Evidence-based practice

I recently attended the South West CILIP AGM, where David Stewart, current president, talked (amongst other things) about the importance of evidence-based practice amongst library and information professionals.

Couldn’t agree more – x2 for Knowledge professionals.

KM can be an expensive resource in law firms – bought-in subscription services, PSLs/KLs, IT systems, time away from fee earning for learning – none of these are cheap.

But when was the last time you were able to review the latest research on the best ways to encourage knowledge sharing in businesses? When were you last given the budget to attend training on the latest thinking on how adults learn in the work place?

What if you relied on following the crowd, but that meant … you were following them in an expensive and inefficient direction?

Your lawyers can’t just practice however they fancy without keeping up with the latest thinking in the law. Why should KMers be expected to?

Why is it like this? Is it snobbish-ness in some parts of the legal sector, not so much amongst KM professionals, but amongst the lawyer-managers? A sense that “Academics can’t know what it’s like in the real world” and “We don’t need buzzwords and management fads“? Or a sense that they must uncritically keep up with the Joneses and everyone has moved from “KM” to “Blockchain” to “AI” to “Innovation”?

How can knowledge-intensive businesses like law firms know what is the most efficient and effective approach to exploiting and selling the combined knowledge within their business? By knowing about the latest Knowledge Management research, analysing it critically and taking the relevant parts for an informed, effective practice. It surprises me that firms don’t seem to mind wasting money ignoring years of learning on the topic of “how to maximise profit from knowledge”.

I’m not necessarily talking about buying the latest technological gizmos: I’m talking about having the right practices in place to get knowledge shared around the business in what we have learned are the most efficient and effective ways.

I know that time is always a factor, but a lawyer would not be permitted to say “I was too busy to keep up with the changes in the law” in their defence of a professional negligence claim.

Agree? Disagree?

If you agree, what can you do to improve your evidence-based practice?

  • Read more books: Nonaka, Davenport & Prusak, O’Dell, Leonard (maybe even a Russell?)
  • Read a journal: the Journal of Knowledge Management isn’t a bad place to start.
  • Join a supportive learning group: in-person is best, but VC is not bad.
  • Attend some training: again, in-person is best, but on-line courses can be OK if they are well designed and you put effort in.
  • Look outside your sector: how are other sectors responding to their challenges? You might get some great ideas that no one else has tried in your sector yet – get ahead of the competition. And learn about and critically assess the value of other management tools: design thinking, UX, process and quality management.
  • Experiment and gather your own evidence: who knows your business better? Make sure you know when to drop an idea/pilot and move on. And make sure it’s always a learning experience.

Want to give these a try, but not sure where to start? You can DIY, or, if you like my stuff, I’ve a couple of things that can help, some paid-for, some free: book club, workshops, online courses, Knowledge Network UK, books, RCTs.

What do you think? Am I being unfair? I’d love to know what you think. And what other resources would you add to improve your own evidence-based practice?

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It killed the cat. It went to Mars.

I’ve recently realised how important curiosity is to me. It encourages me to learn, helps me to have enjoyable conversations and makes life interesting. I don’t have a cat, so I should be fine.

I also recently read this article about how to talk about climate change using curiosity rather than lecturing.

It struck me that, as well as a great blueprint for a discussion on climate change, with a few tweaks, this is a great blueprint for most knowledge-related conversations. Perhaps a good toolkit for conversations with leavers to prevent knowledge loss?

7 step plan for a curious conversation

  1. Beforehand, consider the motivation for this conversation. What do you need to learn? Why are you doing this? Why might they engage with you?
  2. Make sure it’s the right time to talk for both of you.
  3. Lead with curiosity, make space for the discussion, don’t jump in, listen a lot. Asking “Why?” with curiosity releases knowledge. Asking “Why?” with judgment releases defensiveness.
  4. What do they know (what’s a concrete fact)? What do they think (what have they deduced)? How do they feel (listen with empathy and dig deeper to unearth more)? What stories do they have to illustrate these facts, deductions and feelings?
  5. What shall you both do now? What is the best way for the new knowledge you’ve unearthed together to be shared for the organisation’s benefit? Explore together the possibilities.
  6. Arrange to follow up and talk again. And do it.
  7. Build your conversational skills: use reflective learning to get better each time.

Interested? What can you do now?

Lastly …

Remember to be more like this guy!

#Knowledge #KM #LawFirm #KnowledgeManagement #Tacit #Curiosity #conversation

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A sneak-peak

So I’ve released (at long last, I know, I know) my first online course.

I love in-person training and try to do as much of it as possible. There is nothing like a face-to-face conversation on a topic to ensure that your attendees have really understood what you are trying to help them with. You can adjust how much time you spend on what, and make sure you cover everyone’s particular challenges, so everyone goes away with a practical answer to a real difficulty at work.


Quite simply …

Not everyone can come to London, Bristol or Birmingham or spare an afternoon or a day away from their desk.

I do the odd webinar, but they’re time limited and (I know from webinars I’ve attended) it’s hard, as an attendee, to maintain attention when other priorities are calling – too tempting to “have it on in the background” and miss the valuable stuff.

So I’ve created an online course to squeeze in between a webinar and an in-person workshop and satisfy the need for a more flexible, self-paced, available at your desk/home/spinning class type learning.

My first course is a beginner’s course, but I’ve plans for one on measurement and conversation (my favourite topics as you know by now).

What’s included?

  • A mix of videos, presentations, downloads, articles, quizzes and online discussions
  • I’ll be online each Monday to answer any questions or just have a chat
  • It’s my usual mix of “all the theory you need” mixed with “a dollop of real-world practicality”

If you’ve got any questions about it, drop me a line, otherwise I look forward to “meeting” some of you there!

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It’s go, go, go! The KN-UK programme is live!

Just finalised the programme for Knowledge Network UK in Bristol and Birmingham for 2019 and I’m *terribly* excited about it (maybe cause it’s Friday).

This year we’ll be covering:

  • the new BSI standard for KM
  • think like a marketing professional – using marketing tools and techniques to improve internal & external communication
  • behind the scenes look at how other sectors approach their KM challenges
  • design thinking for KM solutions – it’s not just techy solutions, design something that really works for your users
  • bring-a-problem workshop – learn from the wisdom of the crowd and thrash out some practical solutions with your peers

It’s £250 for one person (for 10 hours of learning?!) and £450 for a dual ticket for 2 people (from the same firm). If you would like to join, there is also an early bird discount for those who pay by 22nd March 2019.

If you would like more info or to join in the fun, email me at helenerussell@theknowledgebusiness.co.uk or comment below.

And if you live somewhere else in UK and want a KN-UK group in your city, let me know. Once I have 3-6 firms interested, I’m happy to get organising!

Individual tickets to single events will be available nearer the time via Eventbrite.


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Hercule Poirot: Subject Matter Expert and Knowledge Manager

If you are in the UK, you can’t have missed the excellent new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders over the Christmas holidays. See the source image

If you did miss it and enjoy a Golden Age murder, you can (at the time of writing at least) find it on catch-up here.

It didn’t seem terribly faithful to the book as I remembered it, so I decided to re-read the book alongside the series (and enjoy again a rattling good tale).

And while re-reading the original story, I was struck by how Poirot (well, Agatha Christie) has some excellent quotations about Knowledge and Learning and the power of conversation. I thought they might be useful,  so I’m sharing them with you.


On implicit and tacit knowledge and hunches…

Here Hercule is explaining why his “feeling” that there is something amiss about the murderer’s letters should be taken seriously.

“Not instinct, Hastings. Instinct is a bad word. It is my knowledge – my experience – that tells me that something about that letter is wrong.”


“But what is often called an intuition is really an impression based on logical deduction or experience. When an expert feels that there is something wrong about a picture or a piece of furniture or the signature on a cheque he is really basing that feeling on a host of small signs and details. He has no need to go into them minutely – his experience obviates that – the net result is the definite impression that something is wrong. But it is not a guess, it is an impression based on experience.”


On surfacing information (and knowledge) through conversation…

Here Hercule is trying to unearth from a group of witnesses and the victims’ families, any  facts or events, however small, that might link the seemingly random murders. So far the only similarity between the series of killings is that each victim’s name and home town links to a letter of the alphabet (the first victim was Alice Ascher of Andover).

“Telling everything you know always implies selection…. One cannot tell everything. Therefore one selects…. people select what they think is important. But quite frequently they think wrong!”

“And how is one to get at the right things? Simply, as I said just now, by conversation. By talking! By discussing a certain happening, or a certain person, or a certain day, over and over again, extra details are bound to arise.”


What do you think?

Was Hercule Poirot a Subject Matter Expert and Knowledge Manager at heart?

Have you come across any other fictional characters whose Knowledge and Learning quotes would be useful for training and discussions? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

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2018 in review

As I head off for my Christmas holidays, it’s time for a review of the year…

And a puppy in a Santa hat, just … because …

santapuppy- rhaul-v-alva-491530-unsplash


Top 5 posts/pages


  • Over 4,000 visitors from 92 different countries visited this blog

Law firms helped in 2018

  • I helped 35 individual firms (plus a few hundred more at conferences, watching webinars and listening to podcasts)
  • the smallest had one partner
  • the largest had more than 700 partners
  • this included 40 hours of training


New initiatives


A great fun year for me. Thank you to all my clients, peers and friends. Hope you’ve enjoyed your year too.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – enjoy the holidays!


What do you want to hear about next year? Let me know in the comments or email me or, if you are UK-based, arrange a coffee and a chat.




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Innovation, creativity and diversity

We had a great session in Bristol’s KN-UK last week on innovation with Dr Rob Sheffield. He’s highly recommended.

One of the things that always strikes me when we talk about creating the right conditions for innovation to take place in businesses, is the need for diversity.

“Innovation teams” might be useful, but wouldn’t it be great if innovation was something everyone got involved in and everyone thought more creatively about client needs and how to improve delivery of their work?

Two diverse people sharing knowledge creates far more for a business than the sum of the individuals’ knowledge. If you aren’t sure about this, have a look in the comments section where I’ll share some links.

So, in practical terms, how can we improve the chances of diverse people sharing knowledge as part of their everyday work/interactions?




A few ideas for organisations/leaders –

  • mix up training sessions – if you run regular training lunches (and I know lots of law firms do) who can you invite to these to mix things up? Can your M&A team share experiences about project management? Can all your litigators mix in and share thoughts about tactics? Can your marketing team talk about personal branding?
  • create client groups with multiple strands – can all those who work with hospital trusts get together occasionally, whether they support their complaints and litigation teams or their property teams? What about anyone across your business who deals with family-run businesses?
  • and if you want a specific, dedicated project, the “RCT” will create a bit of serendipity in your organisation’s networks for a minimum cost – read more here.

And a few ideas for outside business –

  • I run a free global RCT/virtual coffee connections for law firm knowledge people. If you’d like to join in, email me or comment below. Read other people’s comments about their experiences here.
  • I’ll also be running a global virtual book club for knowledge and learning people from all sectors next year. Again, email me or comment below if you’d like to join in. More info here. Join law firm knowledge specialists from across Europe, mixed with leaders in learning from other sectors and people across the globe who are passionate about learning and knowledge.
  • Join a community group or an alumni from an old employer or university or set up your own.
  • Go to a conference or training session that is useful, but from a different angle or sector. I went to the UK Knowledge Mobilisation conference earlier this year and enjoyed myself so much I joined the committee to run next year’s! You can get your tickets here (not many left – it is fantastic value for money!).

What have you tried in the past to “mix things up” and bring diverse people together for knowledge sharing? How did it go? I’d love to hear what worked and what didn’t.


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Posted in Knowledge Network UK, knowledge-sharing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment