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Exploring The Power Of Conversations

By Sarika Waje, Global Knowledge Manager, MSLGROUP

I thought it would be best to pen down my experience from David Gurteen’s session on Knowledge Café (K-Café) at the Pune K-Community Meeting on 14th June 2013. David is an independent knowledge management consultant, speaker and facilitator.

Enabling Knowledge Sharing in Conversations

In the current scenario, life has become so fast and stressful for us that we hardly get time to discuss things, communicate, sit for a moment and come down to conclusions. All we do is run behind knowledge/ information capture but we never realize that we are missing big time on the tacit knowledge that lies within each individual. We are so much technology driven that we fail to address the core need of the situation. And in the midst of all this we destroy value!

Despite of having knowledge sharing portals and platforms, globally, companies are still struggling to effectively manage and harness organization knowledge. In 90% of the cases, information remains unmanaged and employees spend around a lot of their time in searching, reading and in comprehending the information and data they need. Often, opportunities are lost due to poor management of information or data.

Companies fail to capture, catalog and reuse the tacit knowledge which further results in duplication of effort as employees are unaware of work done by others. Very few companies turn knowledge into action and the most effective knowledge management tool in the current scenario is ‘conversation’.

What Is A Knowledge Café (K-Café)?

A K-Café is all about making people connect, communicate, share and collaborate. The meeting is conducted in such a way that most of the time is spent in conversation and it is not about a presenter presenting to the group.

It is the fact that most good discussions happen over a cup of coffee or over a beer at a pub (post the presentation/seminar). And why does this happen? When people are at a café, they are free, to talk or discuss anything and everything, words flow from the heart, no one is watching them or judging them, nor do they have a set agenda to follow.

The primary objective of the K-Café is to encourage an open conversation on a topic of mutual interest for the audience. For example – collective knowledge, sharing ideas or insights, addressing the issues, and understanding the subject .The café begins with the participants seated in a circle and is led by a facilitator, who highlights the purpose of knowledge cafés and the role of conversation in the business perspectives. After introducing the café topic, the facilitator poses a couple of key open-ended questions.

Pic Courtesy:

Pic Courtesy:

For example: If there is an issue with knowledge sharing in the organization, the question for the group is: “What are the barriers to knowledge sharing in your firm organization, and how do you overcome them?

Post the introduction session, the group breaks into small groups and each group further discusses the questions for about 45 minutes. Then the facilitator leads the group through the final 45 minute session, in which people reflect on the small group discussions and share any thoughts, insights and ideas on the topic that may have emerged. This ultimately, leads to action in the form of better decision making and innovation.

Throughout the K-Café ‘no attempt’ is made to capture the conversation as it is believed that doing so would destroy the conversation. The value of the K-Café is in the conversation itself and the learning that each individual takes away after the session. (Source)

Watch a video of Gurteen Knowledge Cafe at KMAP 2006 in Hong Kong, December 2006, facilitated by David Gurteen and Raksha Sukhia. Courtesy of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Knowledge Management Research Centre.

David Gurteen’s website gives you a brief overview on the K-Café.

Encouraging Productive Conversations Within Organizations

In today’s scenario, organizations are using K-Café to share tacit knowledge amongst teams, networks and Communities of Practice (CoPs) to facilitate learning and knowledge sharing.
In some cases, K Café acts as a ‘sales tool’ to engage customers in conversation either to promote their products/ services or to understand their need. They also help the firm to break organizational silos and facilitate knowledge sharing.

Communication platforms such as email, Twitter, Face book, instant messaging and other social media portals have been well adapted by the current audience as they bring the art of conversation back to the workplace.

Knowledge Café can actually make knowledge sharing work for your organization and is bringing KM back to the people, thus leading to a completely transformed enterprise.

Cadbury’s Knowledge Sharing

Cadbury, the UK’s leading chocolate manufacturer uses science and technology to facilitate knowledge sharing.

The company has encouraged communities of practice, across the globe to facilitate knowledge sharing, innovation, idea generation and understanding customer preferences. The insights derived are used to develop brands of chocolate, candy and gum.

Cadbury also operates via its ‘Open Innovation Team’ which focuses on collaborating with people outside Cadbury through Web sites that seek input on developing recipes, processes and products.

Driving Successful Knowledge Management

Knowledge management (KM) is all about ideas, insights, opinions and experiences. In other words, it is nothing but the way each of us thinks. Knowledge Management is all about people, teams and networks and how they learn from each other while they work together or interact with each other.
The fire to manage, contribute information or insights starts with a spark of inspiration. Employees need to work towards transforming their organization for knowledge sharing, capture, transfer, collaboration and re-use. Only this will help us in embedding knowledge management into the organization agenda.

“Unless people are able to see and experience the direct benefits of KM, no amounts of incentives, rewards or recognitions are likely to elicit sustained enthusiasm, participation and involvement”.  -Kris Gopalakrishnan, ex COO and Deputy Managing Director, Infosys (currently Co-Chairman)


Business is a conversation because the defining work of business is conversation – literally. And ‘knowledge workers’ are simply those people whose job consists of having interesting conversations. – David Weinberger, The Cluetrain Manifesto

So let us move away from thinking that ‘knowledge is power’ to an understanding that ‘sharing knowledge is more powerful’.

Sarika Waje

Sarika Waje



Sarika is an experienced Knowledge Management professional with around 9 + years in knowledge/content management, business development, proposal support, research, and client servicing. In her current role as a ‘Global Knowledge Manager’ at MSLGROUP, she is responsible for managing the knowledge, insights and encouraging a shared learning approach across the group. Follow her on Twitter: @wajesari

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