Donnerstag, 28. April 2011

Serendipity, work patterns reloaded and Social Media in the Corporate

Apparently (HBR) “Serendipity” has been voted one of the most popular words in the English language and it is also one of the hardest to translate.
How to make sense out of the fact that it had been more than ten years ago that I heard “Serendipity” for the first time, heard it again now and then, looked it up several times, but it never stuck with me?
“Knowledge = Information + Context”, the quality of a model is not its complexity, but it sense-making power. The word and its translation were only information, and as I was never able to create my context, I was also never able to transform it into knowledge.
Until I recently came across a wonderful and beautiful presentation and I finally could create context for my “Serendipity” (here you find the whole chocolate box with the presentation and a link collection to serendipity by @AnaDataGirl Ana Silva).

Ana Silva presentation
In order to share my knowledge with you, I need to start with reloading some of the Work Patterns model. The idea was to distinguish between three different work patterns: Working on own agenda; stay on top of things / learn; help / support others / share. In earlier post the emphasis was to motivate the shift from “working on own agenda” towards “help / support others / share”. In between a bit vague, a bit overlooked and underestimated was the “stay on top of things / learn / see the big picture” part. In the original model this part was not directly contributing to productivity, although I felt it was necessary somehow. 
At that time I hadn’t chewed so hard on the why we have failed with activity-based KM KPIs, I very much thought, knolwedge is knowledge is knowledge, once it is created. However my knowledge might be only information for you – without context. We have failed with activity-based KM KPIs not because everyone cheated the system (say “buh” to the black sheep!), but I hadn’t fully seen through the fact that my knowledge is only knolwedge for others, if they can create / build / follow / understand the context. Thus we have often flooded the systems with our knowledge that in fact for others was only information. I cannot share knowledge, if I dug my head deep in the sand. I cannot share knowledge, if I don’t connect, if I don’t stay on top / learn / see the big picture. That is what I now see much clearer. I cannot share knowledge, if I don’t “contextualize” – if I don’t connect my context to the contexts of others. This is where serendipity is incredible instrumental. With serendipity my knowledge becomes knowledge for others. Seldom is our life so simple that you check the database and a copy-paste re-use solves your problem, but serendipity makes you see penicilin, where others see mould.
How do we facilitate serendipity? Open office concepts support socializing in the same way as Social Media support the mental open office. This is what Social Media means for the Corporate: Facilitated Serendipity.
Can I do without Social Media? – Sure you can. You can hang out the whole day around the coffee corner and die young from heart desease. It’s your choice.


ps: credits also to Luis Suarez @elsua (here, here) and Ross Dawson @rossdawson (here) for their work on Serendipity

Mittwoch, 20. April 2011

Out of the silos - into the silos

“Break down the silos! Break down the silos!” – You hear it everywhere these days. So get up for 30 seconds, get your hands in the air and join yelling: “Break down the silos! Break down the silos!”
For sure “Breaking down the silos” now had a positive effect – on your blood circulation and – if sitting in an open office environment – on the entertainment side.
Martijn Linssen worked out that the metapher isn’t so well chosen, if you address decision makers who have build a carreer in organizational structure that you term with the pejorative expression “silo”,  Martijn prefers to “enginize the pistons”.
If we consult Wikipedia, we realize: 
An information silo is a management system incapable of reciprocal operation with other, related management systems. "Information silo" is a pejorative expression that is useful for describing the absence of operational reciprocity. Derived variants are "silo thinking", "silo vision", and "silo mentality".
We speak about the tool aspect and derived about the human aspect (mentality, culture, organizational structures).

via stockxchnge: farmliving1 by party1957 (id:182008)

On the tool aspect there is considerable progress, and with the advent of Social Media one can speak about flat tools (yet there is still a lot of work on a moving target, so here I join yelling, e.g. to include mobility).
If you look at the human aspect in terms of organizational structures, especially for hierarchical structures, Wikipedia is giving the discussion an interesting twist: Structuring organizations in this way is useful partly because it can reduce the communication overhead by limiting information flow; if I then cite a classic: There is nothing like information overflow, but only filter failure (I was told it was Clay Shirky). The “silos”, or lets call them - just for the fun of it - “taxonomies” appear in a different light: they are filter functions needed to avoid information overflow.  Lightheaded thought?
Okay let get some down to earth empirism into the picture. A company, let call it - just for the fun of it - “Ericsson” is deploying a Social Platform (very much internal Twitter / Facebook), since functionality is introduced gradually, it is completely flat. Then in drop x, the “group” / “community” function is available. Off we go, mush room time for “groups”, “communities” – yes, silos. And please note, there was no tool aspect involved, the tool was flat, it is us that demand structure – the term “silo” is clouding the picture.

So we have to acknowledge the facts, “silos” serve a purpose and “silos” will not vanish, on the contrary they are self-organizing. They may reflect a tribal history in human evolution, or they may be connected with our brain capacity (the seven things that we can memorize at the time); anyway they serve a purpose, they create the “home feel factor”. We feel secure, because we know the norms and behaviours and are acknolwedged as individual. We are valued and we create value (needs not to be proven, is accepted truth). We share a common understanding and perspective. And finally we share the same language. This has got huge implications on information and knowledge. “Silos” deploy efficiency (that is the same thought that assigns costs to diversity), because for people, who share the same understanding of context, information is enough to share to create knowledge (knowledge = information + context). The context shared, does not have to be externalized. This is one reason, why it is good enough for me, but not for you (see Ian Thorpe).

So, silos are not bad, but there are bad silos. Since silos have a purpose, it is about harvesting their benefits and at the same time to overcome their shortcomings. In order to optimize, it needs controlled perforation. Many pictures have been used to describe it: Facilitation of the weak ties, Travellers between the worlds, Knowledge brokers. My favourite is Context Creator, because it indicates how to create value in the perforation of silos, the information (with unexpressed, because shared context) is turned via the Context Creator transformed into knowledge, knowledge that is creating value (in contrast to information) outside of the respective silo.

So far I have come with my thoughts, much more I learned, when I put up the questions "What are the advantages of working in silos?" in to a KM community, but a summary of that must wait for the next time.


Donnerstag, 14. April 2011


First of all, sorry to all who are offended by the word, I started off with „Knowrarchy“, so mind the tendency, some greekspeaking fellow might do better.
Same as for the word, applies to the thought: work in progress!
To me it was important to show the analogy to hierarchy, and emphasize the role of knowledge in the change.
My twitter definition (based very much on Wikipedia) of Hierarchy: org. structure based on authority deploying filter funct.

My twitter defintion of Knowarchy: super-org struct. based on knowledge & influence deploying semipermable filter.

If we look at the hierarchy definition it consists of 3 components: structure: the organization, the underlying mechanism: authority and and a functionality: filter – obviously that is a very poor definition, but done for the purpose of showing later on the difference.
Organization can be a company, institution or a sub-part of these. Charateristic of an organization is that it is relatively stable and created top-down. Top down is realized via authority, so it deploys a command relationship that is mandatory. Hierarchies – often neglected – serve purposes. Alignment, effectiveness of action and – here my point – filter function, reporting, communication is along the lines of command. Especially this filter function (you see the relation to the classic “There is no information overload – but only filter failure) was critized as to rigid and was simplified to the yell “Breaking down the silos!”
Observations to what is happening with the help of Social Media lead me to the need of another term: Knowarchy
My twitter definition of Knowarchy is along the lines of the hirarchy ones.
Knowcharchy is not based on organization structure, it might go beyond or across (therefore in a quick moment I thought it “super-org”). Facilitation of this happening are e.g. Twitter / Facebook / Linkedin or their corporate representatives (e.g. Yammer). Also there appear self-organizing structures, you might call the networks. These structures however are not mandatory to comply to, they are on-and-off (sometimes you need to put efforts into receiving access, but if you don’t want anymore, you just leave). Examples of these structures are followers / following or groups and communities, also #hashtages can be seen as these structures (e.g. using followme with Twitter. The mechanism in a Knowarchy is knowledge, influence, value creation, reputation (the mix of words here shows that this needs further discussion), certainly it is not power, but some resulting e.g. in the fact that I have 100 followers but others 100000. Reputation Mgmt (Ross Dawson) is part of the game here and supporting the thought: Why would you invest into something like Reputation Mgmt, what is the ROI? So the structure – along the line of hierarchies – is not flat. There are positions in a Knowarchy that people are more keen on than others. However these positions, non-flat structures are not as discrete as in an organizational structure (due to size and due to bottom-up organization). The building is bottom-up (in contrast to authority): we chose to follow, we chose to join a community. Finally the filter functionality is different to hierarchies, where the filter is limited access to knowledge.  In a Knowarchy in principle access to knowledge is free (the permeable part), the limiting factor is our capacity. In a world of abundance of knowledge (in a world that offer information overload), smart filter mechanism make the difference – in connectivism even a difference in the definition of knowledge – knowledge being your connections. One pronounced mechanism more flexible than the one of hierarchies is a folksonomy. You chose whom you are following (free). And you might be chosen – based on you knowledge, influence, value creation, reputation (limited).
Note: this post is work in progress and very much assoziative, written down very quickly - no pictures, no polish. I am happy to improve in a collaborative way.

Thanks for the great discussion on Twitter: @metaphorage, @rossdawson, @ithorpe 


Mittwoch, 13. April 2011

Learning from failures: KM on slides has no value

Life sucks – sometimes. It’s just not fair! It is all there, I indeed did a great job: It is an innovative, important idea that I am – well, yes -  really proud of; I have worked out the process in all details, it seamlessly fits into the existing structures (with some well spoted changes to the machine of course – after all it is an innovation), but I have put a lot of efforts into defining precisely all steps and – yes – it is even well documented; and in order to sell it – I am not a freshman – I have composed an appealing presentation of wit (according to the books of good presentations), inspiring visuals, well motivated –
And the guys in front of me simply don’t get it! They don’t get it. Neither the beauty, nor the hard work. Instead of a soft landing, it is a crash. Or it is a soft landing attended with soft smiles that take my idea nowhere.

Frustrating! They should listen, they should be grateful. And when the frustration breaks free into anger: Who are they to turn down my brilliant idea? They are not even experts, they hardly can define Knowledge Management (neither according to Nonaka, nor in their own KM framework – they have not even thought about a KM framework!).

Time for the moral of the story: Life is seldom fair, and Knowledge Management on slides has no value.
Knowledge Management is people business (that’s why so many implementations of KM from the IT side terribly failed – but that’s another failure). It is not a beauty contest, if you cannot make it work with the people, the people won’t deploy it and value creation does not happen. Simple, isn't it.

Let’s switch to the learning part and dig into the root cause analysis. Why have I failed? I can identify 3 fields of failure: the situation, the people and myself (in the end it is always me who failed, but in a moment you see the difference, so it is not about finding a scapegoat).

The situation: Have you ever tried to speak about Knowledge Management, when there are lay-offs. You can talk about internal positioning, efficiency with reduced capabilities, break into growth – the employees only hear: Dump your precious knowledge into the database, then we can fire you without even feeling any pain. In general the question is: Have you really understood the situation? As said, no beauty contest, no KM for the sake of KM. Have you really understood the business? Or is your great idea based on assumptions and repeating the buzz words (we see this now with Social Media) And finally, do you really know how do people work? How your plan will affect them. Here the borderline to the people field becomes foggy.

The people: Have you understood the effect on people? There is this paradox in game theory, where the better collective solution is not taken, because it is not appealing to the individual. What is in it for the individual in your idea? Great idea, but more work for me? You must be joking. Potentially it is not the first time (that applies a lot to KM with more than 10 years now) that someone is running around shouting “You must all do Knowledge Sharing or we are doomed!” The credibility factor will again appear in the myself field; but even if they like the idea, do they have the heads up for it? Or are they cornered, under pressure that they cannot embrace change, even if they can buy-in to the idea. Well that is a fundamental challenge for change management; often you need to change, when it is not anymore convenient to change (on the other hand nobody will change, if everything is just fine).

Myself: often Knowledge Managers are not anchored deeply in the respective organization. The not-invented-here syndrom demands its right. Why should they trust you? Because of a nice slide package? Neither have you proven yourself, nor that you do understand the situation.
As diversified as the failure fields are, the solution is monolithic: Work together with the people in tiny steps (you might have vision always with you and explain how the tiny steps bring you in time to the moon), prove yourself and test your ideas within the business environment and with the broader situation, in short take a collaborative approach.
And in all this you can develop slides that make a great story, when you have succeeded, and then they really add value. And when you nevertheless fail, you have a great slide package to proof yourself as speaker: "learning from failures".


Montag, 11. April 2011

KM asks for value-based compensation

Do you earn what you deserve?
Strange question – difficult question – far-reaching question.
This is one of the old questions of Knowledge Management. Many methods have been proposed to measure this intangible asset (see Sveiby for Methods for Measuring Intangible Assets, and overview of 34 methods with links). Decision makers are keen to quantify and to calculate the effect of their measures, at last they are interested in the Return Of Investment. The fact that there is not general accepted and feasible way of measuring knowledge has put Knowledge Management a bit into the esoteric corner (some even provoke not to talk KM when executing, don't do KM), leaving the biggest company asset (knowledge) as the least managed one. Managers decided to see the question more as a philosophical one and put their efforts elsewhere.
Detour 1: From the theorectical point one can happily argue whether knowledge is the relevant parameter in the first place, or whether knowledge flow or speed of knowledge flow, reach of knowledge or the knowledge network is the key parameter, but also these are not very practical to quantify and to measure. End Detour 1.
Well, this is the beauty of twitter, at the same time Oscar Berg was retweeting and discussing: "“At work” now refers to a state or condition rather than a place. People don’t telecommute or telework..."
A completely different story? Not really, if we agree that the quote describes the typical work patterns of knowledge work. Knowledge work at all times, and the change is not the work patterns of knowledge work, but that knowledge work becomes the mainstream work pattern as we enter the knowledge industry large scale.
Detour 2: In minutes the list of impact areas grew in our conversation: work law, management styles, performance measurement, work equipment. You are very welcome to continue the list. End Detour 2.
Knowledge workers and even more Knowledge Citizens deploy different work patterns and different deliverables: knowledge, something that we have hard times to measure.
So if work for a Knowledge Citizen is a state of mind, and the work deliverable is knowledge, a rather glibbery fish to catch, for sure the compensation scheme of the attendance clock is inadequate – to put it mildly. The esoteric question of Knowledge Managers becomes the essence of what Human Resources over the globe and over many industries should think about.
(Another indication of the difficulties is another old problem of KM: How to incentivize Knowledge Sharing, Carrots and Sticks don't work)
The traditional effort based compensation is out-dated for Knowledge Citizens (For Newton’s famous apple, it didn’t take long to deploy the gravitational law).
And again an old quote serves for a new twist: “Knolwedge has no value” (in itself for the corporate, if not used). The value of knowledge for the company is the value that is created with the knowledge. The Knowledge Citizen deserves a value-based compensation. Of course in the corporate this is reflected to some extent (the CEO earns usually a tiny bit more than the junior engineer). But it is the definition of employment that the market is intermitted, while values are best determined by a market (remember the idea of the Knowledge Market / Marketplace).
I know we are travelling hard, but it might be worth it: I foresee that the knolwedge industry as relying on value-based compensation deploys self-employment and micro-entrepreneurship as the leading business model. Early indications these days run under the term “Open Innovation”.  Then the Corporate Knowledge Citizen would become a Global Knowledge Citizen. Wonder where this thought leads to?

Although they might not agree and follow my conclusions, this post is built on the extremely fruitful discussions with Kmbeing and Oscar Berg. Thanks!


Samstag, 2. April 2011

Crisis Knowledge Mobilization - examples from Ericsson

I wish I needed to elaborate on Crisis Knowledge Mobilization extensively, but I am afraid recent crisis situations, desasters and catastrophe have supported the reasoning beyond all bearing.
So the first example is the latest from Japan (Ericsson Response)

All in all Ericsson Response looks back on 10 years of disaster relief efforts.

But there are other applications of Crisis Knowledge Mobilization; one enabling communication for all is Refugee reunification.

Other examples for enabling communication for all can be categorized as crisis prevention applications, like the Lake Victoria Project

And obviously the Weather info for all

With this I have finalized my series on Knowledge Mobilization: where to put it in the corporate space, its extended scope for the global community and a bunch of Ericsson examples in all three categories (connected, connecting, crisis).

Freitag, 1. April 2011

Knowledge Mobilization connecting community - examples from Ericsson

There is some sense in the statement that everything Ericsson is doing is Knowledge Mobilization connecting community. That is the important "Why" that this company answers. However this approach wouldn’t really serve this post (I would talk about the hundreds of countries, thousands of customers, billions of subscribers, and on and on and on – all true, but not to the point).
So I am leaving out where the core self-interest overlaps with creating benefit for the society, but provide only the extraordinary examples and cooperations – some diamonds and nuggets - for the sake of society.
As I am supporting my argument that connecting community is often an essential part of Knowledge Mobilization for the global community, just try to imagine Knowledge Mobilization in these cases without the connecting efforts – Impossible in my opinion.

Right into it:
Ericsson and the Digital Health Initiative bring health-care access to rural populations through mobile technology.

In the Millenium Project to tackle extreme poverty in Africa – Ericsson has delivered the first telecom services to the Rwandan village.

Every girl and boy should have an education by 2020, is the theme, Connect to Learn is the initiative to make it happen, how? Enabling communication for all.

Another initiative to enable communication for all is the cooperation of Ericsson and the Mobile Broadband Commission.

Under this umbrella there can be found quite a bunch of activities and example of “a 2010 Leadership imperative: The future build on broadband”

That shall do to colour the picture for an ICT Knowledge Mobilizer connecting community. Still I am curious what others in ICT or in other industry sectors do.