Who wants to be a consultant?

Knowledge Cafe London July 2010

Last week I made the effort to forgo the football and participate in another of David Gurteen’s fine Knowledge cafes.

Increasingly valuing the sense making qualities of conversations with my peers I first met for coffee with David Pottinger (see Mr Ps #kcafe blogpost here) and then pre-drinks with Richard Hare.

Arriving at Arup, who were generously hosting the event, we were greeted by friends old and new. Many of the Henley KM Forum were present. Arup specialise in Engineering consultancy and were worryingly youthful, smart and predominantly female so perhaps David Gurteens’s initial phase of ‘speed dating’ may have more traditional consequences.

The guests this time were Chris Collison and Geoff Parnell who have a new book out entitled “No more consultants – we know more than we think“.  The theme was based on ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’, which David admitted to studying intensely the day before to get his Chris Tarrant impression right. No comment on his impression but his questions cleverly led us through the most important topics of the book until we reached the half million dollar question.

Is there a place for consultants in companies and organisations today, and if so, what is their role?

In groups we dissected, sliced and diced what consultants are and do and explored interesting avenues of differing situations and different requirements. The two hours was over in a flash and we all still had so many ideas to explore, new people to meet.

A huge, huge missed opportunity to make the million dollar question “So who is coming down the pub?”, at the end I got my well thumbed copy of the book signed and Chris kindly wrote “apart from you” while Geoff wrote knowingly “ we told you so”.

At the end I was pleased to be introduced at last to  Tony Jameson-Allen who has also blogged about this event here.

During the post-kcafe drinks in the local pub I managed to catch up with Kenneth Grant, a senior lecturer in Ontario, Canada on Innovation, primarily ‘how to manage for innovation’.

We had a fascinating discussion about the sources for current KM ideas:

  • Did you know that S-curves were first developed by Everett Rogers in 1962 to explain the up-take of agricultural practices which is hugely satisfying given Dave Snowdens current use to illustrate the oncoming ecological paradigm.
  • Also, did you know that T.S. Elliot in 1934 almost predicted the Wisdom, Knowledge, Information, Data pyramid that we all love to hate. In the Poem the Rock

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries

Where is the knowledge we have lost by not having knowledge cafes. I made that one up.  To put it simply David Gurteen has struck upon the most fundamental of concepts, the benefits of putting people together randomly to elicit conversation. The number of participants, quantity of business cards exchanged and overall level of smiliness were indicators of another hugely successful event. I had a great time, meeting new people, learning new things and making sense of my own thoughts, Thanks again David.


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