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Friday, April 25, 2008

Blog takes a rest

Attended a conference on talent management - picked up some good tips and will blog on these after reflection. However off to a conference in Hong Kong tomorrow and will be gone for a week. Might try to capture some thoughts, but the blog might be a bit light next week.

Can I leave you with a great presentation called shift happens - it does bring the information age home to people. If you are complacent, then this video might give you the kick you need. I can remember when computers were the size of desks and I changed programmes with punched cards. We live in the knowledge age rather than the brawn/machine age.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Web 2.0 conference update

This has kicked off and the twitter posts from some of the luminaries are keeping me up to date via Netvibes. As I'm helping to arrange a conference in Asia my updates will be a bit brief. However, there was an interesting talk given by Tim O' Reilly that was posted on CNEt which I attach the link to in the title bar. Interestingly a lot of the old big computer companies were there, maybe they can start to see gold in Web 2.0 for the enterprise and using their brand name to get on the ladder.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My tweetcloud

I use twitter from time to time and a mac colleague pointed out this useful little idea, so that I could see what words were being used. It acts like a tag cloud on delicious. It would be useful in a work setting if you could aggregate a couple of feeds and see what people were talking about in the enterprise. My blogs will be a little light this week as I'm preparing an overseas conference in Hong Kong and it's getting down to the last few days - so it tends to be all hands to the pump with last minute adjustments.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Results of a Mac trail in IBM.

Many thanks to Mac Rumors who have posted the results of trails carried out inside IBM to see whether they should try Mac within IBM. They've just carried out the first pilot and I thought that readers might be interested in the results which I've copied in full.

The first phase of the pilot program was conducted between October 2007 and January 2008. During this phase, 24 MacBook Pros were distributed to researchers and used as the primary notebook, with the employees' existing ThinkPads acting as backups if needed.

Of the 22 of 24 who responded, 18 said that the Mac offered a “better or best experience” compared to their existing computer, one rated it “equal or good,” and three said the Mac offered a “worse experience.”

Seven reported having no or marginal prior knowledge of using Macs, while 15 reported having moderate or expert knowledge of the platform.

Other highlights:
- 86% of pilot users requested to keep the Mac
- More new hires are requesting Macs
- Research and Academic clients have a growing Mac community
- IBM internal software made for Mac was easy to install
- Some key software was unavailable for Mac, including DB2 and Websphere Application Server, Rational Application Developer IDE for J2EE apps, WebSphere Integration Developer SOA development tool, and Microsoft Visio. (which can be got round either with boot camp or Parallels (my italics)

Some Comments:
- "When presenting at customer or external meetings, I have been greeted with the 'wow factor.' 'Where's the ThinkPad, IBM uses Apples now?'"
- "This can free us from the Windows stranglehold."
- "It has been easier learning the Mac than learning Vista."
- "The ability to run Windows XP in a VM under Parallels is a great feature."

Personally I know that I work about 10 to 15% faster using my Mac at home, though it is always getting the IT boys to go for a trail - though I do see a large Mac community at work and maybe it might be worth a trial other than in the ubiquitous graphics department being the only ones in a large corporation to use it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Brad Bird talks on Innovation

One of my favourite movies is the Incredibles - I think the animation and the dialogue are absolutely brilliant and also Pixar is owned by a certain Steve Jobs.

Interestingly there is a McKinsey article out today interviewing the director Brad Bird who has two Oscars - one for the I's and the other for Ratatouille( which wasn't too scruffy either)

He highlights that innovation can come from unexpected places - the Internet came out of the Defence Department originally to set up a communications network that would survive a nuclear attack.

Bird was hired because the owners feared that they were getting complacent after a run of success and hired him to 'shake things up' The owners including Jobs said that he could expect robust discussion but that if he could convince them, they would change the way they did things.

When they were talking about the I's people said that to do this would take ten years and $500 million to do.

He set out to look for the frustrated artists - the people who nobody was listening to because the company was doing well. He listened to these 'black sheep' and gave them the opportunity to run with their ideas and basically slashed the I's production time at a lesser cost.

He was asked whether black sheep make better innovators. Bird says he is looking for involved and engaged people, and they can range from being quiet to very loud and evangelical. A common thread was that they have a restless probing nature and want to get to the problem.

Team dynamic s are also important especially if you have cross functional ones and the managers job is be creative in a harmonious way - imagine a symphony orchestra.

The important thing is to allow people to put their head above the parapet without getting it shot off. If you are the sort of manager who jumps all over people when they disagree then you are not going to get innovation. Once people know that it is OK to challenge their managers thoughts because they have a better idea - then their learning curve in Bird's opinion goes up. Up to a point Lord Copper - at the end of the day, the manager can't abdicate responsibility to the team - he still has to be convinced.

Morale of the team is also important - he reckons that bad morale means that for every $1 you spend then you get 25c of value Vice versa - he thinks it is $1 spent = $3 value. He thinks that companies don't always pay as much attention to morale as they should. He had worked on a number of disaster projects and noted that these were where people didn't feel invested in their work and any efforts to bring up problems were rebuffed.

The interviewers ask him apart from engagement and morale what is important

He says 'The first step in achieving the impossible is believing that the impossible can be achieved. Going back to the complacent company scenario at Pixar. He challenged them and said that this company was founded on doing stuff that was too ambitious. He states in the article " You guys have had nothing but success. What do you do with it? You don't play it safe - you do something that scares you, that's at the edge of your capabilities where you might fail. That's what gets you up in the morning.

I particularly liked that quote as it was the thrust of what Frank Dick said at a talk I attended earlier this week. He referred to the fact that we are at our best working in areas of white water turbulence not calm seas.

One area that he mentions is the presence of a creative culture - and I think that the interesting comment is the creation of a big atrium area which is a central meeting area. However Steve Jobs put the cafeteria, post rooms ,meeting rooms and the bathrooms in the centre. Jobs realised what any good knowledge manager would tell him that when people meet with one another either by design or by serendipity then things happen - social networks are formed and you meet people who might help you make an introduction to a person who might help you.

Interestingly they have a Pixar University (which seems like something that Rover did - but was also used at Walt Disney). I've always believed that learning doesn't stop after university and that learning is life long. However as we grow older with additional responsibilities it does get more difficult and we can lose the ability to learn new things or undertake new challenges.

For me I'd like to learn more about how to do a movie and edit and post it on the Internet or even internally. Some people might want to learn about graphics. Like bird I believe that we have to learn things that are outside our own area makes us a more complete person and also gives them the confidence to move to learn in other areas.

He also challenges leaders to be subversives and occasionally to have a person who is not a yes man but challenges your way of thinking.

He also recognises that innovation can be undermined and it was nice to see my old friend the passive aggressive organisation getting a good run out again.

Bird doesn't like people who in public or in a management meeting are supportive but once they get back into the safety of their department peck away at the proposal. He soon gets rid of these people as soon as he spots them.

It is recognised that leaders can inhibit innovation and he goes back to his earlier point on complacency - he strongly believes that you should never be satisfied and that you should have the attitude of a student of your craft and keep working to improve.

The human condition I believe demands that we look to climb mountains instead of climbing into valleys. Only by climbing those mountains can we see new horizons, live on the edge and truly be human.

Occasionally we need to help pick our colleagues up if they have fallen over and coach them to climb this mountain but in time give them the confidence to climb their own mountains and to teach others the same knowledge.

The first owner at Coke once said that the world belongs to the discontented - Brad Bird seems to have picked up the same baton and is running with it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rail Crisis on the Horizon??

An interesting article from the Adam Smith Institute posted today - that I've just captured for review later. You can read it here It would be interesting to read what experienced rail people have to say. It is interesting to read Dr B'Ching's columns in Private Eye on a weekly basis as well as other articles in Rail Magazines and blogs by Christian Wolmar to come to the conclusion that something is dysfunctional in the British Rail Industry.

Is the Adam Smith idea the way forward for the British Rail Industry or have we been witnessing re-nationalisation by stealth and that a second full re-privatisation is needed. I note that the ASI are holding a conference in early May so maybe this post is the start of a precursor to that. I'll be sure to post any blog posts on this conference into this area for others to pick up on.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Team Working and Lawyers - follow up to tonights earlier post

Thank you to a Strategic Legal Technology post from Ron Friedman this evening. 

One of the snippets posted covered recent comments by Jordan Furlong about law schools and team work (and the lack of it). 

I'd always considered that it was law firms and their culture that tended to drum team working out of its trainees but it apparently happens earlier in the law schools. (I'm sure not all law firms are that way - though from reading some of the blawgs and reading Legal Week I'm not so sure now)

When I was studying some of my happiest times where when I was talking to fellow students from all over the world and gaining new insights that I would never have had in the first place - if they hadn't been so open and hopefully they felt that I contributed as well.

Knowledge sharing is an entree into the world of innovation if we have or are allowed to make time for it as well as having a good team working relationship. 

Anyway click on the title of this post to read the article

The future challenge to knowledge management

I've been catching up with some reading this weekend. The front cover of the Economist is titled "The Great American slowdown' and that they consider that the American economy has slipped into recession. and that the American consumer is in no fit state to start picking up the baton and start spending, in fact they are starting to re trench. I don't think that the recession will be deep but in America and for the world it might be long. However, I think that the concept of economic decoupling might mean that the recession is likely to be uneven in its impact especially in India and China.

I was then reading an article in Legal Week covering knowledge management - side by side with an interesting article by Bruce MacEwen over at Adam Smith who comments on the economics of law firms.

This has started to posit a thought in my mind regarding knowledge management in organisations as a whole. The thought is this - is a recession in the world economy going to help or hinder knowledge management in organisations.

One of the areas that I have studied is the lack of time that people have to share knowledge within their organisations - now you would argue that as a recession bites that a wise management would work with people and encourage them to replenish the organisations knowledge banks to make up for the reduction of work volumes and also start to develop both client and internal knowledge networks.

However if you have an economic model of business that charges according to time spent on a matter, and rigidly keep to it, then if those people don't hit the targets and you decide to lose them, then you take a double hit a loss of potential fee earning when the economy turns up as well as a loss of knowledge. 

I'd be taking the hit in term of fee income but retaining people for the turn up and for those areas which aren't so busy ensure that they are updating their knowledge banks, more training, increased mentoring and those all important client and social networks so that they have got the reserves to draw upon to become better problem solvers both internally and externally.

Of course if you start to make people redundant , then you send a message that you keep working as hard as you did and that sharing knowledge still isn't on the managements agenda be it good times or bad times. This leeches into the organisations culture and then future knowledge sharing becomes more difficult because of the Hawthorne effect described by Roethlisberger and Mayo.

In a recession, because of the fear of redundancy, most people traditionally will decide to hoard knowledge, thinking that this is the way to stay safe by concentrating on their own work silo rather than helping colleagues by sharing knowledge. Will managers reward those who share knowledge or those who hoard - the decision is up to senior management to decide which side they choose to reward.  People surely should not be measured in how many hours that they work in a week, but in how the solve a clients problems and work with their fellow colleagues both as people but also by sharing knowledge for the betterment of all.

At the end of the day people learn that sharing knowledge isn't a core concern of the organisation and because of this learn not to share knowledge within their organisation and that being homo economicus - the return on investment does not match the original investment. 

However people are not wholly economic animals and even Adam Smith recognised this when he said 'that an individual stands at all times in need of the co-operation and assistance of great multitudes'  He also states in Moral sentiments with a quote on which our well being in the future might depend " How selfish so ever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others and render their happiness to him, though he derives nothing from it." 

I talk about reciprocal altruism, and believe that people do share knowledge even though they might gain nothing from it now - they share it because of care for a fellow human being and for me the ability to look into a mirror and see the person my parents wished me to be and that ones active principles should be that of generosity.

 Though I recognise that the temptation in troubled times must be immense not to share knowledge with a colleague who you suddenly see as a competitor and that you may have to fight figuratively speaking to save your job, your standard of living of you and possibly your family. 

Does knowledge sharing go even more backward in your thoughts at this time or do you have enlightened management that supports knowledge management in tough times recognising it as an investment in the future of the organisation or do they see it as an easy target for budget cuts a nice to have rather than a core necessity. It is a long term change for senior management in any professional services environment and I don't think that any one management theorist has all the answers - but it is a challenge that we need to address to keep our organisations going in the future.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Our Nomadic future

An interesting piece in about the rise of mobility with wireless communication. The article I'd like to read and reflect on and post a note next week, but it will be interesting to read how wireless technology will impact not only on our work places, but how it might impact on cities, work patterns and the way that we design our offices of the future.  Would I like to be a permanently on nomad with the freedom to roam but also recognising that it will be easier for people to watch me though Twitter, Facebook Second Life etc etc.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The business value of Twitter

On occasions I like to go over to CIO to see what Chief Information officers are talking about. Well following my recent posting on Twitter I have been interested in whether organisations will find a use for Twitter - any way here is an article by Abbie Lundberg that could act as a starting point for discussion. I have also seen comments from other bloggers on this point so - obviously it is a technology that may come into the work place and have a role though at present I want to consider it further.

I use Twitter and might try to find fellow like minds to try it out as an experiment to see where it leads. for example I saw it being used very effectively to monitor the progress of the Olympic torch through San Francisco this week and can imagine it being used especially useful with selected groups of people in a global setting.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The mighty Liverpool march on

Even if you were a neutral (which I'm not) that was a great match full of entertainment and skill which was a (nervous) joy to watch. I thought that the gap between the two side was miniscule though Arsenal did outpass us. As in somethings in life it is looking after the small things that make the difference and it was the ability of Torres to turn and deliver a stunning goal and Arsenal having a slightly small man on the post that meant he wasn't able to deal with Hyppia's header was the difference between success and failure.

Anyway I'm going to bed a happy bunny.

Monday, April 07, 2008

RSS in three minutes

A colleague asked me today about RSS and I gave him a quick description but directed him to this link from Commoncraft (once again thanks to Lee Lefever) and if you click on the title it will open the link.

This is a great three minute guide to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) with pictures and video.

Here is the link in the title to this blog so enjoy and maybe if you are trying to explain it to your boss or a fellow colleague it might help.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A wiki primer for people to use

Blast from the past article from last year but still worth sharing

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.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

APRIL FOOL - Law firm to run sheep pilot scheme

I like to look out for the best April Fools web ones over lunch and this one is one of the best on today's Lawyer - I think that the name of the person hired gives it away.

Click on the title of this post to see the link.