On the right hand side of the Knowledge Sharing Canvas lies an essential component of knowledge sharing: feedback. Receiving feedback from colleagues, or from clients, is the difference between the will to inform and the will to collaborate. The quantity and quality of conversations connected to shared content represent the fresh & healthy air which allows the flow of knowledge to be circular and collective (“Healthy system”, Knowing Knowledge, George Siemens, 2006). And with the added direct benefit of improved decisions and less bias (“Fighting fallacy“, Buster Benson, 2016; “Four kinds of decisions“, Tim Van Gelder, 2010).

Feedback identifies positive and negative points (“Radical Candor“, Kim Scott, 2016), suggests options, corrections. It also allows to debate and trigger internal partnerships and is the perfect way to acknowledge the work carried out. In addition, it is the best extrinsic motivation for employees (“Drive”, Daniel H.Pink, 2009).

Without its presence in the knowledge-sharing network, co-workers do not have any other choice than to use email or meetings with the performance shortfalls we are aware of (“zero email”, Luis Suarez, 2014). Luckily, feedback becomes a common practice and it is now admitted that conversations around the document are as important, if not more, that the content itself (“Documents are the new email”, “The context holds as much or more information as the ‘content’”. Stowe Boyd, 2016).

Feedback is the catalyst of Future of Work; work which is more than ever under pressure to be fast, agile, inclusive and competitive.

Its constant usage (“Reflection at work”, Katerina Andersson, 2016) boosts collective intelligence and allows to use the entire range of expertise of your co-workers, namely their capacity to evolve, anticipate, project, imagine, complete, argue and decide. And learn ! (“Socratic Dialogue finds a home in 21st century”, Bill Cope, 2014)!

In the context of the development of a solid and mastered knowledge base (SEP, Nikhil Sonnad, 2015), it particularly responds to:

  • A need to validate knowledge by a third authority
  • A need to make that knowledge comprehensive
  • A need to update and enrich it

Following our observations, managing Feedback implies developing three forms of art: Attention, Conversation and Collaboration.


The Art of Attention

When the flow of contributions is well fed, it becomes difficult for employees or clients to understand to which subject matter they should drive their attention (“The Attentional Filter”, Levitin, 2014). The contributor who has just shared content (a piece of knowledge, a problem, a question in the form of an idea, a story) therefore carries an induced responsibility: engage his or her peers to stimulate momentum and receive an important feedback while considering the downstream impacts of what we share, how we share to others and ourself (“What’s in it for everyone”, Bryce Williams, 2016). That person will have the choice between several approaches, often defined by the level of progress:

  • Notify via workflow or email to explicitly assign a request for validation (transaction)
  • Notify a few individuals to highlight the “co-edition” characteristic and “small team” (mention)
  • Notify a group of members of a space to include a distributed and wider team (mention)
  • Notify the entire wider community via a newsletter to carry out a large appeal (digest)

In the case of knowledge transfer, the attention will be very different according to the phase in which the contributors and users find themselves (Exploring internal stickiness, Szulanski, 1996):

  • Discovery of knowledge needs and initiation of a process (needs assessment)
  • Implementation of a knowledge base (decision to consolidate)
  • Test phase to evaluate if knowledge has been integrated
  • Integration phase which becomes a routine itself

Clearly, with a distributed approach in social network mode, the user also becomes responsible of his/her time and investment management. From then on, a balance is established between the discovery of new knowledge and the real cultivation of this knowledge to lean towards a sustainable approach of individual performance (“Contextual ambidexterity”, Christine Van Winkelen, Jane McKenzie, 2011).

Reflective tasks

Asking for attention demands being aware of what is happening around us.

Have our colleagues (or clients) already spent their attention quota for the day (or the week) on other content?

Have we demonstrated our own engagement on other participations?


The Art of Conversation

Following on attention, the contributor has de facto the mission to provide an orientation to the conversation. We will call this a call for feedback, which we can separate in two large phases, given that in every open conversation, unexpected phases can be expected:

Divergent phase (opening)

  • ksc-feedback-divergeGeneration of knowledge of strong added value, by opening participation with open questions (provide meaning, understanding and richness to information)
  • Co-edition (allowing collective contributions)
  • Call for other stories and connections (testimonies, orientation towards other existing content)
  • Validation of a hypothesis (call for evidence, orientation towards data)
  • Ideas: diverge and better converge (no rejections until the field of opportunity has been explored)

Convergence phase (closing):ksc-feedback-converge

  • Efficiency: defined priorities and objectives (no status quo)
  • Clear responses (provide authority and validation)
  • Resolution of a problem (decide on the solution, methodology, resources…)

Call for feedback can therefore contain systemic questions (which allow the inclusion of other stories to build a complete vision of a situation) as well as emotional (which allow to obtain critical knowledge, in principle intimate). These responses are motivated by passed, present and future actions, different for every employee (“Why Feedback Matters”, Mary Kalantzis, 2014). This is why, depending on the number of people involved, it is recommended to include one or several facilitators who understand the art of collaboration, contributing to generating a less competitive, individualist and authoritative culture. A secure environment where it is understood that some experiences and processes must remain confidential (“The Pixar Braintrust”, Michael Hann, 2016).​

Disclaimer: The Divergent/convergent phases are inspired from The Double Diamond Creative process


The Art of Collaboration

“The main problem — a (western) culture that values task accomplishment more than relationship building”

(“Humble Inquiry” Edgar H.Schein, 2013)

An underlying example of this problem is that employees are not allowed to participate in the strategy of the organisation and revise processes in an opportune manner (“The Milk Shake Moment”, Steven S.Little”, 2008), although they are the key to growth. The arrival of new technologies is a great constraint as well as an opportunity to lead the company into becoming an organisation of the 21st century, capable of co-strategy and understanding of the ecosystem (“from ego to eco”, Presence Institute, 2013; “The New Growth Theory”, Esko Kilpi, 2016).

Receiving sustainable and recurrent feedback is conditioned by the presence of a deep culture (not reduced to a team or a division, but across the organisation — “Sparsity”, Stowe Boyd, 2014)

This mindset can be defined by explicit collaboration principles or rewards (financial value of individual actions which have a collective scope). Ideally, better through spontaneous examples coming from a distributed  leadership :

  • Common understanding and common desire to move the company forward
  • Letting go of expected results (“Enterprise 2.0, The Art of Letting Go”, Willms Buhse, Sören Stamer, 2008)
  • Available time to participate and respected individual management (“Self-management, the joy and frustration”, Work Futures, 2016)
  • Ability to question processes that we consider acquired or valid
  • Emotional intelligence able to receive criticism
  • Acknowledgement of progress
  • Coaching/mentoring including of third parties to all appearances less qualified
  • Internal complementary skills to match various roles (Global OSML Index, FutureOrg, 2013)
  • Reduction of competition amongst employees

To conclude, one has to manage:

  • Attention: Integration of third parties in the thinking, timing and tone (which attitude?)
  • Conversation: Clarity and attractiveness of the call for feedback (which need?)
  • Collaboration: (Re-) definition of a participatory process and the related collaborative mindset (which motivations?)

By Raphaël Briner, author of the Knowledge Sharing Canvas

— November 22th, 2016

Reflexive tasks

A few questions about our network

What kind of dialogues can we observe?

How do we open up the conversation and reach momentum?

Does everyone feel invited to participate?

What are the possible roles and for which situations (knowledge transfer, diagnostic, problem solving, confrontation, crisis)?

Who is currently making sure conversations are made easy and natural?

What are the most dynamic conversations of the week?

How do we close the conversation in a way which is useful to others?

Which actions are foreseen to improve engagement?

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