Theknowledgecore's Blog

Complexity and Knowledge Management Navigators…

Lions and vultures and owls, oh my! Organisational Zoo – A KM Asia highpoint

Reflecting on my visit to KM Asia, the best discovery was from Australia; Organisational Zoo ( – the brainchild of Arthur Shelley. I spent several hours with Arthur, including his three-hour workshop, aimed at understanding the power of questions and the performance management of organizational culture, and left his company with enough food for thought to feed the five thousand.

This is a consultant at the top of his game (Arthur used to be responsible for global KM for Cadbury Schweppes), bringing a cutting insight into the behaviours exhibited in teams, and the ability of all of us to morph our behaviours according to the context we find ourselves in.

Arthur, though not mentioning it directly, uses the concept of the Johari Window to illustrate that the behaviours we display cannot be seen as anything but stimulated a response to the context in which we find ourselves; as well as the behaviours we find ourselves subjected to. Understanding our environment and the behaviours that inhabit it is essential for the effective performance management of aspects of knowledge operations, such as Communities of Practice.

The experience has left me wondering whether the person creates the culture or whether the culture creates the person?


Though not a direct topic of discussion, it left me considering the problems with induction, or socialization, programmes within organizations. Too often we seem to attempt to socialize to the behavioural norm, dismissing outlier behaviour as problematic or renegade and not the way you want to be doing things around here if you want to get along. However, for an organization to adapt for the future is there not the need for variety? Do we not need to embrace cultural and behavioural diversity? If we socialize to the norm are we not attempting to homogenise the organization to create an acceptable image of the collective – an image initially sculped by whom? Surely, if we ignore the need to embrace behavioural variety, are we not doing the organization a disservice, in that we are failing to service its need for adaptive capacity – a capacity fuelled by variety?

We may not like some of the behaviours exhibited within our organizational zoo, but those same behaviours challenge us and perhaps, if we are more understanding and accepting the context that drives the behaviour in the first place, we can harness them for good.

I highly recommend a visit to Arthur’s website – he has a free behavioural tool kit and an extensive web of practice that could of benefit to any organization in any country.

… Just hope you’re not a vulture…!

So, what do you think?

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This entry was posted on November 30, 2010 by in Uncategorized.
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