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November 13, 2005 » 10:20 pm

Why I Love Compendium And You Should Too

I just spent two outstanding days at the Compendium Institute workshop in Washington, D.C. Folks, if you are interested in collaboration, you must learn about Compendium.    (JZU)

Compendium is a conversation mapping (or Dialogue Mapping) tool that, simply put, makes meetings better. When paired with a relatively straightforward methodology, Compendium can make a huge difference on the quality of your meetings.    (JZV)

But Compendium is about much, much more than meeting facilitation. If you scratch below the surface, you’ll discover deep thinking about collaboration, hypertext modeling, visual languages, Collective Memory, Shared Understanding, and the art of listening.    (JZW)

Simon Buckingham Shum had a great line at the workshop: “Compendium is like Excel for knowledge.” He’s absolutely right. Just as mortals can build sohisticated number crunching applications with spreadsheets, mortals can easily build useful knowledge applications with Compendium.    (JZX)

But Compendium is about even more than that! Compendium, to me, represents an incredibly rich community of practitioners, deep thinkers, and overall good people. I talk a lot about the importance of bridges — folks who speak the languages of multiple cultures or disciplines. Almost everyone in the Compendium community is a bridge of some sort. To be a Compendium guru, you need to have a knack for facilitation, a brain for visual modeling, and comfort with computers. Everyone in the community has at least two of these traits, and some folks even have all three.    (JZY)

Of course, the best measure of the quality of this community is that several members of the extended Blue Oxen family — Simon, Jeff Conklin, Al Selvin, Mark Aakhus, and Karl Hebenstreit — were at the workshop, and I fully expect others who attended to become part of the family.    (JZZ)

I first learned about all this at a two-day workshop on Dialogue Mapping in 2001 from the supreme guru himself, Jeff Conklin. Since then, I’ve blogged a bit and written a few papers about Dialogue Mapping and Compendium. The workshop this past week has motivated me to dump even more thoughts into the blogosphere. But my writing hasn’t and won’t do proper justice to the topic.    (K00)

The best way to learn about Compendium is to experience it for yourself, and then just do it. Fortunately, there are easy ways you can do this:    (K01)

Al Selvin, who along with Maarten Sierhuis, is responsible for Compendium, likens the art of facilitating with Compendium to playing jazz. A great way to learn how to play is to jam with others. How do you find folks to jam with? There are practitioners all over the world. In the Bay Area, there are lots of practitioners (of course) — myself, Jeff, Maarten (who’s doing crazy stuff with Compendium and the Mars project at NASA), Nick Papadopoulos, and others. In D.C., the good folks at Touchstone Consulting use Compendium every day with their clients, and they’ve built an active Community of Practice there.    (K05)

The best way to find folks is to join the mailing list and ask questions there. One outcome of the workshop is that we will probably convene an online jam session, so that folks anywhere can participate. I’m happy to jam with anyone who wants to learn — either face-to-face in the Bay Area or online. Contact me if interested.    (K06)

Finally, if you’re in the Bay Area, you should register for Jeff Conklin‘s upcoming workshop in Redwood City, November 29-30. If you’re a project manager, facilitator, or consultant, or if you deal with groups regularly (who doesn’t?), don’t wait. Sign up and go.    (K07)

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