KM for the Obese Lawyer

Baigneurs Obesity in America is a problem of gigantic proportions. In fact, ABC News reports that “almost two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese.” Unfortunately, it’s getting worse:

…according to a new study out Monday, the number of overweight people in the U.S. will grow to almost 42 percent of the country by 2030, and cost a whopping $550 billion in obesity-related health care costs per year.

Clearly we have a consumption problem. But that’s not all. JP Rangaswami, one of the brightest lights in the knowledge management and Enterprise 2.0 firmament, recently gave a TEDx talk in which he suggested there were parallels between food and information. In fact, he suggests we should think about our information production, preparation and consumption like we think about our food production, preparation and consumption. Who is producing good quality information?  How can you identify good quality information? How do you set limits on your information consumption?  Do you need an information diet or even an information fast?

Now, consider lawyers in America.  Many of us have an extremely unhealthy lifestyle: we work long hours, get little sleep, eat a poor diet, get insufficient exercise, and suffer high levels of stress. This could make us prime candidates for obesity. Lawyers are equally bad about their information consumption — we don’t always pay sufficient attention to the quality of what’s coming at us from the information fire hose.  Further, our orientation to service leads us to allow far too many interruptions in the name of staying on top of the situation or being responsive.  If JP Rangaswami were here, he’d say that when it comes to information consumption, lawyers snack all day.

In light of the obesity epidemic with respect to both food and information, what can law firm knowledge management do?  Well clearly, knowledge managers cannot cut off the supply of information so we’ll have to help our colleagues make better choices.  In the realm of physical health, doctors will recommend more exercise, smaller portions of food and longer nights of sleep, among other things. With respect to information obesity, how do we turn the situation around? We need to teach ourselves and our colleagues a healthier approach:

I’d strongly recommend you take the eight minutes required to watch JP’s talk. (I’ve embedded the video below for your convenience.) Then think about what changes KM can bring about to help colleagues adopt a healthier approach to their consumption of information.

Hat tip to Luis Suarez who pointed out JP’s excellent TEDxAustin talk and also shared how he has made changes in his own life to avoid an unhealthy weight gain and information obesity (see the video below).

[Photo Credit: Romain Pittet]


E2.0 Community Roles and Adoption Planning

Here are my notes from the second session of the Enterprise 2.o Black Belt Workshop:  Community Roles and Adoption Planning – A Critical Component of Org Change Management


  • Stan Garfield, Community Evangelist, Deloitte (@stangarfield)
  • Luis Suarez, Knowledge Manager, Community Builder and Social Software Evangelist, IBM (@elsua)


[These are my quick notes, complete with  (what I hope is no more than) the occasional typo and grammatical error.  Please excuse those. Thanks!

From time to time, I’ll insert my own editorial comments – exercising the prerogatives of the blogger.  I’ll show those in brackets. ]


[This session was billed initially as a cage match between Stan (advocating the gently  controlled, more organized approach to community building) and Luis (advocating a more liberal, uncontrolled approach).  However, Stan and Luis assured us beforehand that they will still behave collaboratively — in the true spirit of Enterprise 2.0.]

  • Disclaimers:
    • Focus:  Building communities of practice behind the firewall
    • The slides contain more than they can cover today, so checkout the deck on Slideshare
  • What is a Community?
    • Not everything is a Community
    • Just because you have a group of people, you don’t automatically have a community
  • What forms a Community? The members share a particular passion
  • Stan Garfield’s Community Manifesto (10 principles) – set out below is an excerpt from the Manifesto:
  • Communities should be independent. Participation should be voluntary.
  • There’s a difference among Communities, organizations and teams
    • Communities share passion, interests, expertise
    • Organizations are not voluntary
    • Teams are not voluntary (usually they are assigned); they are closed not open; often have a fixed mission and time period
  • Communities should span boundaries
    • The most dangerous thing you can do is to limit the scope of the community.  They should be as free form as they can reasonably be. [Luis prefers to talk about “facilitating” a community rather than “managing” a community.]
  • Requires a special level of engagement – providing the tools is not enough. The communities need to be nurtured constantly – every hour and every day.
  • Targets for managing communities
    • Types of communities
    • Activities should be used to explain to community members what it means to be a member and how they should participate
    • How to determine if a community really exists
    • What the community expects of its members
  • Community Circle of Life = as a community’s knowledge base grows, more people become members > a membership grows, the knowledge base becomes richer > as you connect members to content, you also help members connect with each other and build relationships > the easier it is for members to connnect, collaborate and grow, the richer they are and the more engaged they are.
  • Community Road Map
    • There’s a lot of work to be done before you can launch a community.  In fact, launching a community is the easy part. You need sustained effort and good leadership to nurture it.
    • Identify what content you want to provide.
    • Offer documentation and training for community members.
    • Begin developing a community site.
    • Once this is done, launch the site, build it out, add content and stimulate collaboration.
  • Stan and Luis have different experiences with community building.  Stan has found it helpful to gently control what communities can be formed to avoid redundancies and a loss of efficiency.  You can try to manage what communities form and how they build their community support.  The role of KM is really to assist and train rather than to control Luis says that communites are free-form and emergent.  They start as soon as a core group decides to launch one.  Over time, communities that cover similar topics tend to merge voluntary.
  • IBM has many community leaders who are willing to help other community leaders.  This peer training improves overall quality of communities.
  • Primary Community Roles
    • Executive sponsor – should lead by example
    • Community Leader
      • This is a critical role
      • This person should be a few steps ahead of the members
      • This person should be a real evangelist – they should help “lurkers” become active community members
    • Community Council
      • Advise the community leader in launching and sustaining the community
    • Community Members
      • Help provide content and recommendations regarding community development
  • How to build a community
  • Choose the topic around which the community will be form
    • Keep the topic broad so that it can span boundaries
    • It must be a compelling topic – enough to energize community members and keep them engaged.
  • Review existing community before creating a new one
    • This helps consolidate the knowledge base
    • It also tends to reduce the work for the community leaders
    • It brings new membership to an exisitng community
  • Select a communite moderator/facilitator
    • Watch the group carefully to see who has the right attributes to be the community moderator/manager
      • Who is a natural hub in the group/network?
      • Who is a subject matter expertise?
      • Who has the requisite passion? [But doesn’t have an axe to grind.]
      • Who has the energy to nurture the community?
      • Who encourages the engagment of members?
      • Who leads by example?
    • With a planned community, the executive sponsor should choose the community manager
  • How does the community manager regulate the content?
    • Most of the time, the community itself self-regulates and encourages members to do the right thing.
  • You can never communicate enough within the community
    • Continue to publicize the community’s existence.
    • Continue to recruit new members.
  • Keeping the community active
    • Have a regular call or other activity
    • Look for ways to bring within the community any sidebar discussions/activities
  • Q&A: What are the biggest challenges to Community Building?
    • There is a maximum number of communities a single person can follow.  How do you manage this to reduce information overload?
      • Encourage similar communities to merge
    • Alternatively, start with a broad community and let sub-communities emerge to focus on specialized topics.
  • Presentations:
    • User name: Workshop
    • Password: Boston
  • Presentations also on Slideshare: