Become Traveling Scientist



“Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.” 

-Lao Tzu

Why Ask Why

An inquiring mind is the key to learning. Steve Blank coined the term “get out of the building” to capture the sentiment that we have to step out of our tiny worlds to learn from real people in their real environments.

Seeking learning by getting out of the building and traveling provides us the benefit of learning from real world contexts. The associations we make between data and the real world nurtures applicable insight. In a sense, we must become like traveling scientists, testing our ideas in a variety of settings and observing the outcomes. The assumptions we make about the world are only as good as, what can be proven. Without the willingness to test our ideas in reality just ideas is all they will be. Like scientists we must be mindful of what we see and diligent in what we document.

Context is King

When talking about knowledge context is king. The context in which we discover bits of insight is important because context helps us understand how to apply what we know. At the end of the day, our goal is to acquire the knowledge necessary to influence the world around us in a manner that produces specific results.

 Knowledge is a Survival Tool

The catalyst behind all success is a commitment to acquire and implement knowledge. Knowledge acquisition is what safe guards an organization from not only the perils of a complex and changing world but also from human fallibility. Knowledge is both an objective and subjective thing. As we learn about the world around us and its governing principles, we also learn about ourselves. When the love of knowledge and learning begins to wane people no longer question. This is a precarious situation. Without questioning, there can be no innovation, no renewal of vision and strategy. Changing to meet the demands of complex world is an act of learning.

 What Can Be Done

A few recommendations on nurturing knowledge acquisition within your organization:

  •  Provide people the autonomy to research and solve problems
  • Make resources available to empower thinking
  • Provide people access to diversity of thought, culture, and skill set
  • Provide people access to performance data in order to see the outcomes of action

What do you do in your organization to encourage learning?


Patience My Dear Watson!



“Why is patience so important?”
“Because it makes us pay attention.” 


Patience is a vital element to self-directed learning. Patience is a habit of mind that can be trained. Activities that require steady attention are great techniques to nurture higher degrees of patience. Activities like:

  • solving puzzles
  • meditation 
  • jogging
  • walking
  • yoga
Challenge people to remain present and patient. With practice the level of patience exhibited in our daily lives will increase. 

Forgetfulness and Fear are the Enemies of Knowledge

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.” 
― Paulo Coelho

Forgetfulness and fear can destroy knowledge creation within an organization.

Loosing sight of organizational goals and challenges is detrimental to learning and innovation. The simple matter is we need a consistent purpose and challenge to spark our creative and intellectual energies.
It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.
As business leaders we should plan how we will use reminders to keep people focused on the big picture. Routines such as regularly scheduled planning meetings or progress report sessions  can help keep first things first.
“Fear helps create knowing doing gaps because acting on one’s knowledge requires that a person believe he or she will not be punished for doing so-that taking risks based on new information and insight will be rewarded, not punished”. -Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton
Fear also can derail the creation of knowledge. Pfeffer and Sutton (2000 ) highlight in their book the Knowing-Doing Gap that the organizations they studied that failed to translate knowledge into action had a pervasive atmosphere of fear. Maya Angelo has a saying that courage is the most important virtue because without it no other virtue are possible.  It is important to address fear head-on by creating a safe space where people can share their ideas and suggestions. In Japanese this is called a Ba. Ikujiro Nonaka describes a BA as a shared space that serves as a foundation for knowledge creation. If people are afraid they will not share.
  • How do maintain focus in your organization?
  • What strategies you use to create a safe space for people to share?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Please share them in the comments below.

Love is the Key to Success

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

– Albert Schweitzer
Be Engaged

Value the work you are engaged in, right now. Appreciating where you are opens the door to possibilities. You can only innovate when you are personally vested and engaged. The value we place on our work is a personal thing. It is not something that can be given to us but each professional must find it for himself or herself. Many of the innovators we usually cite when discussing genius often did what they did for very personal reasons. They sought to improve the quality of their life and in turn improved the quality of life for many others.

Own It
You have to feel a sense of responsibility in order to excel in your field. Innovations do not happen as result of receiving permission to move forward. Innovation happens when a person feels compelled to find a solution to a problem. “Making work personal” happens when there is clarity behind why the work is important.
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop
Entrepreneurship is a manifestation of personal initiative. This process is not entirely transactional where a person merely trades creativity for dollars. Though many people step into the entrepreneurial world for economic gain, more still step into the arena in order to put their beliefs into action.

Human Connection: A Powerful Source of Knowledge



“Connection, not collection: That’s the essence of knowledge management.”

–Tom Stewart, The Wealth of Knowledge

Relationship management is an important part of a knowledge management strategy. People are incredible sources of knowledge and information. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) in their research on innovation argue that the knowledge creation process begins with the individual. With this in mind increasing the number of connections people have to the expertise of others enhances an organization’s ability to innovate.

Too often when organizations seek to solve problems or be more innovative, they fail to take account of the expertise residing within the organization. Many firms seek to instead tap the talents of a small vetted group of “experts”; or they turn to proprietary databases and journals for insight. The danger in this is that these resources are often mistaken as the sole sources of knowledge, thus  leaving an immense source of organizational knowledge untapped.

A sound knowledge management strategy should seek to:
  • Identify the sources of tacit knowledge residing inside the organization
  • Document and categorize the  individual skill and knowledge areas of staff
  • Connect people to the expertise of others by increasing the opportunities to collaborate and collectively problem solve
  • Provide visibility to work being conducted thus enabling the flow of ideas across the organization

Little Things Matter

Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
-Mother Theresa

The small seemingly insignificant act can have a big impact on your performance when executed consistently. Practices like setting time aside to reflect or documenting insights may seem small, however when performed daily are powerful sources of insight.  Small tasks are a type of discipline that help keep you on track in achieving the big things.

The misconception is that  large achievable goals somehow exists apart from  day-to-day and moment-by-moment behaviors.  In reality the audacious goal is not achievable without the small mundane practices laying the foundation.