Radical KM: where the magic lives

A NetIKX seminar, Introduction to Radical KM, 27 January 2022

“Radical KM is not analytical or creative, it’s both” – Stephanie Barnes

Sculpture of human figure composed of letters, titled 'House of Knowledge'

What is radical knowledge management (KM) and how does it differ from the traditional model of KM? This was the topic of Stephanie Barnes’ intriguing presentation at the first NetIKX seminar of 2022. 

We began with what was indeed a ‘radical’ departure from the usual seminar format – a guided visualisation, followed by a scribble drawing exercise. Stephanie explained that these activities free up the mind and unlock creativity, which in turn can improve focus and problem-solving skills.

Radical KM as the evolution of knowledge management

Why do we need to incorporate creativity into KM? Traditionally, KM has been about ‘people, processes and technology’, but times have changed. We now need to adapt to a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. The climate crisis is now widely recognised as an issue which affects us all, and the global pandemic has forced many organisations to rethink their working practices.

 New models such as the Agile philosophy, whose influence has now spread beyond software development into project management and change management, emphasise a style of problem-solving which encourages experimentation. Getting out of our comfort zones and refusing to see things as ‘mistakes’ are behaviours which promote a sustainable mindset and relationship-building. 

Creative leadership and the creative company

Stephanie’s passion for creativity in the workplace is reflected in her collaboration with the Berlin-based consulting network Age of Artists. Their work builds on a growing recognition of the importance of creativity for business: as early as 2010, an article in the Harvard Business Review noted that creative leaders take more calculated risks, increase employee engagement and generate higher revenue growth. 

Creative leadership is about creating an environment where everyone is encouraged to use creative thinking skills to solve problems, thus facilitating collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Companies which have embraced this approach include Xerox, whose Artist in Residence Program resulted in significant improvements in R&D, and LexisNexis, which reported improved communication and empathy in the workplace. Interestingly, some studies also suggest a link between creativity and sustainable behaviours.

Getting back to the roots of KM

One meaning of the word ‘radical’ is ‘returning to the root’ – and implementing radical KM means going back to the roots of how we as humans learn. Being playful, curious and iterative are all behaviours we need to re-learn, as they are often discouraged in the workplace or in our educational system – but all are necessary components of a holistic KM strategy.

Stephanie sees this process as enabling organisations to embrace both the creative and analytical aspects of knowledge in order to adapt to our changing environment. The 20th-century production-line approach to work is outdated and damaging: we need a new model which promotes a view of the organisation as an integrated whole. We have separated the analytical and the creative into discrete boxes: the goal, as Stephanie puts it, is to ‘facilitate the magic that comes out of the white space between the boxes’.

Further reading and reference

For more on radical KM and the importance of creativity, Stephanie’s blog is an invaluable resource.

Stephanie’s own creative work can be found on her art website.

Creative Company, the book written by Age of Artists’ founders, for which Stephanie co-edited the English edition.

Stephanie’s recommended reading list

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