Tag Archives: KM

Knowledge in the stream

The classic knowledge management effort has to do with building or improving a knowledge repository.  That includes collecting information as well as making it simple to find/use once collected.

With blogs on the rise and Twitter blowing up in a matter of a few years, information has begun to be consumed not from repositories or web pages, but from streams and communities.  End user focus has turned to finding the right streams and the right communities that meet our needs at any given point in time.

Once established, we can sit back and let the content come to us.  We monitor streams that are more important to us more closely.  While we are not paying attention, the stream continues to flow by and that is OK.  If we really want to, we can search later.  But, looking back will likely only be necessary/warranted when the  information we are seeking is extremely niche.  New information is constantly flowing.

This shift in approach can be somewhat alarming to people at first (see “Evolution of Twitter Use“).  It shouldn’t be.  We have been consuming TV in this way our whole lives.  TV streams are still going by even when we are not watching.  DVR’s help us capture parts of the stream and repeats give us second chances (like RT’s in Twitter).  How many magazine subscriptions do you have?  How many of issues do you read?  Same thing.

There are two main reasons the shift to streams is taking place:

  1. technology – RSS is not the easiest thing to use.  Twitter apps and other stream readers (eg. Google Reader) are making it easier for even the most novice to watch information streams.  This will continue to improve.
  2. volume – there is so much information streaming now that we can easily find a set of streams on ANY topic.  The trick is whittling it down to the few that we have time to read and interact with.

I have recently been fascinated by Twitter’s ability to form communities of people.  I believe the next iteration in this knowledge management revolution will be communities forming around certain streams on a large scale.  Hopefully those communities will be open and hyper-connected to other similar communities.


An open letter to the organizers of KMWorld09

Thanks for creating the environment where I can catch up with some old friends and meet lots of interesting new ones.  We used KMWorld09 as a platform to launch the new http://KMers.org community and it was very successful in that regard.

As requested from our in-person discussion, here are some specific recommendations for conference improvement.

  • Create an online environment where attendees can provide feedback about the conference.  Not a survey, but quick comments.  Use a tool that lets everyone see each other’s comments and vote on whether or not they agree.  Try crowdsound, uservoice, or ideascale.  All very cheap and probably free for KMWorld in return for the exposure they would get to KMers.   Your audience will help you improve if you give them the tools.
  • Create a physical Q&A room where speakers go after they finish speaking so that people can continue asking questions.  Put the Q&A room on the schedule.  If you don’t want to pay for another room, designate a table in the lobby where the speaker will hold court for an additional 30mins or so.
  • Create a track which has only collaborative type sessions.  Nancy Dixon’s session was a great example.  Here is a description of another good format called Buzz
  • Make sure that every speaker, speaks for a maximum of 2/3rds of the time slot.  Too many sessions I attended just ended with zero chance to interact with the content.
  • Simulcast the keynotes online.  This will create significantly more exposure and therefore likely more awareness for next year’s conference
  • Provide a place online where people can rate speakers and sessions.  Not sure how you were vetting sessions this year, but it seemed that everyone came from a reputable source, but some were downright embarrasingly poor at communicating.  I used to work at WSB so I know that the presentation is as important as the content for whether people enjoy and retain.
  • Kudos for being on Twitter and for pushing out blog content during the conference.  However, the hashtag should be a communal conversation.  The tweeters are people and should be connected with as people.  The way you used Twitter this time around is akin to walking into a cocktail party and just talking to everyone you walked up to, never listening, and never responding to their ideas.  The best conferences are listening to their hashtag streams and engaging wherever they see an opportunity.
  • Get the hashtag buzz going before the conference.  This will help with registration.
  • There are a variety of ways to use Twitter in sessions.  Here is an article that I wrote for MPI’s One+ magazine

There are some excellent meeting planners who have great ideas about how to make conferences better

Please let me know if I can help.  We all want KM to thrive.  Conferences are an important part of maintaining a solid community.

All the best,

Knowledge Management vs. Social Media

For a little while now I have been subconsciously irked by something, but only today did I realize why.  The trigger for this mild epiphany was a one year old blog post.  I will link you to it as soon as I explain my thoughts on the matter.

First of all, we all have our own biases.  Here is mine.  I came to KM from an IT/process background in 2000.  I came to SM from a KM background in 2004.

The irking I mentioned is being caused by the fact that I continue to practice both KM and SM and yet they don’t seem to be getting along.  KM has not embraced SM nor vice versa, despite their similar ideals: to support the sharing of information.

Many people have heard me espouse my theory that KM will never become more than an academic foundation because as each facet of KM gains a foothold, it breaks off into its own discipline.   However, I don’t believe that is what is happening with SM.  On the contrary, SM from its birth was very opposite to KM in so many ways.

  • where KM seeks to provide structure/control, SM prefers chaos
  • where KM tends towards large top-down systems, SM tends to be grass-roots
  • where KM is often practiced by older professionals, SM has captured the imagination of a younger crowd
  • where KM seeks to define the goal and then select appropriate tools, SM provides the tools and hopes that a common goal will emerge, but at the least everyone will individually find value

The triggering blog post I mentioned above is called Social Media vs. Knowledge Management: A Generational War by Venkatesh Rao.  Personally, I think he puts too much emphasis on age, but it is at the very least thought-provoking.

One of the parts I like best is where he talks about Generation X being in-between the Boomers who prefer KM and the Millenials who prefer SM.  By the very fact that Venkatesh wrote the post the way he did, it is clear he likes to seek out patterns and meaning which is more of a KM type trait.

This tension between KM control and SM freedom is typified by the discussion of taxonomy vs. tagging.  Only now, as I write this blog post, do I realize that my fervent advocacy of tagging over taxonomy beginning in 2005 was a sign of my shifting allegiance from KM to SM.  I have had many debates with KMers about taxonomy and I am perceiving in new light why we were not seeing eye to eye.

If there is to be a war (as Venkatesh terms it) between KM and SM, then Enterprise2.0 is going to be the battle ground.  In order to have successful E2.0 initiatives, I believe that we are going to need to borrow from both camps.  There may be compromises that make neither happy.  Keep your eye out for these clashes as your organization rolls out any web2.0 tools/programs company-wide.

Addition: Since writing this post, I found an excellent series of slideshare posts that discuss the relationship between KM and SM

Part 2, Part 3

Side Note: I am currently working on building a Twitter driven (SM) community for knowledge management professionals (KM) called KMers.org and launching end of 2009.  It will be very interesting to see what lessons we learn.

The ROI of anything

I have been involved with the field of Knowledge Management (KM) since about 2000.   In all that time nobody has worked out a great model for how to compute ROI on KM projects.  The same discussions are now taking place around social media and collaboration projects that are now possible through the fast developing web2.0/enterprise2.0 toolset.

I was recently reading the Information Week cover story, “Can Enterprise Social Networking Pay Off”  and was utterly amazed by the referenced CIO’s who had absolutely no idea how they were going to ever show an ROI.  One was contemplating doing it based on the amount of server space that would be saved for email.  Could that possibly even scratch the surface to describe the value of social networking?  I would call it statistically insignificant. 

My mind started wandered to contemplate ways of capturing ROI for investments that are in the “squishy” domain.  Any aggregate after-the-fact metrics are challenging because too many assumptions will have to be made and the “return” will often have many other claims upon it from other projects.

On the other hand, if we measure the return closer to when the value is provided, we may have a shot.  For B2B sales, more and more CRM systems are being used by companies.  At first the field was dominated by large players with large customers, but over the last few years companies like salesforce.com and even the small SaaS player Highrise have made it much easier for the SMB market to participate.  The nice thing about these systems is that they track a number of process points including when a sale is made.  As part of that data entry why don’t we ask the salesperson to explain what contributed to their success.  They are likely in a good mood and willing to “share the love”.

Imagine the value of all that bottom-up information about what information/process/people is leading to sales.  The managers and executives would have a lot better sense of where to invest in order to make MORE sales.  If you believe as I do that social networking tools are a major contributing factor, would that not prove your ROI and lead to additional investment?  Wouldn’t most salespeople often rank the following as important?

  • Finding the right people in the client organization
  • Getting the right information about each of those people
  • Learning about the company’s past successes and failures in that space and with that client
  • Finding the right information within your firm in order to put the best solution forward
  • Finding the right people in your organization in order to help support the sale
  • etc…

I would propose a step in the closing of a sale where a number of pre-selected factors (for that product or type of sale) were put in front of the salesperson and they were asked to rate one of the following

  • Essential
  • Major Factor
  • Minor Factor
  • Not a Factor
  • Negative Factor

Of course this type of measurement could also be done at other key transaction points, but a sale has a very nice neat tie to “return”.  Other measures like customer satisfaction while important can be challenging to tie back to solid undisputable items like money.  B2C sales would certainly pose more of a challenge for this technique, but customers may be willing to tell you what contributed to their purchase especially if you offer them something in return.

Please let me know what you think and share your comments on the ways you have found to measure ROI on the squishy stuff.

Future Education

There is no doubt that Education is critical to the future of the United States economy. Thomas Friedman talks about it extensively in his very popular book, The World is Flat. Therefore, the concepts in this post on Future Education are not only directly applicable to business, but our success in Future Education will have a direct impact on our abilities in Future Business.

I spent 90 minutes last night on the phone with an excellent visionary from the NYC Dept of Education.  Arthur VanderVeen is focused on how best to achieve knowledge sharing for NYC educators.

We talked about the difficulty of turning tacit knowledge into explicit and we talked about the challenges of fostering active communities of interest/practice.

Two of the main tenets of our discussion were

  1. Give them what they want: the sharing needs to have value to the way they work today or want to work today. There are some technologies (eg. Computer, cell phone) that completely change the way we work, but most enhance the way we already work in a more evolutionary fashion rather than revolutionary
  2. Work bottom-up rather than top-down. Try various programs in schools and see what works. Where there is success, invest more to work out if it can be scaled up.

One thing that has come to mind since our discussion is the 100-10-1 rule of community involvement. In the case of education it is probably 1000-100-10-1 due to the challenge of getting already overworked educators to even view information.

  • For every 1000 educators
  • 100 will actively or passively browse the knowledge-base
  • 10 will comment on or use existing content
  • and 1 will contribute something new

That means that for 80,000 teachers you may only have 80 contributors. This is likely not sufficient volume to create a critical mass of content that keeps the 100 coming back and gets more of the 1000 to view. The larger districts may decide to invest in “librarians” who seek out good content and take the time to get it into the knowledge-base, but this is not the most efficient model and is probably not tenable for the smaller districts.

Continue reading