The kind of
conversation I’m
interested in is one in
which you start with a
willingness to emerge a
slightly different
person.
Theodore Zeldin
Conversation
Theodore is an
Oxford Historian
Business is a Conversation
The birth of the
Gurteen Knowledge Cafe
London, September 2002
Global Knowledge Cafés
•  I have run them all over the world
•  Some interesting cultural experiences
•  Format always works
•  People love to talk
•  Starting to discover their power
Have you ever thought that your job was to
have interesting conversations?
Business is a conversation
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
Conversation is a meeting of minds
Conversation is a meeting of minds with
different memories and habits.
When minds meet, they don't just exchange
facts: they transform them, reshape them,
draw different implications from them,
engage in new trains of thought.
Conversation doesn't just reshuffle the
cards: it creates new cards.
Theodore Zeldin
Conversation
KM is about understanding
For all our knowledge, we have no idea what
we're talking about.
We don't understand what's going on in our
business, our market, and our world.
KM shouldn’t be about helping us to know
more. It should be about helping us to
understand.
So, how do we understand things? It's through
stories that we understand how the world
works.
David Weinberger, The Cluetrain Manifesto
Dialogue
The kind of conversation I’m
interested in is one in which you start
with a willingness to emerge a
slightly different person.
Theodore Zeldin
Conversation
Principles of Dialogue
•  Suspend assumptions, do not judge
•  Observe & listen to one another
•  Welcome differences & explore them
•  Allow taboo subjects to be raised safely
•  Listen to your inner voice
•  Slow the discussion
•  Search for the underlying meaning
Dialogue is based on
the work of the physicist
David Bohm
What makes a good
learning conversation?
Café Applications
Stories
•  Int’l Relations & Security Network (ISN), Zürich
•  Statoil, Norway
•  ING Bank Academy, Amsterdam
ISN Zurich
The knowledge café has led to a dramatic improvement in interteam dialog, collaboration & knowledge sharing.
Many internal work processes are now being overhauled for the
better as a result of these knowledge cafes.
And we have seen an explosion of new ideas & initiatives on the
part of staff at all levels of the organization.
Simply put, the knowledge cafe has empowered all our staff to
speak up and take the initiative.
Chris Pallaris, Chief Editor
ISN, Zurich
Statoil, Norway
•  To surface issues as a result of a merger
•  Series of Cafés to bring retiring experts
together with younger members to transfer
knowledge
•  Geophysicists
–  Discussion of preferred technologies
–  Exchange views on experiences
ING Bank Academy Research Alerts
•  Gather articles & reports about relevant trends in
management, banking & finance
•  Broadcast “Research Alerts”
•  If Alert deserves attention host a Knowledge Café
•  Discuss implications, impact, risks, opportunities ...
Challenging Minds
•  Education programme for mid-level managers
•  Abandoned lecture style training
•  Small Knowledge Café style conversations around
specific topics
•  Short videos downloaded from YouTube
•  Carefully crafted reading materials developed by
CoachingOurselves (Henry Mintzberg)
Gurteen Knowledge Café Process
What’s the process?
•  Speaker makes a short presentation 10 – 15 mins
•  Poses a trigger question
•  Small group conversations at tables
•  Three rounds 10 – 15 mins
•  Whole group conversation in a circle 20 -30 mins
•  Share actionable insights 20-30 mins
•  Two hours in total
Café Tables
People need to
be close
enough to touch
each other
Café Circles
Café Principles
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
Relaxed, non-threatening, open conversation
Close to a pub or café conversation
No manipulation; no hidden agendas
Everyone equal; no table leaders; no reporting back
No one forced to do anything – OK to just listen
OK to go off-topic
No summarization or attempt to reach consensus
Don’t let the capture of outcomes get in the way of the
conversation (no flip charts)
Café Principles
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
Relaxed, non-threatening, open conversation
Close to a pub or café conversation
No manipulation; no hidden agendas
Everyone equal; no table leaders; no reporting back
No one forced to do anything – OK to just listen
Trust people to talk about what is important to them
OK to go off-topic
No summarization or attempt to reach consensus
Don’t let the capture of outcomes get in the way of the
conversation (no flip charts)
•  No note taker
•  Encourage people not to take personal notes
Café Outcomes
•  Outcomes are what you take away in your head
•  Deeper understanding of the issues discussed
•  Deeper insight into other people’s perspectives
•  Better appreciation of your own point of view
•  Improved relationships
•  Position to make more informed decisions
Knowledge Café
Café Conversation
Do you think you could improve
your Learning Cafes by adopting
some of the Knowledge Café
principles and if so, how?
www.gurteen.com
David GURTEEN
Gurteen Knowledge
Fleet, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 7774 178 650
Email: david.gurteen@gurteen.com
Henry of Germany giving a lecture at the
University of Bologna in the 14th century
Not just chit-chat
The most widespread and
pervasive learning in your
organization may not be
happening in training rooms,
conference rooms or board rooms
but in the cafeteria, the hallways
and the cafe across the street.
Junita Brown & David Isaacs
Conversation is a learning technology
Conversation is the most powerful
learning technology ever invented
Conversations carry news, create meaning, foster
cooperation, and spark innovation.
Encouraging open, honest conversation through
work space design, setting ground rules for
conversing productively,
and baking conversation into the corporate culture
spread intellectual capital, improve cooperation,
and strengthen personal relationships.
Jay Cross, Informal Learning
Conversation is our most effective KM tool
Our most effective KM tool is conversation
The words we choose, the questions we ask, and
the metaphors we use to explain ourselves, are
what determine our success in creating new
knowledge
as well as sharing that knowledge with each
other.
Nancy Dixon
Common Knowledge
Café Purposes
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
• 
learn from each other
clarify issues
gain insight
break down organisational silos
break down inter-personal barriers
surface issues & problems
surface potential risks
surface opportunities
get buy-in for a course of action
stimulate innovation
build better relationships
engage with our work
share good practice
develop our unique voice
move to action
Meetings
•  Break meetings into two
•  To better understand the issues
–  Knowledge Café style
–  Divergent
•  To make decisions and plans
–  Debate and politics allowed!
–  Convergent
Conversation Dinner
European Training Foundation, Turin, Nov 2011
Kindling the fire
The mind isn’t a
vessel to be filled, it’s
a fire to be kindled.
Plutarch 46-120 AD
Greek Historian
David Gurteen
•  Physicist
•  Software Development
Manager
•  Independent since 1993
•  Lotus Notes Consultant
•  Website, Knowledge Letter,
Knowledge Community since
2000
•  KM consultant, facilitator,
speaker, blogger, curator
Licence
•  You may use these slides under the following
Creative Commons Licence
•  Attribution-Share Alike 2.0
•  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/uk/
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