The Knowledge Café is often at its best when it is used to convene conversations to give people “a say” in topics and issues that are relevant to them.
I received an email in January 2017 from Samira Ahmed of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in which she explains how the Knowledge Management Team has used the Café in this way to great effect. With her permission, I have posted it below.
I have highlighted some of the key points in the memo.
My name is Samira Ahmed, and I work with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the Knowledge Management and Learning Section.
We recently championed the introduction of the Knowledge Café as an additional knowledge sharing tool which has resulted in a better work relationship between the management staff and the executive staff of the Corporation.
We studied the Gurteen Knowledge Café model, and we adopted the same format.
The Knowledge Café has been extremely popular and has been fully endorsed by the very senior top management of our Corporation and even the Federal Government.
Let me put things in perspective.
The brief interaction in the Café provides a platform for the executive staff of the Corporation to have their say on some of the policies being implemented by the top management.
They discuss policies and recent happenings and educate themselves about various questions and topics of interest.
This would be the only such forum available to staff at this level wherein they are able to express their opinions freely.
The knowledge management department hopes to educate staff on more effective and efficient ways of doing work, by providing more opportunities for closer collaboration and communication between departments and enabling access to useful knowledge.
The discussion is usually documented and forwarded to the appropriate user department for consideration.
The Knowledge Café runs on a monthly basis and is usually organised by the Knowledge Management Team.
About 15 to 20 interested participants gather in a small room to discuss a particular topic or issue.
The topic of discussion is predetermined and a date and time are scheduled for the Knowledge Café.
Interested persons usually sign up to attend the Café due to limitations of space and to ensure group intimacy is maintained.
The participants arrive on the scheduled date and time and sit in a circle or few concentric circles to explore the theme.
The Knowledge Café usually does not feature any formal presentations or formal feedback sessions, although the sessions may be recorded and the outcome may be reviewed and documented for future reference.
As the work of the Knowledge Management section progressed, we envisioned a higher demand for a knowledge sharing forum where individuals or groups share ideas and insights.
This gave us the idea to introduce the Knowledge Café.
The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources recently launched a document tagged the 7 Big Wins which are short and medium-term priorities to grow the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
Within this document, on page 38 to be precise, the Knowledge Café is mentioned as one of the tools to be established in all parastatals of the Ministry.
This is due to the success it has had in NNPC.
We launched the Knowledge Café in April 2016, and since then we have had eight conversations. Here is a sample of the topics:
- Modular Refineries: What do they mean for Nigeria’s Downstream Business
- Can Sustainable Community Development support the efforts to secure our oil and gas assets/infrastructure and boost oil exploration?
- In what ways will the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) position NNPC for higher performance?
- Beyond the increasing price of foodstuff and other commodities, what does a recession truly mean and what can we (as individuals) do to manage it?
This year we plan on running the Cafés once a month as usual, and I hope to reach out to you for more guidance and support.
I thank you for the great ideas you developed and for your generosity of spirit.
Supervisor, Special Projects
Knowledge Management and Learning Systems
Group Learning Department
If you are thinking about starting to run Knowledge Cafés and create a more Conversational Culture in your organization, then this is an excellent way to start.
This page is part of an online book on Conversational Leadership that I am in the process of writing.
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