Montag, 30. Mai 2011

Myths of Knowledge Management

To Gen Y folks KM seems so old that they are usually take KM for dead. To academics, and with every day one needs to think more of the history faculty than the economics, KM goes back to Nonaka (1991) and it is only the archeologists who claim to have extracted KM DNA from the bones of Peter Drucker (“Knowledge Worker” 1959).
Today I am here standing on the barricades of wisdom, shouting out for revolution: “The ancient Greeks deployed Knowledge Management!” Well to be fair, all ancient people were doing Knowledge Management.
Even without (or should I say “because of the lack of”) IT tools ancient people were doing Knowledge Management! Their instrument was story-telling. But not just any story would do, Zeus, Herakles, Odysseus, and Oedipus – no cheaper than the mythological superheroes were the ancient Knowledge Workers. However the knowledge was worked on them, instead of them on the knowledge. Ancient mythological cosmos forms a knowledge management framework.

Time travel from Greek heroes to fresh failures:
Recently, the most beautiful slides I had composed in order to sell a new KM concept to my leadership team. A smooth process oiled a machinery of roles and responsibilities, templates and checklist all towards a vital business purpose – with nothing more than friendly ignorance as result (Sounds familiar? – you most probably have read “Learning from failures – KM on slides has no value").
Only when we could tell a particular story, put real customers on stage, make feel the real pain, real value was shining, only when we told them a story, we were able to reach, we were able to transfer knowledge.
A story emotionally heads up and bonds with a stickiness that information simply does not have.

But what about mythology? The stories of Prometheus, Perseus or Ikarus are not in particular real? As a matter of fact(s), they do not really make a lot of sense, neither from the scientific point of view nor from historic perspective.
Indeed, here something very interesting has happened: While obviously information on its own was not (and still is not!!!) a good entity for Knowledge Management, information, the real facts, were compromised for more context, in order to transfer more knowledge.
Sounds crazy to you? Well, deliver a 50 pages document of top arguments beautifully arranged and precisely formulated to top management, and they rather rudely tell you to come back, when you have done your home work: 3 slides, not more than 5 bullets each!
Why does this work? Now it is down hill; most of it you find at Wikipedia "mythology" (just a bit of citing the right lines and leaving everything else not supporting my truth):
Functions of myth: Mircea Eliade argued that one of the foremost functions of myth is to establish models for behavior. Joseph Campbell defined myths as having four basic functions: the Mystical Function, the Cosmological Function, the Sociological Function--supporting and validating a certain social order; and the Pedagogical Function--how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.
The are various theories (Euhemerism, Allegory, Personification, The myth-ritual theory) on the origins of myth, but they all share the view that myths are the result of a repeatedly executed refinement process.
Well, that’s the bell, history lesson is over, after the break, next post it is the writing class on storytelling.


Donnerstag, 26. Mai 2011

The virtual coffee corner doesn’t smell of coffee

I confess: I have stolen the coffee from a friend.
But first, the good thing working with Knowledge Management, we don’t steal, we re-use – at the most we re-use unauthorized.
But second, it was virtual coffee – and as he had coined it, “The virtual coffee corner doesn’t smell of coffee”.

stockxchng, hot drink 2 by nk1967

I try to be realistic, there is enough of “7 ways to make you happy with Social Media”, “6 reasons why you become a hot shot if you are able to spell Social Business” – however still my friend got fed up with me, when I was trying to sell the Social Media as coffee corner faciltating conversations, connection, context and knowledge (solves world poverty and answers, why we live and whether god exists – does God tweet by the way?) – he replied: "Virtual coffee doesn’t smell".
The uncontrolled environment of a coffee corner, as a walk in the forest and an evening with whine and friends is what inspires to serendipity (I am extremely passionate about serendipity, so I hardly write a post without it these days) and unplanned and unexpected assoziations. Sex? Yes, but sorry, I am too late, Ross Dawson is riding this train. This Social Media cannot provide. - True!
I believe we run aground on a huge misconception. It is fantastic that nowadays I am able and can afford to listen to my moaning wife and the complains of my kids, when travelling another continent, but does this mean, I refrain from physically talk to them when at home in favour of using my mobile?
For a trustful relationship there is nothing better then sharing all senses, FACE TO FACE.
When hailing Social Media, we hail the crutches of us handicapped inhabitants of the global village, not the Übermensch. As I interprete Shankman, Social Media does not ask for the "Social Media Expert”, new gurus, but for people, who know their job, to do their job over distance and time zones. That is what Social Media can help with.
I would love to argue and disagree and compromise with the great thinkers that I am following on Twitter or Linkedin, face-to-face. But sorry to say, they sit on the Gran Canaries, in Sweden, US or Australia
I would love to collaborate and cooperate with my enthusiastic colleagues working on Knowledge Management in Ericsson, face-to-face. But sorry to say, they sit in Paris, Stockholm, Sao Paulo, Sydney
Social Media is providing a channel for global companies to stay connected with thought leadership within the corporate and beyond. Nothing more, it is a facility, quite like kitchen facilities, but to make a lively corner coffee, to learn to walk with the crutches it takes human skills.
Yes, and here it comes again (quite predictable), it is the skill to feel empathy, the skill to connect (not the “lower layer” physical connection in telco terms), the skill to create context (which is not only expert information) in order to livt (live / lift)  up to Social Media to a Knolwedge Management tool.


Ps: Tribute to Felix, sorry, your metaphor was too good to die in email!

Mittwoch, 25. Mai 2011

Social Space

When Mgmt lives on another planet – then Social Space becomes a very vital mission.

stockxchng, Galaxy by gilderm

Of course face-to-face discussions would be the preferred, always, however most often we need to use the crutches of Social Media. So the discussion is not about whether Social Media can substitute and replace face-to-face discussions, but support, when these are not feasible.
Recently I had analyzed a mgmt blog – the results where not good:

  • Would you fail to appear in an All-Employee-Meeting?
    2 posts in the last 3 weeks is not a blog (professionalism)
  • Would you simply ignore a question in an All-Employee-Meeting?
    5 comments – none answered by the blogger (respect)
  • Would you plan an All-Employee-Meeting for 5 minutes?
    A blog needs greater staying power then 1 month (perseverance)
 Let’s look at the characteristics of Social Media to see what went wrong:
There are 3 main characteristics I can identify: around time, the format, and around style.
If we look at the characteristics around time, we immediately can spot improvement areas for our above mentioned management engagement: Social Media activities must be often and they must be timely, the fear that the time efforts then rise so tremendously that management only will be social (would that be bad?), are compensated by not – so – time-consuming efforts. In SM a contribution should be thought trough, but it doesn’t have to be a PhD thesis. It is a competitive advantage of SM to publish unpolished work-in-progress. It is rather a matter of chopping things into tiny bits and pieces. It is the speed of light (instead of heavy information overloaded dreadnoughts).
That is also supported, if we look at the format, as SM formats are short (as a rule of thump you might want to think of what is the default resolution on one screen). And more important it is two-ways. Two-ways! TWO-WAYS!!! So ignoring a question is a sin that a community does not forgive lightheaded. Two-ways means that you address others, ask for opinion, start with questions – and that you are not afraid of getting honest answer and open feedback. It is about dealing with diversity of opinions, not about neglecting them. This is not always fun, but there is no alternative; ignoring silence is not a good strategy to defuse social time bombs. But the same applies for you, connect by being responsive. This is how you can engage – and convince.
The style. Direct, short, fresh and human. Human 1 – personal: Those, who do not trust, cannot be trusted (I admit, it is not from me, but I have seen it by Brian Driggs as comments at Luis Suarez “The evolution of the knowledge Net worker”. Human 2 – situational. We all die, so eternal truths are not really ours. Human 3 – authentic. Have you ever tried to shake hand with the Teflon man?
Finally two warnings:
  • "Authentic" does mean, you cannot outsource this to other experts (e.g. on Communications, making antiseptic statements); the only expert on yourself is you (and you wife, but that is another ton of blog posts)
  • "Authentic" does not mean “mindless”, just because it is social, it doesn’t mean that sh… hits the fan, when you throw with it.
So understanding and deploying these characteristics, it will enhance visibility (see time), open leadership communication with dialogue and arguments, (the format of true thus two-ways communication), certainly accountability goes with this characteristic, it adds also to transparency and trust (as style does).
Any last famous words – have a look at Twitter.


Sonntag, 22. Mai 2011

When Mgmt lives on a different planet

Today I have overhead a discussion of two engineers. Two engineers, who are not really under the suspicion to revolutionize Leadership. “Success is the best motivation.” As simple as that.
How on earth can then a Top Management come up to distribute glossy booklets "Lets focus on motivation"?
A Top Management is usually not stupid (enough with too simple truths). But then, how can they?
They are desperate, desparately disconnected.
There are quite some reasons for disconnection: Globalization, which on the one hand creates much tougher market environements, and the other hand lead to organization spread around the globe. In order to leverage on economies of scale, sheer size matters. And to faster product life cycles top management often respond with shorter organizational cycles (this is an observation - in my opinion however it asks for different approaches: the Knowledge Citizen, the Knowledge Charter and new work patterns).

via stockxchng Planet by asampogna

A Top Management must react on disconnection. Usually they react with communication, or better with "Communication". This "Communication" is top-down, one-way and has "newsletter" character. Is anyone reading newsletters? My answer is no, which leads to more desparation and as a consequence to more "Communication". As the classic bonmot states "There is no information overload, only filter failure".
So we have already seen how employees use effectively their filters, they just don't listen to "Communication". But also the first part is interesting: Information overload - spot on, information, but not knowledge (knowledge=information+context). What is missing, is context. That is exactly the observation of disconnection.
If I now speak about Social Media for the purpose of connecting management with employees, I join Semple (Organizational Naivety), this is where the hard work begins, not the magic trick. Just to get it right, Social Media is not a big motivator in itself, but Social Media can help to connect. It is the envelope, not the message.
And another warning, Social Media bears great opportunities, but it comes with "costs": you need to work, you need to open up, you need to trust.
Then it yields great leadership: visibility, transparency, connection, accountability and trust
(at this point in time it's effects in advance, next time when looking at the specific characteristics of effective use of Social Media to connect management and employees, these consequences shall fall into place naturally)!



Sonntag, 15. Mai 2011

The social tree

How do you get social in the corporate? What is the best Social Media governance? The corporate voice or the empowered choir?  - I have a clear preference: The social tree. (#socialtree - and soon all the gardeners will follow me!)
via stockxchng, Tree1 by diesel_sto

Of course the corporate voice has some advantages at the first sight - but frankly speaking it is the wrong concept to leverage on the power of Social Media (before Web2.0 hardly any company would have been honoured to be recognized as "social" in the sense of chummy, convivial, folksy, sociable - see How social are Social Media).

So am I in favour of the empowered choir then? I like the connotation of it, but the picture is missing out some aspects. Nevertheless it gives me the opportunity the cite the famous Verdi Chorus (Nabucco): Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate / "Fly, thought, on golden wings,"
Many singers, orchestrated, but with their own tone and voice - and in the end it sounds loud, strong and beautiful. I can subscribe to that. Good intentions, but ask yourself, do you go to Twitter to listen to all the corporate choirs? Something is missing.

Some of the best discussions (mind the gap! between broadcast and discussion) I had with people having their own company or belonging to a company in the field - so I acknowledge their business interest, but the point is, I had discussions with them.
And for me as a company employee to be on Twitter it is not in the first place to market my company, I demand knowledge, ask for help, listen to the thoughts of others, get inspired. And the received gold nuggets, I bring back into the company. The receiving, the "sponge" part is not in the choir picture.

I had associations of tentacles, but neither do I want to kill nor is the metapher recognized positively. So ...

The social tree
The metapher for how to use Twitter and other Social Media for the global corporate successfully. How the employees are incorporated in a successful Social Media culture.
(to the largest extend I have digested and re-used tweets and blog posts I have come across and forgot to cite - and now my mind pretends it was my own cleverness) Latest examples:

The roots
Roots, and its about the endings, are small, tiny, there are many of them, they go in all kind of directions and they are usually invinsible.
In order to be successful in the Social Media you need to have something to say. Having something to say is based on experience. In order to share knowledge, knowledge must have been created. This knowledge can - to a large extent - be based on what you read on Twitter and elsewhere, if you transform it into new knowledge by creating your own context. It's about absorbing experiences and information, and turning them into context, thus creating knowledge. Knowledge speculation, the pure retailing of what others say, is not sustainable - it adds and I am happy to retweet (not everything) - but that's not the core. These individual experiences are made in a vastly extended root system in marketing, selling and delivering the business, usually necessary to nourish the corporate, usually below the public surface.

The trunk
The trunk brings all the tiny roots together, gives height to the tree and provides stability and the trunk is the basis for leaves and blossoms. While inside it is a live stream, to the outside it shows a repellent bark.
What is creating stability in the corporate: long-term strategy, history, and large scale context. (Yes corporates can become imprissoned in their old barked trunk). To quite an extend the height of our outlook is due to corporate support, promotion, competence and training.
But most important, there is a difference between a number of individuals and a number of corporate employees, and this is what the corporate trunk provides: A company culture, a view on the world, an accepted value set, a sense-making mechanism that is ongoing in the corporate; in short the corporate context. In the trunk the huge number of individual roots are united, only with the corporate context all the tiny information and experience pieces from the roots are turned into knowledge.
However newsletter, press releases and corporate tweets belong more to the bark in many cases then to the live stream inside: Monolitic, polished, okay for publication of corporate news, but the trunk is not really something you can get in touch with, to engage with as external (the bark is hard, and the vivid inside is shielded). The corporate trunk to the external builds a defense mechanism, gives stability compromised for unflexibility. Defense mode does not allow empathy. The trunk alone doesn't make a tree, exactly as the one corporate voice doesn't make Twitter and Social Media work for the company.

The leaves and blossoms
The leaves and the blossoms are small and tiny (again!), they are connected to the trunk, but they are not rigid, they are flexible. Every leave looks a bit different. Leaves are absorbing and emitting. The leaves and the blossoms build the crown. While every leave and blossom is different, they all together form of the corporate what is seen from the distance. They build the picture of the tree: strong, flexible and also defending the trunk (think about if thinks go bad on a company on Twitter!). A tree without them is a rather sad picture. All the leaves and blossoms are nourished from the roots via the trunk, but as well from what they themselves receive from the outside. They are the many many receivers of what is out there on Twitter, not one receving everything (how would the corporate voice be able to absorb everywhere and understand), but every according to position and affinity. The receiving aspect is what is missing in the empowered choir methaper. The leaves and the blossoms is where the give and take occurs. Every leave and blossom is "personal" (from the conceptual point of view): Authentic, customized, open, engaged. And this engagement is the basis for relations, and eventually for accountability.  Leaves are absorbing and emitting. Emitting knowledge and eventually thought leadership. Absorbing, be it sensoring trends, building up competence and sharpening arguments.

I anticipate comments, that I haven't defined for the company the purpose of Social Media - no, I haven't that is right. Not the particular purpose - but the variety (maximum?) of purposes are visible in the leave and blossom part for global corporates (neglecting the direct selling via Twitter): Identity of the corporate, relations, knowledge sharing and thought leadership, business intelligence and learning.


Dienstag, 10. Mai 2011

Get social - but how?

I am standing virtually naked in front of you - This is a question mark post.
Working for Ericsson, I had enjoyed looking at Top 10 Swedish Brands on Twitter.
But then doubt attacked from all angles:
  • For a global ICT company, Sweden is probably not the relevant set to compare with, rather other global ICT companies (do we need to substract the number of employees?), moreover Twitter is only one channel, if you include Chinese telco supplier Huawei, you need probably also to look at Sina
  • The number of followers is obviously a rather simple, not too meaningful measurement (easily pimped, not aligned to the value created).
These are relevant questions, but I was caught by another one that more related to Leadership and Empowerment, in short to the Corporate Culture and its effect:

How do global companies present themselves on Twitter? I have observed two extremes (conceptually, the corporate realities lie somewhere in between, biased more to one or the other direction):
  • The corporate voice
  • The empowered choir

The corporate voice:

A single corporate account is used to distribute the corporate voice. Tweets are well aligned to and fit with overall Communication Strategy. Tone is factual.

  • Easy to implement
  • Focal point
  • Easily aligned with other Communication efforts
  • Usually high number of followers
  • Easily followed up
The empowered choir:

There are many accounts of employees with a majority of business- and work-related tweets. Opinions and tone are those of the employees, no governance model secures alignment.

  • Based on personal credibility (strong)
  • Strong engagement level (employees using their specific expertise)
  • Can serve as a seismic sensor system
  • Can counteract negative trends
How is your company doing it? What particular advantages he you perceived?