Friday, April 18, 2008

My Night with David Gurteen

Bet that got your attention. Those who know of David's work with Knowledge Cafes in whatever international spot he lands will know already of what I'm speaking. As David travels the world, he offers to facilitate a free, open to community, informal exchange and sharing of ideas on whatever burning question that locale might wish to consider. Informal but not unstructured. David uses a specific, distributed, what I would call "emergence" format where 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts' for encouraging knowledge transfer amongst participants. No leaders, no report outs, no death by PowerPoint. Everyone matters, every voice counts.

The closing moments of a Knowledge Cafe reminded me of a Quaker meeting. You don't speak unless you're compelled to share an important thought, realization, or theme that emerged from your multiple small group discussions. Some participants violate the framework and just need to be heard, but like the Quakers, everyone listens respectfully and reflects on the thought without the need for comment or debate. I think the format works because David seems to be one of the nicest people on the planet. Not sure what would happen if a less gentle soul asked the same behavior of a crowd. I'd love to hear more out there from those who've tried his Cafe format on their own.

Thanks to David's Twitter post, I discovered on Tuesday that there would be a Cafe here in my home town on Wednesday eve. He was here in Phoenix to present at BSEC 2008, and stayed an extra day to help KM leaders in the Valley think through "How could the Valley become a vibrant knowledge capital? What role would our business community play and what would be the benefits?"

The topic was briefly introduced by Jay Chatzkel, author of numerous pieces on the topic, and a small group (~50?) spent the evening in shifting clusters of 4-5 people imagining the Phoenix area as a thriving knowledge hub. A wonderful evening of deep, thoughtful, diverse ideas.

The group will gather again in September (without David) to see where each of us have taken the ideas and where we might go with them from there. A great evening, great meeting one of my KM heroes in person, great example of Twitter as pipeline for information immediacy.
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