A network meeting and how learning, co-creation and fun come to full blossom!

May 20, 2015 | Blog-Admin1 | Learning Elsewhere |


Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Corinne-Sprecherbabette pfanderDuring the last meeting of the Knowledge Management Think Table, we played a communication game. The game was fun and insightful. It taught us a lot about the basics of the networked way: Shared leadership, shared purpose, trust and value creation.

Corinne Sprecher, Agridea and Babette Pfander

Soccer Team

Imagine a soccer team composed of a coach, a captain, a defender, a midfielder and a forwarder is jointly to solve a task. And all have to follow strict communication rules. The coach can only communicate with the captain, so do the defender, midfielder and forwarder. And all communication is only in written, no verbal communication is allowed. This is of course not a real life situation but the instruction for a communication exercise; we did during a meeting of the Swiss Knowledge Management Think Table (KMTT). The team is asked to identify the uniform which is in common for all players, but only the coach knows that this is the objective of the game. He is not aware that the players have no clue about this objective. The players have simply received information on available uniforms (see some below) and know with whom and how they are allowed to communicate, however, not knowing for what purpose.

The coach's shirts

The coach’s shirts

The captain’s shirts

The captain’s shirts

The defender’s shirts

The defender’s shirts

The midfielder’s shirts

The midfielder’s shirts










What do you guess happened in our communication game?
communication game

Yes, there were puzzled faces, quite a chaotic exchange of ‘emails’, papers flying around. Our captain was flooded by emails, he didn’t know where to start and whom to answer first. And the rest of us, the players, were either insistently trying to find out what happened and how to contribute, eagerly ‘spamming’ the captain’s inbox. Or we relaxed frustrated in our chairs, as we didn’t not know any longer what to do.

The communication game triggered interesting discussions. Here our most important insights.

KMTT – a network of peers

The KMTT is a community of professionals engaged in facilitating knowledge sharing and learning. What makes the network – and pretty much any network – so different from the setup of the communication game, is its horizontal nature. Networks connect peers. In our work life we often tend to orient ourselves towards our superiors and inferiors in hierarchy, whereas the exchange among peers on the same level would actually be often most fruitful. Knowledge managers value the KMTT a lot for the connection with peers faced with similar challenges.

“In my experience the more hierarchical an organisation is, the more important are horizontal networks.”
Alim Khan; ILO

Shared leadership is essential

In the game only the coach new the goal and she was not even aware that the others did not: “It is so hard to stay motivated if you don’t know the objective” said one of those not knowing the purpose…

So how to keep energy high in the network? The core principles of the KMTT are shared leadership and shared purpose/ vision. We might have different motivation to join a meeting but our purpose is to advance our Knowledge Management practice. And in contrast to the game during which the defender, midfielder and forwarder felt helpless not knowing how to contribute, we all have clear opportunities to contribute in the KMTT. At several instances we felt that shared leadership is essential and is actually present: E.g. in the agenda-setting for the day, where a smaller group took the initiative to design an interesting programme. Or when the facilitator of the morning session announced before lunch that she cannot attend the session in the afternoon – and naturally others took over! Or we experienced the contrary in the communication game, when things got stuck once a single person – the captain – was in charge of everything.


 “Never build up a network with one core person as bottle neck for communication!”
Ernst Bolliger, AGRIDEA

Harvest a collective gain

What gives life and inspiration to the network is the fact that there is a collective purpose and gain. Each person profits in his or her way. And even more important: we create jointly new insights that without the meeting would never have emerged.

Trust is the basis

This group of like-minded people is a wonderful platform to explore new fields and test collectively what works and what doesn’t. We creatively complement each other’s insights and bring theory and practise to a higher stage.

The trust between members is essential. Without trust individual reflection, sharing stories of failures and success and collegial coaching wouldn’t be possible. With an open mind a question by one participant triggered an open reflection by many: We walked out of the meeting with a strengthened back and increased motivation for our work.

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