Monday, March 16, 2009

Wendy W - Knowledge Gardener

I read Dr. Karrer's recent prediction that we will morph into "management consultants".

I dunno - that term seems so charged.

I think of the overpriced "consultants" that have invaded more than one of my corporate environments because decision-makers won't listen to people from within the organization. (It means more if they are spending thousands of dollars for the same advice.)

I think of the management gurus who tell us how to play nice with others, climb the corporate ladder, and win friends and influence people.

Dr. Karrer talks about how the definition of "management" will change. Maybe. But since we are not there yet, and we have to deal with the current perception of the term (as misguided as it may be), I think there has to be a better way to describe where we are going.

Listen, I don't even know what I'M going to be doing in 10 years, much less the industry as a whole. 10 years ago - I was an over-educated full-time stagehand in Baltimore. Maybe the change over the next 10 years will be just as dramatic. Judging from the history of our industry, I'm kinda doubting it.

Nevertheless, there's got to be a better way to describe how our jobs will change. A better term for the niche I increasingly find myself in.

Jay Cross talks about "wiki gardeners" in many of his posts (including his most recent one).

Thinking about the tools I'm building and the programs I'm developing - that seems more akin to the way I want my job to evolve. As a "knowledge gardener."

I don't know about the rest of you, but in all of the places I've worked the training department(s) have been in the unusual position of being able to touch and connect across all departments in an organization. As a result, training departments are in a great position to connect people, synthesize disparate processes and share information.

We talk about creating learning environments.

We talk about breaking down organizational barriers.

Maybe that's where we need to focus our energies. Creating and cultivating learning environments. Not just tools - LMS, tutorials, courseware, etc. The material remains of information. The "activities" of learning. We also need to help create a cultural environment. All of our materials are (supposedly) built with attitude and behavior shift in mind - why not direct those skills towards broader cultural purposes?

So I've decided that my next 5 years will be spent as a "knowledge gardener." Helping people get the information they need. Encouraging people within my organization to talk to each other and share what they know. Facilitating learning when they need and want it (preferrably in much smaller chunks than they are getting now).

Maybe I'll get "Knowledge Gardener" put on my next round of business cards........


Howard said...

I love the garden - learning metaphor and your add to it! (I first came across the garden propagation metaphor in an book chapter by King Beach (Chapter 3 in Between School and Work)) I think about learning as propagation. I might grow something in one garden (like school), but to use this tidbit I think of taking a cutting and growing it into a new garden (like a workplace) somewhere else. It takes time, TLC and my willingness to give up control over the final growth.

Tony Karrer said...

Wendy - I'm not sure I buy that management consultant is such a bad term. And I'm willing to hear another term for someone who comes in to consult on the heart of managing concept workers.

Without nearly enough thought - the term Knowledge Gardener is likely quite valuable (like community manager), but it sounds somewhat passive (after the fact) and likely lacks some teeth in the name (sounds a little fluffy).

Still I need to think about all this and maybe there's a better term than management consultant.

Wendy said...

Dr. Karrer - What you are reading is a viceral reaction to the term. Just the reaction made me think that there has to be a better way to describe the path. Yeah - it's fluffy. Not so sure it's passive. Gardeners often have to plant seeds if they want particular results.

The more elaborate gardens require LOTS of work. :')

Howard - You are right. Maybe we ought to emphasize the element of time. The ability to take cuttings and plant elsewhere. We do that already and haven't formalized the phrasing yet.