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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.