I do not know who Alan Webber is, but as a “client-facing” lawyer I cannot accept that conversations are the *most* important form of work.
This may be true in knowledge management – if so, would you amplify?
This is the original HBR article https://hbr.org/1993/01/whats-so-new-about-the-new-economy which is a long read and quite old now, but an interesting one.
From a Knowledge Management point of view, research and practice suggests that conversation
– is an extremely efficient and effective way to facilitate the flow of complex knowledge through an organisation to enable it to meet client needs (e.g. most practitioners happily use knowledge databases for the straightforward work, but prefer to talk to someone for the complex, sensitive or tactical/strategic issues. There is good reason for this – they have learned that they “get it” much faster through conversation than plugging on with more written materials).
– helps us dig deeper and more efficiently into understanding complex situations – could be understanding clients’ true needs and markets ripe for disruption, organisational issues or motivations for behaviours (including knowledge sharing behaviours), or understanding root causes to avoid repeating the same mistakes or build on good practices.
– helps to build trusting networks which employees can rely on at a later stage for more effective knowledge sharing and problem solving (when they have complex problems to solve for clients that they cannot solve alone, people tend to prefer to talk to someone they have had meaningful discussions with in the past, rather than someone chosen from an internal database of experts, even if the known person is less of an expert).
– faciliates innovation for competitive edge.
(and lots more I’m sure).
As Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge says (based on years of research and experience) “We know more than we can say and we can say more than we can write down” – if you want to share complex knowledge amongst professionals, conversation can feel like a waste of time, but it is often the most efficient tool.
But I completely understand that is a bit chicken and egg – without people delivering client work, there is no business today, but similarly without deep understanding of the market, effective knowledge sharing/flow and best practices, there is no business tomorrow.
Hope that makes sense of the KMer’s view of the importance of “conversation” and isn’t too jargon-y.
If you are interested in the role of conversation within KM and business, David Gurteen is the go-to expert http://www.gurteen.com/
And if you are interested in bringing more conversations for complex problem solving into legal practice, think about the “Ask an expert” coffee morning project from “Practical Projects in Legal KM” http://theknowledgebusiness.co.uk/12kmprojects.html – forgive a little plug 😉
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