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Friday, August 31, 2007

Encouraging people to place information on your internal blog/wiki.

Reading through a number of e-mails, I came upon a report from McKinsey released this month by Jacques Bughin on how companies can make the most of user generated content.

This report discussed that it needs a core of enthusiasts who make quality contributions to kick start the process. It looks at the lessons that organizations which are planning to use corporate blogs and wikis can learn from on line video sharing sites.

One of the areas that the report looked at was that research in Germany in on line video sharing had discovered what I said following my research for my MBA thesis. This is that people share knowledge for such motives as " a desire for fame, and a feeling of identification with a community to encourage collaboration and participation."

McKinsey also found that a few users posted the most popular content. “Depending on the site, just 3 to 6 percent of the membership added 75 percent of the videos available for download, and videos from just 2 percent of the member base accounted for more than half of all videos viewed. These figures resemble those reported in studies of other kinds of participatory media, including wikis, bulletin boards, and photo-sharing sites, where 5 to 10 percent of the users contribute half to all of the content.”

When I carried out a knowledge audit in one organisation, I discovered that it was only a few people who provided the bulk of the knowledge sharing following the 80:20 Pareto principle. Although it would be pleasant to have more people posting and sharing their knowledge, I do wonder whether these pioneers can encourage others to contribute - allied to changes in the companies culture and review systems which 'encourages' people to share knowledge as a means of getting ahead.

The article highlighted, that at a cable company, contributors to an internal wiki did so because of social factors such as reputation building. Team spirit and community identification were other main elements motivating them to contribute.

It is nice to have this confirmed as this has been my consistent discovery over my years in knowledge management in professional service firms and shows that Mayo's Hawthorne principles are alive and well in the 21st century. If you can get knowledge sharing into the company culture and it becomes the way we do work around here, then employees themselves become to continuing drivers of knowledge sharing with minimal management involvement.

It was also interesting to note the role of managers in the process and the action that they took to encourage employees who had developed a high level of connections.

The McKinsey article highlighted that these managers then “examined its internal e-mail system to identify key staffers with wide social networks within it. They then encouraged these employees to post suggestions about improving the company’s processes. Identifying thought leaders and promoting their participation boosted the number of contributions and improved the quality of the postings.”

The article then goes on to highlight that other firms such as Intuit use a rotation system that invites selected employees to contribute to that company's internal online dialogues. This I thought was useful in encouraging knowledge sharing to go beyond the core of highly interested people. The article encourages companies to look beyond this sole area for approaches to maximise the quality of content.

In organizations these sites flourish when they can answer the "Whats in it for me" question. These sites gain traction when new visitors as part of their induction or through word of mouth discover high quality content, then contribute high quality content which then leads to a virtuous circle.. This may mean helping the people who can act as 'guardians' to ensure the quality of the knowledge is of the highest utilising some of the techniques that we see in the linux or open source community.

People may do it as an above and beyond option but wouldn't it be a better idea if the organisation allowed time for people to undertake this work on the company time and to be recognised for it. I'd also like to see companies utilising software similar to Apple's ILife suite to make it as easy and non bureaucratic as possible to share knowledge utilising rich media and not just relying on printed documents.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Knowledge combinations in work

Not wishing to sound like a blues song, but I woke up this morning to listen to two commentators discussing the use of Facebook in the work place. The discussion seemed to veer between two extremes. 

My experience is that most people are sensible in their use of internet facilities and Facebook is another example of internet usage. Whilst I'm sure that some people may 'goof off' using the Internet, it makes me wonder whether an organisation is providing fulfilling work for people if they feel the need to use Facebook for such long periods of time. 

However not one of the commentators considered the case for internal  facebook style networking which I have discussed in previous posts.

Maybe we need to be intelligent enough  as an organisation to say that if people are using Facebook to access, say, a professional network for IT people, or say as a KM professional,  posting to get peoples views on a issue then it is a justifiable use; as ultimately it is of benefit to an employee and to the organisation, as it is helping to speed up the process of work by helping people tap into other peoples knowledge base. 

Perhaps if organisations treated their staff like professional adults rather than micro managing them and what they do, they will get the professional adult behaviour that their organisation needs.

Interestingly today I read a McKinsey report about connecting employees to create value in investment banks.

One of the problems that investment banks have is to leverage talent across the various business units that they have. However clients just as in other professional service firms are looking for services that are integrated and tap a variety of functions. 

The problem tends to be that organisations have departments that have grown so large and have their own targets to achieve, that they have frozen these departments into silos. By asking people to achieve short term targets or billable hour targets they have frozen out the possibility for people to develop true collaborative and professional networks.

Some organisations have tried to do this by combining parts of the organisation but that of course can be disruptive in terms of merging two cultures say a tax department with a corporate department in a law firm.

Another way that it could be done the article posits is the use of informal networks and utilising what I proposed at Wragges,     with the use of deep dive interviews to not only share knowledge but also to investigate the opportunities for possible collaboration and for creating innovative new services.

Another approach that was not considered in the article was the use of an internal Facebook style approach which, can help organisations to understand internal networks Another approach considered was by analysing the internal flows of e-mails to see who is connecting to who internally. 

All this is very good but I also discovered whilst carrying out my knowledge audit that one of the best approaches in identifying the internal networkers and they key people in them and especially the people who were in more than one group was by talking to people on the 'shop floor' and finding out who the key players are in the organisation. 

To assist the co-operation in terms of encouraging this it needs to ensure that it considers ways of developing initiatives to develop people who undertake horizontal promotions as a way of not only understanding the organisation better but also as a means of developing cross fertilisation. 

Another way is for the management team to look at ways that it can concentrate on themes that cross boundaries say no more than 3 - 5 with real economic benefits not only to the organisation but to the people in the group themselves. 

Organisations are, as I was reminded in this mornings discussion, profit making, not charitable, and knowledge sharing and encouraging these groups do need to have some economic benefit to the organisation or it's not worth undertaking it in work time.

These can have the benefit of not only sharing knowledge but also identifying talent throughout the organisation.

Back from honeymoon and a few thoughts

Now back from the completion of the wedding and the honeymoon with Sandy in the City of love - Paris. Unfortunately, although the day was special and magical for us both, the weather did disappoint with it lashing down with rain from the moment that we arrived in church to the end of the reception. We had hoped for the weather to be better in Paris - but unfortunately, it rained fairly constantly in Paris as well. Still we were together and we found enough to do in the city to have a great time.

I got back to deal with the various administrative issues that have resulted in our marriage. I have come back to deal with the changes of name as is required. As some organisations will not accept certified copies of a marriage certificate to change Sandy's name, the process will take some time. One would hope that some time in the future, you can have a marriage certificate that you can send an electronic certified copy that organisations will accept to speed up the process. That would be a government reform that most married couples would be happy to support.
Anyway I will now start to be blogging again once I have waded through the reading that has accumulated after 10 days. One particular area is relating to the talent management issues as well as communities of practice to support knowledge sharing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Going on honeymoon

As many of my readers will be aware, I have mentioned Sandy in a number of blogs. Well this Saturday we get married in our local church and then we are going on honeymoon. Therefore this blog will be going quiet until the 28th August. I haven't been so active this week as I've been dealing with all the final things before the wedding as well as an attending a job interview and preparing for that..

I noticed on Business Week a series of articles on the future of work that I thought were interesting and I'm placing a link to the main page which can act as a jumping off post for people to read.

I'm particularly interested in the articles on the following - the poll on what will happen 10 years from now and how globalisation and technology will change dramatically how we do our jobs.

A series of articles on managing the new work force and especially the role of senior management acting as a networker par excellence and getting all star teams together - maybe using Facebook or other social networking technology as a means of doing this. and especially the article on Oticon and how it removed office boundaries. I'm aware of the work that Oticon has done to become a learning organisation and especially the work that Lars Kolind did in this area but how also there is still the need for balance as people do feel the need to be led but also require trust and the desire to be creative.

I was talking to another experienced knowledge manager a few days ago about utilising something like Face Book within an organisation. I proposed that it could be utilised to not only show people a picture of the person and internal contact details. It could also be used as a means of capturing via a link to the financial management system the current work that the person is working on and where they are up and down on their financial figures. It would also act as a record of what pieces of work they have carried out in the year so that when the manager carries out an appraisal he has someones work record.

I'd also like to consider using as I've said before in previous blogs the use of Apple like widgets that run behind the scene carrying snippets of information to help people such as what the current billing levels are and also advising you of legal updates.

It could also carry a link to the blogs that they are subscribed to - say for example a blog done internally relating to legal updates in a particular area. I think that this is an area where we can help people to receive the information they want to receive but also the information that the organisation wants them to receive. I think that we are only bounded by peoples imaginations and we should look to provide them with the widgets/building blocks to create the page that they want.

It could also capture which Communities of Practice that they are working on or also what areas of work they are looking to work on - say working on a M & A deal.

Anyway this is my last post for a few days as I plan to enjoy the wedding day, but also to relax on our honeymoon.

I may even post pictures at some time in the future.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Social Network Metrics

One of the major issues I found when talking about social networks was the concept of measuring the effectiveness of them. I had considered the use of a few metrics that I could easily track either anecdotally or by use of on line survey using something like surveymonkey. These could then be related to the business and to the owners of that business without getting in to the realms of jargon.

One of the leading commentators in this field is Valdis Krebs who looks at Social Networks and has a great blog covering this subject. He has done a recent post

He has identified four metrics for people to use and they are as follows:-

Increase in Size of Network -- attracting new people to the mission.

Increase in internal network connectivity -- connecting the right people to get things done

Increase in connections to valuable third parties -- bringing in outside skills and perspectives

Increase in projects formed with all of the above -- creating value-added projects out of the interconnected skills.

I agree with Krebs that these four metrics would be a good leading indicator as to how people within the organisation are getting to grips with social networks either on line or in person.

I do think though that some professional firms will need to be more outward looking in utilising their external connections say from clients or by acting as boundary spanners and introducing people to other networks so to achieve reciprocation in future events.

We also need to consider the role of after action reviews as a means of achieving point 4 - though I think that value added as a phrase may disappear and that it will be replaced by being the way we do business naturally as clients expect us to develop and harness skills within our organisations.

I'd also like to see clients involved as part of the process of meeting these metrics rather than just an internal metric - say if they are involved in say a wiki with us on a project.

Certainly an area for us to consider as we as KM professionals start to understand and utilise the social network as part of our knowledge programmes.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Business Week and Wikinomics

Business Week has a series about wikinomics which I'm posting here as a means of sharing it for people

The series is posted here and has a variety of topics covering

Innovation and getting ideas from outside the organisation and the Wiki Workplace that I would also commend to people interested in this area.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Just when you got hold of Web 2.0

Up pops - Web 3.0.
Recently there was a speech by Eric Schmidt the CEO of Google in Seoul where he was asked to define Web 3.0.

According to Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web he said the following:-

After first joking that Web 2.0 is “a marketing term”, Schmidt launched into a great definition of Web 3.0. He said that while Web 2.0 was based on Ajax, Web 3.0 will be “applications that are pieced together” - with the characteristics that the apps are relatively small, the data is in the cloud, the apps can run on any device (PC or mobile), the apps are very fast and very customizable, and are distributed virally (social networks, email, etc).

On other blogs such as Rod Boothby's Innovation Creators - he too highlights Schmidt's comments.

Earlier on this year he got involved with a start up called Teqlo which is building up composite applications and making it customisable. I think that this is going to be interesting to see how this allied to some of the Google apps that I am increasingly starting to use as a test bed will change the world of enterprise IT.

Who will be the first firm to ditch Microsoft Office and utilise a Google Enterprise App and then tweak it accordingly -by using some of Teqlo's or any similar firms ability to deliver a build for you application.

Apple's new operating system will allow people to use a web link and make it act as a widget and I can see uses for this in industry if we have as Apple does a sub screen with widgets - getting the information you need from the enterprise database in real time and then when you call the sub screen up there it is for you - rather than having to write an e-mail to someone trying to find out the information.

I think that these Cloud based operating systems are going to help knowledge workers in the new world and help to improve the process of work - so watch this space.

However, if you type Web 3.0 into your search engine then you get a significant number of hits - I think 144m possibilities - but if you want to explore where this is going then go to Wikipedia and see what others are saying about this area. The other thing that is going to need to occur especially if video is involved is that we are going to need better bandwidth certainly in the UK and also ways to help people filter the information better.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Colour me beautiful

Been trawling the internet and by the usual serendipity, came upon an article on wikipedia that might be useful if say for example it was used on an internal wiki.

UCSC Wiki Lab

What the article goes on to say and it is not a very large survey - would be to colour code articles based on relaibility of the article by the editing. It looks like the entries are analysed on how long they stay up without unediting.

It isn't foolproof but it might be another way to help people find the articles they can rely on. Another thought that I have had is whether at some stage it might be possible to do this using the delicious system of increasing text size in relation to hits.

Just a Sunday morning thought whilst listening to some classical music.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Be sure your sins may find you out

No post for the last few days as I've been somewhat busy doing the last minute arrangements for my wedding to Sandy in a few weeks time. However I've been reading a recent article in HBR in a case study about a promising candidate for a position with a multinational firm in China. A google search turns up that a few years ago she was involved in a active protest about China. It is interesting to see that recent letters that Hillary Clinton wrote during her teens at high school. Will this mean that in say 10 years time political analysts and employers will be trawling via Googlesoft or whatever is the dominant search engine to see what youthful indiscretions were posted on Facespace or other social networking site that they can use to discredit a candidate be it for political office or maybe for a senior position within an organisation.

To my mind, what we did as an individual 20 years ago and wrote down aren't an indication of the person that we are now - I know that I'm not. The danger is that people without a past tend to be innocuous and bland - and the leaders of the future will need to make hard and more far reaching decisions than they have had to in the past and deal with issues as yet unthought of.

Leaders and managers have had a past and have been involved in posting those thoughts to my mind in an effort to spread knowledge and to add their thoughts to the debate. Those are the people that I would want in my organisation and decisions are made by those who show up and contribute to the debate not those that hang back. I learnt from my father a long time ago that if people make a mistake, then accept it, learn from it and move on - don't hold the mistake against people for ever otherwise you get a person who will be overly cautious.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The West Wing (much missed)

I was reading a recent post on the excellent Anecdote Blog on ideas made to stick. and it referenced one of the most powerful scenes in the last series of West Wing where the Darfur crisis is highlighted to CJ after being bombarded by statistics - the guy realises that he is losing her with this 'elevator

He then says to her "‘When the babies die, the mothers carry them round in their arms because there is nowhere to put them down.’" The reference was quite apt in terms of the recent developments in Darfur and the sending of hopefully a more effective peacekeeping mission by the UN.

Being a Wing nut - I remember the scene very well and it reminded me of Stalin's quote "A single death is a tragedy, are million deaths is a statistic.

I have long supposed that this comment was made because the human mind can't fully comprehend so many people dying. If it did we might be overwhelmed as human beings.

Maybe one day we will look at West Wing for other nuggets of managerial advice. One of my favourite quotes is from Toby Ziegler - after there has been a leak and he summons all the staff in and says "

"We're a group. We're a team. From the President and Leo on through, we're a team. We win together, we lose together. We celebrate and we mourn together. And defeats are softened and victories are sweeter because we did them together... You're my guys and I'm yours... and there's nothing I wouldn't do for you.

Maybe some managers need to look at that especially for an after action review which I have seen dissolve into a "hunt the scapegoat" procedure and no new knowledge is shared. We also need to develop those levels of trust in our people so that - these words are a reality in our organisations.

People do like to belong to an organisation because of that sense of affiliation and if they aren't then what does it say about your organisation and the people who work in it. I love my work and do it with a passion. I do it because I want to help organisations develop the people at all levels and to help them share knowledge more effectively so that they can undertake their work better and also help clients of the firm. Is it so unreal that people don't want to come in and do that and help their fellow workers - or am I just naive.

If like me, you are in the UK and are suffering from West Wing Loss, can I recommend Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on More 4 at 10.00 on a Thursday night and repeated on Sunday. It was cancelled after the first season - possibly because it was a bit too pointed for the US market - the dialogue like West Wing is vintage Sorkin and contains some very useful quotes.