording the joint-writing session capture the raw ideas I was trying to write down – I also captured the tone, pacing, and inflection of my new “talking points.”

At one point, Batch really liked how I opened a particular slide.  I said, “hit this point hard, right here and pause for effect” into my microphone knowing that I was leaving myself a trail of notes to pick up later. In effect, I was “pre-coaching” myself.

After our meeting was finished, Batch uploaded the video to me. I watched the film several times, harvesting the best parts and eliminating the filler bits.  Recording the collaborative session improved both the quality of our webinar and improved my ability to recall the essence of the ideas we co-authored. (I’m sure it will also be amusing to look back on it later.)

Best of all, I had learned a new technique for creating and capturing knowledge. I called it my “game film.”

Meanwhile, in the office next door…

I have previously written about our methodology for performing Deltek Vision – Newforma Project Center (DV-NPC) integrations to illustrate how Knowledge Architecture invests in knowledge management. In this blog post, I explain how Brian created a checklist to transfer his knowledge of performing integrations to Chad. I also pointed out the limitations of checklists for knowledge transfer:

But there is more to bringing Chad up to speed on DV-NPC integrations than handing over the the knowledge explicitly contained in the checklist.  Brian also has experience and intuition (tacit knowledge for the KM geeks out there) which are not so simple to codify in a document. Our tactic here is for Chad to shadow Brian on enough DV-NPC integration engagements so that Chad can take over primary responsibility for delivering them in the future.  And of course, Brian will always be available as a backstop for questions.

Back to the brainstorming example above. I told the KA team about the experience I had with Batch at our next weekly meeting. As I began to enumerate the benefits of recording GoToMeeting sessions Chad interjected,

“Yeah, that’s a cool idea. I recorded the GoToMeeting session of the last DV-NPC integration I did with Brian last week. Good tip though.”

Chad went on to explain how valuable recording the integration process (several hours in length) had been. Not only did he capture the step by step process of tying the two systems together, he also captured Brian’s perspective on why he did things the way he did as well as  his experience in handling exceptions that might come up in other customer environments.

Chad found his way to recording the GoToMeeting session for the same reason that I did. Instead of scribbling “one-dimensional” notes, Chad was able to capture the rich knowledge contained in the video and his conversation with Brian. 

After the integration was completed, Chad studied (and continues to study) the “game film” much like a professional football coach reviews the tapes from Sunday’s game on a Monday to improve the plan for the next week. Or a surgeon reviews her latest operation to improve her technique. Or a group of fighter pilots (see Top Gun above) have “rankless, nameless debriefs” to accelerate the learning process of the whole squadron by performing root cause analysis of the flight plan’s execution to transfer lessons learned. 

Another knowledge management tool for your toolbox

Storytelling. Interviewing. Cookbooks. Host a conference.

Over the past several months I have written about the knowledge management tools that we use at Knowledge Architecture. Add game films to that list.

While game films are new to us, we have lots of ideas about how we can use them — documenting complex procedures, facilitating group learning and knowledge transfer, training new staff, and collaborating on process improvement come to mind.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress in implementing this new tool.

Posted: March 7th, 2010 | Filed under: General, Most Popular | Tags: | Comments Off on “Game films” – Our latest knowledge management tool.

What Field of Dreams gets right (and wrong) about knowledge management.

                                                                                                    GORDON COMPANY

“If you build it, he (they) will come.”

We’ve all heard the voice at some point. Inspiring us to build something transformational. Once it is clear that ”it” must be built, nothing will stand in our way.

Like Ray Kinsella in the movie “Field of Dreams,” we are convinced that our “it,” in his case a baseball field, is so compelling that once the word gets out that “it” is finished – people will come from miles away (and even back from the dead) just to take part in it. The bleachers will be full. The players will relive their glory days. And best of all, we will recline on the sidelines, drinking a lemonade, basking in the sunshine and brilliance of our creation.

The End.

(Roll credits.)

“If you build a lessons learned database…”

Over the last two weeks I ran two more workshops on “Knowledge-Driven Architecture”. One was hosted by AEBL’s San Francisco Chapter. The other was hosted at a large architecture firm in Seattle.

At one point in my workshops I ask the participants to break out into small groups and create an inventory of their firm’s “structural knowledge assets.” Structural knowledge assets* are the databases, written procedures, practice manuals and other explicit materials that capture the experience you have acquired over time. I ask the small groups to brainstorm at least ten structural knowledge assets. At the end of the exercise I ask the small groups to pick the most important one.

Lessons learned databases are emerging as the top structural asset identified by workshop participants. It appears that most firms are building lessons learned databases. They heard the whisper to build “it.” Then they went out and built it.

“…will they come?”

Not so much.

At least that seems to be the feedback I’m hearing when I ask the follow-up question “are the lessons learned databases being used?” In many cases, one or two passionate individuals (like Ray Kinsella) take the time to create lessons learned – converting the experience they have acquired into an asset that can be leveraged by the rest of the firm.  This process is fundamentally a writing exercise, though the asset might additionally take the form of a video or presentation.

Once our writers have created their lessons learned, they put on their librarian hats and capture the knowledge assets in a database or post them to the intranet. Our librarians thoughtfully organize the lessons learned.  They develop keywording taxonomies and ensure that the lessons learned are searchable by everyone. Many times the lessons learned are organized by client, building type, CSI division or any number of familiar and convenient hierarchies.

And then they wait. Like Ray Kinsella.

But unlike “Field of Dreams,” “they” don’t come. Our writer/librarians are on the sidelines of the field. They’ve got their lemonade. But there are no players on the field and no fans in the bleachers.

Why aren’t people using lessons learned databases? And why is Hollywood misleading us?

The missing third act of “Field of Dreams” 

Act One

Our writers created knowledge assets.

Act Two

Our librarians captured knowledge assets.


The staff doesn’t leverage the lessons learned.

Knowledge Management is the process of leveraging yourself and your organization through the systematic creation, capture, and sharing of knowledge assets.

Act Three (Missing)

Our teachers shared knowledge assets.

Ending (Take two)

The staff leverages the lessons learned and our protagonists have helped to build a knowledge-driven firm.

“If you create, capture and share lessons learned, they will come.”

I’m sure that in practice, folks are notifying others that they have created and captured knowledge assets. But there is notification and then there is systematically sharing. Or in other words — teaching.

We have to continuously share our knowledge assets through teaching.  The work of knowledge management is never done. Knowledge management is a process, not a project. Most important, knowledge management is people-driven.

You’ll meet three types of people in a knowledge-driven firm – writers, librarians, and teachers. Writers create. Librarians capture. Teachers share.  The teaching part, the commitment to systematically sharing, is what’s missing. We are two-thirds of the way there. We just need to finish the job. “Go the distance.”

Here are five ideas for systematically sharing knowledge assets such as lessons learned that I have harvested out of the workshops and consulting work that we do at Knowledge Architecture:

  1. Create a best practices manual from your lessons learned database.
  2. Institutionalize the best practices as processes by using simple tools such as checklists.
  3. Develop an ongoing program where members of your staff teach modules of the best practices manual. 
  4. Tie bonuses and promotions to teaching.
  5. Improve your best practices manual by continuously creating, capturing, and sharing.

What do you think? Does this resonate? Do you have more ideas for sharing knowledge assets? E-mail me or leave comments below.


I’ll be leading a knowledge management workshop with AEBL in Orange County on December 10th. Click here to register or learn more about the “Knowledge-driven Architecture”  management roundtable.

*Credit to Thomas K. Stewart’s “The Wealth of Knowledge” for the framework.

Posted: November 15th, 2009 | Filed under: General | Tags: | 1 Comment »

4 Ways you can get “serious” about knowledge management.

I first became a fan of Paula Scher when I saw her speak at SFMOMA in 2006. Since then I have seen her in multiple interviews and featured in the movie Helvetica.  I admire her single-minded focus on doing exceptional work, both inside and outside of Pentagram. Mostly, it is always striking to me how much fun she seemed to be having making mischievous jokes and getting away with it.

What I did not understand about Paula Scher (until I watched the TED talk above) is that she often feels stifled by her own success. Her talk is built around “Why being serious is hard,” an essay by Russell Baker, formerly of the New York Times. In fact, she believes that she has only had four moments of being child-like in her work, attacking projects with the zeal of adolescence. This is what she defines as her serious work.

She identifies the balance of her career as periods of solemnity. During her solemn periods she produced quality work which was absent the playful, rebellious, and gambling spirit that marked her serious times.

Which begs the question about your work right now – Are you being serious or solemn?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: September 12th, 2009 | Filed under: General | Tags: | Comments Off on 4 Ways you can get “serious” about knowledge management.

KA Connect – The time has come for a Knowledge Management Tribe in the AEC Industry.

Updated 12/07/2009 – Please visit the KA Connect 2010 conference website at for more information.

Last fall I called Doris Pulsifer after reading “A Case for Knowledge Management in the A/E Industry,” a viewpoint article which Doris wrote for the October, 2008 issue of AECBytes. In the article, Doris comprehensively outlined the state of Knowledge Management (KM) in our industry, addressed the definition and history of Knowledge Management, listed common techniques and systems for managing knowledge, and shared insights into her approach as the leader of the Knowledge Management Department at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, LLP. (You can read the article here.) Doris and I discussed the need for a Knowledge Management community in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) Industry and I agreed that I would look into the next steps of getting one started.

Over the years, I have had similar conversations with others who were equally interested in the idea of starting an AEC Knowledge Management community. We all agreed that while Knowledge Management tends to appear on the agendas of various AEC roundtables and conferences, we could all benefit from a community and/or conference exclusively dedicated to the advancement of the practice.

At the same time I was having these conversations, I began watching TED. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Education, and Design. (Hence the name.) Over the years it has grown incredibly and become an international institution. However, the TED Conference still remains at the core of the organization, and even though TED does have a membership model, videos from the annual conference are released weekly to the public. In my “list of organizations I want to emulate,” (yes, I actually have one written down) TED is right up there at the top.

In March of this year I came across the TED talk “Seth Godin on the tribes we lead” which is embedded above. The first time I watched it, inspiration struck:

“I’m going to create an AEC Knowledge Management Tribe.”

I watched the video several times and sent it to my friends and colleagues. I committed to myself that I would bring the tribe into the world and that I would do it within a year.

KA Connect 2010 – Chicago – April 8-9, 2010

While there are still many details to be worked out, I am happy to announce that the first KA Connect Conference will be held in Chicago on April 8-9, 2010. (The KA stands for Knowledge Architecture, the founding sponsor of the event.)

I chose Chicago as the hometown for KA Connect for three reasons:  Chicago’s convenient, centralized location should ensure high attendance, long history of architectural significance, and I met my wife in Chicago and I look for any excuse I can find to travel there.

Here are the “guiding principles” for the KA Connect Conference:

  1. Connect existing islands. The Knowledge Management community in the AEC is disconnected but has a yearning to come together to share, collaborate, and learn.
  2. Provide a platform for Thought Leaders. Firm leaders, industry analysts, management consultants and software vendors will share best practices, case studies, new technology, and innovative processes.
  3. Host at alternative venue. Natural light. Breakout rooms.  Informal setting.
  4. Create a hybrid program. No presentation longer than TED’s 18-minute limit. Clusters of quick, 6 minute, 40 second Pecha Kucha presentations. Use “unconference” techniques popularized by groups such as Mashup Camp.
  5. Highly engage vendors. Software and consulting practices participate in the conference like everybody else. The flipside – no direct selling or product evangelism allowed.
  6. Leverage video. Film the talks given at the conference and distribute video through the KA Connect website to the public.
  7. Build a community. Much like TED, the KA Connect Conference will be the heart and soul of KA Connect. But membership in KA Connect will include access to exclusive resources such as forums, wikis, and webinars to keep the conversation going.

How to KA-Connect

Doris Pulsifer is currently working with me to help plan KA Connect 2010.  More information on the schedule, speakers, venue, and conference fees will be announced over the next several months.

Please e-mail if you are interested in speaking, attending and/or sponsoring KA Connect 2010.

In addition, you can sign up for our mailing list or follow us on twitter.

Hope to see you there,

Posted: August 23rd, 2009 | Filed under: General, Most Popular | Tags: | 1 Comment »