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27 April 2007

Conversations that matter

The knowledge cafe as a format for knowledge sharing, originally propounded by consultants Juanita Brown and David Isaacs as The World Cafe is evolving as a KM tool worldwide as knowledge cafe and other cafe formats.

Individuals, groups and organisations are starting to use and apply it in a structured manner and, I remember telling Simon at KM ASIA 05 about the concept as it seemed very related to his work in creating knowledge enabling spaces.

Childhood in Mumbai meant a visit to the Madras Cafe - an olfactory delight- the aroma of freshly brewed filter Kapi or coffee, south Indian delicacies and snacks, the tightly wound betel leaf at the cashiers counter.

The Irani Cafes were a visual or design delight. The round marble top tables, distinctive wooden chairs and checked table cloth. The manner in which food was displayed, cooked, served. Sometimes even a favorite, domestic cat wandering about with an air that only felines possess. When a landmark, Bastani shut down, it was truly a slice of Mumbai's past that faded away.

The cafe whether in college,at prithvi,at jahangir, or even at work, are favorite hangouts where the REAL conversations (and decisions and romances and learning and networking and arguing and everything else) happens.

I don't get the same feeling about the new coffee shops. They seem more individual or at most business and couple oriented. People meeting up, making deals, having meetings- not the original cafe stuff. Style has replaced substance, which makes up for it most times! They seem more "goal-oriented" and less of the free flowing conversations of artists and writers and intellectual debate; or the sheer community of the cafes above; or even of those that dot the roadside and highways, where travellers and long distance drivers swap stuff and stories. Quote:

"The key to creating a successful World Café conversation is employing the seven guiding principles, which when used in combination fosters courageous conversations and collective intelligence".

Food for thought?

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