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

Personal KM

Lost! Where Did Our Knowledge Go? – And How Social Software Can Help Bring It Back!

Here is another worth while reading article from CollaborationLoop, this time by David Goldes, that I am sure plenty of folks over here would be really interested in, specially if you are one of them. Yes, a baby boomer. The article itself is titled Lost! Where Did Our Knowledge Go? and it basically comes to discuss how over the next couple of years plenty of businesses will be challenged with the unprecedented vacuum that baby boomers would be leaving in those same companies when they all start retiring. In the past I have been weblogging myself about this particular effect and how different companies would need to start re-evaluating their Knowledge Management strategies, if they haven’t done so already, in order to try to capture all that tacit knowledge that is floating around in people’s heads and still to be documented before they all start flocking away into their well deserved retirement. And along those same lines it looks like both David and Sachin Anand have made some very interesting points on why companies would need to react now:

"The greatest problem that the Baby Boomer retirement situation presents is the amount of knowledge that is at risk of being lost.  80% of an organization’s critical knowledge is held in the heads of its employees, with only 20% being formally documented, meaning that companies will witness the majority of their knowledge and know-how walk out the door with their retiring employees."

This is just so accurate ! I am sure that plenty of us have been exposed to some of this. I am sure we all know plenty of people who advocate that all of their knowledge is well stored, and managed, in rather their own personal computers or in people’s heads. Plenty of different efforts have been put together indeed to try to switch this ongoing trend for far too long but over time it seems like it may not have been that successful. So what can we do to address or fix this?

"[…] Right now is the time to begin the restructuring and rethinking of knowledge continuity management in the workplace.  Many authors in this field currently discuss the need to retain the Baby Boomer labor force for as long as possible, through practices such as part-time hiring and outside consulting.  Unfortunately, delaying the process of retirement is only a short-term answer to a long-term problem.  Instead, knowledge retention through advanced knowledge worker tools and technology will be the long-term answer."

"[…] By increasing communication, improving document management, and enhancing information retrieval, CBE’s provide companies with a digital knowledge retention system.  Eliminating reliance on tacit knowledge is the first step towards avoiding a knowledge continuity crisis."

Spot on! I just couldn’t have agreed more with David’s comments in this particular respect and why I still feel, like back then, that social software and Web 2.0 tools could be of great help to address some of these concerns. In the past, plenty of different tools have been put in place to try to store all that explicit knowledge coming through as Intellectual Capital. However, there wasn’t much more emphasis on tacit knowledge related tools and we may be witnessing right now a new and fresh wave of new KM and collaborative tools where the main focus is in the tacit exchange of knowledge and not otherwise. We may be witnessing now the right time to embrace social software in such a way that baby boomers would still feel quite comfortable with making use of very user friendly tools to share what they know but much more importantly a set of tools that would help all knowledge workers get involved in different conversations and continue that knowledge transfer that other tools in the past have failed to provide.

So to the initial comments on Lost! Where Did Our Knowledge Go? we may just be witnessing that it may not have gone too far away from where we are now if we get to embrace and adopt those social software tools (i.e. Weblogs, wikis, social bookmarks, tagging, podcasts, RSS / Atom feeds, etc. etc.) that would make knowledge sharing much easier than ever before. In most cases with plenty of them where knowledge is just one or two clicks away from everyone else to enjoy that knowledge shared.

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Weblogging vs. Your Career – It’s All in the Weblogging Policy and Guidelines

As a follow up to yesterday’s weblog post on Enterprise Weblogs – Why Aren’t There More? – A Question of Control? Is It Really?, Rod Boothby created a weblog post around the same subject in Blogging vs. Your Career where he is actually expanding further on why knowledge workers may have several constraints regarding weblogging, both on their corporate Intranets and also out there on the Internet. Rod’s post is a really worth while article for those interested in weblogging as a knowledge sharing and collaborative tool but who may still have some reservations as to what the limits would be. More than anything else because he is actually providing a couple of solutions to some of the different issues that people may have about weblogging overall; which are use your common sense (As in there are things you know you can weblog about and there are others that are better left for yourself and not everyone else) and copy Intuit’s Scott K. Wilder‘s weblogging guidelines to help people get started.

Indeed, Rod is listing over at Blogging vs. Your Career all of the different guidelines put together by Scott (and his team) and for sure that weblog post is a must-read for everyone interested in the Dos and Don’ts of weblogging, both from an Intranet and Internet perspectives. Lots of different hits and tips on how you can get the most out of weblogging without getting it backfire to you. Highly recommended.

This is exactly the same kind of exercise that IBM went through a few months ago (May 2005) when it finally embraced corporate and Internet weblogging as another medium for knowledge workers to reach out there and engage in the different conversations. I was part of the initial group of folks who drafted those different weblogging policy and guidelines and I must say that without those I doubt I would have started weblogging as well both on the Intranet and on the Internet. It was a good exercise to be able to establish how you could protect not only yourself but also your own weblogging against whatever other issues that may come up out there. We, too, decided to keep it short, simple and effective and from there try to spread the message around as much as we could possibly do so that everyone would be able to use their common sense and those guidelines, if anything, to protect themselves. And by the looks of it things seem to be going all right, I would think.

For those interested in reading some more about IBM’s blogging policy and guidelines you can find an extensive overview about them at the following URL: IBM’s blogging guidelines, but for the sake of this weblog post, and in order to add some more into what Rod has been sharing already, here you have a quick drop down of each of them:

  1. Know and follow IBM’s Business Conduct Guidelines.
  2. Blogs, wikis and other forms of online discourse are individual interactions, not corporate communications. IBMers are personally responsible for their posts. Be mindful that what you write will be public for a long time—protect your privacy.
  3. Identify yourself – name and, when relevant, role at IBM – when you blog about IBM or IBM-related matters. And write in the first person. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.
  4. If you publish a blog or post to a blog outside of IBM and it has something to do with work you do or subjects associated with IBM, use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”
  5. Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.
  6. Don’t provide IBM’s or another’s confidential or other proprietary information. Ask permission to publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to IBM.
  7. Don’t cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval.
  8. Respect your audience. Don’t use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, etc., and show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory – such as politics and religion.
  9. Find out who else is blogging on the topic, and cite them.
  10. Don’t pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes, and don’t alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so.
  11. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective.

Thus as you will be able to see things are not much different. However, the key message here is that if your business hasn’t got any weblogging policy or guidelines already available, it may be a good time to get busy building up some of them and, if you can afford it, get some of your company’s most well known  webloggers to help draft them with you, because there is a great chance that they would know exactly what they would want to weblog about and what not. Remember, try to always keep them involved in the discussions and make them feel part of the whole exercise. You would all be much better off in the end. That is for sure.

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Enterprise Weblogs – Why Aren’t There More? – A Question of Control? Is It Really?

Yesterday Rod Boothby, over at Innovation Creators, created a somewhat controversial and very interesting weblog post around the subject of Enterprise blogs cost $50K – so why aren’t there more? where he is debating how little money ($50k a year for set up and another $50k for running it) it actually takes to put together an enterprise weblogging system and yet not many enterprises, and other smaller businesses, have decided to jump into putting together such enterprise platform for their knowledge workers so that they can share their knowledge and collaborate with others. Rob mentions how perhaps one of the key issues towards this further adoption of social software and Web 2.0 related tools may be more down to an issue with “politics of control“, specially from mid level managers, as he puts it, than with money overall.

I must say that while going through the weblog post I was nodding my head over and over again in full agreement with Rod as I feel he is just so spot on ! I mean, most knowledge workers recognise the value of weblogs as powerful (Personal) Knowledge Management tools to help people go out there, share what they know with others, collaborate with them, and therefore, innovate further. Yet, not many of them are diving into them and get to use them. Yes, it may all be down to that “politics of control” but what happens if it isn’t. What happens if you have got large businesses out there whose complete management teams are in full agreement, backing up and supporting knowledge workers to create their own weblogs and yet that is still not happening at a faster pace than whatever you may have expected? Well, I think that in those cases the issues are down to the knowledge workers themselves.

Yes, indeed, I feel that it is actually the knowledge workers themselves who are controlling themselves not to start a weblog in most cases providing all sorts of lame excuses: No time to weblog, nothing to talk about, not enough motivation, cannot be bothered, management not supporting my weblogging efforts, why would I do it?, and the list goes on and on and on. When, in my point of view I think that it all comes down to one particular thought I have been wondering about in my head for quite some time now:

People are scared s***less to write down something through weblogs that they may be accountable for at some point, (because otherwise why wouldn’t they blog?)”

I do realise that is perhaps a bit too harsh of a comment but think about it. Knowledge workers are given the opportunity and encouraged to get out there and weblog, and yet it is not happening. The way I see it is that it is the same knowledge workers the ones are actually putting together those “politics of control” because they are the ones who are actually going to lose that control and comfort zone they have been enjoying all along. Think about it. Weblogging requires that you have got an open mind to things, that you engage in multiple conversations, that you get to learn from others, that you get to share what you know with others, that you are just part of the conversation and as such you are the one who is losing that control, losing that comfort zone where you are the one and only who masters whatever knowledge area and therefore it makes you feel like you are indispensable, when it is actually the other way around.

People who are not ready, nor willing, to let that control go, to become part of the conversation, to learn much more at a higher pace, to share what they know with others and to keep innovating are perhaps knowledge workers that at some point in time would be in trouble, if not already. It is no longer a time where they and their individual knowledge is recognised like it used to be. Now it seems to be that with all this social software hype we are entering the world where being part of a community is what matters. A community where you could share with others you passion and your expertise. An area where there are no comfort zones any longer. A space where everyone is always on the same position to move forward and where knowledge shared can only take you so much further than ever before. And not the other way around.

So unless knowledge workers start letting go that fear to share knowledge, to collaborate in an environment, weblogs, amongst others, where they are no longer in control social software will never be successful within the enterprise. Thankfully a good chunk of people are already understanding this and it is perhaps their early adopter efforts the ones that would make things change drastically over the next few months, but one thing for sure is that all this would only be a successful and gradual change for enterprises if knowledge workers would want to help in the transformation from a labour-based company to a knowledge-based company, because that is what weblogs are all about: sharing your knowledge and passion(s) with everyone else.

A big question remains behind for all of us to answer: Are you ready to let control go and leave your comfort zone? Are you ready for Enterprise 2.0?

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Online Interaction Glossary by Nancy White

It looks like over the last couple of days I have been recommending a couple of worth while resources or weblog articles worth while reading further and keeping an eye on and somehow it sounds like this is not going to end up today. I am not going to mention, nor point, nor recommend either Carla Verwijs’ weblog or Nancy White’s since by now if you are both into Knowledge Management and Online Facilitation for communities you are probably already subscribed to both of their weblogs, and if you haven’t then I will surely recommend you do so! You will be gone off to a great reading. But that is not the purpose of this particular weblog post. What is interesting and worth while mentioning is what Carla has been mentioning already over at one of her weblog posts: Dictionary of Interaction where she is actually referencing referencing another weblog post published by Nancy not long ago titled Updating My Online Interaction Glossary.

What a fantastic resource that is ! In Updating My Online Interaction Glossary Nancy has put together a must-read glossary of terms that she has been exposed over time in her daily online interactions with other folks. Indeed, a must-go-through resource specially if you are about to enter the world of online, remote collaboration and if in particular you would want to catch up with some of the hot terms as far as social software, knowledge sharing and collaboration is concerned. That is why you would be able to read in very brief notes on terms like Aggregation, Weblog, Blogroll, Communities of Practice, Feeds, Folksonomy, Knowledge Management (Where I would probably need to add, yet again, another definition to The Essence of Knowledge Management weblog post I created not long ago), Mashup, Permalink, Presence Indicators, RSS, Social Software, Tagging, Virtual Community, Web 2.0, Wiki, etc. etc.

Yes, I know that lots of you out there who have been on the Internet for quite a while and who have been having and maintaining your weblogs and whatever other online spaces ma be a bit far too simplistic list, but I must that is the beauty of the whole thing. It is its simplicity what makes that particular weblog post very handy and very helpful, and straight the point. And on top of that you would see as well how Nancy not only gives a very short descriptive definition of the word but she also includes a URL link which points to online resources where you can get some further details, if needed. Very nice actually!

This is one of those resources that I will continue to use as time goes by and I dive into facilitating the on boarding of the communities I provide support to on making use of some of these new social software tools coming out there. And Nancy’s Online Interaction Glossary is just not only a good start but a superb one. I would be able to save up so much time not having to recreate this and I am glad she has put it together. Also I am sure that as time goes by she will be adding some more entries, so that is perhaps one of those articles that would be worth while bookmarking elsewhere for a later retrieval and catch up.

So from here a big thanks! to Nancy White for putting such a handy resource out there and for making it available to us all. Well done !

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Follow up!: Social Network Tools and Their Business Application: Blogs, Podcasting, Instant Messaging, RSS and Wikis – London – September 2006

If you would remember, a few weeks back I created a weblog post over here where I was mentioning a very interesting conference event that would be taking place later on this year in September in London around the subject of Social Network Tools and Their Business Application: Blogs, Podcasting, Instant Messaging, RSS and Wikis. Back then I mentioned how that event would be something that I would be really looking forward to and will try to see if I can make it although I still cannot confirm if I would be there or not. Either way, earlier on today I receive an e-mail from Julie, one of the organisers of the event, where she pointed me to the actual agenda they have put together for the two days conference. And I must say that I am impressed. Very impressed.

You would be able to download the brochure from here, if you would want to read some more about it, but by the looks of it the list of speakers is very good. I have gone through the listing of the different sessions and there are some of them out there that I would certainly be looking forward to. Like, for instance:

  • Euan Semple’s "The Quiet Revolution – how social computing will change the workplace"
  • Lee Bryant’s "Informal Knowledge Sharing with Social Networking"
  • Duncan Brown’s "The Influence of Social Network Technologies: Who’s Influencing Whom?"
  • John Davies’ "Combining Wikis & the Semantic Web: towards Web3.0?"
  • Lloyd Davis’ "Creating an In-House (Social) Media Empire"
  • Stowe Boyd‘s "Social Media: Blogs and Participatory Culture"
  • James Lappin’s "Social Bookmarking Inside the Organisation: connecting people to people and to information"
  • Karen Eden’s "The bottom line: What’s in it for me?"

That sounds like a pretty packed up event, right? It surely does, but as you will be able to see it would certainly be worth while attending the event. Even more so since I have also noticed that one of my IBM fellow colleagues, Ian McNairn, will also be speaking on the subject "What is IBM doing with Web 2.0 tools, Concepts and Mash-Ups and Why?" to probably discuss and mention some of the different IBM Web 2.0 tools that I have been touching base on over here in the last few months. So I would be able to catch up with him again since last time we met each other was back in 2003, at an IBM Knowledge Management conference.

As I said, I am not sure just yet if I would be able to make it or not but one thing for sure is that if I manage to make it I will certainly be looking forward to it. Lots of great speakers, lots of great topics to cover, a packed up agenda and on top of that, London, one of my favourite cities. Can it get better than that ? I doubt it. Will you be there?

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Storytelling, not Journalism, Spurs Most Weblogs

Through a colleague of mine, who actually weblogged about this particular piece of news over at his Intranet weblog, I bumped into this specific news article that I thought would be worth while mentioning over here: Storytelling, not Journalism, Spurs More Blogs. In the past you would remember how I have been weblogging a couple of times about the power of storytelling in order to help augment the different Knowledge Management strategies where knowledge workers would have some more powerful means to share knowledge and collaborate with one another through the usage of stories. Well, this particular news item seems to corroborate that exact same thing, but with a slight twist: sharing stories through the usage of weblogs. Indeed, according to the article, based on a PEW report, it looks like plenty of U.S. (I am sure it would apply worldwide as well) webloggers do actually get to weblog because they want to share stories with others as opposed to just become journalists, which, in principle, would come to explain why there doesn’t seem to be too many professional webloggers but plenty of amateur ones who just do weblogging as a hobby or to help them connect with their readership through the sharing of those stories because they want to share their passion about a particular topic with everyone else.

This is certainly quite fascinating because thinking about how distributed the business world is getting at this very moment, where a huge chunk of the workforce is rather mobile or working remotely, it sounds like weblogs would fit in quite nicely within a KM strategy to help folks share knowledge and collaborate with one another in a medium that not only do they feel comfortable with but that it encourages them to share. Yes, through that same storytelling. We all love telling stories, don’t we? Thus whoever thought that weblogs did not have a space within a KM strategy should think about it again and read through that article, as an example. In fact, there is also plenty of really interesting information about the report regarding the demographics of the group of webloggers, but in particular there was one item that caught my attention as well.

According to the PEW report,

Eighty-two percent of bloggers think they will still be blogging in a year. Three percent say they have quit.

82% of webloggers saying that they would still be weblogging in a year’s time. And only 3% would have quit altogether. Goodness ! That is huge ! Can you imagine the incredible amount of knowledge that would be put together by a bunch of webloggers sharing their stories? Can you imagine when that is turned from a business perspective and you get a good chunk of your knowledge workers to weblog for about a year and still being strong at it. The incredible amount of information shared. The enormous amount of different connections put in place because of those webloggers have decided to stick around and connect with others. Mind-blowing. And then from there we have got to see the ones who will stick to it longer than that period of time.

As I said, whoever is out there thinking about shaping up their existing KM strategies. or creating new ones, would probably need to think about it twice before venturing into not providing a weblogging platform as part of the tools suite in place to get knowledge workers closer to one another in order to help them share their knowledge and collaborate, because evidence shows that, if anything, weblogs provide just that perfect platform to help people share what they know with others and build further up into those different relationships.

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