How the stiff upper lip is the enemy of knowledge sharing

Here’s a quote from a BBC news article yesterday:

Keep Calm and Stiff Upper Lip

The UK's "stiff upper lip" culture may explain why it lags behind other countries when it comes to beating cancer, say experts.

Researchers, who surveyed nearly 20,000 adults in six high-income countries, said they found embarrassment often stopped Britons visiting the doctor. Respondents in the UK were as aware of cancer symptoms as those in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but more reluctant to seek help, they said.

When you drill down to the underlying reason behind “embarrassment” or “reluctance to ask for help”, you usually end up with “pride”.

This reminds me of one of my “seven deadly syndromes of knowledge-sharing”.   I called it “Real men don’t ask directions”, or “TomTom syndrome”

Imagine the scene: You’re on your way to a dinner party at a friend’s house; you left home a little late, so now you’re in a hurry and the quality of your driving is deteriorating.  Your partner is unsettled and tells you that “she’d prefer to get there in one piece than not at all”.  Now, just to add to the tension, you have a nagging thought that you might have taken a wrong turn. You carry on though, hoping that you’ll happen upon a road-sign or a landmark, but none appear. Finally, your partner breaks the silence and tells you what you already know.  You’re lost!    “No problem”, she says triumphantly pronouncing the solution; “pull over by that man over there and we’ll ask for directions”.

Of course, it’s not exclusively a male problem, but it does seem to be the case that men suffer from this syndrome more than women.  It’s hard to ask for help.

We have all had times when we have that nagging sense that “there might be a better way to do this”, or “perhaps someone else has already figured this one out”.  What stops us from asking around for solutions and ideas for improvement?  Sometimes it’s a sense that we’re supposed to know the answers.

Why would I want to show everyone else that I’m incompetent? That doesn't seem like a route to promotion.  However, once I've solved my problem, I’ll be happy to share my solution.

The truth is, the biggest challenge to organisations who want to get more from what they know, isn't that they have a knowledge sharing problem.  It’s that they have an asking problem.

It’s also true to say that we often turn to technology for help when a conversation would be more timely, more accurate and more helpful – whether that’s with a doctor, a local resident or a knowledgeable colleague who would be only too willing to help.

Does Social Networking makes your brain grow?

With thanks to Rob Cubbon Ten year ago, we were hearing that London Taxi drivers have an enlarged hippocampus because of their encyclopedic (or should that be atlassian?) knowledge of London's roads.

Now the same research team in UCL are questioning whether social networking has a similar impact although the researchers do confess:

It's not clear whether using social networks boosts grey matter or if those with certain brain structures are good at making friends. perhaps slightly cyclic reasoning?

I've wondered for a while whether we have a finite "namespace" in our brains, and once it's full (see why I didn't make it as a neuroscientist!), it starts to overflow and we forget people's names.

I can testify that changing my work relationship pattern from a single slowly-evolving large corporation to short assignments in 100 client organisations over the last 6 years has certainly helped to fill it up. My wife reports similar name-overflow challenges working a supply teacher.

Or perhaps it's just that we're just getting older!

Judgement day...

It's been a healthy last couple of weeks.I attended a "Patient Harm Conference" last week (provocative title, eh?) - organised by Tricordant, for the NHS and a number of health-related organisations all focused on improving patient safety. I had the privilege of hearing leadership speaker Alistair Mant discuss complex systems (using frogs and bicycles) the subject of Judgement (not in the biblical sense - that's another story!)

Alistair came out with a couple of quotes which made me think:

Judgement is what you do when you don't know (and can't know) what to do - and you know you need to do something fast!

Good judgement is based on experience; experience is based on bad judgement...


I guess I'd better be the judge of that!

Lights, Camera, (after) Action (review)!

I spent a fascinating day last week with some senior NHS clinical staff at a Leadership Development Centre in Leicester. From the outside, the building looks like any other office in the city, and as you go past the smart reception, it still looks relatively familiar, although signs pointing to areas like "Narrative Centre" hint at a something out of the ordinary. Then, turning the corner and pushing though a pair of double doors, you suddenly find yourself in the middle of an NHS hospital ward, - it even has that disinfectant-like smell like a hospital ward! This one, however is devoid of any staff or patients, but has a number of hidden cameras. Kind of like Big Brother meets ER. In fact, it was built by the same company that constructs the set for the British medical drama-soap, Holby City.

This elaborate and incredibly lifelike environment has been built as part of an "immersive" senior management development programme. Professional role-players act out scenarios involving the real professional staff - often tough, highly emotional scenes, whilst the other delegates observe the video relay, debrief and discuss . Speaking with some of the participants, they were all amazed at how quickly they found themselves "believing" what was happening during the role plays.

My role was to provide some input relating to After Action Reviews (AARs), and to use the role-plays to help the clinicians translate this input into real life - well, it felt real to us!

I was really struck by the power of simulation in learning - we don't use this nearly enough in business. I was also really encouraged that parts of the NHS are sufficiently progressive to develop their senior staff through such innovative approaches - and are committed to learning-whilst-doing.

Holby City