Building "Rubber Rooms" for Knowledge Management

To play safely, sometimes you need a rubber room.

DSC_1151The “KM rubber room” is a great analogy I picked up from Emily Timmins, Knowledge Manager at Severn Trent Water.  She has been introducing Peer Assists in her organisation, and the analogy she uses for a “safe space” for knowledge sharing is the Rubber Room.

Of course they don’t hold peer assists in a real rubber room, but they use that analogy to create an environment of safe experimentation, and open sharing.

Rubber is

  • soft, you won’t get hurt
  • elastic, so you can bounce ideas
  • stretchy, so you can stretch ideas
  • allows you to erase things if you need to
It’s therefore a great analogy for the safe spaces you need in knowledge management.

Beginning Knowledge management – being the first follower for example – can feel risky. There is a degree of exposure in being open, in exploring mistakes and successes, in offering your know-how to others, and in asking help and advice from others. Especially if the culture is not supportive, the first follower can feel at risk.

Therefore, in the early stages, you may need to create the “rubber riooms” where people can explore KM processes with minimum risk. You may have to do the following;

  • Use external objective facilitators for lessons capture meetings, to ensure they are non-judgmental and focused on learning.
  • Ensure careful facilitation of Peer Assists, to ensure they do not descend into attack-defend behaviours
  • Make sure communities of practice have a moderator and a behaviours-based charter
  • Keep close editorial eye on the wiki
  • Establish ground rules for each KM process, which set out the behaviours we seek.

Especially in the early stages of Knowledge Management, its important that the knowledge workers feel safe enough to ask and share. As KM professionals, we need to set up the Rubber Rooms that guarantee this safety.

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Shared by: Nick Milton

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