Thursday, December 29, 2005

Systems, Evil & Saving the World

One Monday morning 5 years ago, something struck me in the shower. I was working for one of the big 4 accounting/prof services firms at the time as a KM grunt. I was going thru one of my natural cycles of work-related anomie and couldn't see the point of anything.

What hit me as I was washing off the soap was very simple.

My job was saving the world.

Please note, this did not involve wearing my underpants outside my tight blue lycra trousers (altho that may have made performance appraisals a darn sight more fun).

Instead, the explanation went something like this. Expertise in the world is getting ever more specialised. Back in the eighteenth century one person could realistically expect to know the sum total of one scientific discipline. However, the problems that humanity faces (and various sub-groups thereof - nations, corporations, communities) are increasingly complex & multi-faceted. Environmental, political & economic challenges. Someone was needed to pull link together these diverse groups of experts to meet these challenges. And one of those someones, in a way, was me. Note the qualification: I personally wasn't preventing the destruction of the ozone layer. But I could quiet myself with the thought that I was aiding and abetting intellectual fecundity.

I shared this thought with some of my colleagues. Only some thought I was a lunatic.

Fwd>> So Dave Pollard's blog How To Save The World made me smile. Dave P was something high-up in KM at Ernst & Young. Dave's online musings (altho "musings" doesn't quite capture the intellectual & moral inquisition that the writing sometimes undertakes) have coalesced some thoughts of my own around the nature of evils.

We normally think of Evil as something big and dark - and capitalised. But try shifting perspective to page 24. Think not of The Big Bad. But "little bads" all over the place. Local maxima & minima that sub-optimise their parts of the system. Glitches. Action only makes sense in context. And the ultimate context for all actions is... everything. A system of systems.

We all engage in little evils constantly. My actions make life harder & more unpleasant for others but life easier for me. Evil shifts from something concentrated to something dispersed - like an aerosol. Shifts from something outside to something inside & across. Shifts from "it" to "them" to "us". And back.

Back to the start. If becoming evil is a failure to act in the best interests of the system defined in its broadest terms then fighting evil requires that you see the system as it really is. From as many multiple perspectives as you can. Ensuring that as many people in the system have that opportunity as well.

So there you go. Knowledge Management. Saving the world. Fighting evil. Toodle pip.

Asymmetric Threats: The Bigger They Come...

According to Dave Snowden, a terrorist is the same as a consumer is the same as a citizen is the same as an employee. Now Dave hangs out a lot with the CIA but the basic point runs like this:

In the past, armies fought opponents like themselves - i.e. other armies. However for the likes of the US is no longer the case. The threats to the US state are more likely to be Al Qaeda or Iraqi insurgents than, say, the Soviet Union. You cannot fight such opponents in conventional ways. They can see you but you cannot see them.

These are dubbed "Asymmetric Threats" in military parlance.

Now large corporations find themselves in a similar bind. They have difficulty seeing their customers - because they hide behind systems ironically labelled "customer relationship management" - see the recent news on IVR hacks. However due to a focus on brand marketing, most customers have little difficulty seeing them.

Likewise execs do not always know what their employees think - despite numerous employee satisfaction surveys. And governments face a similar asymmetry with citiziens.

Googling "Asymmetric Threats" does not yield much in terms of non-military results - except for Global Profile set up by ex-journalist Giles Trendle. The site has some interesting articles - esp. around the "Guerilla Matrix".

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Picture of Communities

The difference between communities and other organisational forms is often stressed. What I am trying to do with this little picture is demonstrate the potential links & overlaps with other organisational forms.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

When Analysts Attack

In the IT analyst game, there are really only two contenders: Gartner & Forrester. IDC produces a lot of numerical market data for IT vendors but if you are a CIO, it's probably either Gartner or Forrester you use. Both recently bought competitors (Gartner swallowed Meta and Forrester chomped on Giga) and both suffered during the post-dotcom blow-out IT slowdown.

Historically, Gartner had the broader coverage but Forrester portrayed itself as funkier & more webby.

Which makes their relative approaches to web tools interesting.

Which of the two is freely using blogging & podcasting?

Well, Gartner offers regular podcasts & has several blogs.

Both are RSS-enabled & the blogs have a comments functionality (altho on the "Predicts" blog, most of the comments seem to be from Gartner staff).

Forrester on the other hand has no blogs and does not seem to offer RSS updates. However it does offer sound & video from a recent forum event.

And don't even mention IDC...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sounds - ABC

Also getting into the podcasting service provided by the Australian Broadcasting Co.

Sounds - The Economist

The Economist's World in 2006 has a podcast section.

More RP/BBC accents. More intelligent analysis - done in an interview format this time (5 - 12 mins long). A couple of heavy hitters such as Amartya Sen & Paul Wolfowitz wade in but mostly Economist editorial staff.

Historically Economist staff have been a shy bunch - articles do not normally appear under bylines - and now we can not only see pictures but hear their voices as well.

Lots of stuff on oil, US, India &... video games.

Sounds - FT

Currently suffering from a soundfile/podcast/mp3 fixation.

Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway has some "spoken word" versions of her columns on the FT site.

LK's columns are frightfully English & commonsensical - and perfectly matched by her RP/BBC pronounciation. Each verbal column last 5 mins - fantastic! Esp. enjoyed categorization of jargon into A, B & C categories.

All the FT needs to do is set her up with an RSS feed...

Comment from Andrew

"At Trevor Cook's recent masterclass there were a few women doing / thinking about some interesting uses of social media. From the legal profession, publishing and contruction. I invited one of the women along but she could not make it. Maybe next time."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Social Software Lunch

So we had this lunch yesterday. Quick roll call:
Ben Cooper
James Dellow
Trevor Cook
Andrew Mitchell
Ross Dawson
Also Brad Kasell & Robert Perey.
Frank Arrigo had a last minute emergency & couldn't make it.

So thoughts: some headshaking about the state of blogging/podcasting/etc in Australia. Some comments on jargon.

The big question: Lots of people are talking about this but who is actually doing it!!!

And where are the women?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thinking & Stuff

Recently I spent some time in the company of David Rymer & Kim Sbarcea. Kim has some interesting articles on her site. And hopefully David will shortly...

Informal lunch on Social Media inside the Enterprise

Next Tuesday (13th December 2005) some people will be getting together for an informal lunch to discuss the topic of Social Media inside the Enterprise.

Venue for next Tuesday's meet up is the GPO Food Court @ 1 Martin Place - apparently the wood-fired pizza joint is especially good.

Trevor Cook & Andrew Mitchell will be there.

Frank Arrigo will be in the house.

And the recently elusive James Dellow may make an appearance.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dave Snowden tomorrow

Complexity & Sensemaking Breakfast - Dave Snowden, Director, Cynefin Centre

WHAT: Organisational narrative is more than just the art of professional storytelling. And traditional analytical techniques can be limited in this area. Dave Snowden will be discussing his experiences of narrative, sensemaking and complexity in organisations. He will be providing an overview of the activites of the Cynefin Centre in narrative capture & databases; social network analysis & stimulation; and the ABIDE framework.

WHO: Dave Snowden is Director of the Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity which focuses on the development of the theory and practice of social complexity. The A native of Wales, he was formerly a Director in the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management where he led programs on complexity and narrative. He pioneered the use of narrative as a means of knowledge disclosure and cross-cultural understanding. He is adjunct Professor of Knowledge Management at the University of Canberra, an honorary fellow in knowledge management at the University of Warwick, Adjunct Professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and MiNE Fellow at Universita Cattolica Del Sacro Cuore in Italy.

WHERE: IBM Tower, Level 12, Darling Park, 201 Sussex Street. Call Matt Moore on 0423 784 504 if you have difficulties locating the venue.

WHEN: 8am start Thursday 8th December

HOW MUCH: Free! If you plan to attend, please RSVP by e-mail

Mythmakers & Storytellers

I picked up this book second-hand at the weekend. Fascinating read - nicely balancing the functions of organisational storytelling & storylistening - and even hinting at the possibilities of the co-production of stories by different groups.

David Boje namechecks it.

Apparently Kaye died a few years back. Does anyone know anything about his work and whether his wife does indeed still consult in Australia?

Is KM Dead?

In the last few days several people have stated to me that KM is dead.

I do not want to argue whether or not that is the case.

I would prefer to take it as a proposition and work from there.

Please complete the following statement in 50 words or less and return to me by postcard:

"Now that KM is dead, I can..."

For example: "Now that KM is dead, I can stop running workshops where I ask people to learn from their recent project experiences and they feed me a pack of self-serving lies. Instead, I get the US army to electrocute the truth out them. Workshop participants? Enemy combatants more like."

The winner will be drawn from a hat and given the keynote address at my upcoming Sydney Inner West Knowledge Management Conference 2009.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Smarter Lawyers

Gretta Rusanow gave a good talk on KM in legal & financial services companies @ NSW KM Forum last night.

Key things:
- For most law firms KM = precedents.
- The focus on billing by time rather than by outputs discourages sharing & resuse.
- Partnership structures can discourage sharing between practices.