When an icebreaker isn’t just an icebreaker

I was invited to present a workshop as a guest speaker for a team off-site, recently. It was an express introduction to knowledge management and the group I presented to were enthusiastic about knowledge, even though they hadn’t yet implemented any KM programs. This particular group of people are managers in different roles across the IT operations team. There are a couple of challenges for them to work with: their team is distributed around the country, and they work in a traditional industry that could be subject to fallout from an ageing workforce.

When I do a knowledge management workshop, I like to start by getting everyone’s name and job title. There’s nothing new in that, and it’s more helpful to me than them, especially when they already know each other.
But I also keep three columns of numbers.

The first is how long each person has had that specific role; the second is how long they’ve worked in that organisation; and finally, how long they’ve worked in the same industry—that could be IT, or the business of what their organisation does.

I like this opening exercise because, not only does it give me the cues I need to remember who’s in my workshop, but it demonstrates the amazing amount of collective experience that’s in the room with me. That industry experience, together with the years of experience in the context of the organisation, informs the decisions each person makes in their role every day.

This realisation really highlights the potential of knowledge sharing in an organisation like this one.