Wednesday, January 27, 2010

michael sampson in canberra & melbourne

Michael Sampson will be bringing his world of Sharepoint sanity to Melbourne & Canberra in February. Catch him while you can!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

the guy in the polo shirt

When you're at a business IT-related conference or an exhibition, each vendor stand will have a bunch of guys (& maybe a chick or two) in expensive-looking suits. There will also be a guy (maybe slightly overweight) in a polo shirt, fiddling with the demo. I always go for the guy in the polo shirt because most of the stand personnel will be sales people (with the occasional marketing manager thrown in). The guy in the polo shirt is generally the pre-sales guy. Sales teams hunt deals. Pre-sales exists because most sales staff don't have the deep product technical knowledge and can't run anything but the simplest of demos.

Generally I am not interested in the sales pitch. I want to know what the actual strengths & limitations of the product are. Pre-sales guys are far from unbiased but their pride in their technical knowledge means that you tend to get a slightly more realistic view of the product.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

kissin' babies - trying to get to boston for enterprise 2.0

The Enterprise 2.0 Conference running in Boston this June has decided to allow an open submission & voting process. I have three submissions entered & I'm focusing my efforts on this one relating to RoI getting through. So if you could register on the site & vote for me before 20 January, I'd be much obliged.

I also thought I'd give you information about the other papers that stood out for me:
  • In terms of "voting for your mates", I like Patti Anklam & think her 3 efforts could be most interesting: NetWork, KM & Leadership (Doug Cornelius & Jack Vinson are also involved).
  • In terms of "full disclosure": I may well be on the panel for Ephraim Freed's learning culture session if it goes through.
  • I have also liked the look of sessions by Jon Ingham, Paula Thornton & MITRE.
There are 463 proposals - vote for mine & I will kiss your baby!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

book review: finding the sweet spot

Dave Pollard is a crazy-intense writer - one of the best writers on the web. One might even say that Dave thinks too much. Which is handy for the rest of us because he has written his first book - Finding the Sweet Spot. Dave brings his own mix of idealism and deep, detailed consideration to the topic of a creating a sustainable business. I used Dave's Gifts/Passions/Purpose 3 circle model when I started plotting Innotecture (I don't think I'm there yet BTW).

If you want to think about business in a different way then this book comes recommended.

Monday, January 04, 2010

book review: streetlights & shadows

As you may know, I have a lot of time for Gary Klein. So when I found out by chance on Amazon that he had a new book coming out at the end of last year, I ordered my copy straight away. Those of you that have read previous GK books will not be surprised by the contents but it takes these same ideas deeper. Sources of Power was 20 years of reseach condensed into a single book. The Power of Intuition and Working Minds were more how-to guides for the lay manager & cognitive specialist respectively.

In "Streetlights & Shadows", you get the impression that GK has had a lot of debates with people who disagree with him. GK strikes me as the kinda guy who will go off and ponder unsatisfactory discussions, sometimes for years, until he gets an answer that he's happy with.

This is an immensely rich book but it's not for those seeking easy answers or quick tips & tricks. With luck, it may even make you think as deeply as Gary Klein.

book review: information ecology

Tom Davenport's Information Ecology was published in 1997 and yet I've only just read it. This discovery came about because of some client work. We're trying get a handle on their information environment. Standard information architecture approaches felt inadequate to the task and I was left thinking "What we really need here is some kind of ecological approach to their information. If only someone had written a book on that. Wait a minute..."

So I got my copy and it pretty much lived up to expectations. It should be compulsory reading for all knowledge and information managers. It hasn't really dated, the issues it describes have if anything gotten more severe and its proffered solutions provide food for thought (whether you go with them or not). Plus second-hand copies are stupidly cheap.

When I start my own KM degree, it will form part of the core reading list.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

i only have 2 problems with the term "design thinking"...

...And those are the words "design" and "thinking".

It's the New. Hot. Thing. Over the Christmas break, I read Change by Design and The Design of Business (having consumed The Ten Faces of Innovation a couple of years ago) - and there are several other books on the topic available.

So what is design thinking?

Well, according to Roger Martin, it's abduction - which is all very clever but not especially helpful. More helpful is the chapter in TDOB devoted to P&G's attempts to become an innovative organisation.

So is "design thinking" just a another phrase for "innovation" then? It will probably be used that way. Expect organizations that want to look good in their annual reports without actually doing anything new to create "Head of Design Thinking" roles and then axe them 18 months later.

For those of us who wish to take this opportunity more seriously, design thinking seems to be made up of the following:
  • A human-centred (rather than technology-centred) approach to innovation & improvement.
  • A systemic concern with the total user experience rather than a narrow focus on a particular product or service.
  • A focus on unarticulated needs rather than articulated wants requiring immersive research techniques.
  • A willingness to visualise & prototype solutions rather than relying on words alone.
  • A willingness to iterate solutions rather than expecting them to be immediately fully-formed.
  • An appreciation of the power of storytelling, theatre and emotional communication in general.
Now designers do not have a monopoly on these attitudes and skills (in fact some famous designers exhibited them quite poorly) and this is primarily about doing, about practice, rather than thinking*. But we now seem to be saddled with this term so let's make the best of it.

*Of course it is thinking but in a Damasio style not a Cartesian one.

Friday, January 01, 2010

enterprise 2.0 book review: is an andrew mcafee a communist?

I've just finished Andrew McAfee's Enterprise 2.0 book*.

There are two good things to say about the book and one criticism:

Good thing 1: Having a Harvard (now MIT) academic talk about the use of social software in the enterprise (plus a handy label) gave it respectability. The book continues that process of maturation. it doesn't hurt that from the opening sentence, it's well-written.

Good thing 2: Although much of the book seems to pull together the thinking & comments of others, AM does have something to contribute - the bull's eye model of strong/weak/potential/no ties. This provides an important perspective on how different social software tools work in different contexts.

Criticism: The last chapter in the book is entitled "Looking Ahead" and draws on Model 1 / Model 2 of Chris Argyris**. Although AM states: It is critical to stress that Enterprise 2.0 alone will not move people and organizations from Model 1 to Model 2 theories-in-use, he believes that they have a major role to play.

In this, he reminds me a lot of Karl Marx. Marx believed that human beings were corrupted by the economic system in which they operated (i.e. capitalism). Remove them from the bad system and everything would be OK. The thing is that environments & institutions can make human beings better or worse but hierarchy & social gaming are built into human nature. We are constantly in competition and co-operation at the same time.

So I personally think that Enterprise 2.0 technologies will have a comparatively small impact (but nonetheless one worth paying attention to) in how organizations work and workers collaborate. I think their combined historical impact will be less than email and other forces will actually drive more corporate openness (or indeed closure).

Of course, the thing about technology & social change is that you never can tell. Enterprise 2.0 is worth putting in the risky end of a barbell strategy.

*I wanted to link to the HBSP info but their site is screwed.
**This morning I was rereading chapter of 6 of Changing the Conversation in Organizations, where Patricia Shaw very carefully takes apart the tradition that Argyis comes from.