Search This Blog

Friday, October 28, 2011

The messiness of freedom

The messiness of freedom:

The future we face at the dawn of the twenty-first century is, like all futures left to themselves, “emergent, complex messiness.” Its “messiness” lies not in disorder, but in an order that is unpredictable, spontaneous, and ever shifting, a pattern created by millions of uncoordinated, independent decisions.

Virginia Postrel, The Future and Its Enemies.

As it is in politics so it is for organisations of the future in the demise of the command and control economy.(hat tip to the Adam Smith institute for posting this gem)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The forever recession (and the coming revolution)

The forever recession (and the coming revolution):

It is interesting to read this article by Seth Godin and correlate it with a similar discussion that I had with Charles Leadbeater and David Smith of Global futures and Foresight.

One of the other elements that is coming through from other bloggers is the retreat from the factory age and the need for workers to collaborate from wherever they are and meet up only occasionally in a hotel style office on hot desks.

We have been here before and memory is like a winged host rising up to meet me as this has been said before.

I think what makes it a little more different this time is the improvement in technology that enables us to connect to the office and have video conferences with colleagues and share documents. in real time - make it platform agnostic - ie Apples can work with Dells and people can use what works best for them.

I can see companies developing alliances say with Starbucks to have set aside areas in their offices where people can drop in have a coffee pay a nominal amount to use their spare office facilities and meet colleagues and clients. It means that the offices are used and there is an extra revenue stream coming in and you never know where serendipity is going to take one.

One of the books that changed my life was the Age of Unreason by Charles Handy in the late 80's - his concept of the portfolio worker is slowly arising to reality.

Here is the article by Seth - is he right?

There are actually two recessions:

The first is the cyclical one, the one that inevitably comes and then inevitably goes. There's plenty of evidence that intervention can shorten it, and also indications that overdoing a response to it is a waste or even harmful.

The other recession, though, the one with the loss of "good factory jobs" and systemic unemployment--I fear that this recession is here forever.

Why do we believe that jobs where we are paid really good money to do work that can be systemized, written in a manual and/or exported are going to come back ever? The internet has squeezed inefficiencies out of many systems, and the ability to move work around, coordinate activity and digitize data all combine to eliminate a wide swath of the jobs the industrial age created.

There's a race to the bottom, one where communities fight to suspend labor and environmental rules in order to become the world's cheapest supplier. The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win...

Factories were at the center of the industrial age. Buildings where workers came together to efficiently craft cars, pottery, insurance policies and organ transplants--these are job-centric activities, places where local inefficiences are trumped by the gains from mass production and interchangeable parts. If local labor costs the industrialist more, he has to pay it, because what choice does he have?

No longer. If it can be systemized, it will be. If the pressured middleman can find a cheaper source, she will. If the unaffiliated consumer can save a nickel by clicking over here or over there, then that's what's going to happen.

It was the inefficiency caused by geography that permitted local workers to earn a better wage, and it was the inefficiency of imperfect communication that allowed companies to charge higher prices.

The industrial age, the one that started with the industrial revolution, is fading away. It is no longer the growth engine of the economy and it seems absurd to imagine that great pay for replaceable work is on the horizon.

This represents a significant discontinuity, a life-changing disappointment for hard-working people who are hoping for stability but are unlikely to get it. It's a recession, the recession of a hundred years of the growth of the industrial complex.

I'm not a pessimist, though, because the new revolution, the revolution of connection, creates all sorts of new productivity and new opportunities. Not for repetitive factory work, though, not for the sort of thing ADP measures. Most of the wealth created by this revolution doesn't look like a job, not a full time one anyway.

When everyone has a laptop and connection to the world, then everyone owns a factory. Instead of coming together physically, we have the ability to come together virtually, to earn attention, to connect labor and resources, to deliver value.

Stressful? Of course it is. No one is trained in how to do this, in how to initiate, to visualize, to solve interesting problems and then deliver. Some see the new work as a hodgepodge of little projects, a pale imitation of a 'real' job. Others realize that this is a platform for a kind of art, a far more level playing field in which owning a factory isn't a birthright for a tiny minority but something that hundreds of millions of people have the chance to do.

Gears are going to be shifted regardless. In one direction is lowered expectations and plenty of burger flipping. In the other is a race to the top, in which individuals who are awaiting instructions begin to give them instead.

The future feels a lot more like marketing--it's impromptu, it's based on innovation and inspiration, and it involves connections between and among people--and a lot less like factory work, in which you do what you did yesterday, but faster and cheaper.

This means we may need to change our expecations, change our training and change how we engage with the future. Still, it's better than fighting for a status quo that is no longer. The good news is clear: every forever recession is followed by a lifetime of growth from the next thing...

Job creation is a false idol. The future is about gigs and assets and art and an ever-shifting series of partnerships and projects. It will change the fabric of our society along the way. No one is demanding that we like the change, but the sooner we see it and set out to become an irreplaceable linchpin, the faster the pain will fade, as we get down to the work that needs to be (and now can be) done.

This revolution is at least as big as the last one, and the last one changed everything.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Record Management on intranet's

Conversation on Record Management during KM Singapore 2011:
Some thoughts on record management on intranets courtesy of roan young's blog and a meeting he had with Bill Proudfit from Hong Kong - I've just taken this key paragraph in this post and added my comments in italics

Bill gave Roan some valuable tips and ideas on managing contents/records in the intranet. Here are some takeaways that he got from our conversation
  • Don’t try to educate people on the difference between documents and records. He said, “differentiating between records and documents is a crazy concept.” I agree with Bill. At some point, people wonder when they should promote documents to become records. And they wouldn’t bother doing it. (Agreed)
  • All contents – including pages in your intranet – should be part of record management system. People often missed out this. Contents on pages can become obsolete too. That’s when you should archive the pages.

    (Possibly on intranets there should be an auto archive feature if the records haven't been viewed fora period of time, then they should be archived but that the search can look at an archived section as most intranets do have that option.
  • Get people to validate the freshness of contents in the intranet. This means you need to have a robust publishing workflow, that could notify people when they should validate the contents. A good timeframe would be twelve months from the publishing date.

    (This is very true in view of a conversation I had today - it is not only important to capture the knowledge but to use it and also to lose it - which can be quite difficult as some people can be knowledge jackdaws - see my comments above and perhaps if it isn't validated within a period of time then it is archived.)
  • Limit the use of fonts in your documents/records in the intranet. You wouldn’t want your intranet to contain various types of fonts in various sizes, would you? Your contents will look unorganised, unprofessional and unfocused.

    Does this still occur?

  • Almost all contents in the old intranet are junk contents. This is the main reason why content migration is so darn difficult. If most contents in the old intranet are junk, then who is going to clean and rewrite the contents? The content owners wouldn’t bother. Besides, they may not know, how to write online contents. My advise is: Hire professional content writers to do the grunt work. Don’t waste your money to train the content-owners on content writing. It is not a skill that anyone can easily pick up.

    (Always one of the problems to my mind - I suppose that I do this on my knowledge reviews but then I always go back to the interviewees to get their feedback before posting - sometimes you need to go back and weed out and filter down to get those one or two nuggets, but you do have to have some content there in the first place.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Disapproval and Knowledge sharing

The biggest single force holding back people's involvement in social media is fear of disapproval. Fear of what customers' reactions might be. Fear of what the boss might think. Fear of what friends might say. Even fear of the tacit disapproval of being ignored
Where did we learn to be so afraid? Why do allow our lives to be so limited by what others think? All of the famous figures who changed the world got over this fear. They invariably faced disapproval, disagreement and disdain. Many of them faced imprisonment and many lost their lives. They didn't let that stop them.

But we let ourselves go numb at the prospect of someone laughing at our first blog post. We don't state the obvious. We keep so much of ourselves to ourselves and don't rock the boat.
What a shame ...

I read this today and was ashamed at myself, because this is some of the thought processes that I go through when I see a great article.
Sometimes I hoard because of fear and my colleagues don't get the benefit of my research.

When I post a great article on the blog I make sure that it is credited to the originator - in this case Euan Semple, but a nagging thought at the back of my mind says don't attribute it people will find this source and then you will have lost some of your expertise. Why should people benefit from your research and if you do will they remember where they found the article and then use it to diminish your role.

Then I say to myself if we all in an organisation behaved like that, then it is like the beggar my neighbour policies that led to the great Depression of the 1930's and then the benefits of flows of knowledge would be lost which might benefit the organisation and help it not only survive but grow and thus create new jobs and even save others.
In another post, I'm attaching a great article by the people at Anecdote on story telling - it highlights the story of Brunelleschi and how he hoarded and only let out in bits his thoughts on the design for the dome of the iconic church and Duomo in Florence and his thought processes.

Perhaps Brunelleschi's fears are the same with innovation in a lot of organisations.
I was talking today about something that I thought would help people engage with a knowledge capture system through better tagging, but once again it is how hard you push when those nagging fears that Euan outlines play on your mind as well as your own demons, but also to recognise that people on the receiving end of ideas may perceive it as a threat to their visions and trigger their fears.

A great quote today from Marshall McLuhan (hat tip to JP Rangaswami)
The major advances in civilisation are processes that all but wreck the societies in which they occur”

Four story-based practices to foster insight

See the post above relating to disapproval and knowledge sharing and then read this brilliant article from those great people from anecdote that are one of my inspirations, though the fears outlined in the post may be a reason why I don't circulate as much as I would like to.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What did you do in the Social Networking Revolution daddy

This particular blog is writing some valedictory notes as it feels that it's work on Enterprise 2.0 is done. It has these notes on what it thinks where the social networking revolution has taken us.
Do you agree?
Personal outsourcing: For the first time, employees all up and down the line have access to information they need to do their jobs better, advance companies, and advance their careers.  John Schmidt so accurately described it as “personal outsourcing.” Unlike the traditional model for outsourcing — firms contracting out functions or processes to an outside firm — “individuals are starting to outsource their problem-solving and their own professional development,” he says. “They’re leveraging things like wikis, blogs, other collaboration events to collaborate in real-time with other individuals.” IT professionals go to Google, Wikipedia, and other online sources of support, Schmidt says. “They write out their question in their blog and look for their community to respond and help them. …they extended their network of peers to outside the four walls of their company. …they’re taking their problems and their professional challenges to the world.”
Economic revitalization and opportunity: Social networking and E2.0 provides a vast new array of tools for seeking out new markets, as well as managing through the tough times. Companies have means to better leverage the knowledge coursing through their corporate veins to turn around distressed lines of business. Employees have tools to ride through tough times, by staying well-connected with their professional networks and potential employers — even after they have been laid off. They no longer have to be powerless victims of recessions. (I called it the LIFT phenomenon — LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.) Employers have a resource to identify key talent to build their organizations.
Improving the quality — and joy — and therefore productivity — of work: The 9-to-5 rut had been withering on the vine for a number of years, and social networking is putting the final stakes in the industrialized, command-and-control model of management.  Productivity is not something that occurs in a cubicle between 9 and 5, it’s something that comes in “bursts.” Social networks and E2.0 give everyone the flexibility and connectivity to respond to those bursts. In the process, the lines between work and personal life have not only just blurred — they’ve disappeared completely. Some Gloomy Guses say that’s not a good thing, and that employers will exploit it. I say it’s a real good thing.  People should be proud of their work, and have the passion raging within them to want to pursue it, think about it, and embed it into their lives.  Good riddance, 9 to 5.
Return on investment: A hotly debated topic. But the ROI is there. McKinsey & Company, for one, did countless studies the past few years that proved it. A couple of years back for example, they published the results of a survey of nearly 1,700 executivesfrom around the world which paints a highly positive picture of the business returns being seen from E2.0 deployments. Close to seven out of ten respondents (69%) report that their companies “have gained measurable business benefits [italics mine], including more innovative products and services, more effective marketing, better access to knowledge, lower cost of doing business, and higher revenues.”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Is Gen Y the Next Baby Boomer Generation? « ChangingWinds

Is Gen Y the Next Baby Boomer Generation? « ChangingWinds:

Interesting article on demographics and generations in the workplace echoes some of my earlier themes. One quote sticks out.

Gen Xers are rapidly assuming the levers of senior leadership, whether in business or government. More attention needs to be paid to how this age cohort will lead organizations and governments through the turbulence of an inter-connected world. A huge amount is at stake for Canada and the United States, two countries with a neurotic love-hate relationship, where escalating competition from newly industrialized countries and emerging economies is threatening our long-term standard of living.

Gen X will increasingly play a pivotal role in leading companies and government organizations towards what must be shared visions. And they’ll be doing this sandwiched between the Baby Boom Generation, as it slowly exits the labor market, and GenY, confused as heck over how their situation changed so drastically in just a few years.

So my advice to Gen Y is to get over it. Shit happens in life – a lot! Building change adaptability is the most important skill you can acquire. It’s time to get on with it.

Ron young on the importance of 80/20 time for knowledge sharing and reflective time.

f | KM Consulting ★ 4: The great thing about doing this update, which I do religiously every year, is that this very process always triggers new creative and innovative thoughts. In fact, I get so excited by these new revelations that I sometimes forget the original purpose.

This makes me realise, once again, that the creative process of knowledge creation is often a function of time, to reflect, analyse, consolidate, synthesize, and update new thoughts and ideas with established thoughts and concepts.

Imagine how much more creative individuals and organisations could become, if only they gave more time and value to learning, reflecting, creating and applying knowledge?

I was told that Google demand that their employees spend 20% of their work time to learning, reflecting, creating and innovating. I am told that 3M were pioneers in doing this 80/20 time week.

I wonder how many of the really valuable, and maybe even radical,innovations come from this 20% usage of time for more effective knowledge working?

When will management understand and properly value knowledge creation against performance?

Meanwhile, another cafe latte? a glass of wine? 4 hours to go. I need some 80/20 time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

R&D strategies in emerging economies: Survey results - McKinsey Quarterly - Operations - and the use of knowledge management

R&D strategies in emerging economies: Survey results - McKinsey Quarterly - Operations - Product Development

The interesting piece in this article by McKinsey is the following statements

Another area that respondents agree about is the difficulty of knowledge sharing: 64 percent say their companies are no better than “somewhat effective” at it. The most commonly used collaboration tools are relatively old-fashioned, such as frequent telephone and video conferences (65 percent) and travel for face-to-face meetings (62 percent).

Respondents at companies that are high-performing innovators are somewhat more likely to use central knowledge databases and global communities of practice to share information, in addition to telephones, video, and travel.

The key challenge is that companies in this area are struggling to share knowledge effectively within the organisation to meet the challenges of the new BRIC and other markets. The aim might be to help countries to maximise what they have and look at previous KM practices without social media etc and see what worked well there. The power of story would seem to be a good way of sharing knowledge.

Looking ahead
For companies contemplating a more global R&D footprint, the perceived differences in skills between R&D managers in emerging economies and developed ones should underscore the importance of not overlooking talent and organizational development at the expense of operational best practices during expansion. In our experience, the best innovators in emerging economies excel at both.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why do we help each other out

I am always interested in why people help each other out and have used the concept of reciprocal altruism in my talks on knowledge management.
I've been reading over my lunch today an article by Martin Nowak about co-operation. He views co-operation as interesting as it means that you help someone who is a possible competitor and that you reduce your own success in order to increase the success of someone else.

He highlights some types of reciprocity that knowledge managers might find interesting.
  1. Direct reciprocity - individuals interact repeatedly - if I help now you may help me later.
  2. Reputational (my phrase) Indirect reciprocity which takes place in groups - where people see you interact with another person and reach the conclusion that you are a helpful person.
  3. Spatial selection - where neighbours help each other - they survive by being in clusters this could be of interest in communities of practice but also in organisations especially departments which consider themselves in danger.
  4. Finally Group selection and he says' it maybe that our group of co-operators is better off than another group of defectors, here selection acts on two levels because in our group there is more co-operation

Got Hype? You need POST | Forrester Blogs

POST applies extremely well to internal-facing collaboration and Information Workplace discussions, which he described in “POST: A Systematic Way To Define Your Collaboration Strategy.”
In the context of collaboration the four step POST methodology consists of:
1. People. Start by understanding what employees actually use and need today. Don’t guess and don’t rely on anecdotal interviews. Instead, start with a quantitative assessment.
2. Objectives. With that baseline of understanding in place, next decide what your business goals are. You will need to build a decision council that includes IT and business to help you do this.
3. Strategy. The strategy part of this planning process means mapping the business goals to specific collaboration scenarios that you can actually improve — no tools yet.
4. Technology. The last step is to figure out which technologies improve your most important collaboration scenarios. Choose cloud services if they make sense; on-premises if not.
IT struggles with a new form of hype. As one Content and Collaboration professional recently told us, “I used to hate constantly meeting with vendors trying to sell me stuff. But now the vendors go directly to the users, convince them they need the tools, and I end up with my own colleagues demanding I buy this “great” stuff that is “exactly what they need.” It’s even worse!”
POST deflects this kind of demand. “You think it’s just what you need? Ok, let’s run the POST methodology and see if this technology is appropriate for our people, objectives, and strategies.” If the answer is yes, you’ve cut through the hype and verified real business benefits. If the answer is no, you’ve demonstrated precisely why, rather than just refusing to give users what they want.
This is a helpful concept to utilise if someone wants you to use something new - run it past this concept and tweak as you need - say in re-designing your intranet to buying iPads for the business. I've been there and worn the T shirt from vendors in the past.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Is Business-centric Social Networking a Revolution -- or a Ruse? - Knowledge@Wharton

Is Business-centric Social Networking a Revolution -- or a Ruse? - Knowledge@Wharton

An interesting article to read on the subject, as the jury is out on this one for a lot of companies. I hear a lot of claims for this and wonder if it is just part of the normal technological hype that you see from time to time or does it have a role in business helping people to go across silos.

Do we need this or could something like Instant Messenger which is part of most organisations capabilities as part of their office suite be just as effective as say Yammer.

It could be that it just becomes part of the plumbing to businesses as the Internet has become since it's introduction and that the technology will evolve into standard enterprise software and become standards.

I think for a lot of companies they will try it as an experiment so long as it is done on a reasonable scale and see how it impacts on peoples day to day performance and also how it has helped the business to deliver real value to the end client. (I can remember trying Google Wave as a test and we soon found out it's limitations)

Anyway, please read the article and post any comments you might like to.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Energy—our buildings are wasting it and a lesson for knowledge managers

From a recent HBR panel meeting - talking about the need for change. What is interesting is that the lessons that they have learnt also relates to knowledge management - ie to show people the effects of the actions that they take on a monthly basis.

In a panel on energy entrepreneurship and demand management, moderated by Professor Forest Reinhardt, experts focused on two main problems: buildings in general are far too inefficient, and people in general are clueless about their individual electricity usage. The sole investor on the panel, Craig Huff (HBS MBA 1993), co-CEO and co-founder of Reservoir Capital Group, said that rather than focusing on brand-new energy sources, his firm often focuses on companies that make current energy sources more efficient.

Urban buildings consume 40 percent of the world's electricity, said Andreas Schierenbeck (HBS AMP 176, 2009), president of Siemens Industry's Building Technologies Division. Fortunately, for most of those buildings, there's the potential to cut down electricity usage by up to 75 percent via various readily available energy-saving measures, noted Philippe Delorme, EVP of strategy and innovation at Schneider Electric, which is based in France, but does a third of its business in Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Unfortunately, it's hard to persuade people to institute those energy-saving measures.

"Human beings don't like to change, and everything involving energy management does imply the need to change," Delorme said, adding that electricity demand will double in 20 years if we maintain status quo practices.
This raised an important question: "How do we connect the energy consumers with a value proposition that makes it worth their while?" asked Gregg Dixon, SVP of marketing at EnerNOC USA, which helps large organizations in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom track their electricity use.
Dixon noted that while many consumers would jump at the chance to save 25 percent on their monthly mortgages, even if it meant paying some financing fees up front, they seem less apt to invest in energy-saving measures that will save them money in the long run, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, air-sealing services, and tools that help customers measure energy expenditures.

Schierenbeck supposed that electricity customers might be more apt to conserve energy if their utility bills reflected exactly how they were using that energy from month to month—giving them a better idea of how and where they could save money. "Right now, people can't tell you where they're expending energy but they can tell you what their monthly bill is," he said

Delorme agreed. "We don't know how much we spend because it's not visible enough," he said.

Friday, January 14, 2011

UC Irvine Feature: Wang Feng

UC Irvine Feature: Wang Feng

The number of Chinese workers in their twenties dropped by nearly 15% between 2000 and 2010, but the government's one-child policy isn't the main culprit. Declining fertility is a global trend, says Wang Feng of the University of California Irvine. In areas of China that are exempt from the government's one-child policy, population growth has been no faster than in areas where the rule is in effect, he says. For all knowledge managers an essential read as demographics will be one of the strategic drivers why knowledge management rises to the top of managers to do list. I also heard that KM is one of the growing trends in mainland China and maybe it is to cover this play.