social conversation rawpixel-788592-unsplashOne of the most significant ways in which social media has changed business is the way it has disrupted internal and external communications. What was basically a series of structured harangues from some centralised body has become socialised and has (in the best cases) been transformed into a conversation.

In this third blog post for November, looking at aspects of knowledge and community management, I’d like to explore how you can play with this idea of the conversation and the human dynamic associated with it.

The best conversations provide for different voices to be heard

Our blogging feature in Major Projects Knowledge Hub has only been live since we launched the new version of the site but we already have plans in place to accommodate different voices – Guest Bloggers – who can bring perspectives from different industries or different organizational functions to the major projects theme. Our first Guest Blogger will be Clive Bright, until recently Design Knowledge Manager for NuGen at the Moorside Nuclear site.

Working with Guest Bloggers provides those you invite with a platform for their view of the world. If you follow the lead of the Major Projects Knowledge Hub, we invite Guest Bloggers to work with us for a month, which allows them to create a storyline or an arc of four or five posts to develop an idea. Remember the universal truth, we much prefer to hear from other individuals rather than organizations or institutions and Guest Bloggers are individuals.

We are convinced by people not arguments

Rather a bold statement I know but stick with me. When we produce a report or write a formal business case, we are essentially engaging with the left-brain of those reading it. The left-brain is the rational side of our brain – the one that applies our intellect to analyse data, ideas and make sense of facts.

But making an argument, particularly if you are advocating change or encouraging people to try something new or adopt a different behaviour is as much an emotional activity as it is an intellectual one. When we have a conversation with others, we are drawing in not just what they say but the emotion behind it, along with the personal values and trust we associate with that individual.

This is one of the reasons we use video as a medium for communicating wherever we can within the Major Projects Knowledge Hub. Our monthly masterclass interviews and our short, Project Inheritance Tracks, allow us to bring ‘trusted’ experts into the community who can express themselves using their own words and through their own voice.

Have you seen this?

We all rely on one another for much of our information. In the non-project world, conversations about the latest films or television programmes encourage each of us to go and watch programmes that we might otherwise have missed.

In the Major Projects Knowledge Hub this translates into something we might rather grandly call knowledge brokering, which is expressed in several ways.

At the simplest level, we use our social media channels – our Facebook and Linkedin Groups and our Twitter feed to encourage those in our communities to share and amplify what we are trying to communicate.

At a more sophisticated level, brokering involves an individual or a group of individuals curating and framing different elements so as to present insight and ideas in a form that they know will make sense to and resonate with others in the project community. The most obvious example of this form of brokering are our digital scrapbooks.

Learning from others

Of course capability and competence is not just about what you’ve read, seen or heard, it is about how you behave. Social learning remains one of the most powerful vehicles for changing and adopting new behaviours. Consequently, we include events in the activities of the Major Projects Knowledge Hub – virtual and real events – such as the MPKH Live activities or the Knowledge Management MeetUps.

These are opportunities for you to watch, listen and interact with your peers and to copy their behaviour and adopt their rules of thumb. Face-to-face events allow individuals to seek feedback and reinforcement from their peers and conversation is the medium for much of this exchange of knowledge, experimenting with new ideas and sense checking new behaviours before we put them into practice.

The challenges and opportunities of the conversation

I’ve outlined some of the ways in which we use our activities in the Major Project Knowledge Hub to facilitate learning through conversations and through peers. The democratic nature of conversation does mean that, compared to the traditional ‘broadcast’ method of communication, you are taking a risk and you are ceding control of the agenda.

But the reality is that shouting never works nor can it capture the fundamental nature of conversations: their ability to help us explore, understand and progress in a complex and often uncertain world.

Check out the previous blog posts in this series:

Connect, Share and Contribute

The Museum is Open for Donations

If you would like to be a Major Projects Knowledge Hub Guest Blogger for a month then talk to Jonathan Norman, Major Projects Knowledge Hub manager.