Posts Tagged ‘Knowledge management’

Organisaatio 2.0 (finnish)

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Recently I gave a presentation at a conference on Web 2.0 organized by The Finnish Information Processing Association, FIPA (Tietotekniikan Liitto ry) about organization 2.0. I made the slides available on slideshare translated to english and it was features as a presentation of the day (!).

The original finnish presentation video (40 minutes) is available below, thanks to Saija Remes for pro editing:

The seminar itself also got some online media converage at IT-Viikko and Digitoday.

Cultural issues in implemention of social technologies

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

A few moments ago I delivered my presentation entitled “Culture Matters: The cultural requirements for Web 2.0 powered innovation, networking, and collaboration” at Accenture Innovation Forum here in London. I had plenty of time to research, create and cook up new ideas, so the slideshow is almost completely new compared to my earlier work, but I couldn’t resist to put in a few of my favourites.

logo embd Cultural issues in implemention of social technologies | View

I also created a 2×2 matrix to explain my strategy for releasing my presentation recordings. I usually use a camcorder with a wireless microphone to record my talks and I make them available in one way or another – even if the talk was complete failure, as illustrated in the chart below:

sm strategy.004 Cultural issues in implemention of social technologies

  1. Top performance and great ideas
    Action: Video goes unedited on the internet. Job done.
  2. Top performance but boring rambling
    Action: If you have less of those great ideas, it helps to drop back to audio form and edit out the parts that are complete nonsense.
  3. Weary and unanimated performance, but great ideas
    Action: Better cut out the boring looks and bad hairday, and just release the audio podcast.
  4. Weary and unanimated performance combined with boring rambling
    Action: If you look bad and the content is from somewhere down under, it’s better just cook up a fantasy of what you thought should have happened, in other words blog about it.

The point is to share, no matter what. We’ll see what I will do with the video recording from this event.

Visualizing knowledge

Friday, April 13th, 2007

This is just a small gimmick for today. I’ve been interested in the work of people like Edward Tufte on information design or infographics in short for some: the ability to visualize as much data with the least ink. Well, sometimes simplicity in using all the ink is also a great way to communicate data, as you can see in the work of photographer Chris Jordan. His project visually examines the vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs.

Simplicity is clarity and that’s what I’ve been utilizing in my presentations lately. PresentationZen is a great resource for that. Leaving the status quo can sometimes be hard. Default templates in software like Powerpoint etc. give us an impression that great graphics are full of 3D effects, unnecessary grids, “cool” textures, stunning transitions or slides full of bullet points. There is a mass-hallucination in believing that the default templates are somehow acceptable to start with. In the end a large portion (>90%?) of businesses end up communicating their ideas badly.

Tufte’s work is important to grasp right now, as there is so much chart junk in our society floating around and polluting our mind. Yet in the same time the increasing ammount of information requires us to visualize larger patterns of knowledge, sometimes fuzzying out the numeric details. Where I see Tufte failing is when we move from data to information, and from information to knowledge. As we move from explicit knowledge to tacit knowledge, we need to represent patterns of interconnected things rather than atoms such as numbers visualized in charts. Sure, we need projects like Many Eyes and to cope with quantity in new collaborative ways, but we need projects that tap into qualitative things, too.

I’m not talking about business process visualization either, here. I’m talking about patterns that look different depending of what angle you are approaching them, just like a hologram. Tag clouds are just a beginning. I see an increasing demand for such people who can take your hard-to-grasp idea and clarify it to a wider audience. Something that companies like XPLANE, Duarte Design and Idiagram are doing, not to mention unworkshop/Open Space/World Cafe facilitators who connect ideas in visualizations.

Illustrations open up doors to richer fields full of self-explaining metaphors. The problem with easily identifiable references and metaphors is that everyone has a different undertanding on the same metaphor and strong reaction to defend it. Defending your own point of view might result in an endless while loop where no shared understanding is co-created. Metaphors sometimes close our eyes from things we can’t see.

Despite the lack of my ability to find great guides of the likes of Tufte on how to visualize complex interconnected tacit knowledge (like our business idea), I find Tufte’s work important for any knowledge worker to stay sane and avoid turning into yet-another information spaghetti factory, a node in a network terrorizing their environment, a bad apple bursting out incomprehensible nonsense based on clipart noise and distorted metaphors every other day.

“Visualization and belief in a pattern of reality, activates the creative power of realization”

- A. L. Linall, Jr.

Drucker got something wrong: from formal to informal

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

Over 10 years ago in 1994 Peter Drucker gave a lecture at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government about knowledge workers.

He starts by saying that “in the first place, the knowledge worker gains access to work, job and social position through formal education” and continues to explain the importance of formal education for becoming a knowledge worker. He emphasizes the role of formal schooling as the central gravity for new knowledge workers and that learning knowledge work cannot be achieved through apprenticeship or any other method than formal education.

I really appreciate much of the ideas presented by Mr. Drucker. He has influenced much of my own thinking, but this is something I can hardly agree on nowadays. I’m a glitch in his system, because I have achieved my social position and access to work mainly through informal means. I find it very hard to achieve my current social position through any other means than my own informal knowledge working practices. A lot of advanced level knowledge workers I know and appreciate work systematically with knowledge in informal settings.

He continues: “Increasingly, an educated person, will be someone who has learned how to learn, and throughout his or her lifetime continues to learn, especially in and out of formal education.

Spot on. In my opinion, it’s not only the role of formal education that will be central to continuous learning after preliminary education, but rather systematic working practices in networks of knowledge: informal or formal. Nowadays it’s increasingly hard to specify learning requirements and deliver a formal course to match those learning requirements. As soon as the learning requirements are set, the world has rapidly changed towards a different trajectory. Our problem is that a lot of what we need right now is just-in-time learning and often available only in online social networks, far out of the vicinity of adult education. We need to reach much further through online networks.

Drucker is a visionary. When saying that “with knowledge being universally accessible there are no excuses for nonperformance“, he probably didn’t predict the importance of internet as an informal channel but rather education as something that is universally accessible to all. What he didn’t know is that the internet will finally open access to all through the fact that the lowered transaction costs for learning gets anyone in contact with anyone else. Especially those who are eager to learn will find much wiser people in online social networks than what is locally available. Social software will boost this even further.

In formal education we still focus much of our time on learning theories without proper application. Drucker says that “in the knowledge society, knowledge basically exists only in application” and that “knowledge in application is effective only when it is specialized“. While formal education mainly teaches us to be generalists by just requiring us to pass a certain designated level of “good enough”, in knowledge society leadership will concentrate around specialists who have acquired additional specialized skills that have importance in application. The only way to acquire those skills is to have the passion for learning and to deeply explore new territories with other people.

Drucker greatly goes into explaining the importance of achieving much more through collaboration with others. Underlining the importance of teams for achieving higher goals with other specialized experts is important.

However, what I see nowadays is the fact that functional teams are not enough. Good teams also need to have weak connections to other networks of knowledge. Rather than perceiving a team as an island for solving problems, one needs to perceive a team as an effective knowledgea creation node of a global knowledge ecosystem. Links to this knowledge ecosystem form through the internet. It’s interesting that we now have knowledge working tools that are not only internal (on your desktop or in your corporate intranet) but also external, working out there in the open, utilized and formed by teams from very different areas of expertise. This rich globally networked environment provides a natural breeding ground for new ideas.

Finally: “increasingly, the true investment in the knowledge society is not in machines and tools. It is in the knowledge of the knowledge worker.”

I wonder if Drucker ever thought about requirements for investments in tools (physical, virtual or mental) for knowledge working. Nowadays it’s even more in the virtual space where we need to improve our tools for achieving a new mode of effectiveness. I have no opportunity to ask, as he passed away recently, in November 2005.

Network orchestrators or influencers?

Friday, October 21st, 2005

When the world is moving towards a network economy we start to see new management practices emerging that take into account the fact that supply chains often include autonomous actors. Vertical companies in the past controlled the production of goods from start to end. Now globalization has resulted in increased competition and various verticals are starting to focus on their core competences and out-sourcing the rest. This transformation from vertical integration to horzontal integration requires new ways to think about how to improve the outcome of a supply chain. Often the approach is to emulate the past practices of leadership to cover the new structure, something that we may call network orchestration.

Often these new kind of supply chains are called networks. My definition of network limits a network to such an organization of nodes in which a node autonomously chooses whether or not to connect to another node or not. The driving force is win-win, in which both parties have mutual interest to cooperate or connect together.

I think this definition is somehow in lines with what Manuel Castells calls the network society. Today, many organizations see the ability to network as one of their core abilities to stay in business. This bottom-up behaviour is very different from the top-down organization where one node has total control over the other nodes and chooses who is part of the “network” and who is not. These are more like virtual organizations, intentionally managed by very powerful nodes.

If we think about the word “orchestrator”, the original meaning of orchestrator was to describe someone leading an orchestra:

Orchestration or arrangement is the study and practice of arranging music for an orchestra or musical ensemble. In practical terms it consists of deciding which instruments should play which notes in a piece of music.

– Wikipedia

Think about this for a moment. The orchestrator decides which instruments should play which notes in a piece of music. In business terms, if the music is the network, notes are business transactions and instruments are the various companies, we see that orchestrator is some single company in the middle who controls the whole masterpiece. There is no freedom for innovation, mutual partnerships or emergence. The structure is defined by one party and it stands. Sounds like a synonym for tyranny.

This is one of the reasons why I think that networks cannot be led like cattle. In true networks in which we have multiple autonomous actors, the most influential are hubs that have more connections than others. The reason why hubs exists is often the value that is generated through the hub, for example the connections the hub already possess and/or the value in the hub itself. In the book Linked, Barabasi explains the concept of so called scale-free networks in which the average connections per node follow a power-law distribution. Rich get richer, hubs that have a lot of connections have good chances to receive more connections than others. All successful ecosystems like life itself follow the properties of a scale-free network. In terms of the network, life is self-organizing itself.

In 1990, sociologist Elinor Ostrom argued that external authorities can damage communities that create common pool resources (CPR). Common pool resources are centrally important, because if the number of free-riders (overconsumers) in a network overpasses the number of actors that add more value in the network than they take, the network will fall apart. A self-regulating community which is collectively able to choose, modify and judge the rules, sanctions and conflict-resolution mechanisms that govern the community will be able to produce common pool resources and work towards a common goal. Once an external authority alone orchestrates all the rules, boundaries and sanctions, the members of the community will start to drive their own self-interest. This results in increase of the number of free-riders. Humans are very bad collaborators. Voluntary cooperation among other participants often emerges only if the community members are aware of being part of a community and have freedom to participate in creating the rules that define the community.

In today’s network economy it’s more important than ever to have qualities to become a hub. To become one, one needs to know how to be influential enough to create a lot of win-win opportunities for cooperation. This is leadership without leadership. Knowing how to be an influencer rather than an orchestrator.