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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Learn when you talk and write

The other day I ran into a great discussion on David Gurteen's website of a blog post by Nancy M. Dixon together with a video, where she talks about that fact that one also learns when one talks. It immediately reminded me on the learning process that happens when I write (s.a. How do I know what I am saying until I see what I wrote). 

The idea behind both is that sharing (be it in writing or talk), has strong learning elements, because you need to formulate your ideas to be conveyed. This has happened to me quite often also when presenting similar talks multiple times. It does not become boring, but it can actually lead to additional learning each time one gives the talk. 

We often tend to see the recipient of a talk or a written piece as the only one that learns, and hence think that sharing knowledge is a one way transfer of value, while indeed the direction of learning might be the other way. For example through smart questions that trigger new ideas or through getting clearer with an existing idea or thought while formulating it for other's consumption. 

Keep that in mind the next time somebody has this "Knowledge is Power" attitude, they might actually be cutting themselves off some valuable insights and learning. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Does your organization need an ESN?

Social networking has reached the enterprise. About a year ago Altimeter published a report named "Making the Business Case for Enterprise Social Networks" and concluded that it wasn't quite there yet, mostly due to this problem:

"Most companies approach enterprise social networks as a technology deployment and fail to understand that the new relationships created by enterprise social networks are the source for value creation." 

In the mean time the number of ESN vendors has been increasing, and there is a large number offering everything from wide reaching large packages like Jive or Yammer (the latter now part of Microsoft) to some focused solutions.  Still it will need more than just a technical deployment to make them successful.

One of those focused solutions is Starmind which concentrates on finding experts/expertise in a very smart way analyzing questions and answers and using self-learning techniques to find the best possible expert when needed. An interesting and simple-to-use approach. 

The answer to the question asked in the title of this blog entry, as so often, depends on what you want to achieve. The key point is not to leave social networking capabilities out of your organization for much longer. Those platforms by themselves are not the answer to all your collaboration problems, but they belong into the portfolio in order to cover the need for organization-wide collaboration that spans existing silos. And the simpler they are the more likely it is people will make use of them. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

The KM Paradox

The other night I had to think once again about the term "Knowledge Management (KM)" and just to provoke a little I tweeted

"A paradox about KM is that you can't manage K itself. It is in peoples head. You can manage the flow of K, however." 

As the 140 char of twitter are a little short to elaborate much on this, let me do it here.

While I believe that knowledge can flow from one individual to another, it happens primarily via shared information (in whatever form). The information is used to create new knowledge in context with other knowledge and prior learnings and information. This happens in people's heads. And as we cannot really manage into people's heads, it is not really correct to talk about managing knowledge, hence the term knowledge flow management, that I prefer to use nowadays. 

For some people this might all be a bit theoretic, but the difference is significant when it comes to target one's activities towards enhancing the sharing of knowledge. Information management can be a prerequisite for good knowledge flow, but it is not enough. To get to the most valuable knowledge additional methods and processes are needed. Those form the basis for managing knowledge flows of all kinds. 

What you store in a database is not knowledge itself, it is data (with a context it becomes information), but to become knowledge it needs one or more people. One might say that information holds the potential for becoming knowledge, but that is not the same thing as being knowledge itself. 

What do you think? 

Have a nice weekend, 


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Creating a Super Water Cooler

Looking at some trends of profile keywords on LinkedIn, I found that "Knowledge Management" is slightly on the way down (-2% year-over-year), while "Enterprise Social Networking" (ESN) is strongly on the rise (+25%). Not so surprising, actually. While an ESN covers some aspects of knowledge sharing it is a relatively new buzz word, that describes a specific aspect in the wider realm of having people exchange their knowledge. 

The following video titled Knowledge Sharing is Power (found via the latest Knowledge Street Newsletter) builds a great case for using ESNs to enable a flow of knowledge within an organization using an easy to use flexible platform. ESNs, in a way, help to scale what usually happens in short conversations at the water-cooler, in the coffee room or lunch facilities, but with some added possibilities to go off into a side room to keep discussing (the concepts of groups or communities of practice within an ESN). The scaling happens along the axis of no. of people involved as well as the location they might be residing in. So in a way it is a like a big virtual water cooler. 

There are some differences however:
1. With the scaling of participants and "rooms" comes a certain need for management, through somebody like a Community Manager and other roles.
2. As it is digital there is usually some data available that can be analyzed to get a feeling on the business performance of the ESN.
3. The number of involved parties also scales the number of ideas presented, the number of comments somebody might receive on an idea and the speed at which knowledge could spread. 
4. While pretty much everything is transient at the real life water cooler (unless you install some cameras), an ESN can offer some persistence, i.e. recording of discussions, questions and their answers etc. 

There are more and maybe you want to comment on some of the ones you have experienced. 

One thing that both have in common is a certain danger of distraction, i.e. whether you stand in the coffee room for hours or get distracted by an ESN, both might happen and could lead to loss in productivity. But if the right balance is reached between benefit and distraction there is a lot to gain, whether it is a 15Min coffee-break or discussing topics a few times a day via an ESN. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mystery Interaction

Last night I experienced another great example of what social media interaction is all about. I was watching a mystery TV series and early on in the show a twitter #hastag was shown on screen that invited people to discuss the series. So I thought it might be interesting to listen in a little. What I found surprising, was that the lead role actor was part of the discussion. Some of the twitter posts were fan  questions on things like where the majority of the series is being filmed and for the actor name of one of the supporting roles. 

Other posts were congratulating the lead actor on his performance. Yet others were being humorous and it was actually fun watching the interactions. It was great to see the direct communication between an audience and their star live while the show was aired for the first time. 

It is easy to see where this effort by the actor for the hour that the show aired can well help build the connectivity with the fans. For the fans a way to issue feedback, for the makers of the show to receive such feedback even faster than through website comment boxes. 

While it is a really simple example of what social media is doing, it is one that shows how traditional barriers break, in this case between a TV-star and the fans, and one can easily see how the growing number of smart TVs with a possibility to tweet integrated into the TV platform will bring us even more of this. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Raising the MQ with Pins

Last night I read an interesting article from the McKinsey Quarterly newsletter on increasing the Meaning Quotient of work . By “meaning", they imply a feeling that what’s happening really matters, that what’s being done has not been done before or that it will make a difference to others

With some examples from sports to business the authors Susan Cranston and Scott Keller from McKinsey talk about a situation that others might call "being in the flow". The big question is, whether it is possible to create such situations or they just happen. Leaders agree, that it is hard to get it right, and yet it is the one that could provide large benefits to an organization. To describe an improvement of motivation and workforce productivity the term "meaning quotient" is used or short MQ and according to the authors it asks for a meaning maker role

Such a role, I could see well being played by corporate community managers. For them it is essential to involve and get those in their communities to understand the meaning to be positively involved and as a result be more engaged. 

One of the presented strategies (Strategy #3: Use small, unexpected rewards to motivate) reminded me on an initiative where we gave all contributors to a knowledge management effort a small contributor pin together with a thank you note pointing out their contribution as having an impact on organizational knowledge flows. They only got it once, the first time they contributed. We did not measure, wether they would contribute more likely after that than if they hadn't gotten the pin, but my feeling is, it did work for at least part of the group. It entered them into a club, an appreciation, that provided at least some of them a reason to feel good about themselves. You might smile about those little appreciation gifts, and I am sure some of those that received it did. But the key is that a number of people really took it as a serious appreciation and it motivated them based on the feedback we got. Others contributed for the first time to become part of the "club", as that was the only way to get a pin. 

Maybe you have an idea to raise the MQ in your knowledge flow initiative, to produce "flow" in multiple senses of the word. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Thanks to all those Community Jugglers

My hobby is juggling. So far I am managing a decent 5-ball pattern. So when I found the following Infographic of the different roles community managers will have to fulfill one of the things that came to mind was that it is really like juggling. Eight roles is a little bit like eight balls.

The way the roles are described is mostly in the context of external communities, but in the case of internal communities (i.e. within an Enterprise Social Media effort) the tasks will not look so much different, especially if you consider employees as internal "customers". Even if the community is only within your organization the CM will have to fulfill most of those roles, maybe on a smaller scale. And giving each of those roles sufficient attention will be a real juggling act. 

I wasn't aware that there is such a thing as Community Manager Appreciation Day (tomorrow, Monday Jan 28th, #CMAD) when I made a case that this should become the year of the CM in early January.  I do support the idea that CMs that manage this should get some praise. The Infographic is a great summary of where they have to get their fingers into, and just like with a lot of those multiple hat jobs, their managers (and their users) will only see part of the story, usually. 

So remember to send a nice message on Jan 28th (or any other time) to the CM that manages a successful community that you participate in within your organization.