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Monday, October 31, 2016

Rebooting KM with Purposeful Collaboration #ArkKM

Title: Rebooting KM with Purposeful Collaboration, Silo-Busters, and Ambient Knowledge

Speaker: Stuart Barr, Chief Strategy Office, HighQ

Session Description: Traditional KM has focused on accumulating and organizing knowledge that you know people need and trying to make sure it’s available when they need it. But what about what is known but not documented? Or the knowledge trapped in silos that are completely unstructured and inaccessible? In this session, Stuart Barr will explore how to break down traditional barriers to knowledge sharing, capture knowledge as people get their work done and automate knowledge extraction to drive new insight from your historical data.

[These are my notes from the 2016 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Traditional Approaches to KM
    • Collecting knowledge
    • Connecting that knowledge to people
    • Tying that knowledge to the organization’s productivity systems
    • Automating knowledge systems
  • Challenges to Traditional Approaches to KM
    • They usually are manual processes
    • They are siloed — both the repositories are siloed and the processes are siloed
    • They often are concentrated on “known knowns” — mainly the obvious knowledge is “hunted down and captured.”
    • People are not always motivated to contribute
    • You need to connect the knowledge to people more effectively
      • connect with experts
      • enable people so they can ask their questions in the open — this openness spreads knowledge and emboldens people to ask the questions they might have been afraid of asking.
    • We are stuck in very old ways of work = Ineffective Collaboration
      • Email is a massive “Black Hole” of knowledge. It is where knowledge goes to die.
      • Most firms have not found a way to collaborate. They do not realize that email was not designed for true collaboration.
  • Why is Social Collaboration Useful?
    • Assuming it is implemented correctly, it can provide a “peripheral vision” or “ambient awareness” of what is happening within an organization. This makes a knowledge worker much more plugged in and effective.
    • It provides passive access to information (e.g., the activity stream, group conversations, etc.)
    • It also enables active collaboration (e.g., shared workspaces)
    • It helps people share information actively, for example, by @ mentioning someone to draw their attention to an issue or to specific content.
  • Digital Transformation can drive KM. That said, KM should be at the heart of your digital transformation strategy. When done properly, digital transformation changes the way people connect, communicate and work.
  • What comes next?
    • Analyzing the data that are captured through your knowledge tools and social collaboration tools.
    • Coupled with machine learning, you can understand what content is important. In fact, you could provide digital assistants that can help knowledge workers find the content they need.
  • Conclusion
    • We need to keep doing traditional KM
    • But we also need to use more social ways of
    • We need to connect our systems of record to our systems of engagement
    • Collect and analyze the data about our work behaviors so we can make our systems and processes better
    • Use machine learning & AI to take these insights and enable digital assistance at the point of need
  • Audience Discussion:
    • How social collaboration helps strengthen law firm information security:
      • Meredith Williams (CKO, Baker Donnelson) noted that phishing is one of the biggest information security vulnerabilities for law firms. Often the dangerous emails masquerade as internal emails. (She estimated that 20% of emails are purely internal.) If you move those internal conversations into a social platform, you reduce the number of emails that can be used for phishing schemes.


The post Rebooting KM with Purposeful Collaboration #ArkKM appeared first on Above and Beyond KM.

from Above and Beyond KM

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Unmet Need for Trusted Talent Advisors

In a world that’s changing ever more rapidly, we all need trusted advisors. It’s a significant unmet need that creates a very attractive business opportunity. This has been a central part of my research and writing for almost 20 years since I published a book on the topic, Net Worth. Most recently, I returned to this subject in a blog post.

Today I want to make an important distinction between two major trusted advisor opportunities. So far, most of my writing has been about “trusted customer advisors” – businesses that will proactively help us to connect with the products and services that are most relevant to our needs and aspirations as we confront a growing array of options competing for our attention in the marketplace. Digital technology infrastructures are for the first time making it possible to take this business model and make it a mass market offering, rather than something that is only accessible to the very wealthy.

But there’s another trusted advisor opportunity – something that I call the “trusted talent advisor.” What’s that? It’s someone who proactively helps us to learn faster by developing a deep understanding of our individual context, capabilities and aspirations and connecting us with services and resources that will help us to achieve more of our potential.

Forces shaping the unmet need

Why is this becoming so important? Because we live in a world of mounting performance pressure where we can’t afford to stand still and rest on the certificates and accomplishments of the past. Unless we accelerate our ability to learn and achieve more and more of our potential, we are at increasing risk of experiencing growing stress, becoming more and more marginalized and ultimately dropping out.

And to add to the pressure, our educational systems are fundamentally broken. We’re paying more and more for diminishing value. Think about it. What’s the model of education?

You go to school for a specified number of years and receive a certificate verifying that you have mastered certain skills and then you leave education behind and go into the workforce to apply what you’ve learned. And, while you go to school, your key assignment is to “fit in” – to be successful, you need to adapt to the institution and listen carefully to the sage on the stage who will transmit to you the knowledge and skills required to be successful. This model worked very well in more stable environments where the key challenge was to learn a fixed set of skills and fit into institutions driven by scalable efficiency.

In a world that’s increasingly going exponential, shaped by digital technologies and a proliferation of knowledge flows on a global scale, the half lives of any given skills are shrinking at a rapid rate. Learning becomes a life long imperative, not something that we can compartmentalize into a certain number of years at the beginning of our lives. Learning becomes far less about absorbing existing knowledge from a sage on a stage and much more about developing a growing capacity to create new knowledge and skills in collaboration with others in our unique context.

Rather than trying to “fit in”, our key to success increasingly becomes the ability to “step out” – exploring challenges and opportunities that have never been encountered before. Most fundamentally, the imperative is to find, connect with and pursue a passion that will motivate us to learn faster and take the significant risks that entails – we need to cultivate the “passion of the explorer.”

What's required to address that unmet need?

So, who’s going to help us do this? It’s a growing unmet need that creates a significant business opportunity. What we all need is someone who knows us very deeply and better than anyone else and who will use that knowledge to proactively recommend actions that will help us to learn faster. We need someone whom we can trust to be on our side – aggressively helping us to achieve more of our potential, wherever that might take us. We need someone who will challenge us to get out of our comfort zone and to abandon beliefs that are becoming obstacles to success. And we need that person to be at our side, through thick and thin, regardless of where our journey might take us.

Now, at one level, we’ve all had exposure to people who help us in becoming better. Many of us have been fortunate enough to have mentors who have provided valuable advice at critical turning points in our lives. Most of us who have close friends who challenge us to become better and help us along the way to achieve more in our lives.

On a commercial level, there are lots of players emerging to address elements of this need. I’m struck by the growth of executive coaches, personal trainers and mindfulness advisors. At another level, we have the growth of incubators and shared workspace providers that offer some of the services I am describing in a business context.

But most of these providers are still targeting narrow slices of our needs in terms of talent development – they don’t seek to address all of our talent development needs in a more holistic way. The trusted talent advisors that I’m describing would connect their clients with these more specialized providers when the need arises, but they would be focused on becoming an overall orchestrator of specialized services, driven by a deep understanding of our overall needs and aspirations. By the way, one of the key services of a trusted talent advisor would be to connect us with a small community of people who are in a similar context and driven by similar passion so that we can learn faster by sharing our experiences, holding each other accountable and encouraging each other when unexpected obstacles arise.

And there’s a growing amount of technology, loosely grouped into the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and data analytics categories, that provide an opportunity for trusted talent advisors to gain growing insight into who we are, what we’re doing and what we’re accomplishing. It’s this growing technology infrastructure that makes it feasible to take the trusted talent advisor business model to the mass market, rather than just restricting it to the very affluent.

Why is this such an interesting business opportunity?

There’s a big white space remaining to be targeted. This business is a particularly interesting opportunity because it’s likely to be driven by powerful economies of scope. What do I mean by that? Think about it. The more this business knows about you, the more helpful it can be to you. If the provider only knows a narrow slice of who you are, the provider can be helpful in a limited way, but it will never match the potential value of someone who knows much more about you. And the more clients this business serves, the more helpful it can be to each client, because it can start to see patterns in terms of what drives accelerated learning and performance improvement for people like you. In short, the broader the business, the more value it can deliver relative to more narrowly focused providers. These economies of scope are likely to drive  the emergence of very large businesses over time.

Of course, acquiring such deep and broad knowledge about you will require deep trust. You need to be convinced that this provider is on your side, representing your interests alone, and won’t use this data to your disadvantage. It’s for this reason that I’ve suggested that the winning business model for a trusted advisor will be one where the clients pay the advisor, rather than having an advisor who is dependent on advertising revenue or commissions received from vendors. If you’re paying the bills and retain ownership rights to the data you are providing to your advisor, the advisor is much more likely to be on your side of the table, representing your interests.

There’s certainly a significant opportunity for existing educational institutions to target this growing unmet need. One powerful way to begin that journey would be to focus on building sustained relationships with alumni, not as targets for fund-raising, but instead as people who have just started out on their learning journey and finding ways beyond more classes to become trusted advisors to these alumni. But making the transition to trusted talent advisor will be very challenging and painful for traditional educational institutions, requiring them to ultimately transform virtually everything they do. New entrants will have the advantage of taking a clean slate approach to building a trusted talent advisor business.

In my writing on the likely evolution of business models, I’ve proposed that there are three key dimensions for the evolution of business models in our exponential age. The trusted advisor represents the highest form of evolution across all three dimensions.

But what about scalable learning?

In my broader writing on the Big Shift, I’ve proposed that all of our institutions will need to transition from scalable efficiency models to scalable learning models. Would that eliminate the need for trusted talent advisors? Wouldn’t all of our institutions then help us to learn faster? Well, no – there’s a paradox here: the more important scalable learning becomes, the more valuable trusted talent advisors become.

Here’s the challenge – institutions by their very nature are driven by their specific institutional mission. They will help you to learn faster within the context of that mission. But what about your mission? Your passion? As long as there’s a close fit between the institutional mission and the individual passion, the institution will help you to learn faster in areas that matter. But I suspect that there will always be a significant role for someone who is completely committed to help you learn faster as an individual given your specific aspirations and passion, regardless of the institutional setting that you find myself in at any point in time.

Is there an even bigger opportunity?

One more point before I wrap up. There’s an open question on the table. I’ve now outlined two trusted advisor business opportunities – the trusted customer advisor and the trusted talent advisor. Could one provider address both of these opportunities in the consumer space? Are these inherently two separate business opportunities?

There’s a part of me that wants to believe that these are in fact two sides of the same coin. As I’ve argued elsewhere, I believe that part of the Big Shift is a movement away from consumption as a status symbol (e.g., the type of car we drive, the size of our home, etc.) to creation as the source of status – what have we created and how many people have adopted our creation? To the extent that this plays out, it might make more sense to build a trusted advisor business that bridges these two arenas and focuses on helping each of us to achieve more of our potential through all the goods and services we access.

Bottom line

There’s a very powerful new business opportunity emerging. So far, it hasn’t been effectively addressed. It represents a significant white space in terms of value creation and value capture at global scale. But, given the powerful economies of scope that will drive this kind of business, there’s an urgency in pursuing it if you find it interesting. This is not the kind of business that will welcome fast followers. The race is on. Have you left the starting gate?

from Edge Perspectives with John Hagel

Scaling Learning in an Exponential World

What does scalable learning really mean? I’ve been writing and talking about this for a while now including here, making the case that this will be a key driver of institutional success in the years ahead. In the course of conversations, I’ve discovered a lot of misunderstandings regarding what I really mean by scalable learning, so let me take this opportunity to clarify my perspective.

Why is scalable learning so important?

In the Big Shift, we’re rapidly moving from a more stable environment to a global landscape that is shaped by exponentially improving digital technology infrastructures. In the face of these exponential changes, if we’re not learning faster, we’ll rapidly fall behind. But what does learning really mean? In the context of a rapidly changing world, learning means developing new shared practices that can increase impact in a world of mounting performance pressure.

Free learning from the prison of the training room

First, let me emphasize that the learning I’m talking about doesn’t occur in a training room – it occurs in our day to day work and living environments. If we’re talking about developing new shared practices, it’s far more effective to do that in the environment where these practices are going to be applied, not in some artificial environment. Training rooms are fine for transmitting existing explicit knowledge, but not very effective for developing new shared practices.

Expand learning well beyond knowledge management platforms

Knowledge management platforms have largely been organized around sharing existing knowledge. While this may be marginally helpful, the key imperative in a rapidly changing environment is to find ways to develop new knowledge, rather than merely sharing existing knowledge.

Tacit knowledge is far more valuable than explicit knowledge

In rapidly changing environments, it’s important to realize that tacit knowledge trumps explicit knowledge. The latter can be articulated and written down and it usually takes time before it can be expressed clearly and coherently to others. Tacit knowledge is within our heads and we have a hard time even expressing it to ourselves, much less to anyone else. Because tacit knowledge is generally newer knowledge, emerging from new experiences that we’ve encountered, it’s often the most valuable knowledge, providing us with insight into how to act in a rapidly evolving environment.

Tacit knowledge becomes accessible through shared practice

Because it’s so hard to express, tacit knowledge is not easily accessible. The best way to access it is to work together and to observe the practices that emerge from this tacit knowledge. By working together, we also develop deeper, trust-based relationships that create a safer environment for us to explore new insights with others in our group that we have a hard time expressing to ourselves.

Tacit knowledge emerges from productive friction

The key is to move beyond accessing existing tacit knowledge and to work together to develop new tacit knowledge. This involves addressing unexpected needs and opportunities through the development of new practices. While we each may have some ideas about the practices that would have greatest impact, we are far more likely to develop higher impact practices if we come together and challenge each other’s ideas to come up with new practices that none of us would likely have developed on our own. This requires productive friction: the willingness to challenge and debate each other’s ideas in an environment that encourages diversity and mutual respect.

Let theory emerge from practice

Rather than sitting around and debating for prolonged periods, it’s far better to move as quickly as possible to action to test various approaches and determine which practices can lead to the highest impact on a consistent basis. As we accumulate practice in new environments, we can then start to look for patterns that will generate theories about why these practices lead to such high impact. Given how rapidly our environments are changing, these theories will likely lag our practices. We need to be continually evolving our practices to refine our theories.

Encourage learning in all parts of the organization

We are under increasing performance pressure and we can’t afford to silo our learning in certain parts of our institutions. Everyone in the organization needs to be learning faster by evolving new shared practices, whether they are research scientists in a laboratory or janitors trying to maintain our facilities. The institutions that will succeed in the Big Shift are those that help everyone to accelerate learning, rather than restricting it to a privileged few.

Focus on results and let learning be a by-product

We need to flip our learning mental model on its head. Rather than focusing on learning as the primary goal, we should shift our focus to accelerating performance improvement and let learning be a by-product. The goal is to improve performance more rapidly – that’s why focusing on developing new shared practices is so powerful. It provides us with results that we can measure and learn from, rather than investing heavily in training programs and taking people out of their working environments. Performance improvement accompanies learning, rather than lagging behind it.

Create environments that accelerate this kind of learning

If we took scalable learning seriously, we would apply design thinking and design methodologies to systematically redesign our work environments with the primary design goal of accelerating learning and performance improvement. I have been unable to find a single company that has attempted this, although our research uncovered 75 examples of companies that had redesigned slices of work environments with the result of accelerating learning.

Create and find ecosystems that can scale learning

And, if we take scalable learning seriously, we won't stop at the four walls of our enterprises and narrowly focus only on our employees. Instead, we'll seek to participate in expanding ecosystems that will help us to build deep, trust-based relationships with a growing number of third party participants that are all driven by a desire to learn faster together. Our research has helped to identify the characteristics of these kinds of ecosystems here and here.

Cultivate passion as a key driver of learning

No matter how much we redesign our work environments and expand participation in learning ecosystems, we’ll never harness the full opportunity of these environments unless we catalyze and amplify a specific form of passion among all of our participants – the passion of the explorer. We discovered this form of passion in our research on environments that produce sustained extreme performance improvement. The bad news is that only about 12% of the US workforce has this form of passion today. That’s not an accident, since our existing institutions, built on a rationale of scalable efficiency, rather than scalable learning, find this form of passion deeply suspect and do everything they can to squash it or at least restrict it to after-hours activities.

Provide effective leadership to scale learning

Like most things in organizations, the leaders help to define the culture and values. If leaders don’t embrace scalable learning, it will never scale. Here’s the challenge. The mark of a strong leader in a scalable efficiency environment is someone who knows everything, who can be relied upon to provide answers no matter what the issue or question. In a scalable learning environment, the most effective leaders are those who have the most powerful questions and who invite others to come together to discover the answers. They help to focus others on the questions that really matter. Perhaps even more importantly, they express vulnerability by acknowledging that they don’t have the answers and want help in finding the answers. In sharp contrast to scalable efficiency environments where having questions is a sign of weakness (you’re supposed to know what needs to be done), this signals to others that it’s not only OK, but essential, to have questions and to ask for help in discovering the answers.

Focus on trajectory, not snapshots

Finally, let me add that performance in a scalable learning environment is continuously evolving. Rather than focusing on snapshots of performance at any specific point in time, scalable learning organizations are relentlessly focused on the trajectory of performance – not only whether performance is improving over time, but whether it is accelerating. If it’s not accelerating, it’s not good enough. In an exponential world, we need exponential improvements in performance.

Bottom line

Hopefully, this brief post has helped to clarify what I mean by scalable learning. It’s certainly not learning in the traditional sense. It’s a very different and very powerful form of learning that, if effectively harnessed, can help all of us to achieve much more of our potential while having a far greater impact on the world around us. But, if we take it seriously, we’ll need to re-think everything. The time is now.

from Edge Perspectives with John Hagel

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

7 tips to engage introverts in social learning

Introverts love to stay indoors and have difficulties expressing themselves, while extraverts are outgoing and enjoy telling all their stories. That is the image we often have about intro/extraverts. How does this relate to social learning? Can introverts engage in social learning? It could be that introverted professionals prefer to go through individual e-learning models and more extroverted professionals in social learning activities.  Maybe extroverted learners are especially active in a community of practice and the introverts read along and 'lurk'. But is that true? 

With these questions in our minds we, Annet van der Hulst and Joitske Hulsebosch, have investigated this theme, using articles, blogposts and doing a mini-research. Our aim is to find out what the difference is between both groups and how you can use this in your design of social learning processes. Here's a pinterest board with resources. An important source is the book Quiet by Susan Cain.

The definition of introvert and extravert

A third to half of the people are introverts. From Cain's book: “Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough. Think of an introvert like: reflective, bookworm, sensitive, thoughtful, modest, friendly, risk-averse, avoiding conflict. The extrovert is action-oriented, assertive, active, outward looking and feels comfortable in the spotlight. And all without generalizing :). Do you know if you are introverted or extroverted (or ambivert)?

Everybody is social

In this infographic about introverts we immediately find an important conclusion: introverts are not antisocial, they have just as much need for interaction as extroverts. In other words introverts learn socially, but may like other types of learning activities. Susan Cain draws the same conclusion: “Relationships make everyone happier, introverts included, but think quality over quantity”.

What are learning preferences of the introvert and extrovert professional?

We have already concluded that everybody engages in social learning. But let's go back a step: do introverts have different learning preferences? In Kolb's learning cycle he distinguishes four learning activities. Two of them (reflective observation and abstract conceptualization) would, according to him more fit an introvert dimension and the other two (active experimentation and concrete experience) more extrovert. That does not mean that introverts can not or will not perform the other activities, but that introverted and extroverted learners have different preferences. For social learning would mean that activities that are invoked to reflect on the skills and thinking are more attractive to the introvert learner and you can expect more activity and input.

Karin de Galan from the School for training has written in Dutch about training introverted participants. She finds it difficult that the introverted participants provide less response while they are happy with the content of the training. According to her it is easier to engage the introverts if you give time to think, build in one-on-one conversations instead of only discussions in plenary, and in work assignment go at a slower pace. Translated to (online) social learning, this means that you do not always expect an immediate response in an online debate, but offer space to formulate a response (for example, send prior to a Webinar or online meeting some questions to think about). It is also good to get together in smaller groups or to work in pairs  (in a separate room during a live webinar for example, or in a subgroup on LinkedIn or Yammer). In Quiet we read about examples which support this line of thought. Avril Thorne did an experiment with women in conversation in pairs. The surprising thing was that the introverted women talked no less than the extroverted. However, the introverted pairs talked about one or two serious issues, while the extrovert discussed much lighter and wider issues. Another observation which confirms our findings is that introverts really like collaborative learning, but have a preference for groups of 2-3 with clear roles.

Online preferences of introverts and extroverts professionals: "it's a level playing field"

How about sharing online? Online seems just right for the introverted professional, because of the delay in communication. You can think as long as you like about your answer.  Heidi Cohen: Social media engagement affords introverts the ability to engage for short, strategic interactions on their own terms. introvertspring notes that online is perfect for both groups: "It’s a level playing field online".  Susan Cain: “Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally.” However, online we have to deal with information overload and extroverts seem better at coping with information overload. The reflection of introverted professionals namely takes a lot of cognitive space. If we state our cognitive capacity as 100%, then 75% of the introvert capacity is task-oriented and they use 25% to reflect. For extraverts these figures are  90% versus 10%.

Mini-research (n=8)

We are curious what we ourselves observe with regards to preferences within social learning activities in introverts and extroverts professionals- and especially online. We held a mini- survey (N = 8) within our online course. The result is as follows:

Some tentative conclusions we can draw from this mini-research:

  • The extrovert professionals prefer activities such discussing statement in conversation, face-to-face meetings, a lot of interaction and synchronous online workshops. These are activities where the direct and synchronous social contacts are more central. Also, the more 'do-oriented' activities.
  • The introverted professionals have a preference for activities like a webinar with an expert, discover and experiment with tools and work on their own case. These too are part of social learning, but they contain almost all an asynchronous aspect or an aspect where finding out by yourself is a part. Again, we notice some 'do-oriented' activities, but the thinking and reflection activities are note-worthy. 

At first glance, the results of our little research seems so to confirm the learning activities that Kolb calls more introverted.

Seven tips for designers of social learning processes

Thus we arrive at seven tips for the designer and facilitator of social learning processes that take both groups adequately into account, so that everyone feels good and can actively participate.

Tip 1. Know yourself and your audience. How many introverted and extroverted professionals do you expect? And what are your own preferences? If you know your own taste, you can program the opposite: try to see your program through the eyes of the others.

Tip 2. Blended is a good way to serve both types of professionals. Face-to-face extroverts may take the lead and can be overwhelming for introverts. One seems perfect for the introverted type. A 'level playing field'.

Tip 3. Maintain a good balance between asynchronous and synchronous learning. Synchronous speaks to the extroverts more, asynchronous more to the introverted.

Tip 4. Vary between larger, smaller groups and plenary. Work in pairs of two can provide a secure space for introverts to express themselves.

Tip 5. Find a balance between hands-on activities and reflection. Introverts love to go in depth. Be sure to find the space for it.

Tip 6. Make sure all types of learning activities are covered: reflection, theory, active experimentation and experience, in this way you cater for all preferences.

Tip 7. Help introverts professionals to direct their attention. Extroverts can better cope with information overload. Online, overload is hard to avoid. Help introverts to deal with it by directing them to the most relevant discussions.

from Lasagna and chips

Monday, October 24, 2016


Hearing Mollie deal with the challenge of the unstructured nature of University after the imposed order and discipline of school brought back memories. Wandering around wondering what I was meant to be doing, feeling guilty about not doing it, lost in a slippery quagmire of expectations. Looking back I regret not having dealt with the challenge better. I would have done so much better with what I know now.

And what do I know now? After ten years of working for myself, and much of the time alone, I have become so much better at knowing what I need to do, refining my ability to do so effectively, and proactively seeking out the next challenge and opportunity for learning. In fact just in terms of reading I read more, and "better" now than at any time in my life. I am also more disciplined about how I spend my time and building my own structures to do so. Applying and refining David Allen's principles from Getting Things Done has been instrumental in this and a life saver in so many situations.

But this is not for everyone. I often make the mistake of thinking that everyone can, and should, work like this. I have to remember that some people respond better to an imposed structure, to tasks delegated by a boss, to clear and extrinsic rewards. I forget that for many the daily commute is part of that structure as is sharing space with others in an office.

My worry is that these structures look likely to become less common in the future. As our large corporations crumble under their own inefficiency more people will work for themselves or in small groups. Fewer people will commute to offices. As artificial intelligence nibbles away at work tasks the nature of the "knowledge work" that is left will become less routine and call for more individual input.

The comforts of our structures will become liabilities rather than benefits.

from The Obvious?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

In KM, more is worse

In Knowledge Management, less is more. It's better to focus on providing fewer examples of top quality knowledge than a lot of mediocre content.

Image from wikimedia commons
In their excellent book "Working knowledge", Davenport and Prusak point out that "Volume may be the friend of data management, but it is the enemy of knowledge management; simply because humans have to sift through the volume to find the desired knowledge".

The ancient Greek poet, Aeschylus knew this when he wrote "A wise person knows the right things, not many things"

I blogged a while ago about applying Lean principles to Knowledge Management, and removing waste from the Knowledge Management supply chain. Too much volume, too much waste, in the supply chain is counterproductive, and can destroy a KM initiative. Again - here is Davenport and Prusak with an example.

"Knowledge can also move down the value chain, returning to information and data. The most common reason for what we call "deknowledging" is too much volume. As one Andersen Consulting knowledge manager told us - "We've got so much knowledge (not to mention a lot of information and data too) in our Knowledge Xchange repository that our consultants can no longer make sense of it, For many of them, it has become data".

We can see the deknowledging effects of volume in many settings:

  • Lessons learned databases that become cluttered with minor, duplicated or out of date lessons
  • Social media streams that are clogged with trivia, and with people reporting activity (maybe led by that brainless Yammer pront "What are you working on") rather than discussing knowledge
  • Knowledge published in multiple places (see the extreme example in this blog post, under "When WOL goes horribly wrong")
  • Knowledge bases which are bursting with work products, rather than containing synthesised knowledge

These examples of de-knowledging are driven by a few common factors:
  • Emphasising (and often incentivising) knowledge production and sharing rather than knowledge seeking and application, for example the companies who say "We want to promote Knowledge sharing", even going so far as to set each individual a target of "sharing X items very year"
  • Capturing knowledge "just in case" rather than for a purpose
  • A lack of resources for sorting, compiling, curating and synthesising knowledge into guidance documents (and then archiving the lessons and work products once they have been synthesised)

All of these are counterproductive. Instead you should do the following

Cut the volume. Go for the faucet and not the firehose; quality over quantity.  Aim for a small number of documents of concentrated, high quality knowledge, not a large number which people will need to sift through and sort for themselves. 

Because, as the Andersen example shows, if there is too much volume they just won't bother. 

from Knoco stories

Monday, October 10, 2016

Rhetoric - a much need skill for knowledge workers

Rhetoric seems to have negative connotations these days. That's a shame, as Aristotle's approach to 'the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing' is a skill that anyone effecting change in organizations must have. Female staffers at the White House have proactively employed rhetoric in a very innovative and specific way to get their voices heard.
Whilst we're talking philosophers, the most effective masterclass technique that I train facilitators in is Socratic knowledge transfer. Too often deep experts reach for their Powerpoint slides and simply impart their wisdom, without demanding critical thinking. Much better to have a dialogue based on seeded 'judgement call questions' and elicit personal insights or experience from all those participating. Getting the 'expert' to hold off imparting their solution or answer until the end of the discussion is tricky!
The process involves a carefully selected and rehearsed case-study that gives plenty of context and has two or three decision points which relied on judgement. The 'expert' pauses at the judgement calls and asks, for example, 'what would you do?' or 'what else do we need to know?' or 'what do you think happened next?'. On several occasions an entirely novel approach or solution has emerged that the 'expert' had not considered.
One vital component is getting the right participants. Everyone invited should potentially have something to contribute to the topic. In that way there is not just one 'expert' in the room.
The process is particularly effective in generating new insights and conveying complex ideas, but needs careful coaching and facilitation. 

from 'KIN Bloggin'