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Monday, March 31, 2008

Upcoming articles

I was reading an article over the weekend by Dan Roam covering the use of visual thinking to solve problems. 

As a mind mapper I know how an image can be used instead of a memo to convey ideas. I use Mind Map on my Mac but not as yet at my current workplace. 

I'll be interested to see if there are any insights that Dan has and be sure to post them in due course. I'm also reading an article on trust and as a knowledge manager, this is an area that I examined in my thesis and has been a subject of past blogs - if you click on the title of this post it will take you to one of my favourite posts.

Knowledge Management on the decline??

There has been an interesting article from the Harvard Law school that I saved last year and from time to time I re-read old articles to see if they are still relevant and it is. Looking at this article a year later the debate has moved on, though companies still believe that giant databases of information will solve their problems. Knowledge management to my mind is still predicated on people processes and technology as well as organisational culture and norms (back to Hawthorne). But a bit like the bible the most important of these are people and giving them the ability to connect and share information be it over a coffee, doing an after action review, sharing a story about how to deal with a client. It is allowing people to meet and make that primitive connection that encourages you to share that tacit knowledge. However if you are in a large organisation you can't always meet everyone and so the rise of social web 2.0 technology that I ramble about on supports the social sharing of information.

Here is the article from March 2007.

Knowledge Management on the Decline?: The law of diminishing returns is affecting those firms that invested heavily in giant IT databases - because a lot of that information is becoming available on line and it’s quality is steadily improving. It does beg a question as to say in 5 years time will in house precedents (or at least the vast majority of them) be as quaint as a buggy and whip.

Therefore firms will need to look at the way that people share knowledge if they wish to maintain a competitve advantage over their rivals.

Competitive advantage comes from possessing some attribute that is valuable, rare and not easily substituted - the tacit or people knowledge in a firm is that advantage not as previously perceived what is held in a database.

Another article highlights the rise of Generation Y lawyers who want to have their own internal blogs as a way of advertising their expertise to other people in the firm, so that they can undertake work on interesting projects.

Firms have noted a significant rise in the number of requests for blogs especially and even Microsoft has noticed - putting a blogging facility into Sharepoint 2007.

Also they want to have a say in developing more flexible taxonomies than the ones that they feel are foisted on them by IT departments that aren’t lawyers and don’t always bear reality to what and how they work.

Always remember, the technology is there to help people with their day to day work and that without the people getting involved - you end up with an expensive white elephant.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

E-mail Collaboration vs Wiki Collaboration.

As many of my readers know, I am interested in how wikis can help us to collaborate and as a picture can say a thousand words, I thought that I’d share this diagram as used by Chris Rasmussen but picked up on via Jim McGee.

Serendipitously on the day that I picked this up a work colleague came and asked for my help in trying to pick through a wade of e-mails to try and ensure that he had not missed anything in respect of the requirements for a piece of work he was undertaking.

Well about 90 minutes later after reading through a blizzard of papers I had actually bottomed out the request. After about 30 minutes I was looking at this picture and wishing that someone had used a wiki in this instance. There have been a few times ie when working on a conference, that I have also thought about the wiki way.

However although the diagram makes it look easy, I think for a lot of senior managers it would take a leap of thought for them to move to using a wiki wedded as we are to e-mail.

Also a lot of firms don’t have RSS feeds as they are still using IE 6 and would have to put a specific watch on the page which means that you get an e-mail caught up in all the detritus of other e-mails – an interesting one would be if it linked up to something like Twitter in an enterprise setting so that the post would generate a twittergram. alternatively have a discussion with your IT department about using safari for Windows or Firefox - both excellent browsers with inbuilt RSS readers.

I'd also like to think that organisations might have two uses for wikis - one for collaboration and one for knowledge management - one to look at for the future.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Social Bookmarking - a easy to understand video

From time to time in this blog I've used Lee Lefevers excellent animations at Commoncraft to get over to people some of the basic principles of social bookmarking. I've used it now for the best part of 24 months and use this instead of book marks on my own web browsers.  If you were like me a novice at social bookmarking, then this is a very good primer.

For me I can definitely see this having a use within a Enterprise setting - imagine that you have a skills based community covering an issue. There are no doubt web sites that cover this issue and you can save these social bookmarks to a group using a tag. As an example I am a member of a Mac user group. A number of us have set up a group and lets call it WMUG. By using a tag called for:WMUG everyone who subscribes to that group can see what people have posted as a bookmark - how it has been tagged but of course you can also see what bookmarks they have as well as those that they are really interested in.

The tags are also useful as they utilise the language that people who are interested in a particular issue say macs will talk, such as Leopard, Finder, Dock, Stacks, Time Machine. This is what is known as a folksonomy and breaks away from a taxonomic structure and gets people to use the language of their issue or interest.

I'd like to see this tried to support a community of practice or whatever name your organisation calls it. once again it breaks through the rigidity of corporate intranets and allows people of a certain interest to share information that they have found on the net.  I'm not decrying corporate intranets they do have a place within the organisation and maybe within the organisations own intranet, there are useful articles that can be tagged and shared within people within the organisation using a social bookmarking tool.

Enjoy the video and if you do share it, then ensure that you give Lee and Commoncraft the credit they deserve and consider how an easy social bookmarking might be used in your business

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Innovation Insights - blast from the past.

Over the weekend I was reading an article with Bill Campbell, who runs Intuit but prior to that was involved with Apple.

Two interviewers spoke to him recently for his thoughts on Innovation and as I’m on a bit of a roll here as I’m talking in a few weeks time on knowledge management and innovation in London so some additional quotes might be useful - but also it does chime in with what I’m talking about. Although the thrust of his discussion relates to Engineers some of his comments would cross boundaries. Quite a lot of his thoughts are already reflected in some of the work that I am looking to carry out in this firm.

With regard to innovation, he feels that it is important to provide people with time to work on things of their choosing that may be breakthrough thoughts that can replenish your business core. (I’ll be writing about core businesses another time.) These projects are then reviewed and evaluated and have the opportunity to become a mainstream product.

He acts iike a venture capitalist would act and wants people to come up with a basic business plan in terms of who is the product for, what do you think the market is likely to be. What will this do and how much of peoples behaviours will have to change. Effectively Campbell is operating what is known as a Schello screen with a Real/Win/Worth it bias - I have more details of this if people are interested.

He feels that it is important to give the’ crazy guys some stature and importance. He feels that if you start from that you have a better chance of maintaining a cutlture of innovation.

He also feels that it is important for a CEO to meet with people and have an open forum where people could highlight what was making life difficult for them with regasrd to their work or what they were struggling with and how projects that might be being balked could be bought forward. The important thing is that the innovation should be looking to solve the problems that consumers/clients want.

Campbell then goes out of his way to say that he is not an innovator - he sees his role as CEO to ensure that the right people are in the room and that the crazies have an opportunity to contribute. He sees empowered people having the opportunity to contribute is one of the single most important thing that you can have in a company.

He also expects that he needs to accept failure - if you demand perfection, then people are less likely to innovate because you cannot anticipate every nuance in a complex world.

As I learnt in my entrepreneurial studies most entrepreneurs deal with the imperfect idea and tweak it as they go along. Remember the great quote from Edison who spent ages trying to get the bulb to work and said to a friend who asked him why he had failed to develop the bulb.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

He also feels that it is important to give people time off - especially if they have been working on a long or hard project to go and have some time off outside of their normal holiday and when they come back they are refreshed and can do the hard work. Also he feels that they can reflect on their experiences and pass those lessons on and use the break as a means of looking at a project with new eyes which means that they will do better work.

Campbell then goes on to say that in addition to innovation that he also pushes hard on best practices. He wants his employees to have a hunger to discover best practice so that in the absence of innovation there is the small tweak that will make the team/organisation more effective He gives high grades to people who know what is going on in their industry and can adapt quickly to meet the problems that clients have.

Effectively he is saying that technical excellence is a base but that it needs to be aligned with commercial knowledge - not only of the client but the industry drivers also.

It is an interesting article and is definitely going into my folder of articles covering innovation as it is one of my passions and one which knowledge management can help to deliver in a organisation.If you wish a copy, I will look to dig it out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dilbert and innovation

One of the elements that brightens my day is looking at Dilbert. When I got home last night, there was a great cartoon for the day, which should be read in conjunction with my post of February 27th. How many times have you presented an idea to people in your team and then asked for feedback from them.

I have to admit I've been in a fair few meetings where this level of feedback shown to Dilbert has been given albeit in different words.

Maybe companies should impose the rule that Unilever did which was to encourage 'Build' i.e build on what people have said rather than looking at the negative.

My personal idea is that for every negative comment a person has to come up with three positives about an idea. A more positive approach to new ideas at least makes the person feel as if they have had a hearing rather than discover the soul sapping comments that make you feel thin inside.

I'm sure all of us can relate to Dilbert's experience at one time or another but wouldn't it be nice if it was the exception rather than the norm in an organisation.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Twitter and the enterprise

As regular readers of the blog will be aware, I have a regular link to the people of Commoncraft and their useful videos/animations that explain wittily some of the products involved in Web 2.0.

Well they have now done a video on twitter which is a form of micro-blogging. It basically asks people what they are doing now in 140 words.

I have been using Twitter now for about 4 months and use it to update friends what I'm up to. I'm also interested in what it might do within an enterprise setting. Imagine, what it might do - telling people where you are - if you are available to be disturbed or not or even if you are out of the office. Of course it might be of use to help you to connect to a group of people.

Jevon McDonald has recently commented on Twitter in the Enterprise and I've got doubts that at present it will work in enterprises that have only just started to implement wikis and blogs.

At the end of the day it is about demonstrating how a tool helps productivity. I think that a variant of it will exist in the enterprise and will become ubiquitous and that the I'm out of office message via Outlook will be somewhat outdated. Here are some other benefits to my mind
  • If you state that you are working on a widget, then colleagues in your network may be able to help
  • You could post a help message to your network.
  • Awareness of others ongoing work
  • Very low barriers to entry
  • The system might be able to save these tweets and rank the questions and answers in a form of low tech knowledge management. I understand that IBM is developing an enterprise Twitter called Blue Twit which is getting some traction though it is in it's early days.
However, a bit like SMS and Novocaine the law of unintended consequences will apply and someone will think of a different but radical use that none of us who are keen on KM or E 2.0 have yet considered