Marian @ Krysan  


Planting Golden Seeds in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, and Durham



A Storyteller

"Here is Edward Bear coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it."  - A. A. Milne.

Once upon a time, there was an  Ivory Tower and in the Ivory Tower lived a community of very wise wizardswho knew many things, and who were justly proud of their knowledge and wisdom. The wizards lived according to the well-known creed or motto:  Knowledge is Power.

To gain this power they had spent many long and arduous years studying everything in the kingdom. Consequently, they knew exactly how everything worked.  But there was a problem as outside in the kingdom things were changing rapidly and the old tried and tested ways didn't work for ordinary folk any longer. There was suffering everywhere as the world went into recession and people lost their jobs. Many lost all hope for the future.  Some became emotionally distressed with the worry of it all.  This was everybody's business.  

Asking for help. 

The wizards laboured long into the night looking for ways to best help the people survive the new conditions. They found many answers but, because they seldom left their Ivory Tower, they couldn't get their messages out into the public domain. To cut a long story short, the desperate people took it upon themselves to go to the wizards' Ivory Tower.  They knocked on the big oak door and asked for help. The wizards agreed to help in any way they could and suggested that the people come every day for a week to hear what they had to say.

The people were diligent and did as bidden, but they became frustrated as the wizards spoke only in their own arcane language.  Try as they might the ordinary folk of the kingdom could scarcely understand a word of it and they became lost in the long, complicated sentences and unfamiliar words.  Matters were made worse (rather than better) by the carefully written instructions which were handed out on parchment and which people found almost impossible to read.  Well intentioned but useless.

The language of wizards. 

The language of the wizards is known as technospeak and the bemused people returned home with only half-understood knowledge.  Try as they might their attempts at changing the status quo were totally ineffective. Eventually, they sent a deputation to the Queen with the complaint that they were suffering greatly and the wizards were of help to 'neither man nor beast' - if you'll pardon the expression, ma'am. 

In their turn, the wizards complained bitterly of time-wasters, saying that the people were not doing enough with all the knowledge they had so carefully imparted to them orally and in writing over the weeks  The wise Queen realised that she needed to act quickly to save her kingdom from ruination and she summoned the wisest of the wizards along with her most trustworthy courtiers and some of the best workers in the land.  A Wisdom Council was formed.  

Troubadours and knowms. 

The palace troubadours also joined this new Wisdom Council.  Among the troubadours was a different class of people called knowms.  These knowms had special skills and knew enough of technospeak to be able to converse with the wizards and to read and understand their writings.  

Moreover, the knowms had travelled around the land and they knew the people and their ways well enough to understand their problems.  They also knew that some of the people were successfully surviving these exceptionally hard times.  The Wisdom Council agreed to call together a group of knowms and sent them out with a mission — to help the wizards and ordinary folk work together to improve their lives.  Questions asked.

What do we know?

The knowms talked to their fellow troubadours and went along to the ivory tower to talk to the wizards.  They asked how the people normally gained their knowledge and found that (1) the town leaders had some small libraries of scrolls provided by the wizards, (2) the leaders would post notices from time to time with news for the people  (3) the town criers would also announce news around the towns and, even better, (4) the troubadours had apprentices who would travel to the small villages and more distant towns with news and with songs.  

Next, the knowms asked the wizards to show them the new knowledge they had gathered together to help the people and they carefully read through all the documents and spent quality time with each wizard talking things over.  Open dialogue is key.

A mapping exercise. 

They then made notes in plain language detailing the special knowledge each wizard had, and where each relevant scroll was kept in the tower.  Sometimes they would call together a gathering of the wizards, and asked more questions about what they knew that could help the people.  They also talked to those who had previously been identified as survivors and asked them about strategies they had used to keep afloat in difficult times. 

In their own way, the knowms were wise and they understood that many of the ordinary folk had a deep understanding born of long experience.  The wizards were certainly not the only holders of knowledge.  When the knowms felt that they had searched enough of the archives and spoken to enough people to have a good idea of where the best knowledge was, they carefully completed their notes, and then went to talk directly to the people of the kingdom.  One-to-one conversations.

What do people need to know?

The knowms knew instinctively that people have different needs and each area of the kingdom was experiencing different problems.  They went out to talk to the ordinary people, making notes of each visit and categorizing people into groups. They knew that none of the people needed to know the full catalogue of wisdom and knowledge that the wizards had accumulated in their Ivory Tower. 

Significantly, they also asked the people how best to get new information to them, bearing in mind that some could read and write better than others.  They made a list of each type of person and a list of the different ways they would need to have ready access to the wizards' knowledge.  Personalised learning. 


As they spoke to the people the knowms found that some were keen to help them assemble the wizards' knowledge and some were keen to help teach others some of the things they had learnt.  The knowms promised them that they could help with the new project, and invited them to come and meet with the wizards. The knowms then went back to their grateful Queen and reported on their progress. 

By now, they had a good idea about the available knowledge and the individual needs of the the people they had met.  They also spoke to the troubadours who had travelled in other countries, and then made notes of where they had learnt useful knowledge from other wizards and other races. They put together a list that matched the knowledge from all the many sources with the needs of each group of people in the kingdom.  Horses for courses.

How can we find out more? 

When they looked at their list, the knowms realised that there were still gaps in the knowledge they needed.  They called together several of the wizards, and sat down with them.  The leading knowm outlined where the gaps were in their knowledge, and asked the wizards for ideas.  The wizards each spoke in turn about their thoughts, while the knowms again made careful notes.  As more wizards spoke, some who had been silent were reminded of other information that they had forgotten and they too spoke their truth.  

Whenever the conversation slowed down, the knowms would ask more questions to prompt the wizards.  They made many notes, but even then there were still questions that had not been answered.  So again some of the wizards promised to go away and search further.  The knowms finished their lists of the knowledge the wizards had made available, the needs and wishes of the people, and of the brand-new knowledge that they had developed with the wizards. Open access learning.

How do we make all this useful? 

The knowms explained to the wizards that the people needed information in a way that made sense to them, rather than in technospeak.  The wizards, as wise as they were, at first found this hard to understand.  They sincerely thought that if they reduced their knowledge down to the common tongue much would be learnt. The knowms explained that even if some of the beauty of the wizards' learning were to be lost, it was better for the serfs to gain the most important parts than to miss all of it.

The knowms taught the wizards a new and important crede or motto to live by, Sharing Knowledge is Power. They taught them that if they recorded their knowledge in new ways that the people could understand, then the people would not need to come and bother them so often and they could get on with their work. It would be so much easier for them to record the knowledge once and in this way the knowms could take this knowledge to the people, rather than the people having to come to the Ivory Tower every time they needed help.  Apps, perhaps ... 

How do we pass this on?

The knowms gave the wizard special pieces of parchment they called templates. There were several different types for different ways of explaining the knowledge.  They showed the wizards how to fill these in.  The next task was to arrange all the knowledge in a way that made sense to the people. They decided to categorise the knowledge in language that everybody could understand. 

Some of the troubadours who travelled around the country were called together and the knowms asked them to take copies of the scrolls to the major market towns where they would be stored in the town libraries.  The troubadours were also asked to compose new songs written from the words in the scrolls. 

In addition, the town criers were enlisted to help. Their job was to announce that the new scrolls would be available in the town libaries for those who could read and write; the troubadours went into the taverns and sang the new songs for those who learned best by listening. The more experienced of the people were encouraged to make some time available to help by coaching in the new ways.  Notices were put up in the towns announcing times when the coaching sessions would take place and their questions answered in full.  Transformation.

How do we know that the effort had been worthwhile?  

And so it came to pass that things changed - people relaxed and again began to flourish.  The knowms travelled around the kingdom to monitor progress and were happy to see the good results.  Of course there were still a few doubters and, as an encouragement to all, it was decided to hold competitions and post notices whenever anyone made any major achievements that contributed to the common good. 

At the end of the year, the knowms called a meeting with all the key people involved in the improvements and asked each of them in turn how things had changed. They listened carefully and wrote many notes. They had also been out measuring and knew which areas of the kingdom had increased their wellbeing and which areas had not done so well.  They asked what strategy had been most helpful - the scrolls in the library, the songs, or anything else at all.  The proof of the pudding.

A celebration of human potential. 

The knowms put all their results together and combined with a few of the wizards and ordinary people to work out where things could be done better.  Then they carefully drew up a plan to use for the next year.  Finally, they went to the Queen and showed her all the results and their plan for the future.  The Queen was very pleased, and called a feast for all those who had done so much to make the kingdom prosperous again. 

I can do no more than bring this discussion on knowledge management (yes, truly it was) to its close by alerting you to three real-life wizards who are active in the field of human potential. Please join them on-stage at a recent conference in Australia where they conversed at length on happiness and wellbeing. Click below for a very worthy Youtube video coming at the end of a very worthy conference.  Be the change!  

Seligman, Langer, Gittins - what is the measure of a flourishing life?

Marian @ Krysan
July 2012


Created through the inspiration of an article on Knowledge Management written by Keith de la Rue whose genius for producing an original idea around plain language in KM is gratefully acknowledged.  Marian @ Krysan

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.  

Stephen Covey 


3,369 reads @2015-11-06

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