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

Personal KM

Stop Apologising for Knowledge Management

Through Lilia Efimova‘s weblog, Mathemagenic, I have bumped into this particularly interesting article by David Gurteen on Stop Apologising for Knowledge Management. As I said, this is one very thought provoking article that David has put together, and that I have enjoyed very much, in which he is actually saying something that I have been advocating myself for quite some time now: There is no need to apologise for Knowledge Management. What is the point?

Indeed, David comes to discuss how quite a few KMers out there have been in a situation where they have been in the need of neglecting or denying the Knowledge Management concept that they feel so passionate about. Goodness! How bad is that? How can you deny what you are so passionate about all along? Yes, I can certainly agree with David when he mentions that some times people may find it difficult to relate to, and that is perhaps what our job should be: helping clear out the KM message so that it is understood by everyone. But from there to denying it is going way too far away, in my opinion.

I agree with David that Knowledge Management is just a label, like KM is, like many many others. That is one of the things that differentiates as human beings, the fact that we need to label everything, but that is it. There is no need to go beyond that. What really matters is to actually make use of that label to move into the next level which is basically explaining what KM is all about, bring in some sensemaking into it, even though that may not necessarily be an easy thing either, as I have commented elsewhere as well. But at least, we should try !

There is no denying that Knowledge Management is back, I certainly agree with David on that one, too, specially with all this hype about social software, social networking and the like and I just hope that this time around we have learned the lessons from the past. KM is here to stay, whether we like it or not, thus if you feel that you are still passionate about the subject there is just one thing that you could do: show it!.

And show it now !

0 votes
Read More »

The Essence of Knowledge Management

I am not sure if you folks would be subscribed to the mailing list from the superb Knowledge Management community over at actKM but just in case you may not be I strongly suggest you sign up and join that community because for the last few months there have been some incredible discussions taking place around the world of KM.

One of the latest ones, and one that also comes very close home, is the recent discussion thread on The Essence of Knowledge Management where folks are actually venturing into putting together what Knowledge Management is in just a (short) sentence.

Yes, I know what you are going to say. No way you could do that ! Well, there are plenty of folks who have ventured into providing a good, short definition of what Knowledge Management is. I know for myself that I wouldn’t be able to come up with one just like that since every time that I have ventured to do so I end up adding much more than what was required in the first place, thus in the end I give up. If people ask me what I do for a living I have got a tendency to take a couple of minutes to try to explain what it is and as soon as I get to see people’s faces looking strange that is when I know I need to stop.

Either way, since I, too, have always had some difficulty in coming up with a short definition of what KM is all about I thought I would create this particular weblog post and share with you some of the definitions that people have been sharing so far. And as time goes by, if more of them come up I will be adding them up into this weblog post. One thing though the attached quotes are actually definitions that I would feel comfortable with because they related to the same concept that I have myself about KM, thus if you are part of the mailing list and do not see a particular quote that is because it didn’t strike me as good enough for me, which is what we should all be doing at the end of the day, look for a definition of KM that would work for you so that you can then convince others about it. Thus without any further delay here you have got some of my favourite definitions so far:

We always know more than we can tell, we can always tell more than we can write down. Knowledge Management is not just about the things we can write down, its also about the stories we tell and the stuff we know but can never articulate in any way.” by Dave Snowden. Does it ring a bell ?

KM is a systematic process of connecting people to people and people to the knowledge and information they need to act effectively and create new knowledge” by Mark Schenk (From Anecdote), taken from Carla O’Dell, The Executive’s Role in Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is a business process that connects people to people and people to information for competitive advantage and better decision making.” by Kaye Vivian (A slight variation from Carla’s quote mentioned above that I particularly like)

Knowledge management helps people learn, to use the new knowledge they acquire through learning, to share what they know when appropriate, and to help create knowledgeable communities of work mates, colleagues, and friends. It is concerned with innovation, managing complexity and ambiguity, forming and using knowledge networks and connections, sharing behaviours, and utilising people-centric technologies” by Ron Robinson (I like the learning aspect put together by Ron on this one, since I have always believed that KM and Learning walk hand in hand all along)

And, finally, perhaps the one definition of them all that I feel the most comfortable with thus far. It is coming from Denham Grey and you can find it as well over at the KMBloggers community wiki space KMWiki:

“A practice concerned with increasing awareness, fostering learning, speeding collaboration & innovation and exchanging insights. There is a delicate balance to be maintained between explicit and tacit, between personal and community, between collecting assets and enabling flows, between looking inward and externally, between mining and capturing insights and building on shared experiences.”

That one indeed I feel that it captures the true nature of KM as being related to learning, collaboration, innovation, knowledge sharing and confirming that there should be a balance between explicit and tacit knowledge, between personal and communities, amongst other things. But instead of me telling you all about it let me suggest you take a look into Denham’s recent weblog post on the subject where he actually explains a whole lot more in detail that particular definition: The essence of KM?.

I think that I may have finally found a definition that I would feel comfortable with whenever I would need to describe what I do for work. What do you think ? Have you found yours? Dare to come up with your own ?

Technorati Tags: , ,

0 votes
Read More »

The Truth about Enterprise Wikis

Here is a weblog worth while subscribing to that you may not have seen before: The WorkPlace Blog. Here is a fragment of what the main topics are from that weblog itself: “[…] The blog covers news, trends, commentary, events and emerging technologies that are affecting the enterprise workplace […]“. Interesting weblog, indeed ! In it you would be able to find little gems like the one I bumped into a couple of days ago and which I thought would be worth while commenting on: The Truth about Enterprise Wikis and that clearly puts together why wikis, like most social software available out there, may not be suitable for all businesses. And here is why:

  • Reluctance to collaborate: Indeed, I certainly agree with that statement. Not everyone is keen on collaborating with others. There would be some knowledge workers out there who would feel rather comfortable in their own silos than going out there and collaborate with others. And while that may be a valid point, which I doubt, I am wondering how much that would be sustainable. Right now the buzzword is collaboration (Get out there and share with others) thus if there are people out there who are not willing to collaborate how long would they be able to sustain the situation? The way I see it is that if a knowledge worker would want to survive I doubt he / she would be able to do that by not collaborating with others. At least, not in the current business environment. But, still it would be a factor to consider if you are planning to deploy widely different collaborative tools, like a wiki, for instance.
  • Trust: Yes, this is something that everyone who has been exposed to a Wiki would agree with that it is a key element for the success of not only that tool but most of the social media available out there. I have widely weblogged about this particular topic several times in the past and I still think that it is actually the tipping point that would eventually differentiate a labour-based company from asset/knowledge based company. Knowledge workers in order to survive in the current business world would need to learn rather quick how they can trust one another, how they can build their trust skills with others in such a way that collaboration would be considered a natural and a business as usual process within the business. Wikis can certainly help out in here. Certainly, it would take a bit of time at the beginning but knowledge workers who persevere would be the ones that would benefit the most not only because of their trust levels with others getting stronger but because they would also act as catalysts for others to join them in that same effort. People need to collaborate, they need to trust, so they might as well start somewhere.
  • Critical Mass: This may not be rocket science for anyone reading this weblog, I am sure, but there is no denying that The Workplace Blog has got a point. Specially with social software having a critical mass becomes really important for the survival of the application, in this case a wiki. Why? Well, because if there is anything to be said about social software is the fact that it is all about the people, thus if you do not have the people you do not have anything! That is the main reason why at the early stages of deploying a social media application it is always a good thing to have a technical facilitator or a group of technical facilitators that could guide the rest of the knowledge workers in finding their way(s) to interact with the tools, i.e. a wiki, at hand. Knowing that you have got the opportunity to consult with someone on your experience while adopting new tools is perhaps the easiest way to overcome the learning curve hurdle. Then once knowledge workers are comfortable with making use of those tools they can become self-sufficient and those technical facilitators could move into whatever the next task may be.
  • Start small: Like in the adoption of any critical application within the workplace it is always, indeed, a good thing to start small. Knowledge workers have got a tendency to get overwhelmed by an enterprise-wide adoption of whatever the tool, not just wikis, so it would always be advantageous to actually start with perhaps a pilot or two with a relatively small audience so that people are encouraged to participate in an environment where they can share information and knowledge with their somewhat reduced trusted network in such a way that they can then prepare the way at a later time if the pilot has been successful.

    This would actually serve a couple of different points: first, people would be keener on sharing knowledge and information in an environment where they feel they have got something to contribute and, secondly, once you have finished with that pilot and may be ready for an Enterprise-wide adoption that same group of knowledge workers could actually become that critical mass that could advocate for the further adoption of the tool within the workplace.

Thus, as you may have been able to see there are a number of different items that knowledge workers would need to work on further while preparing the adoption of whatever the social software offering, because I feel that the concerns mentioned over at The Truth about Enterprise Wikis are not just restricted to wikis but to every piece of social software that knowledge workers may get exposed to. The good thing is that with the right motivation, commitment, trust and involvement to make it work those hurdles are more likely to disappear. And for good.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

0 votes
Read More »

Fringe Contacts – People-Tagging for the Enteprise

Last Friday you would remember how I created a weblog post around the Collaborative Web Tagging Workshop taking place this week in Edinburgh. Right then I mentioned that I would be sharing some of my thoughts on some of the different sessions that will be taking place and which I thought would be worth while commenting some more. Emanuele mentioned that there would be some live conblogging going on at the Wiki space they have set up, thus we shall see how it will all get going.

One of the sessions that I was really looking forward to, specially since I have been wanting to weblog about it for some time is the one that two of my IBM colleagues, Tessa Lau and Steve Farrell, will be doing on people-tagging for the Enterprise. It is called Fringe Contacts – People-Tagging for the Enterprise and you will be able to find the presentation over here. Here is the wiki space as well where discussion about the presentation itself will be taking place during and after the event, I suppose.

In the past you would remember how I have been talking about people tagging with such interesting offerings as Tagalag, but with Fringe Contacts things would be slightly different because with it you are able to tag people as opposed to people’s e-mails addresses which is what Tagalag does.

Another substantial difference between Fringe Contacts and whatever other tagging services is that in most cases those tagging offerings would be tagging resources whereas in Fringe Contacts the focus is to tag people, your peers, your knowledge experts, your subject matter experts.

On the presentation itself you would be able to see a screen shot of what it actually looks like: how you can tag anyone in the company; how a number of different tag suggestions are presented to you if you are not sure how you are going to tag a particular individual; how there is a tag-based name completion so that you can speed up the process a bit; how you can use different visualisation techniques through clouds; how you can import your buddy list and tag them on the fly; etc. etc.

Next to Fringe Contacts you would be able to see as well an, internally available only, FireFox extension called Tommy! (By another one of my IBM colleagues, Helder Luz) that helps you surf IBM’s Intranet a whole lot much more enjoyable than from whatever other browser. It has got lots of different integration points with other IBM tools, like the employee directory, or IBM’s weblogging engine (Blog Central), amongst others, and, of course, Fringe Contacts so that you can tag people along the way while navigating through the Intranet. Pretty neat, indeed.

But it gets better, because the next version of Fringe Contacts is actually BluePages+1 (In the presentation itself you can get to see a screen shot of what it would look like, in case you want to check it out), that somehow puts everything together of what I have been explaining so far along with some org. charts and directories, next to syndicated content like weblogs, bookmarks from Dogear, whatever publications, patents, and the like, along with the clouds that I have been mentioning above as well. Yes, I know, Peoplefeeds and Suprglu on steroids!

In the presentation as well you would see how tagging takes a new form in the shape of Instant Messaging with the work done so far on integrating this tagging infrastructure for Sametime related contacts using Gaim. Yes, tagging the folks you chat the most with in real-time. How much collaborative can you get ?

However, the great thing about all this people-tagging is the fact that with the data put together people could move things into the next step which is providing some visualisations of how the data is produced so that you would be able to establish connections not only based on the tags you may have used but also on the people who have been tagged using whatever the criteria. In the presentation itself you would be able to find one example of how this would look like. Pretty cool, indeed.

Then from there onwards on the presentation itself you would be able to find some statistics of how IBMers are actually making use of all these tools in order to be able to connect with others. In short, you would be able to see some first hand data of how IBM is making progress with this people-tagging initiative called Fringe Contacts. Lots of good things taking place, I am sure you would agree with, but one aspect that has not been mentioned quite a lot is how incredibly effective this application would turn out to be as an expertise locator tool. Being able to search for other subject matter experts by just using meaningful tags that the community has been using is something that we may not have seen it elsewhere before. It kind of reminds me of Ziki, but again on steroids given the huge amount of resources syndicated into a single focal point of entry. However, that people-tagging would become really powerful if everyone gets to use it, but even with just a few folks using it it would still prove to be rather useful since everyone, not just the taggers, would benefit from searching and navigating through those tags / people in order to locate those experts.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0 votes
Read More »

John Kotter Interview – The Power of Storytelling

For the last few weeks Seth Kahan has been conducting a number of very good interviews with some of the top thinkers and Knowledge Management leaders that I can certainly recommend checking them out. There are quite a few of them already and I just thought I would comment on a couple of them that I found particularly interesting and inspiring. One of them is the recent interview he did with John Kotter around the topic of The Power of Storytelling where John comments on how crucial he feels the role of storytelling is in helping spread the knowledge amongst knowledge workers in order to help them become much more productive and collaborate with one another.

Indeed, a really worth while going through interview to say the least. In it you will be able to find plenty of gems that will certainly make you nod a few times and which for the sake of giving you a teaser I am going to reproduce over here:

Stories stick in the brain in a holistic way, better than charts, numbers and concepts. As a result the probability that the message will have an impact on behavior goes up

Yes ! Indeed, one of the reasons why I have never been very keen on using charts in order to deliver a message. I have a tendency to divert from them big time to the point where I now use them to just present different key topics and then develop on them through the usage of stories or narrations to describe them. But the key point is that those charts are not the center of the speech. Stories are.

But, you add a lot more information if you not only tell the stories, you show the audience. I do this by picking out parts, just like a play. I create little one-act plays

That is perhaps one of the main items that would separate a good storyteller from a great one ! If you have a story you would want to share with others to deliver a message you certainly need to show the audience; engage with it in the conversation and, above all, show the passion! That acting while delivering your story is what will actually get people to remember your story, not the wonderful charts you may have put together. Last week, while I was attending the TLE event in Madrid, there was a presentation by one of my colleagues around the subject of stress and how to manage it and the audience was thrilled throughout the session not by the charts she was using but because of the stories that were behind them. After the session everyone actually remembered everything about the presentation itself and could relate and apply some of the different tips shared just because of those same stories and not because of the charts. People have a tendency to remember stories, not charts.

Stories are key. If you want people to remember ideas so they can change and get better results, tell them stories

Absolutely ! I just couldn’t have agreed more with that statement. In fact, that is what would make Knowledge Management really meaningful and successful at the same time. That sensemaking through telling stories (And with passion) is what will stick with knowledge workers and somehow we probably need to understand that some times things are a lot easier to deliver than what we thought they would be. Indeed, telling stories would certainly help achieve that. Thus next time you have to put together a presentation for a particular audience, think about that same audience and use stories to convey your messages. They would certainly be enjoying them, and learning a whole lot more in the process, than without them!

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

0 votes
Read More »

Looking at Personal Knowledge Management

While I was getting ready and prepared for the presentation I did on Personal Knowledge Management at the IBM TLE event last week I got to read some very interesting stuff on the subject of PKM and I thought I would just pick up some of those thoughts and place them over here. One reference material that I found worth while reading and commenting on because of its thought-provoking nature was Denham‘s take on Personal Knowledge Management available at the KMWiki space (One of the main collaborative tools for the KMBloggers community that we recently launched). Specially this particular fragment:

My thoughts tend to be somewhat away from the PKM mainstream, as I favor collective knowledge creation, vetting and sense-making. IMO, PKM is closely tied to personal learning and inquiry which is all about social practices.

Leverage does not come from personal thought organization or access, but from a network of weak ties, dialog and awareness in community. It is not the tools or practices you use, but the empathy you feel and the relationships you maintain, – these determine how effective you are at knowledge creation, how aware you are and what you learn.

And then this one:

My take is PKM has a rather narrow focus. It is firstly about information organization for the individual, personal effectiveness, voicing and networking. Proponents claim PKM is about taking responsibility for your learning, inquiry, learning, awareness and skills, improving knowledge related competencies and increasing your efficiency.

While I agree with him 100% on this argument I think it would also be important to put things into perspective as to what the real purpose of Personal Knowledge Management is. Its focus certainly may not be primarily “networking, community participation, tacit knowledge exchanges and inquiry“. As well “Personal voicing, thought organization and personal publication do not do justice to the social components necessary for real knowledge work” but it is certainly bringing together a good start. The way I see it is as follows: for Knowledge Management, and its multiple sub-disciplines, to be able to survive there needs to be a much more personal and committed involvement in sharing what knowledge workers know. It needs to be “managed” locally before it would be able to move into the next level: the networking and sharing with others.

One would need to organise themselves with those resources that matter to them before they would feel they would be ready to share with others their best know-how. So I have always felt that for social learning to work (where “social learning is about communities of practice, collaboration, inquiry, joint problem solving, building relationships, social capital and sharing insights”) one would need to prepare themselves for it. It is not something that would happen overnight, it takes time. It takes a substantial amount of effort to build up on trust levels and social capital skills. And that is why I have always thought that Personal Knowledge Management would be key to make it all sustainable. If not, take a look into all this hype that is going around the subject of social software. People are sharing their thoughts, their favourite photos, links, online spaces to hang out, etc. etc. not only in order to be able to manage all that content locally but also to prepare themselves to share those same resources with others coming along with a strong voice so that those interactions are as rich as you could possibly expect.

And as far as I can see it seems to be working. At least, you can now see how more and more knowledge workers are taking ownership of what they know and are willing to share it with others. That personal approach towards knowledge sharing and collaboration is what I feel would provide the common ground for later on getting involved in much more complex relationships, like social networks, social learning and the like. It needs to start somewhere, I know, and to me that somewhere would be Personal Knowledge Management. The basic background for a more robust KM strategy where nurturing relationships, knowledge sharing and collaboration with others would be the main key but the success factor in my opinion would be on how well those knowledge workers are able to manage personally what they know and what they would want to share with others. What are your thoughts? Go ahead and share them over here or over at the great ongoing discussion taking place already over at Looking at personal knowledge management.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

0 votes
Read More »