Friday, April 24, 2009

Social Media, Mack Male and knowledge sharing

At the end of Mack Male's presentation to the Edmonton KM Network on April 2, I gave him high praise. I told him he was a different kind of animal.

Mack D. Male is a software developer in Edmonton. But he is also a knowledge connector in Edmonton's start-up community. One of the organizers and presenters at DemoCamp6, Mack D. Male has been a guide to Twitter (Edmonton Journal article, Mar. 7). Mack is both a leader in promotion of social media tools and someone building social media tools. ShareEdmonton is his version of how to aggregate and share events going on in Festival City.

People like Mack are quite rare. It is his ability to work behind the scenes and then to advocate publicly that combined with his skills as a software guru make him a different kind of animal. He is someone to follow (on his blog, via Twitter, via DemoCamp).

Here is his April 24 interview about Twitter on CityTV

Mack gave one of the most insightful presentations on social media and particularly Twitter that the Edmonton KM Network has heard.

His Twitter 101 slides are available at:

To view his presentation to the Edmonton KM Network Click --> Social Media 101

As a person interested in really good information sharing, I can learn from Mack.

Mack and Cam Linke are pioneering new ways of succinct knowledge sharing and networking. See the Gateway article on IDEAfest and DemoCamp6 on the way they get succint knowledge sharing to happen in a 15 minute presentation/question period.

And if you are interested in seeing this process in action, attend a DemoCamp. Next one is n May 13th at 6:30 at the University of Alberta ETLC Room E1-017.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wisdom is personal

Ron Weisenburger says wisdom is personal.

This is not the normal reaction of a dog to an intruder at his dinner bowl.

Could this dog teach this behaviour to another dog? Not unless the other dog was a little bit wise to the intruder too. Not unless the other dog trusted the wisdom of the "wise old dog".

Wisdom cannot be taught to the unexperienced. You have to be a little bit wise to want to listen to wise people's stories. But wisdom is shared through stories.

So, if we want to learn wisdom, we listen to wise people's stories.

There is some acceptance that knowledge organizations that employ knowledge workers exist. Consulting engineering, accounting firms and law offices could legitimately argue that they are knowledge organizations.

And there are some that argue that wise organizations need to emerge (See "From learning organization to practically wise organization"). With every collapse of the American stock market, there are calls for more ethical banks, stock brokerages, etc.

I am venturing into philosophical territory that I am not competent to talk about.

So, I offer a practical observation. I have only ever seen one wise organization.

If a wise organization has a well defined path of learning and service for its members, a clear set of operational principles for the organization, mentorship, a clear, simple (hard work to get to simple) purpose, then you might to look at Alcoholics Anonymous as a model of a wise organization.

Surprised? Take a look at the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, the role of the sponsor and "The Big Book". And purpose? Check this out: Information on A.A.

I think that if you are thinking of a wise organization, your challenge is to model A.A.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Common Myths About Knowledge That Hold Us Back

At the end of our Edmonton Km Network meeting last week, Stu Muir, Tri-Global Solutions, asked a really good question. "What are the common myths (about knowledge management) that are holding us back?"

Some in the earlier posts in this blog address some of the misconceptions that get in the way of encouraging and coaching really good information and know-how sharing. But the diagram above offers up a simplistic and ultimately dangerous model, The Knowledge Hierarchy.

David Snowden challenges this model in his blog "Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement". And bless his soul, I have seen where Larry Prusack referenced this hierachy.

Every time I have a conversation about knowledge management, this model usually shows up. I have heard Deputy Ministers and CEOs reference it. It is popular because it is simple and it is dangerous because it is too simplistic. When Peter Drucker introduced the concept of a "knowledge worker", he wasn't thinking that the organization also would move up this hierarchy to become a "Wise Organization".

Data is translated into information. Information moves up to knowledge. Knowledge coupled with experience becomes wisdom.

To see the fallacy of the model, add "management" to the end of each of these words and then ask the question: "Can you actually manage it?"

Data management, yes and for most organizations, absolutely essential. Information management, certainly some information and not easy. Knowledge management, critical knowledge and hard to do. Wisdom Management, who wants the title "Director of Wisdom Management"??

Let's cut to the chase. All your customers and clients are interested in is really good information (that they can use for making a decision). They don't care about your know-how or what you know about. Really the only person who does is your supervisor. But your customers and clients rate your expertise on whether you provide really good information.

Really good information requires the sieve of the expert's know-how. Understand this and then you will start to see where you can help staff and the organization generate and share important information.

Please leave The Knowledge Hierarchy outside the door when you talk to your Executive about knowledge management to improve critical information sharing. While this hierarchy may seem to be helpful in arguing for a knowledge management strategy, remember this. All they are truly interested in is how your initiative will help the organization generate and then share critical, strategic information.

If we must discuss knowledge, recall what we know and don't know. "We don't know what we need to know until we need to know it." That is the challenge for individuals and organizations and no amount of data to information to knowledge to wisdom is going to solve that.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

When We Don't See the Baobob Tree

This is the picture I never took the first time I was in south central Africa.

The Baobob Tree is pretty unique (and strange) but relatively common in the southern Rift Valley of Malawi. You would think that seeing a tree this unique would require taking a picture. But this became a classic "can't see the tree because of the forest" story. Within in a month of working in Malawi, baobob trees just became part of the landscape. In spite of some outstanding specimens in Nsanje, I never took a picture. They were unique to a newcomer but part of the savanah for the locals. And while they were certainly noticeable, I even took for granted their importance as a local food.

A couple of meetings last week flagged that organizations are at risk of not seeing the "baobob trees" in their midst. As the recession digs deeper, the pressure is on to justify existing projects, collaborations and training. Even more important is to move onto the new and innovative that will position the organization to stay competitive during tough times.

Organizations are at risk of not seeing their core cultural and competitive strengths because they are taken for granted; simply assumed to "happen" and in some cases, something to be discarded in the rush to downsize and trim budgets.

Organizational learning, knowledge sharing and other corporate supports are easily at most risk. They are hard to explain; focus on behaviour rather than outcomes and require regular coaching.

But they also guarantee the highest levels of performance for organizations. When a team or corporation is not able to repeat their performance levels from the previous years (for example the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2008), you first have to look to changes in behaviour if there hasn't been significant changes in personnel.

Knowledge sharing is a behaviour. It is easy to have a slump and difficult to recover once the slide has begun.

Organizations looking at their competitive advantages for the future have to be careful to avoid the practice of not seeing the baobob trees. They are the competitve advantages that are taken for granted and if properly leveraged will be the platform for the next level of innovation in the organization.