Why Your Change Effort Requires A Dose of Spiritualism

Jesus. Steve Jobs. Nelson Mandela. Inna Shevchenko. What do they have in common?

Yes, they are all the world’s most radical change leaders! They went all out to advocate and implement change that is bigger than themselves. The first three names in the above are household names. But who the heck is Inna Shevchenko? In case you haven’t heard of her, she is one of the leaders of Femen, the world’s most radical feminist movement. And during her interview with the Atlantic, she talked about her devotion to her cause.

“I don’t need a boyfriend. I don’t need human warmth. At this stage of my life, I’m devoting myself to my activism, and that’s that.”

Inna Shevchenko

What a bizarre statement! Who doesn’t need human warmth? Aren’t all of us social beings? What was she thinking?

Inside the mind of Radical Change Leader: Spirituality

In fact, all radical change leaders eerily serene when forsaking their personal relationships and devoting their life to realise their seemingly impossible idea. Both Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela neglected their family, while Jesus denied his own family – as described in Matthew.

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Matthew 12: 46 – 50

I think the lesson that you and I (and the rest of common folks) can learn is not so much about prioritising work over life to achieve success, but is about adding steel into our feeble mind or having resilience when leading change initiative.

Change is hard. Leading change effort can be depressing. Over many years of leading the most difficult change initiatives (i.e. KM efforts), I have never seen smooth-sailing change initiatives. I question myself many times on my ability to lead the change initiatives, on whether the change is heading towards the right direction, and on whether I should deem the change as a lost cause. I bet, just like I do, you have those crazy moments too.

This is where you and I can learn from the world’s most radical change leaders. I think, and I have mentioned this earlier this year, all change leaders should embrace spiritualism. I’m not encouraging you to be a religious zealot, but to be spiritual without being religious. Being spiritual will strengthen your determination and grant you wisdom to retreat when necessary. And being spiritual will bring you joy and sense of meaning especially when the whole world seems to go against you.

Spirituality-laced Change Management Is Not New. Embrace It! 

Am I out of my mind to suggest infusing spirituality into change management? Not at all. I’m not the first who propose this idea. Peter Senge in his bestselling book – the Fifth Discipline mentioned about personal mastery (see the following illustration for Learning Organisation’s Three-Legged Stool framework). That’s the “spirituality” that I’m referring to! I certainly don’t mean Deepak Chopra type of spirituality.

LO_ThreeLeggedStool

Spirituality to me is about having personal mastery. In brief, Peter Senge defined personal mastery as follows:

Personal mastery is a discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.

Further explanation of personal mastery definition can be found here.

Have you ever encounter unreasonable people who just can’t appreciate the reality or who don’t have any aspiration? This is where Peter Senge’s insight on personal mastery (i.e. spirituality) comes in. Senge is right to say that personal mastery is one of the five disciplines of Learning Organisation (i.e. transformational change). He is right because pre-requisite to change initiative is maturity. Mature leaders (who have mastered personal mastery) are required to sustain and grow the change effort into a successful one.

Spirituality/personal mastery can nurture people to be a mature leader, a change-ready leader. Embrace it and use it to transform yourself and your organisation.

Have you embraced spirituality? Why? Or Why Not?  

The Serpent-Dove Mandela: What KMers Can Learn from Nelson Mandela

Mandela's death at 95

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Matthew 10:16

On 5th Dec 2013, Nelson Mandela belonged to the ages. And so said president Obama in his moving speech at Mandela memorial. Indeed, Nelson Mandela was the most inspiring leader on earth with his enduring message of compassion and forgiveness. Mandela’s messages connected so deeply with many of us because we all need to deal with difficult virtues of compassion and forgiveness. Mandela would be dearly missed. RIP Nelson Mandela.

During his lifetime, Mandela never fail to remind people that he is “not a saint”. And I believe that he isn’t. There is more nuances in Mandela’s story than just using sports (Rugby) as a means to spark change movement, i.e. reconciliation and healing to the nation. As you and I know, it takes more than just good intention and sincere heart to bring about change.

More than just being a naive nice guy, Nelson Mandela is being a Serpent-Dove-like person. What do I mean by that? Simple. Mandela is a shrewd change leader. He understands political settings of the system that he wants to change and he cleverly uses Halo effect to win over people to his side. So he is wise like a serpent and yet pure like a dove. All leaders of change initiative and KMers need to learn from his style of leadership to be successful.

How can you and I evoke Mandela’s “magic” to bring about change in our life and work? Like Mandela, we should master these two critical skills:

1. Reigning over destructive emotions. 

…when he learned he and de Klerk had received the Nobel Peace Prize jointly in 1993, he was quietly outraged, confessing the extent of his distress only to his closest friends…Mandela mask, always so tightly worn, did actually slip once, and in public…

John Carlin’s note on Mandela’s humanity

Destructive emotions such as anger, impatience, or arrogance kills relationship. And because building relationship is so critical in winning people over to commit to any change initiative, destructive emotions can eventually cause failure in change effort.

It’s not easy and, just like Mandela did, anyone would struggle to reign over destructive emotions – especially when you disagree or are disappointed with people, or when your best ideas aren’t accepted / implemented.

Bear in mind that the survival of the change initiative depends on your ability to show restraint and self-control. No one wants to work with chronically angry people. Unless that someone is Steve Jobs. But then again you aren’t Steve Jobs. And I’m not Steve Jobs too. So let’s not think that we can get our ways by being angry. Nothing last can happen through intimidation or coercion.

Perhaps the best personal benefit on being able to reign over destructive emotion is that it would create halo effect. You would occupy the moral high ground and have credibility to influence people’s behaviors.

2. Seeing the social dynamics of the situation.

Scold, flatter, demand, cajole — when you occupy the moral high ground, your tactical options are practically limitless. Mandela’s genius was knowing how and when to deploy them all.

Paul Taylor’s observation on Mandela’s political acumen

It would not have been wise to have emerged from jail bristling with ill will towards the white minority who had kept all power to themselves

John Carlin’s observation on Mandela’s social dynamic

Nelson Mandela is fully aware of who he needs to work with to achieve his vision: a united South Africa. More importantly, he knows how to “move” them like a chess piece.

Mandela understood that de Klerk was ready to negotiate not because de Klerk was a nice guy but because de Klerk knew that Apartheid is no longer sustainable because of the international sanctions and growing isolation from the international community. (In his autobiography, Mandela mentioned that PW Botha – de Klerk’s predecessor – is not the right man to negotiate with.)

And, to me, the uncanny ability to get people to act is what made Mandela great. Almost everyone know how to identify the stakeholders in change initiative, but only great leaders know how to influence the right people to do the necessary at the right moment.

References:

http://news.yahoo.com/mandela-icon-hero-flawed-human-160901413.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/nelson-mandela-knew-how-to-deploy-the-moral-high-ground/2013/12/05/797480b8-5df5-11e3-95c2-13623eb2b0e1_story.html

http://news.yahoo.com/mandela-was-just-a-man–and-that-made-what-he-did-extraordinary-214037514.html

Two Real Reasons Why KM Initiatives Failed

Recycle_Bins

Like many other KMers, I hear a lot about why KM initiatives failed. Among the most popular reasons for KM failure, three reasons stood out: (i) lack of senior management support; (ii) weak change management efforts; (iii) weak alignment between KM and corporate goals.

So to ensure the success of KM in their organisation, KMers should do the following best practices:

  1. win senior management support by telling them about the advent of knowledge economy,
  2. ramp up their change management efforts by producing nice collaterals (posters, newsletter, etc)
  3. somehow (often in vain) try to align KM with corporate goals such as shorter learning curve, protecting intellectual capital, retaining organisational tacit knowledge – which is a competitive advantage to the organisation

I wonder how effective the above best practices are. I’ve tried them all and thus far I only have mixed successes in my five-years endeavor in KM. You probably think that I ought to “do better” and “never surrender” in the three KM efforts listed above. I beg to differ. It’s not a matter of competency or perseverance. I think trying better and harder wouldn’t help. There is a deeper underlying issue on why getting KM off the ground is so god darn difficult!

So why so many KM initiatives failed? What’s the root-cause? No one seems to be able to offer satisfying answers to the question. I too don’t have a good answer to the question until I’ve read Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy/Bad Strategy book and Atul Gawande’s New Yorker article: Slow Ideas. Now I’ve finally understood the root-cause of KM failure.

The root-cause of KM failure is not so much about senior management support, or about better change management, or about aligning KM with corporate goal. But it is about lack of focus in KM initiative and about the invisibility of organisational pain point that KM is trying to address.

1. Lack of Focus in KM Initiative (Vagueness in KM Initiative)
A typical KM initiative suffers from an identity crisis.”KM initiative should be interwoven into the fabric of the organisation” – the thinking goes to rationalise the identity crisis.

So according to this thinking, KM must be practiced by everybody in all aspect of their work. And KM technology should include CRM system, intranet, HR database and system, e-Learning platform, and practically every other IT system (since all IT systems contain data – which, according to DIKW model, can be converted into knowledge).

Therein lays the problem. While I admire the brave and bold thinking, I have doubt on how such philosophy can be realised because it simply doesn’t have any focus. Without a focus you can’t have a robust coherent KM strategy. And without strategy you can’t implement KM.

To be successful, KM initiative needs to have a focus in its purpose/vision. Using vague, motherhood language is not going to impress anyone and is definitely not going to sell any KM initiative. People, especially C-level executives, need to understand what is the specific problem that KM initiative is trying to solve.

So how could you call CRM / HR / intranet issues (and other seemingly KM-related issues) as KM issues when the owner of the problem-area doesn’t define it as KM? You can’t. And most likely the C-level executives don’t see the issues as KM issues too. That means there won’t be resources allocated for KM. And KM initiatives will be buried under other organisational initiatives and will soon be put in the back burner.

2. Invisibility of Organisational Pain Point that KM is Trying to Address
Even if KMers managed to inject a worthy cause to their floundering KM initiative such as organisational learning or internal communication excellence, KMers still facing uphill battle because the specific problem that they are trying to address is not visible to the organisation.

Rome_Bridge

Just like what Atul Gawande highlighted in the story about Anesthesia and Listerism (Anesthesia gained faster adoption than Listerism), KM suffers from the lack of immediate tangible output from its initiatives. Yes organisational learning is important. And yes internal communication is important. But these organisational pain points are hidden in plain view.

Yes, you can highlight immediate success stories in KM by showing “low-hanging fruits” (low-impact tangible results) such as improving information findability. Alas the stories will remain good-to-have stories in the ears of C-level executives. It’s unlikely that the senior management would make KM a priority after hearing such low-impact stories.

Therein lays the problem. Chances are the senior management will lose patience with KM long before KM initiatives begin to show strategic impact to the organisation. KM is a long term organisational-wide strategic endeavor (about 7 – 10 years) and unfortunately organisational KPIs, even the “strategic” ones, are much shorter than that.

And before you blame the senior management for their lack of support or for their “short-term” thinking, you should consider whether it is realistic to expect people to have an unwavering support on a corporate initiative that lasts 7 – 10 years. I don’t think it is realistic unless the corporate initiative is about organisational transformation
.

Prostituting Change: Why The World Doesn’t Need Pussy Riot or Femen

One of my favorite tv-series in the 1990s was Dark Justice. Check out the opening video clip above. It contains the coolest opening line ever – too bad it is in German. (No, I don’t speak German, but it is the best quality video that I could find in Youtube).

Here is what it says:

As a cop, I lost my case due to legal loopholes, but I believe in the system.

As a DA (District Attorney), I lost my case due to crooked lawyer, but I believe in the system.

As a judge, my hands are bound by the letter of the law, but I believe in the system.

Until it took my wife away. And then I stopped believing in the system. And start believing in Justice!

The Dark Justice opening lines are not only cool, but also emotionally engaging. Everybody lives within systems, whether it is a justice system, social system, technological system, cultural system, or any other system that exists in this world. Systems are everywhere!

But not everyone is happy with the system. Groundswell initiatives like Occupy Wall Street and its variants, Slutwalk, and more recently Pussy Riot and Femen -  show a disturbing trend. People began to believe that they can radically change the system by simply voicing their displeasure via the social media or by staging civil disorder acts.

Perhaps the rise of social media emboldens people, especially the gen-Ys (a.k.a. the Facebook generation), to commit these socially irresponsible acts. But as a gen-Y myself, I can hardly see the value of staging a protest inside a church ala Pussy Riot, or a naked protest ala Femen (uh-oh, thank God, Femen members are all female. See Femen’s Not Safe For Work publicity stunt here and here).

And what do these so called activists get in return? Far from reaching their goals, pussy riot members are indicted and convicted to two-years jail term, and Femen members are subjected to sexual jokes. What a pathetic, lame, and sad effort to launch a change initiative.

A better alternative to launch a change initiative is through a concerted lobbying campaign ala KONY 2012 or 350.org, that can spark a change initiative within the system. Yes, this requires lots of planning, strategising, and communicating – things that Pussy Riot and Femen don’t want to do.

Pussy Riot and Femen prefer to take a shortcut to change by creating maximum publicity with as minimal effort as possible. They are not heroes. They are publicity-seeking lazy bums who are naive enough to think that they can change the world.

Alas the world doesn’t reward laziness. There is no shortcut to change. In fact, there is no shortcut to anything without creating anarchy. Members of Pussy Riot and Femen got what they deserve for being anarchists. The world certainly won’t miss anarchists.

What’s your opinion? 

Want Change? Use Video

Okay, hands up if you’re struggling with making change within your organisation?

The greatest challenge in the change management is making people care about the message that we are telling them. This isn’t an easy thing to do – especially in organisations, where people are swamped with daily work activities.

Most people just want to get on with their daily routine and maintain status quo. It’s not that people are lazy. They just need to be convinced that the change is worth their attention and energy.

So the question for us – the people who roll-out change in organisation – is how to grab people’s attention and tell an engaging story. To me, the answer is by launching great marketing campaigns to initiate the change effort.

Posters and a website are the foundation for a good marketing campaign, because they create greater awareness and inform people on the reason behinds the change effort. To have a great marketing campaign, however, you need to produce fantastic videos.

The Power of Videos

In recent years, more people and organisations are using videos as a change management tools, because videos are the best medium to store and convey stories – especially the emotional elements of the story.

Take for example, KONY 2012. It is a successful viral campaign that calls people to take (simple) action to stop Joseph Kony. (if you don’t know who he is and you don’t care, then I was at the same boat with you – before I watched the video clip below).

Here is another brilliant example of the use of video as a storytelling tool: the trailer of the movie, Prometheus. By using real event brand – TED – and projecting it into the future, i.e. year 2023, we are unconsciously drawn into the story. It’s akin to getting invitation to participate in the future – told by the movie.

Why the Adoption of Video Has Accelerated

The use of video has been increasingly important over the years, and will be critical in change effort in the future, for at least two reasons. First, the effort and cost to produce and to host videos have been steadily decreasing over the years. Second, the technology to support the consumption of videos, such as broadband internet, mobile platforms like iPad / iPhone, and sharing tools (i.e. social technology) is widely available.

Even within the organisation, the infrastructure for hosting videos can be easily acquired and it is now more affordable to invest in such technology. In sharepoint 2010-based intranet, you can consider Kontiki enterprise to host and distribute videos.

In short, the time is ripe to make use of video as the leading tool in change initiative. By not investing time / effort in producing videos and not investing in infrastructure, organisations are making change more difficult. And these organisations are not agile, are less innovative, and will get left behind.

Thoughts?

Further Readings

Bailyn, E. (19 March 2012). The Difference Between Slacktivism and Activism: How ‘Kony 2012′ Is Narrowing The Gap. Huffington Post

Tsukayama, H. (10 March 2012). Kony 2012: The Anatomy of a Viral Campaign. Washington Post.

Suddath, C. (16 March 2012). Five Reasons the Kony Video Went Viral. Bloomberg Business Week.

Pomerantz, D. (18 April 2012). ‘Prometheus’: When Movie Marketing Goes Very Right. Forbes.

Prometheus Viral Clip: David The Android. Youtube

Migrating Contents from the Shared Drives to Collaboration Spaces

In my previous post, I described how to migrate contents from the old intranet to the new one. In this post, I would like to talk about a related topic: how to migrate contents from the shared drives to the collaboration spaces.

Which content migration is more important? both are equally important, but if you have to prioritise, migrate the contents from old intranet first, before you migrate the ones from shared drives. The reason is because you can still use the shared drives concurrently with the new intranet, but you can no longer use the old intranet when the new one is ready. Nevertheless, it’s best to get rid of the shared drives sooner rather than later.

Prioritise contents migration from the old intranet to the new one first, and then plan for the content migration from shared drives to the collaboration spaces.

In the age of social intranet, collaboration spaces will make shared drives obsolete. But before you can dispose the shared drives, you will have to liaise with the content owner to migrate the contents to the collaboration spaces. This will be difficult, because the contents in the shared drives are not tagged with metadata, while contents in collaboration spaces most likely need to be tagged with metadata.

Alas, you can’t leave the metadata fields empty, and just upload the documents from the shared drives to the collaboration spaces. You ought to protect the integrity of taxonomy and metadata governance.

You also can’t ask people to fill up the metadata after the documents have been stored in the collaboration spaces, because the pressure to conform to the governance will go off once people see the contents in the collaboration spaces without the relevant metadata. And it will be harder to advocate the use of metadata then.

So, what options do you have? Is it possible to automate the metadata tagging? Tough luck, there is no easy way to automate it, because each content has to be described uniquely. You could (and should) automate the metadata fields as many as possible. Metadata like author’s name, date published, title, can be auto-filled by leveraging on your favorite office application’s metadata. But there are other metadata fields like business activity or project name that can’t be easily auto-filled.

The bottom line is this: you still need to get your colleagues to manually fill-up some of the metadata fields. Contents migration from shared drives to the collaboration spaces, is essentially a change management initiative. And so, you need to have some strategy to manage the change, because you can’t simply expect people to appreciate the need for metadata tagging and they would DIY. More likely than not, people will prefer not to fill-up any metadata. The brutal fact is they dislike metadata (who does?).

I’d like to propose the following change strategy:

  1. Appeal rationally. Paint a scenario on how metadata can help them search and retrieve contents better and faster. Tell them specifically how many metadata they have to fill-up and how easy it can be (you have to ensure the process of filling up metadata is painless).
  2. Appeal emotionally. Get stories from people who believe in the importance of metadata. Find out why these people are tagging their documents. And publicise their stories. In addition, provide training and help desk so that your users are rest-assured that help is around the corner (make them feel safe to change their working habits).
  3. Shape the path. There are three ways to share the path: (i) Automate the majority of the metadata fields and make it obvious to them that they only need to fill up several more fields; (ii) Make filling-up shared drives contents’ metadata a habit, by creating a fixed schedule – for the whole organisation – to fill up metadata; (iii) Show (weekly) which departments are the top three metadata champions and which ones are the bottom three. Give rewards like free lunch with CEO for the top three departments.

Have you ever migrated contents from shared drives to collaboration spaces? What’s your take on my proposal above?

Winning the War on Terror by Ethical Brainwashing

War on terror has a hefty price tag: $1 trillion – that is how much the United States (US) has spent on wars since 2001 attack of the twin tower. After spending so many resources to fight terrorism, the Americans and their allies are still struggling to justify and win the war on terror. And judging from Gen. Mchrystal’s insubordination and eventual sacking,  the defeat of terrorism remains an elusive goal. Indeed, as evident in the bombing incident in London, Bali (Indonesia), and India, terrorism is becoming like a cancer, it is no longer contained in Afghanistan and Iraq – the two countries where Al-Queda was suspected to be in, but is spreading to other parts of the world.

Worse still, we don’t even know who the terrorists are now. Who would have thought that a blonde and blue-eyed American woman is the jihad Jane? or a US army psychiatrist – Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, 39 - could kill 13 and wound 31 of his comrades? Terrorists can be found not only in the countries involved in the war against terror – such as Afghanistan, Iraq, the US, and the United Kingdom (UK) – but also in other countries without direct link to the war, such as Singapore. Recently, Singaporeans learned that a full time National Serviceman, Muhammad Fadil Abdul Hamid, 20, is a self-radicalised terrorist.

In the light of this incident, the The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) appealed to the Singaporean Moslems to report any unaccredited religious teacher. And Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Wong Kan Seng, voicing his support to Muis, said that ‘Early intervention is the best way to save a relative or friend from the road to radicalisation.’ No doubt, there is an increasing need for intelligence to safeguard against self-radicalised terrorists. In the US alone, according to the Washington Post, there are no fewer than 850,000 people with top-secret security clearances. And it is heartening to know that the increasing intelligence units and activities help to capture the failed New York bomber, Faizal Shahzad, 30.

But as important as early intervention (Intelligence) can be, we also need to de-radicalise the terrorists so that they can return to the society. And this, I find, is where we (the citizens of the world) have failed miserably.  Consider the following : 74 of the 530 detainees in Guantánamo were suspected or known to have returned to terrorist activity since their release, and Indonesia’s failed deradicalisation programme.  If counter-terrorism efforts are like those of curing cancerous cells, then we are very good in identifying the affected cells (partly because they can be observed), but we are unable to effectively cure them, and thus the cancer continues to spread within our body. It’s no wonder we are on the losing side.

The gist of war on terror is fanatism to an ideology – and therefore it can also be seen as war on ideology. Should the world adhere to Islamic law? Is it true that the western countries are evil? Or should we de-radicalise the extremists? Which version of Islam is correct? The truth (rather than beauty) lies in the eyes of beholder, i.e. people may diagree with what we perceive to be true. Therein lies the problem. In order to win a war on ideology, guns, tanks, and diplomacy are not good enough, we need a more effective means. Building schools and infrastucture is a good way of quelling terrorism, but it is resource-intensive and can be undone by weak governance and rampant corruptions – which are happening at troubled countries like Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

So, what now? Well, as a saying goes: desperate times call for desperate measures. It is prudent that we turn the terrorists’ weapon against them. That weapon is Coercive Persuasion (a.k.a. Thought Reform, or Brain Wash). In a recent TED talk, a filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy showed us a glimpse of how the Taliban brainwashed children to become suicide bombers. Based on her research, she suggested that the conversion to suicide bombers is done through five processes:

  1. The Taliban separates the children of poor families from their parents by promising food, clothes and shelter for their children, and sends these children to isolated places.
  2. The Taliban teaches these children Koran in Arabic – a language that these children do not understand. The children are also forbidden to read newspaper, radio, or any book without Taliban’s permission.
  3. The Taliban beats these children and deprives them of playing time - effectively making the children hate the world that they live in.
  4. The Taliban starts influencing the children on the ‘glory’ of martyrdom. The Taliban talks about what martyrdom offers (in the after life): honeys and milks – unlimited food, and 72 virgins (in Heaven, of course).
  5. The Taliban shows photos of people dying in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Many people perceive coercive persuasion as an unethical method. But, the terrorist are using it to gain more followers. While we are considering what is the moral thing to do to win the war on terror, the terrorist are using all kinds of method (including the unethical ones) to undermine our effort. In the first place, who gets to determine what are the right things to do and what are not. Ethics, like other ideologies in life, depends on how you see it. And if there is such thing as ‘Ethical hacking’ (hacking  can be seen as an unethical work), then surely we can innovate a discipline called ‘Ethical Brainwashing’.

Considering that we have limited resources to tackle the growing threats of terrorism, we need to evaluation options. And I’d say that ‘Ethical Brainwashing’ is an appealing solution since it is readily deployable. Once the terrorists are imprisoned, we would be able to control the information that they received. And according to Lipton’s brainwashing processes, unlike Taliban who beats the children, we don’t have to physically abuse the terrorist - which can lead to public outcry as in the case of Abu Ghraib prisoner torture. So in ‘Ethical Brainwashing’, we have a solution which is not resource-intensive, and does not involve torture. A winning solution indeed!

I shall leave the boundaries of this ‘Ethical Brainwashing’ for further discussions (please leave a comment on this post).

Inception – A Must-Have Skill for KM professionals

Inception

Inception

Inception is a blockbuster science fiction movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio. It is about implanting an idea in someone’s subconscious mind via dreams. It does seem like a novel idea that can never be replicated in the real world. After all if inception is possible, then the person who can perform it will be either revered or reviled, depending on what kind of idea that this person implant to others. But before you dismiss ‘Inception’ as just another interesting science fiction movie, I would like you to think whether the following radical ideas can be implanted to some people:

  1. Be a suicide bomber
  2. Be gracious to someone who raped and killed your relatives
  3. Prostitute yourself for your belief
  4. Rob a bank with a person who kidnapped and tortured you
  5. Iron your daughter’s breasts

Other than the first example – which is clearly a profile of a terrorist, you may think ‘who could do such things?’ and there is no way anyone could influence others to do such drastic actions. It turns out that there are people who can implant such sub-human ideas to others: (2) Marcus Wesson; (3) David Berg, who advocated the practice of Flirty Fishing; (4) Donald DeFreeze of Symbionese Liberation Army; (5) Mothers of 26% of all teenage girl in Cameroon. Okay, these people can’t enter other people’s dreams, but the fact remains that they are capable of implanting (seemingly ridiculous) ideas to others, i.e. changing other people’s mindset.

Here is the scary part: the people mentioned in the above paragraph, are not the exception – there are many people who are capable of such act. And we may know some of them. In fact, depending on whether you are a Christian or not, your pastor can be one of them. Let’s see, is your pastor getting people to believe that a virgin woman gave birth to a baby boy? It seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? especially to the non-Christians. And yet millions of people – the Christians – believe in it wholeheartedly (And yes, I’m a Christian and one of those people who believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ). My point here is: getting people to accept, adopt, and embrace (radical) ideas is not impossible. On the contrary, it can be done (the thought of this gives you chill, doesn’t it?), though it is not easy.

Robert Cialdini, the author of ‘Influence‘, offered six guidelines on how one can influence others: (1) Rule of reciprocity; (2) Commitment and Consistency; (3) Social proof; (4) Authority; (5) Liking; (6) Scarcity. Though the six rules offered some insights on how one can influence others, there are various conditions  - which are usually context-specific situations and thus can’t be explicitly list down – that amplify its effect. One of those conditions is partiality of information. If I proclaim that the world is flat, and the people who listened can’t verify my statement, then by applying some or all Cialdini’s six rules, I have a better chance of implanting ‘the world is flat’ idea to others.

Of course not all ideas are ‘born equal’, some ideas have characteristics that made them more ‘implantable’ than others. Dan and Chip Heath, the authors of ‘Made to Stick’, suggest six principles (SUCCESs) that make an idea ‘sticky’: (1) Simple; (2) Unexpected; (3) Concrete; (4) Credible; (5) Emotional; and (6) Stories. So now you know on how to influence others, and how to make an idea more ‘sticky’ / ‘implantable’. By combining these two ‘how-tos’ and applying appropriate principles at the right context, you are set to perform an ‘inception’.

Clearly this ‘inception’ skill can be dangerous if the bad guys like Osama Bin Laden master it. But for Knowledge Management (KM) professionals, mastering this skill means we can get pass ‘no, I don’t have time’ statement and knowledge-hoarding behaviours, and inculcate knowledge sharing behaviours. Indeed, KM initiatives can’t be implemented successfully without changing people’s behaviors and this means we (the KM professionals) have to influence our colleagues to create, share, and reuse collective knowledge.