Thursday, February 06, 2014

Habits are massive and very difficult to break, even for KM consultants!

I have been a management consultant for over 30 years now, and I have specialised in knowledge management and innovation since 1995.

Like all consultants, I was trained to use a journal. To not only capture notes from meetings and interviews with clients etc, but also to capture my new learning's, insights, and ideas. So, as a young and impressionable consultant, keen to be a success, I naturally I followed leading consultants and their image by using, at least, quality 'black and red' type journals and a nice high quality pen. The image made me feel good and more confident.

The journal is a great tool, don't get me wrong, but many years ago, in fact ever since I was specialising in knowledge management, I realised that it is so much better to capture electronically rather than to capture on paper. I quickly learned that if you just capture on paper, as one task, you then have to then capture those new learning's and ideas again in an electronic document and/or system to then be able to easily share them and develop them, collectively and systematically, into new and better knowledge and innovative products and services. Also, it can be so time consuming to try and find things in a series of monthly paper journals quickly. And you cannot carry all your journals around with you.

Then the laptop computer arrived. Aha. No excuse now. At least I thought so, until a few clients, not all, found the laptop to be a sort of barrier between us, or, in a very subtle way, objected to the irritating clicking. So I battled on.

The next step was in 2005, when the blog arrived. I took to the blog like a duck to water. I was so excited with the blog as my electronic journal, and still am today. I even created a professional blog, a personal blog, a travel blog, a personal development blog etc etc.

The problem is, I started to notice how my subconscious was already starting to battle with the new and better discipline of blogging. It wanted to continue to write with a pen in a journal.

Not unreasonable, I thought, as I had been in the habit of writing a journal for a good 20 years. Also, as the blog is a web based tool, I didn't always have access to the internet at that time. So I battled on. I recall a recent quote 'how long does it take to change?' Answer given: 'As long as it takes for the present generation to die off!'

Then smart phones arrived and, to be fair to myself, I did capture quite a few learnings and ideas with my iPhone, and still do, using the 'notes' app. But if I tried to capture them in client meetings that way, clients would give me a strange look, as if I was busy with other things, and not focusing fully on them.

Then the tablet arrived. Eureka! Now I had the perfect answer. The tablet is not seen to be obtrusive by most clients. On the contrary, the tablet is cool and spells out loud 'well organised' 'information at my fingertips' 'powerful'. And also, for the first time, I could write very comfortably indeed in aircraft when my clients sent me economy on long hauls. And the iPad and the iPhone make me feel very good too. In the old days we had the elite 'jet set' now we have the elite 'Apple set' and I truly love the atmosphere of the Cambridge Apple Centre UK as it is truly buzzing with exciting people! I go there quite regularly, and I am always uplifted.

Have I cracked it? Have I thrown away my paper journal?

My subconscious is now having an even bigger battle each day. It is now declaring war on the iphone, the ipad and my Macbook Pro, all together. I purchased the MacBook Pro 15 months ago, eventually, after a tremendous subconscious battle defending MSDOS got lost one weekend when I was introduced to some excellent French wine.  Also, the Mac is very cool and more silent, and so much better designed than the louder, more bulky clicking laptops that were around at the time. Things are different now.

Just this week, I had a breakthrough. My habit has eventually changed to writing in the ipad first, rather than second or third to the paper journal. I have made a remarkable quantum leap in turning my new learning's and ideas into valuable knowledge so much faster. At last, I can join the generation that were brought up on tablets and smart phones only. I feel lighter already. A huge weight has lifted from my troubled shoulders. My subconscious is liberated. I want to scream with joy!

But guess what. I went downtown for a coffee today and the wifi was down. I wanted to capture some very important thoughts and ideas that I had, while having a haircut, that will help a client solve a major problem. But in the coffee shop, my iPhone was too small and my iPad doesn't have 3/4G yet. I had to get my lonely journal out of my black rucksack (cool too) and write some notes and drawings with my nice Waterman pen. (I remember the days of a leather briefcase!).

Sitting next to me were an elderly couple. The lady remarked "how nice to see someone write these days". I initially thought she was still suffering from old fashioned ideas too, and needed to get out and see the world.

It turned out, in the conversation that followed, that she and her husband had just returned from 16 years in silicon valley, mainly around Palo Alto, and before that 10 years running a multi-national organisation in Australia and New Zealand. She remarked that she had just returned from attending a funeral in silicon valley and, even at the graveside, one person was buying/selling shares with his stockbroker on his iPhone. She said life goes on 24/7 in the valley, regardless.

So what do I now think? Of course, you may have the obvious answer, but it took me a long time and a long subconscious struggle to realise that all these tools, physical and electronic, elegant and effectively cool, have a special and a right time and place, and our challenge is to know when best to use these tools, and then take on the subconscious, fully, to change the habit of years.

I think I will strive to use my electronic iPad more than I do, as a primary mobile tool, to be more effective in knowledge management, and resist the strong temptation to write in a nice journal with a nice pen, unless I am inspired, from time to time, to this more creative art form of journalling for my family to read, some day. After all, come on, I am a management consultant!

What do you think?

Ron Young
Knowledge Associates
Cambridge, UK