E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez


Social Networking Attracts the Big Iron Boys – Where Re-focusing on the People Is a Must

(Previously, on elsua – The Knowledge Management Blog at ITtoolbox)

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Last week Mathew Ingram, one of the folks participating actively over at the Social Media Today group, of which I am a member as well, created an interesting and thought-provoking weblog entry where he is actually questioning the business value of large enterprises entering the world of social networking and, perhaps, work their way through social computing within the enterprise. The article is titled Social networking attracts the Big Iron boys and you can find it over here. It is actually an article that relates as well to a piece of news published over at NYT, Social Networking’s Next Phase, on a recent announcement that Cisco Systems will be purchasing Tribe.net.

As I have mentioned above, it surely makes for an interesting read as Matthew actually questions whether large enterprises would be able to pull it off and adapt to, and adopt, social computing in order to help people connect with one another much better than whatever they may have been doing thus far by diving into social networks and providing their own takes on the overall effort.

His conclusion is rather enlightening and, certainly, spot on:

"What makes a social network function isn’t so much the tools as it is the attitude. You gotta have the “want to.” And that isn’t something you can get out of a box."

Yes, indeed, that is something that I have been saying all along myself in both of my Internet weblogs around the world of knowledge sharing and collaboration and how it is shaping up the way things are happening in Knowledge Management at the moment. Yes, that so-called KM 2.0 that seems to have brought Knowledge Management back into the spotlight (And about time!). It is no longer about the tools, nor the different processes involved. It is actually on something that we haven’t been focusing on quite a lot in the last few years: the people! That is right, that is what makes social networks successful in the consumer market, but also within the Enterprise.

So as much as saying that, we should also take into account that apart from building the different tools and technologies around social networks, we also need to make the necessary investments and place the focus on the people themselves. Help them to understand the key points of a social network, the benefits, the business value (Not only for themselves but also for the businesses they work for and the customers they support), how to get things going, how to find the time to be able to dive into the conversations, how to get around the different tools, how to connect out there with everyone else and the list goes on and on and on.

There is no denying that having just a social network for the sake of having one, which is what most businesses are probably thinking about at the moment (Just good for the hype and the buzz!), is not the right approach. Businesses should also think what they are going to do to place the focus on the people, to actually give them the chance to try out the social network(s) and engage with the rest of the knowledge workers. Without looking into that and addressing it well ahead of time, there is not a single social network out there that will survive over time and for an extended period of time.

It is a cultural thing, to say the least, for sure. Knowledge workers need to be shown how to work and operate in social networks, so that they understand how much they differentiate themselves from the traditional and standard way of knowledge sharing and collaboration they have been doing all along and up until now. Take, for instance, the example from IBM itself and its recent announcements of such social computing offerings like Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr.

IBM is not coming around to social networking and social computing within the enterprise just now. It has actually been going on for years! Most of the components from Lotus Connections, for instance, have been up and running behind the firewall for several years already. Such is the case of the weblogging component (BlogCentral running Roller), Activities, Social Bookmarks (With Dogear), Profiles (With strong influences from Fringe) and Communities. There are already behind the firewall thousands of webloggers, weblog entries, social bookmarks, tags, profiles, several hundred communities, thousands more of activities and it keeps growing further day in day out.

What has been happening all along during this time was basically preparing the way for us to provoke that cultural change / shift ourselves (Again that focus on the people!) and start thinking that social networks can provide a business value while at work. We have been having the tools for a while now and throughout all this time it has been an inspirational path towards adopting most of that social computing tools in such a way that knowledge workers have been in control of the flow of information and knowledge all along, which is where it should have been from day one. To such extent that nowadays quite a few of us would probably not know any longer what to do without them.

They have integrated so much into our day work stream that thinking of having a day pass by without connecting with your own social networks is just another wasted day! That is exactly what Matthew is referring to in his article! The fact that for social networks to survive in the business world knowledge workers need to breather, nurture and soak in them. The more, the better. They are the ones who can change the rules (Already happening!) and shape up the way they would want to share their knowledge and collaborate with others.

So what are you doing in your day to day work? Are you connecting to your social networks behind the firewall and beyond? Have you helped provoked the cultural change yet? Will it ever happen? Your choice.

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Informal Learning by Jay Cross – Part Deux

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No, that is right. This is not the second take from Jay Cross on Informal Learning. Actually, this is a follow up to a previous weblog post that I have shared over here not long ago where I actually included the links to three video clips stored in YouTube by Jay Cross himself in which he gets to talk about Informal Learning. Quite some interesting stuff! Well, it gets better. Much better. Not long ago, I discovered another video clip that Jay has put together. I found it through the Learning Technologies 2008 weblog that Don Taylor currently maintains and if the first three were really good ones this other take is just as good. If not better.

It lasts for a bit under 10 minutes and for those folks who are interested in finding out some more about what Informal Learning is all about, and how to get a good and descriptive overview, this is certainly one of the best options out there. In it you would be able to find out how Informal Learning is "everything that is not Formal Learning". Yes, I know that is going to sound pretty much like common sense, but Jay has got a good point actually. Informal Learning is something that we are all going to be making use of all the time, as opposed to formal learning where it has got a much stricter set of rules that would need to be followed. One of which is a specific and fixed period of time for that type of learning. It is not necessarily a continuous process, like informal learning is.

One of the things though that I have enjoyed quite a bit from the video Jay has put together is the fact that he establishes a very close connection between Informal Learning and social networks, the latter becoming really key and paramount for the success of the former. Because after all, "The most powerful instruction technology ever invented is human conversation". Does that ring a bell? Anyone? Yes, indeed, social networking at its best! Who would have ever thought about that, right? Something so relatively simple, yet so powerful, and underutilised. Get involved with your own social networks and pimp up your own informal learning while at work. I doubt it would ever get better than that!

Check out as well his recommendations on how different businesses can adopt informal learning techniques by improving the way conversations flow with some real and concrete examples of what businesses could make use of. With some really good quotes as this one: "Learning is an act that you do yourself [..] People can train you but they cannot learn you".

Finally, the last part of the video tries to address the mix of Informal Learning with Web 2.0, i.e. "the participatory Web" and how they are actually coming together quite nicely by helping address growing issues like when the baby boomers generation starts making its way out of the workforce. Certainly, making use of social computing and Informal Learning you have got a pretty good chance of being able of retaining most of, if not all, of the knowledge from those baby boomers before it is too late. So what are you doing to retain that knowledge? Are you making use of social networks and Informal Learning to address some of those different issues? Here is the embedded video from Jay so that you can get to check it out for yourself. Totally worth it the 10 minutes he has put together. Thanks much, Jay! Lots of great stuff in there! Thanks for sharing it with us all!

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Social Networking and ThinkPlace – Why Communities Still Rule the Innovation Space

(Previously, on elsua – The Knowledge Management Blog at ITtoolbox)

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Goodness ! I cannot believe that another week has gone by already since I last posted a weblog entry over here ! WOW! I guess I have just been through one of the worst weeks I have ever had as far as workload is concerned and I supposed all of my weblogs have noticed a slight hit here and there. There is not much more that you can do after having attended 6 to 7 hours conference calls almost every day rock solid ! Yes, I know, just too many meetings and conference calls. And you are right, for sure. But there is just so much going on that it is sometimes difficult to let it all go, just like that. So, instead, I try to make it to all of those events that are worth while following up on, so that I can then come over here and start weblogging about them, because thus far most of them have proved to be very helpful and enlightening, to say the least. But I guess one step at a time.

First things first. Catch up with my RSS feeds, which is what I have been doing lately around the world of weblogging, apart from sharing the odd weblog entry in either of my other two weblogs as well. And while I was doing the usual catch up, so that I would get a glimpse of what is happening out there, I have bumped into an interesting article published by Robin Bloor, over at IT-Director.com and whose title is quite intriguing, specially if you do not know really what Think Space is: Social Networking and Think Space.

Well, to gets things started it is actually not Think Space, but ThinkPlace. But that is another story. Let’s have a look at what the article deals with.

Robin basically provides a quick overview of the Lotusphere 2007 event that he attended back in January sharing a bit of his impressions on some of the different announcements made back then. Yes, the ones I have talked about over here quite a bit: Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr. While he believes that they would provide some potential value to large enterprises and corporations alike, he is actually wondering if they would both work within the SmB market since there may not be a significant critical mass to make it all work.

Well, while I can see his point I must say that I do not see a reason why social networking / computing could actually not work within the SmB market. After all, people still need to connect with one another, most of the times, in a distributed environment, sharing their knowledge and collaborating with others. That is something that happens as well in SmB and quite a bit. And in fact, given how powerful social computing can be as an enabler to facilitate knowledge sharing regardless the environment and seeing how inexpensive it actually is it makes perfect sense to think that social networking tools would actually, if anything, be ideal for the SmB market. But perhaps that is the subject for another much more in detail weblog entry.

What I wanted to share with you as well, folks, is actually the second part of the article where Robin gets to mention one other IBM application, we are making use of internally, and which tries to help boost innovation @ IBM big time and which was demoed as well over at Lotusphere 2007. Unfortunately, Robin made a typing mistake and it is not Think Space but ThinkPlace.

In the past I have been talking about ThinkPlace a few times already as perhaps one of the most interesting options IBM is exploring around the world of innovation by placing ideas into a single repository in order to work with them and put them into practice. Not just with the work of several individuals, but also as a group. A group with a sense of belonging and commitment to keep things moving and drive those ideas through. This is something that I have talked about over here just a few days ago and which ties in quite nicely over here.

That is right, one of the main goals from ThinkPlace is to actually not just drive innovation forward for the sake of just doing it, but also from the perspective that innovation can be much more meaningful and rewarding, perhaps even much better positioned, if it is actually taking place from a group perspective. That is right, through the power of communities. And having different tools in place very much around the space of social computing is just going to have one particular effect: that of knowledge sharing, participation and collaboration with others. In short, innovation. I doubt it can get any better than that, don’t you think?

Either way, you would be able to read from that particular article how sometimes in order to reach out to others there is a good chance that you would be able to resort to your own social networks, those that you should treasure and nurture quite a bit, because they are the ones who are going to keep feeding your interest in innovation through sharing what you know with others using social software tools as enablers and not as showstoppers. So if you are thinking about an Innovation program for your own business, ensure that it is a program not just meant for individuals who can innovate, but also for communities to be able to do their share of innovation, because the chances of success are much higher than perhaps having one or two individuals sharing away. Don’t you think? At least, that is what IBM is finding out over the last few months with the existence of ThinkPlace and its use of several different social computing components, such as tagging, RSS / Atom feeds syndication, tagclouds, etc. etc. So whoever said that social networking / computing and innovation cannot walk through hand in hand should probably think about it twice and why it didn’t work in the first place, because for many other instances it is just a new and refreshing method for keeping innovation alive!

(Oh, and don’t forget to read the additional commentary, because it is equally educational!)

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Knowledge Management 1.0 vs. Knowledge Management 2.0

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I *love* comments in weblogs. Don’t you? I mean, ever since I started weblogging about three years ago I have always thought that I would be enjoying it much more getting together some interesting conversations on different topics than just having a popular weblog that plenty of people visit, but that rarely care to comment further. Yes, that is right. I never expect from my weblogs to be very popular nor very highly ranked in places like Technorati, on the contrary, I would feel a whole lot more satisfied with my weblogging efforts whenever I would have a good bunch of folks sharing their insights and adding further up on some of the different topics that I tried to put together in all of the different weblogs that I get to share.

And to showcase some of that, here you have got two different comments that have been shared over here in a weblog entry that I have shared a few days ago and which come to complement each other and  differentiate, quite nicely, what Knowledge Management 1.0 (KM 1.0) is versus Knowledge Management 2.0 (KM 2.0). The first set of comments about the state of KM 1.0 have been shared by Dennis Howlett, one of the folks whose weblog I have recently started aggregating to my feed client and which I have been enjoying quite a bit already!, and the second set of comments comes from the one and only, James Dellow, who actually provides a spot on reflection of the next generation of Knowledge Management: KM 2.0.

In case you may not subscribe to the RSS / Atom comments feed, here you have got the quotes from each of them so that you can get to read some of the really good insights they have put together to describe the overall state of Knowledge Management.

Dennis Howlett:

"There’s another side to this as well. Traditional KM was not really about knowledge but the management of secrets. By that I mean that management had become so frightened by compliance – especially SOX – that they needed and wanted an iron grip control over the environment. They got that OK but completely stifled creativity in the process so rather than freeing up creativity, they locked it down. What we’re now seeing is KM as it should be – no constraints." (Emphasis mine)

What a terrific description of what the traditional KM has been all along! This is certainly a very short paragraph that describes very well the state of KM 1.0 and why it never really took off altogether. This quote is definitely one of those that I will be reusing on a regular basis whenever someone would ask me what KM 1.0 used to be. Hopefully, for not much longer anymore.

James Dellow:

"Next generation KM (KM 2.0 if you like) has already arrived, its just the enterprise technology is finally catching up …”This next generation of knowledge management is more interested in social networks and the flow of knowledge between the people in them, than content management as we saw in the past. This latest evolution is reflected in the new Australian Standard for Knowledge Management (AS 5037-2005) published in October 2005.” Source: Knowledge Management: How to separate the wheat from the chaff http://users.bigpond.com/chieftech/downloads/kmwheatchaff.pdf (PDF, 108KB)" (Emphasis mine)

WOW! What a great quote ! I am really glad that James has actually shared it with us over here and the link to the PDF article as well, because it certainly makes for an interesting read on where KM is heading: KM 2.0. One of the things that I have enjoyed thoroughly, and which is something that I have been talking about over here all along, is the fact that James also points out that a successful KM strategy is that one that makes use of tools, technologies and processes to help empower knowledge workers share their knowledge with others, collaborate and innovate with their peers. Yes, indeed, a successful KM strategy is that one that places the focus of knowledge sharing and collaboration on the people themselves, and not necessarily the technology / tools or the different processes in place. Great stuff, indeed !

A special thanks to both Dennis and James for sharing their insights over here in elsua and for helping improve the original content with some really good conversations. So thanks for those comments, folks!

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RE: Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us vs. the Sensory Us

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WOW! If you thought that this particular YouTube video, of which I talked about it in the past over here, was really cool, and very nicely done, with some very compelling messages about what Web 2.0 is all about and how it is actually impacting the way we experience many different things having to deal with the Internet, and whatever else, then you have got to check the following response to that same video. It is just as good and very well done, too !

I actually got alerted to it by one of my fellow IBM colleagues, Michael Wolfe, who shared it over at his Intranet weblog and I just thought I had to share it over here as well. It is certainly worth while the 3 minutes and 15 seconds it lasts as it contains incredibly powerful quotes that would make you think twice about things you never thought were so important for your day to day interactions, such as these two:

"The Internet is essentially a series of Gutenberg presses and Edison kinetoscopes connected by telegraph wire …"

"…The real achievement of the Internet has been to SIMULATE participation. It has made non-participatory addition of responsive content more rapid … even instantaneous…"

Yes, I know! Pretty intense, isn’t it ?!?! Well, it gets much better; but I guess that, after watching it, I just run out of words, because, after all, they are just a vague representation of something larger, much larger, and much more meaningful. Us. The sensory us. And if not judge for yourself on what we are missing at this moment in time and where we are heading. Apparently a long way ahead of us, or is it really? 

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IBM Lotus Connections – We the Knowledge Managers

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Phew! What a couple of days, folks ! To say that I have been incredibly busy at work is just probably an understatement. I don’t think that I have ever had so many meetings, and conference calls, to attend in such a short time ! So much so that yesterday evening I was so shattered that instead of weblogging I decided to chill out a bit and watch The Island. Today though I have been spending some time catching up with my RSS feeds in between conference calls and whatever other meetings and I just thought I would point you into an interesting article that I have bumped into.

It is actually an article published by Neil Ward-Dutton titled We the librarian and you can find it over here. As I just mentioned above, it is actually an interesting and worth while read, because it describes some of the buzz that went around over at IBM’s Lotusphere 2007 with the release of IBM’s Lotus Connections and its potential impact on Knowledge Management as a new and refreshing knowledge sharing and collaborative tool in the area of social computing. Pity that Neil just restricts the article to librarians, because it would hav e been very much applicable as well to Knowledge Managers.

Still, it is a very good read because it just basically introduces, perhaps, some relevant commentary as to what the next generation of Knowledge Management (KM 2.0) and Collaboration (Collaboration 2.0) tools is like. Here is a quote from the article itself on where we are coming from thus far:

"What no-one is saying is that what’s really going on here is a reinvention of knowledge management that turns traditional thinking on its head. Traditional knowledge management relied on the skill of a privileged team of "knowledge architects" a priori defining information taxonomies, which organisations had to try and conform to in their day-to-day information creation and searching activities. The problem is that information is very rarely the kind of beast that’s happy to be tamed and confined within static structures: its structure and importance morph over time. Most "traditional" knowledge management efforts failed to deliver business value. They created environments that were too brittle, and people quickly became disenchanted. The cost of knowledge contribution and categorisation was just too high."

WOW! I am not sure what you would think about that quote from the article, but I find it a very good description of what traditional KM has been all along. And how perhaps it is time for a change, for a shift towards giving a bit more responsibility and ownership to knowledge workers by empowering them to better manage their knowledge with tools that would fit their needs and not those from the system itself. Yes, that Knowledge Management 2.0 that is very well described over here as well in this quote:

"Social bookmarking [/computing] technologies like Dogear provide a tantalising way to rediscover the potential of knowledge management. With a system based on social bookmarking there is no central librarian, locked away in an office, creating taxonomies that are dead before they’re even used; there is only a group of individuals, collaborating on creating a common understanding of important business information that can be shared by all, at low cost (no tedious or complex information categorisation or search tools are involved). We just tag as we go, and the tags light our way. We are the librarian."

Yes, indeed, pity that he has just restricted that article to librarians alone, because, like I said, I feel it is also very much relevant to knowledge managers alike and it is certainly a good start to prepare the point of entry for the next gen. of what KM 2.0 tools should look like and that we are currently getting exposed to by making use of social software. What do you think? Are we ready for KM 2.0 yet?

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