Archive

Knowledge Management

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Trust and Knowledge Management. Sustainable Campus Model. Design for Healthier Cities. Uncertainty in Design.

Trust is Essential in Knowledge Management. Andrew Trickett, Global Rail Knowledge & Information Manager at ARUP, writes about the value of creating a work environment of trust to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and cooperation among employees. He stresses that employers should remove barriers from competition and that by taking the time to review both a projects’ accomplishments as well as its short falls, that a company can increase its overall performance and client satisfaction.

If as a group people are sharing, and talking about knowledge through their experiences, then this can be the starting point for people to ask unorthodox questions, experiment with new ideas and ways of working in a safe setting before they expose a creative idea to the organisation.” – Andrew Trickett

Via Arup Thoughts Blog

A Model for Sustainability on Campus. Many older colleges and universities face outdated and inefficient infrastructure resulting in unsustainable water and energy consumption. Hoping to create a more sustainable campus and lower energy bills, Lynn College in Boca Raton, Florida implemented an innovative Sustainability Management Tool that brought administrators, faculty, students as well as municipal officials and third party consultants together to implement sustainable objectives from the school’s master plan.

Central to the Sustainability Management Tool are:

  1. A strong organizational structure
  2. The elimination of “boundaries”
  3. Partnerships
  4. Discussion

By reaching out and engaging in discussions with the community, Lynn College was able to reduce their energy consumption and costs dramatically.

Via Design Intelligence

Making Cities Healthy Through Design. Kristian Villadsen from Gehl Architects in Copenhagen, Denmark recently spoke at the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam about connecting vibrant public spaces through safe biking and walking areas in cities to increase the health of urban dwellers.

In his presentation, he discussed Copenhagen’s many bike lanes, public spaces and in particular the city’s Harbor Bath which is only a mere 700 meters from city hall.  In addition, he elaborates on an effective and innovative pilot project in New York City’s Times Square which studied the impacts of increasing public space in dense urban areas.

Via Gehl Architects’ Blog

Uncertainty in Design. In this thought-provoking article by Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies graduate student Renee Kaufman, she examines both the philosophical and scientific question of uncertainty in the study and implementation of ecology in landscape design. Hoping to lessen uncertainty and the anxiety it causes, she proposes adaptive management as a means to acquire better and more effective data about a project’s performance after construction.

Via Landscape Urbanism Blog

Earlier this week, I responded to a new discussion question by Kristin Kautz on the SMPS LinkedIn Group about how to structure a communications campaign around a retiring executive.

I offered five tips to Kristen based on the communications campaigns I’ve led for mergers and acquisitions with the final tip being “Keep it positive!” After all, retirement is the rite of passage that we all strive for and it should be a celebration of this person’s accomplishments and contributions to the company and their profession.

A day or so later, Jason Mlicki offered an example of exactly this sort of celebration. As a marketing consultant to environmental services firm Verantis, Mlicki built a microsite to celebrate the career of Woody Wilson West, one of Verantis’ retiring engineers. The Wonderful World of Woody site features a fun and only partially-fictional list of Woody’s super hero-like accomplishments and the ability for anyone to add their memories and congratulations. Perhaps the most effective part of this is that the message focuses on Woody’s specialization – FRP Fans.

Not that I have any idea what an FRP Fan is, but I assume that most of the site’s visitors do and that this topic is something that Verantis proudly pioneers. Mlicki and Verantis show that Woody and his subject-specific expertise has been an asset to the firm AND that he has built the firm’s body of FRP Fan knowledge – a subtle assurance to Verantis clients that Woody’s know-how is ingrained in the firm’s systems and minds of its remaining consultants.
Nice work Jason and thank you for sharing the link.

In case you are interested, here are my five tips:
1. Consider your audiences. I’d suggest running through your list of audiences and considering what their concerns would be — e.g. Clients: Will my project be affected? Do I have someone else at the firm who I trust and want to continue to work with? Will this affect the firm’s ability to maintain overall quality or business acumen?
Staff: Who will fill the void? What upward mobility opportunities does this create in the firm? …

2. Consider your messages to each audience. The more concerns a group has, the more personal you’ll want the communications to be.
– With staff, consider a company- or office-wide meeting to announce it.
– With clients, perhaps phone calls by the partner him/herself on the projects they lead directly, otherwise the clients’ primary contact at the firm. My hunch is that having a trusted person in place is going to be one of the most important messages to clients, so a series of in-person client meetings with the replacement leader or new contact would be necessary.
– With vendors, perhaps a letter is sufficient
– With the industry/press/public, press releases are standard, but perhaps they could be accompanied by a video highlighting this person’s contributions to clients and the industry. Meet w/ select industry journalists to see if there may interest in a profile story.

3. Consider all your existing communications vehicles and who they reach and include these channels as a part of the announcement — e.g. newsletter, e-blasts, website, blog, Facebook/LI/Twitter.

4. Consider the sequence and timing of communications: e.g. 1. Tell partners. 2. Tell staff. 3. Tell clients and vendors. 4. Tell the public.

If this is a high profile firm/individual, time your communications closely together so the rumor mill doesn’t scoop you.

5. Keep it positive. Make this a celebration of a full career and new opportunities for the next tier of leadership at the firm

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Not everyone is comfortable being generous with their knowledge. Many choose to hold it close to their chest hoping that their exclusive ownership of it will somehow be a competitive advantage. But people won’t know you have this knowledge if you don’t talk about it … and talk is cheap.

In order to convince people that you know your subject thoroughly, you have to show it. What better way to do this than to give it away?

Firms like HMC Architects and SWA Group are putting their knowledge to work in the form of educating the general public. (Full disclosure: Walter Communications has worked with both firms on these projects.) In both of these cases, young people are the knowledge-sharing conduit. SWA’s Matt Baumgarten notes, “Kids can spread information very effectively. Once they understand the concepts, they go home and teach it to their families.”

HMC’s godfather of sustainability Pablo La Roche recently led a workshop series on sustainability at a local elementary school. This initiative was made possible by a grant from the firm’s Designing Futures Foundation in an effort to contribute to the next generation of environmental stewards.

SWA is organizing two events in Houston, Texas for this fall that aim to open the public’s eyes to the real danger of living in a floodplain by calling their attention to the 100-year floodline and the natural infrastructure of the City’s bayous. The first is an art installation and the other is a series of presentations to public schools and an organized two-mile student walk along the 100-year floodline. These initiatives effectively build stronger connections with their communities and garner kudos from the press, but they also reinforce their reputation as experts – and as an added bonus, they keep employees happy and engaged.

Another firm that has impressed me by their know-how generosity I learned about at KA Connect –the single event where all the AEC industry innovators hang out. Through their strict focus, client list, research and services, Ayers Saint Gross has built a solid reputation and positioned itself as a resource for anything related to campus planning. The firm and its website is the single place a university need look to compare their campus with other schools, to access an image resource library, to find research and whitepapers on the latest trends and to hire top tier planning and design services.

Yes, this could be seen as a risky move since the competitors of Ayers Saint Gross can also access this resource, but the gamble pays well. According  to Principal Jim Wheeler, the firm’s policy is “give it away” and even goes so far as to require all employees to demonstrate knowledge through research, speaking and publishing. When firms set an expectation like this internally, it raises the bar and challenges staff to clear it. It may not be the right environment for every professional, but for those who want to take part in shaping their profession it is the place where they will thrive. What firm doesn’t want this type of person working for them and representing them to the public?

Ayers Saint Gross has it right.  They are creating a culture of learning, thinking and testing. Through this culture, they have created a reputation for stellar services and a continuous cycle of encouraging staff to exceed expectations, communicating findings and winning new challenging projects where they can put their research to the test.

You don’t always have to be the originator of an idea to have a reputation of being knowledgeable about a topic. I ran into Anthony Flint at the American Planning Association conference last week and learned about a new resource that his organization has created. In this case, The Lincoln Institute for Land Policy isn’t sharing its own knowledge (although they do frequently publish their own research and findings), but instead it has aggregated and organized all the scenario planning tools that are currently available in order to help planners learn which tool is right for them, how to use the tools, and to support further development and refinement of scenario planning tools. The Institute’s report “Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools” and corresponding website establishes The Lincoln Institute as an authority on the technology that is pushing the industry in new direction without building a tool of their own.

If all of this sounds good and you are thinking that you’d like to start spreading your firm’s knowledge, make sure you look inside first. If centers of knowledge and leading experts can’t be easily found and accessed internally, then start with addressing this problem. If your firm already has a strong process for knowledge management, then what are you waiting for? This is the stuff of marketers’ and communicators’ dreams.

We’d love to hear how your firm is using its knowledge, leave us a comment.