If Paris is known as one of the most romantic towns for a first ‘rendez-vous’, the one I have been preparing while boarding on a Thalys, is not as appealing as it seems.
It has been two months since I joined Knowledge Plaza team as Product Manager. My role is simple, at least on paper : define KP’s future and move the whole team of developers and our customers to share that same vision. In practice, this means I have to say “NO”. No, to the developers who would like to work on a specific aspect rather than another. No, to the customers’ requests if inconsistent, and no to Antoine, himself, even if we are talking about his own solution, his baby!
Knowing that we will have to say “no” is one thing. But saying no face-to-face to dozens of people who have been working with KP for years, is quite another! While the TGV is rushing to the workshop on the future of tagging in Paris, I can feel the pressure building inside me.
Because I still don’t know how to manage this work session. What if nobody speaks ? What if they expect me to make them discover new features of a product they know much more about than I do ? All these busy people are going to devote one full day whereas they have a deeper knowledge of the tool than I have!
A few minutes after the workshop begun, my fears did not last long. Ideas burst from all sides, no need to stimulate the conversation. No motivation is necessary but channelling will be helpful. I sit down and listen. The Knowledge Plaza users are highly dynamic, active as the platform meets a real need. Their relationship with the tool is intense and instinctive. Completely amazed, I listen and focus on guiding the conversation.
Motivating and invigorating are the adjectives I would use to describe this extraordinary experience. Improving KP is not only an intellectual or an abstract mission. It is a real duty for all these people who depend on it every day. I now understand the scale of my task: those two relevant and interesting ideas suddenly prove to be contradictory. What seems to make sense in the short term can become problematic in the future. I will have to learn to say ‘“No!” to these people full of enthusiasm and creativity.
Decision made. I will not say “No!”. I will say “No but… I can suggest something better”. Because their energy, their dedication to KP deserve much more than improvements. Just by hearing them speak, I am definitely convinced. They want something better? We will give them the best.
While the Thalys was taking the opposite direction, I remembered that first meeting. Millions of new ideas sprang up in my head. Hardly had my feet touched the ground of Brussels-South railway station when I was ready. Ready to roll up my sleeves and put my shoulder to the wheel. Let’s get to work!

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