Above and Beyond KM

A discussion of knowledge management that goes above and beyond technology.

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This publication contains my personal views and not necessarily those of my clients. Since I am a lawyer, I do need to tell you that this publication is not intended as legal advice or as an advertisement for legal services.
  • Albert on a bikeYour organization’s social media effort needs you to be a mad scientist..on wheels!

    Huh????

    Forget the long production cycles, forget the boring committee meetings, forget the five-year plan.  Your Enterprise 2.0 project needs creativity and momentum.  The way to get it is to be an agent provocateur, an iconoclast. Someone willing to think outside the box.  Someone who will listen to your more creative customers — no matter how cranky, kooky or off-the-wall.  Someone who has the ability to find the golden nugget buried in a customer suggestion.  Above all, you need to connect the dots quickly and act with dispatch.  (Hence the wheels.)  Now is not the time to analyze an opportunity to death.  Now is the time to seize good ideas and run with them.

    Why do speed and creativity matter? Because they give competitive advantage to disruptive businesses and, at the end of the day, Enterprise 2.0 initiatives are great examples of disruptive business ventures. Consider the core challenges of these businesses:

    How do you build a business in an unproven market? How do you figure out what customers need when you’re delivering an experience they’ve never seen before? You begin where service and software companies have begun, by conducting fast, cheap experiments that help you understand your customers. You build on what you learn. In short, you prototype.

    With ever-increasing competition, innovative businesses are finding that in order to stay competitive their offerings need to constantly evolve. …To understand the next big thing, companies have to engage with customers and react to their needs.

    And if you want to succeed at this game, you would do well to pay attention to Ideo’s Axioms for Starting Disruptive New Businesses:

    • Go early, go often — build experimentation into your process
    • Learning by doing — be sure to salvage something from each experiment
    • Inspiration through constraints — don’t waste time wishing for more — after all, necessity is the mother of invention
    • Open to opportunity — don’t assume your way is the only way — see how your customers use your tools in unexpected ways

    Thankfully, good Enterprise 2.0 tools are so easy to shape and use that you should be able to pull together a prototype quickly, test it, and then move on without missing a beat.  This may not be how veterans in your IT department like to work, but it’s how disruptive businesses thrive.

    So tell me what are you going to do?  Write a 20-page requirements analysis document that may well fail to address the problem, or quickly build a prototype that engages your customer in a creative collaborative problem-solving exercise?

    Time’s a wasting.  Get moving.

    If you don’t believe me, listen to someone who has made a great deal more money than I have in business — Rupert Murdoch:

    The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.

    [Hat tip to Marcia Conner for the Murdoch quote.]

    [Photo Credit: Stilakes]

    3 Comments
  • Beach Wedding!The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome, the beach setting romantic.  In fact, we enjoyed every minute of the wonderful destination wedding they hosted. However, even romance does not eradicate some of the realities of life in the 21st century.  Accordingly, the happy couple felt compelled to ask their guests to refrain from posting wedding photos and videos on any social media sites.

    Welcome to life in the 21st century.

    Clearly notions of private life and privacy have undergone some fairly substantial changes in the last few years.  Now that everyone can publish their life via Facebook and Twitter, we are swamped by too much information.  Occasionally, people get carried away and publish the details of lives other than their own.  That’s when we face the dilemma our media-savvy bride and groom clearly were trying to avoid.

    Until society adopts an established code of conduct for how we approach the narration of our lives via social media, people are going to have to determine for themselves where they must draw the line in the sand.  Hopefully, that line will take into consideration the privacy needs of those affected by any disclosure.  To their credit, the bride and groom were clear about their expectations and their forthright approach gave the rest of us an opportunity to consider our own limits.

    Where do you draw the line?

    [Photo Credit: Liz Sullivan]

    2 Comments
  • LinkedIn customized IconMay 19 was a great day for social media enthusiasts as they watched the price of LinkedIn stock rocket.  The commentators were almost breathless as they reported each extraordinary increase in price over the course of the day:

    CNNMoney.com (@CNNMoney)
    LinkedIn shares open at $83, an 84% premium over the IPO price of $45. http://CNNMoney.com
    Thu May 19 14:03:04 2011

    Breaking News (@BreakingNews)
    Shares of LinkedIn Corp open more than 80 percent above their IPO price in public trading debut, continue rising http://bloom.bg/kS53YC
    Thu May 19 14:15:57 2011

    For CRM vendors, this may have been a slightly more challenging day.  What do you say to businesses that have spent millions on your software to create internal electronic databases of customer contact information that require huge ongoing effort to keep current?  What do you say when the alternative is having millions of customers and colleagues contributing their contact details and educational and work histories to a giant global database, especially when they do this voluntarily and without charge?

    That’s the beauty of social media.  People participating without compulsion and for their own reasons.  Yet collectively creating something much bigger than the sum of its parts.  Best of all, we’re only just beginning to see the potential in this type of collaboration.  Perhaps it was the intuition of such potential that drove the stock price.  Granted, once the initial euphoria dies down, the stock price will undoubtedly settle at what some consider to be a more realistic level.  And LinkedIn will have to work hard to justify high stock prices over the long term.  Regardless, the events of today were a nice validation for the folks at LinkedIn.

    Can you imagine a comparable validation for the CRM system your firm uses?

    I’m just sayin’…

    [Photo Credit: ideagirlmedia]

    No Comments
  • hidingA new Canadian study reveals that companies are suffering from a “knowledge hiding” epidemic.  Or, as Kimberly Weisul puts it, the $73 billion that companies spent on knowledge management software in 2008 (according to AMR research) might possibly be a complete waste.

    That’s a thought that should strike terror in the heart of every knowledge management professional.

    So what’s going on?  Apparently, companies have invested in marvelous (and expensive) knowledge management systems without first properly identifying and addressing the barriers to knowledge sharing that exist within their organizations.  As a result, their systems lack the key content that make them mission critical. Instead, the people with the goods are keeping them hidden.

    The study by Catherine Connelly, Jane Webster and David Zweig cites the following popular methods of knowledge hiding:

    • ignoring requests for assistance
    • claiming that the requested information is confidential and cannot be shared
    • pretending ignorance

    The study also provides some reasons why colleagues indulge in knowledge hiding:

    • they are distrustful of co-workers or management
    • they feel an injustice has been done to them
    • they are retaliating for someone else’s bad behavior
    • their organizational culture encourages secrecy rather than sharing
    • they believe that they can get away with it

    In a similar vein, Ian Thorpe has noted in his KM on a dollar a day blog the following reasons why people won’t share information:

    • the requested material is “rough and ready” — fine in the hands of the originator, but not safe in the hands of others
    • it is a preliminary draft and has not been perfected
    • the material was not intended for external consumption
    • it may not conform to the public position of management or the organization
    • it may be based on evidence or arguments that have not yet been properly vetted

    So what are the best antidotes for knowledge hiding? The key is to build an organizational culture of knowledge sharing.  However, that is easier said than done.  In light of that, what do the study’s authors recommend?

    The paper suggested that companies can overcome knowledge hiding by having more direct contact and less email communication with employees, highlighting examples of trustworthiness, and avoiding “betrayal” incentives, such as rewards for salespeople who poach another’s clients. (Jordan Press, Ottawa Citizen, May 16, 2011) [emphasis added]

    In addition,

    • Build trust — emphasize positive relationships among employees
    • Demonstrate the mutual benefits that result when colleagues share information
    • Treat all workers fairly and respectfully, thereby reducing feelings of injustice and the need for retaliation

    At the end of the day, if you want to get value out of your expensive knowledge management systems, you have to spend the time and effort to ensure that all the people involved are willing to cooperate and share.  Don’t let a technology vendor tell you otherwise.

    ****************************

    For further reading, see: Jack Vinson, Knowledge hiding among co-workers.

    [Photo Credit: Susan NYC]

    9 Comments
  • Temptation“I can resist everything but temptation,” Oscar Wilde once said.  Nowadays, if you look around most offices, you’ll discover lots of folks who appear to agree with Oscar Wilde.  They spend time during regular business hours on Facebook, checking personal email, indulging in online shopping, or just surfing the web.  In fact, it can seem as if the only temptation they are able to resist is the temptation to get some work done.

    How bad is it?  According to a recent report on current research at Harvard Business School, the situation is quite serious: “A number of studies have suggested that US workers waste between one and two hours a day web surfing, costing their companies billions in lost productivity.”

    In the face of these significant threats to productivity, some employers have taken the step of banning private internet use at the office.  While this may seem like an entirely logical response, Marco Piovesan, a Harvard Business School research fellow, thinks it may have serious drawbacks:

    By banning web surfing, employers are essentially asking their workers to resist temptation until they can go home and surf on their own time. The rub: studies show that people asked to resist temptation in anticipation of reward become less productive and make more mistakes in their current tasks.

    In the tests Piovesan and his colleagues conducted, they asked test subjects to complete specific simple tasks while fighting the temptation to watch a funny video.  The tests found that the people facing temptation “were more apt to make mistakes and were less productive overall” when compared to a control group.  In a workplace that demands high accuracy, this tendency could cause real trouble.  In any business that depends on high productivity, this could mean disappointing financial results.

    Piovesan suggests that the better approach is to let employees know that they can have regular breaks in which to take care of personal business online.  He views this as a means to relieve the pressure and reduce the distracting and exhausting effects of having to exert self-control over long periods of time. This is consistent with the theory that “when we resist temptation we use energy to control ourselves-and then this energy is not available for subsequent tasks.”

    Alternatively, we could let Oscar Wilde have the last word: “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.”

    [Photo Credit: Joel Montes]

    No Comments