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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What I've been up to.

I've been rather busy the last week and a bit discussing a possible position in Dubai undertaking knowledge management. Though I have also been attending a number of events and discussing knowledge management. I've also had confirmation that I've had an article published in KM Legal covering a recent talk on KM and Innovation. So I do apologise for the recent lack of articles, but I have also been taking a time out to review what is going on in the field and I hope to write up on this shortly.

I had a very interesting discussion with Matthew Taylor who is the Chief Executive of the RSA regarding the role of knowledge management to the organisations of the future and he is undertaking some work in this area and I was happy to provide him with some thoughts regarding what people wanted from the technology side of knowledge management. I will be writing an article on this shortly which I hope to post.

So I will be back shortly.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Knowledge Management and taking the bite from the Apple.

I'm away a lot this week in London and in Newbury this week.

But I do have some interesting observations following a recent article in last week's Economist on Innovation at Apple and what other companies can learn from them. I have read this article a few times and if you replace innovation with the word knowledge management there are a few interesting observations.

The first is that innovation can come from without as well as from within.

For me knowledge management is not purely about sharing information but also examining the outside environment and seeing ideas that other may have not fully utilised and asking myself whether it can be used within our organisation with a few cultural twists. The article calls this network innovation and it tackles the cultural arrogance that some companies can fall prey to of thinking that the only good ideas are home based ideas. However it isn't easy - it involves cultivating contacts and constantly scouting for new ideas and always pushing forward. Does this sound familiar to knowledge management practitioners in terms of utilising social networks and finding boundary spanners who move between the various organisational silos and beyond.

The next area is in terms of designing it's new products around the needs of the user and not just the needs of the technology.

When I have carried out work on KM, I have undertaken a knowledge audit to find out what people are looking for and what is causing problems in their working life and tried to solve it but also keeping it simple and designing it around people. How many times do we as KM practitioners and IT try to force people around the system or needs of a document management system. I don't like wearing an ill fitted suit and neither do end-users. One size does not fit all.

The third area is in contrast to the above - occasionally you do have to ignore this user centric point of view as to what the end user says that they need today.

This can be the case with the use of wikis and blogs to support knowledge management, but also can you for example use micro blogging such as Twitter to provide people with updates as to new precedents placed on the system.

The article quotes the success of the Nintendo Wii - because it tapped into a new area of non- gamers. Occasionally you need to head for the blue ocean and away from the Red Ocean where everybody else is congregated.

The fourth lesson is to fail wisely the lesson is not to stigmatise failure but to see it as a learning opportunity and to be more tolerant.

I remember James Dyson quoted that it took 5000 attempts before he got his vacuum cleaner right. SO if you carry out a review of a project - don't look at a failure as a failure - look at it as an opportunity to improve and try again - so don't make your post project review an inquest - you won't get people to share knowledge - why not look at where things went right before looking at the areas for improvement. As Steve Job's said once - people occasionally need to stay foolish and need to 'think different'

I'll try to post on Friday after I've attended a knowledge management event in London on Thursday.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Shock of the New

I was reading an interesting article by Tim Harford in the weekend FT. He highlighted the recent death of Alfred Chandler who highlighted the effect of technology on an organisation. He highlighted that economists beleive that technology and business performance shape each other.

I always remember an economist quipping that despite all the money spent on IT that it had not really shown up in improving peoples productivity. Though like Harford I think that they are having an impact despite my earlier post on Saturday.

Technology is nothing without other factors changing around it such as the design of offices but also that business and society needs to adapt.

This has been a theme in some earlier posts as I believe as does Eirik Brynjolfson at MIT that the current crop of collaborative software will be useless unless organisations take the opportunity to change to take advantage of the new technology. We need to recognise that we are all knowledge workers now and that the old command and control management style needs to loosen if we are to obtain the benefits.

This sort of change is slower than the changes that technology is making in our lives but that does not mean that management can ignore it So before thinking about that big IT spend - ask yourself - is your organisation also ready to change.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Is Web 2.0 a technology looking for a problem?

I was looking back through some old notes of mine from when I worked in Knowledge Management at the turn of the millennium. We had just had a presentation from a major document management system to the Head of IT and myself as a representative of the department.

The presentation lasted nearly 2 hours and I have just spotted the note that I made at the end of the presentation. It said "This piece of IT looks like it is trying to find a problem to solve. If there is no problem to overcome then why use the technology.

I was thinking this as I recently read an article in KM World which highlights the technology trap that people can fall into. They look for an exciting piece of technology and try to ramrod it into the organisation. My view is to consider whether this will help the business to be successful and then design the technology around it not forgetting my triangle of people, process and technology.

However you can always be theoretically accurate and also review what has happened at other organisations, but I would also suggest that you pilot it out first to see whether it fits into your organisation and to see whether it increases your companies abilities to be successful and not necessarily to keep up with your competitors who have just invested in the new super duper IT system.