Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Resilient Leaders and Emergent Knowledge

Emergent Knowledge is the knowledge we discover when we ask the right question, in the right way about the right issue at the right time, and we discover something new and potentially powerful at that particular moment in time.

Emergent Knowledge is timely knowledge about the changing nature of reality at one moment in time, where we either act upon it and create a new opportunity, or we ignore it in the name of social stability and pay the price in terms of organisational decay, wasted resources and weakness.

There are two old jokes about consultants and change management.

The first joke asks: how many consultants does it take to change a light-bulb? The answer is: that the number of consultants is immaterial, the light-bulb has got to want to change.

The second joke observes that consultants are people who take your watch and then charge to tell you the time. Whilst there is an element of truth in this observation, it needs to be articulated in a slightly deeper way. What is core to this observation is that when consultants deliver their work in the form of a structured report, it has elements that are very familiar: the story that it tells and its conclusions are recognisable. It is this recognition of report content that that makes the executive summary familiar.

Introducing consultants into the organisation, permitting them to ask questions in terms of purpose, process, position and outcomes makes it possible for them to articulate the potential, emergent knowledge within a shared context, at a particular time, and in asking their questions, they trigger their audience’s thinking along their line of research and prepare their audience to recognise the answers subsequently presented.

This is why testing the Emergent Knowledge underpinning a strategy in participants’ heads is so important, needs to be done quickly (in order to fit the context, and reduce decay) and why having an inflexible model can be a killer with an agile competitors, and increasingly changeable customers.

We live in a changing and dynamic environment. The traditional dichotomy of tacit/ explicit knowledge is insufficient to cope with the need to renew and redefine purpose and strategy. Resilient leaders need to include Emergent Knowledge techniques in their thinking in order to survive as well as grow organisation’s willingness to want to change. Successful, resilient leadership depends on the ability to elicit and articulate the emergent choices organisations face, daily.

1 comment:

Nick Milton said...

Good post Victor.

I remember being at a conference once, when someone said "no point in talking to consultants about Knowledge Management - they don't know the answers" whereupon I was proud of myself for coming up with the instant reply "maybe not, but we know a better set of questions"