Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Anyone who has ever, at any time, tried to explain something to someone else, is aware of the "light bulb moment".
The light bulb moment is a moment of sudden inspiration, revelation, understanding or recognition. It's such a common experience that it has made its way into cartoon iconography, with the image of a light bulb lighting up above a character's head when he or she suddenly "gets it".
You can see the light bulb in real life - you can see the moment when understanding dawns - nicely illustrated in the photo here from Flickr (mouse-over for credits). It's a brightening of the features, an increase in the level of engagement, stiffening body posture, a widening of the eyes, a smile. Those are the outward signs of the inward dawning of comprehension.
The light bulb moment is a very valuable indicator in Knowledge Transfer, because it means that the recipient has "got it". They have recognised the new knowledge for what it is - namely something better and more valuable than the knowledge they currently hold in their head. I remember a classic example when I was running a Knowledge Management training session in Alaska, and I was trying to get across the idea that KM is not an abstract notion, but is something that needs to be applied to real business problems. I saw someone at the back of the room suddenly "light up", come to attention, and start scribbling rapidly on a piece of paper. I asked him later what had happened, and he told me that the light bulb had come on when I had said "KM can help you with the things you need to know, right now, to deliver your business" - and he had immediately jotted down 10 business problem that KM would be able to help. These would become the basis of his KM strategy.
The light bulb moment can only be recognised, and happens in the most dramatic form, when knowledge is transferred face to face. In fact any trainer or teacher looks for that moment, and keeps trying different ways to transfer the knowledge until the bulb lights. They watch the faces, and watch the eyes, and watch the body language, and look for the moment when people "get it". Until that point, the knowledge has not been received. So for important knowledge, where the light bulb needs to go on and stay on, you need to look at tried and tested mechanisms such as Peer Assist, Knowledge Exchange, Knowledge Handover and so on.
Knowledge Managers, please watch out for the light bulb moment, That is your best indicator, metric or KPI to show that Knowledge Transfer has really happened.