by Patti Anklam
Having covered the 3 KMs (Big, Little, and Personal), it seems natural to move along to the net work aspect of these. (Net work is my term for bringing intentionality into the way that we behave in our networks and acknowledging that it is, indeed, work.)
I need to start with personal net work, because I alluded to it in my last post, and because I will be talking about it this Thursday at the Boston KM Forum. I’ll start with some assertions:
- In the current “generation” of knowledge management, we look for knowledge in the network (as opposed to in documents and archives (1st generation) and in collaboration with others (2nd generation). Knowledge is literally in the network.
- As we learn and work (and vice versa), we need to know how to tap into that knowledge, and into the context in which it is expressed, when we need it, as soon as we need it.
- Our access to the context of knowledge in the network is through our personal connections, of which we must be mindful. We are, in a sense, our networks.
- The science of social networks has been advancing steadily since 1999/2000, providing us with ways to talk about the purpose, structure, style, and value-producing characteristics of networks.
- The tools we use daily (blogging, tweeting, generating and consuming content in multiple ways and multiple places) have co-evolved with the knowledge of the science of networks.
- We now have much more richly complex ways of understanding and managing our personal networks, to the benefit of our learning and knowledge sharing strategies.
1. Knowledge is in the network. I’ve previously blogged on this topic, referencing my first formulation of the 3 generations of KM in 2005. How little I knew at that time of Web 2.0 and its impact. We what want to know, what we need to know, what we may be delighted to know, is all out there, discoverable and available.
2. Tapping into the knowledge. It started with Internet search engines (anybody remember AltaVista?) and has progressed to include the ability to filter, through tagging systems, RSS feeds, and (when available) ranking and voting systems. It’s out there, really. Artifacts will always be with us, and now we are drowning in them.
3. We are our networks (our social networks, that is). If there were any doubts before about the impact of those around us on our behaviors, you need look no further than the amazing work Connected, by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler (a long excerpt appeared in the September 10 New York Times, “Are Your Friends Making You Fat?” ).
In our personal professional networks, we are also tied to the behaviors and sources of knowledge of those we interact with, where interactions include subscribing to and commenting on others’ blogs, sharing information on social network sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, responding to other’s comments on our own blogs or edits we have made to wikis, following and retweeting people on Twitter and browsing their tags on Del.icio.us. And most important: turning (when we can) our attention to their links, to topics they find interesting, people they enjoy reading or following, and gaining access to their network of networks.
These interactions — even if ambient — provide us the context. I know my colleagues’ areas of expertise, their hot buttons, their styles. If one of them is excited about something, I have context for looking at it and making sense of what it might mean to me. When a number of people tweet the same news or retweet the same bon mot, I know that my community is bonding around a shared meme. These may be small things, but I am the sum of all that my networks bring to me, of all the people in my networks. I am my network.
4. The science of networks. When I talk about the science of networks, I am talking about the research and discoveries in the multi-disciplinary field of social networks over that past half century or more. At the heart of this work is that you can actually draw maps of networks (“social graphs”) that will show you patterns of connectivity, interactivity, separation, similarities, and dissonances. We also have, through research by Rob Cross and colleagues at the Network Roundtable, a theory-based understanding of the characteristics of a good personal network as well as evidence that
- individuals with stronger personal networks
- managers who maintain awareness of the organizational networks
are more successful.
5. Our tools are co-evolving. I recently published a journal article, Ten Years of Net Work ($$) that provides my personal experience in how social tools have evolved over the past ten years. I live on the opposite coast from Silicon Valley, but my imagination conjures scenes of network scientists and software entrepreneurs talking about how to leverage this cool network stuff and coming up with LinkedIn, Facebook, and all the other tools we now take for granted. It is still the case that most of these platforms require us to create distinct “networks” and that these all overlap to a greater or lesser extent. It will still be a while before we can move freely among our networks, as ourselves, changing our frame of reference, but staying ourselves.
6. Managing our personal networks. This is the big, “So What?” If we say we are our networks, then how do we assert ourselves in our own definition? And what does it matter whether or not we do? It matters, and we can do something about it:
- Avoid the pitfalls of hanging out in too many networks where everyone thinks alike (I blogged on this in August). Think about the diversity of your network.
- Think about your network as a personal learning network. What engages you now, what knowledge will you need to take the next step (in your career, in finishing a work project, in solving a problem for your client, to research a topic for a conference presentation)? Do you have people in your network who have the expertise you seek?
- Follow people whose work you admire. Look for opportunities to retweet, comment, or interact. These interactions should be both authentic and of value to the person you want to connect with. Then look for opportunities to connect face to face at conferences, to collaborate, or to contribute to their work.
Lately, I’ve taken to hang out with hashtags. If someone tweets a conference tag, I follow the tag and usually find some of my friends, but new people as well. It also works to search on topic and and see it there is a hashtag. Follow the stream and find new people. Participate, ask questions, retweet.
Managing — being mindful — okay, let’s call it personal network mindfulness — your network also implies maintaining the existing relationships that are important to you. As we used to sing when I was in the Brownie Scouts, “Make new friends/but keep the old/One is silver/and the other gold.”
by Patti Anklam
Personal knowledge management (PKM) is something that we all do all the time, but often take for granted. I suppose, in that respect, it’s not unlike the other 2 KMs, Big KM and Little KM. There is always (has always been) some kind of KM going around, but until it was brought into the foreground as a distinct topic we did not approach it intentionally. Intentionally, at a gross level, PKM is about the tools that we use and strategies we employ that make it easier for us to identify, locate, and process knowledge.
“Being unconscious about your tool set is unconscionable.” — Tony Karrer
The idea of personal knowledge management was initially related to personal information management. Perhaps some of you recall the the days when those devices, called PIMs, did not have telephones built in! In 2003-2004, Tom Davenport conducted research with the Information Work Productivity Council to look at the current state of knowledge workers with respect to their handling of personal information and knowledge. (See Thinking for a Living for more detail.) Addressing managers of corporations (for whom productivity is a business issue), Davenport summarized the key learnings as:
- Individuals need to recognize how much of their time and productivity is tied up in PKM (the average user in the survey spent 40% of their time each day using technologies to process work-related information)
- Companies need to realize that their workers are wasting lots of time trying to manage information and that better personal information management means greater organizational success
However as recently as March 2008, a LexisNexis productivity survey found that “sixty-two percent of professionals report that they spend a lot of time sifting through irrelevant information to find what they need.” What applies to knowledge workers inside corporations applies equally well to the community of independents.
Note that this study just preceded the explosion in the availability of Web 2.0 tools.So we have a lot more tools to manage our information but don’t appear to be much closer to becoming more productive. But productivity isn’t the only benefit of personal KM, especially as our world and our knowledge becomes more social and more fragmented.
I reviewed some of the great work done by colleagues on the topic over the past 5 years, and found some common threads.
Distinguish Skills from Tools
Tools enable us to augment our skills, or (as Steve Barth puts it): “PKM tools help an individual knowledge worker to automate, accelerate, augment, articulate and activate the information and the ideas that he or she works with every day to perform their job.” A critical set of seven skills (catalogued by Paul Dorsey at Milliken and written up by Steve) begins with Accessing Information and Ideas and concludes with Securing Information, and in between describes the skills of organizing, evaluating, analyzing, collaborating around, and conveying information.
So what are KM “tools?” Paper is still the key tool of preference for many; it supported information work for many centuries before the advent of the computer. But today we think more in terms of desktop productivity and personal content management applications (document processing,spreadsheet applications, file folders, desktop search, concept mapping tools, Internet browsers, specialized applications, and so on) and Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, social bookmarks, RSS feeds and filters, microblogging, and so on).
(Tony Karrer’s Tool Set 2009 is a great place to start if you want to think from the purpose outward; that is, don’t start with the tool. This link is also the source of the quotation from Tony, above.)
Tool Selection is a Matter of Personal Preference
Tools are only as good as the skills that exist or evolve to make the best use of them. File folders, for example, are an excellent PKM tool, but people who don’t have experience or training in categorization may not find them very useful. These people (or people who can’t always remember their own classification schemes) may rely exclusively on a good desktop search tool to retrieve content when they want it.
People are not Born Knowing How to Use Tools
This is a phrase I use often when I talk with clients who are fretful about the adoption of their collaboration platforms. Training is not the only answer, of course, but the integration of the tool into the knowledge processes, and adequate time for users to become comfortable with the tool is a big step. (I am probably showing my age here, as I should probably say — in light of Gens Y and Z, that “people were not always born knowing how to use tools.” Sigh.)
The more tools we have ready to hand as we work, the more productive and effective we can be. But all of knowledge workers know that we probably use only a fraction of the features of any one of our favorite tools. One of the best PKM practices I know is to set aside even 10 minutes a day to explore a new tool or a new feature of a tool that you already use. The payoff can be huge.
Distinguish the Private from the Social
Harold Jarche has developed a model for thinking about PKM in terms of the internal knowledge activities (sort, categorize, make explicit, retrieve) and the external activities (connect, exchange, and contribute). He goes on to list which social tools support internal activities vs. external activities; for example he aligns the use of social bookmarks (deli.cio.us and Diigo) as follows:
(It’s a nicely done piece of work. You should go look at the whole thing.)
This idea of connecting and exchanging as part of personal knowledge management has been well developed by another colleague who has been writing about PKM for years, Dave Pollard. In his talk at KMWorld last year, he described the shift in knowledge management as:
from content & collection to context & connection
In this sense, all KM (big and little) needs to think about personal KM at the center. On the content side, everyone manages their own content which (in Dave’s words) is “just-in-time and harvestable.” Another key component is to set mechanisms in place for people to connect. Canvassing for expertise is one mechanism — “old fashioned” Listservs are still good for this; expertise location capabilities in social networking platforms represent a slightly new wave — as are processes and mechanisms for telling and sharing stories about experiences and sense-making methods.
The Leader’s Net Work and Personal Net Work
The great shift in the world of KM has been the recognition that knowledge about people and context can be more important than content knowledge. To ensure that knowledge flows — is created and accessible — across an organization requires work on the part of the organization’s leadership. What I call the leader’s “net work” are those sets of activities that ensure that strong networks will support individuals and ultimately the organization:
- Network intentionally and practice network stewardship
- Leverage technology
- Create the capacity for net work — encourage people to think about “context & connection” and make it easy for them to build their networks (with and without technology)
I will have more to say about “personal net work” at the Boston KM Forum on October 22 (which is all about personal knowledge management). I’ll write about that here as well.
Conclusion: The 3 KMs
Selecting one of the 3 KMs is not an either/or/or. As in economics and practically everything else, it depends. Different purposes, the target audience, and available resources will guide the approach that is used. To recap:
- Big KM is about top-down, structured and organizationally distinct “knowledge management”
- Little KM is about safe-fail experiments embedded in the organizational structure
- Personal KM is about access to tools and methods to ensurethat knowledge, context, bits, fragments, thoughts, ideas are harvestable
In this last, the role of the corporation in supporting KM then becomes facilitating personal content management, providing methods (and training) to support information processing, and providing a rich and integrated infrastructure for employees to use the personal content management and the social tools that make sense for each them, their teams, and their communities.
by Patti Anklam
In my first post on Three KMs, I outlined what I see as the “big KM” – the one that has budget, visibility, and is accountable to the organization (often with tangible ROI targets required).
I’d like to turn now to what I call “Little KM,” which I characterize as the quiet application of KM methods to business problems in a way that just makes sense. (You can also think about this as applying a “little KM perspective” to classic business activities.) In little KM, the identified need for knowledge sharing maps to one or two of the KM methods, tools, or approaches. Any part of an organization may apply a KM practice to design and intervention in support of an immediate opportunity or problem.
The following list of practices, often applied without the code word “KM” (and sometimes described as “stealth” KM), is based on having met or worked with people who specialize in these practices. I am sure that as you think about this concept, you will identify many more such practices.
Learning before, during, and after
Experiential knowledge is that which is not easily captured in classic “lessons learned” session. Practices for bringing experiential knowledge into a community include Peer Assists, Learning While Doing, and After Action Reviews (all beautifully described in Learning to Fly).
Outside (but near) the knowledge management community doing amazing work on Emergent Learning, Marilyn Darling has worked with corporate executives to apply after action reviews in a way that guides their future strategic action.
In a similar vein, Ken Bruss (who introduced me to the term “stealth KM” five years ago at a Boston KM Forum), has been integrating these learning practices into managing new product development processes.
Communities of practice.
Communities of practice are groups of people who engage in a process of collective learning. Through the work of Etienne Wenger and his colleagues
, we have a rich set of practices that enable such communities to be designed and to sustain.
Although the term and related methods for COPs have been closely associated with KM, the notion of centers of expertise is widely applicable in settings outside of the KM umbrella. In either expertise- or functionally-based roles in organizations, staff and employees who are convened to share tips and techniques, new ideas, and so on, are in fact COP-like.
Knowledge continuity and retention.
The aging workforce is a problem being addressed by many organizations and institutions. Dave DeLong’s Lost Knowledge
describes a number of programmatic approaches to the ensuring that vital organizational knowledge stays with an organization when a large number of its workforce retire.
One of the classic staples of organizational development programs is mentoring, often done in the context of succession planning and resource development. Such programs not only help new, or junior employees gain access to the wisdom of senior people, but also to the connections of those people, passing on the social graph as well as the tacit knowledge.
Retention programs are focused on ensuring that the top performers stay in a company. Performance may include tangible results — meeting schedules, sales figures, and so on — but may also apply to the skills, knowledge, and experience the company needs to retain.
Determining the core competencies of the corporation and mapping those competencies was introduced to the business management world by Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad in 1990
. Competency modeling is a core HR practice that identifies high performers in key organizational roles and maps development programs to ensure that these skills are retained in the organization.
Organizational network analysis
Applying methods of social network analysis (SNA) to business problems is still an emerging practice for many large organizations; it’s often referred to organizational network analysis (ONA) — my preferred term.
The vanguard of organizational practitioners (corporate and government) participate in Rob Cross‘s Network Roundtable at the University of Virginia, a user community that supports the use of and research in network analysis. Much of Rob’s early research has its roots in knowledge management (he was a consulting practitioner at the Institute for Knowledge Management), but is now articulated solely in business terms, aimed at solving problems of organizational and personal performance.
Applied as a knowledge management intervention, ONA can reveal the paths along which knowledge flows in an organization.
Collaboration as a business priority has been increasing ground over the past 10 years, especially as the platforms (IBM, Microsoft, OpenText, and so on) matured. While some of these were used for their content management or project management capabilities, the leadership mandate was often phrased as “we need to collaborate more.”
As collaboration inside the organization was seen as important, organizations are now understanding that collaboration with customers and partners is vital.
Why Think about Little KM?
My thinking about little KM has changed as I’ve shifted from a corporate mindset to a small business and nonprofit mindset. Knowledge management is fairly well entrenched in large organizations, and each of the little KM practices figure into those Big KM programs.
I am also aware of the ongoing conversations about whether KM is dead, whether we should stop using the term KM, and so on. So it makes sense to talk about specific practices under the rubric of KM and work inside organizations applying these practices as need arises.
What’s important to remember, however, is that we could not have little KM if we didn’t have Big KM as a source of thought leaders and practitioners who have worked over the past 10 or more years to hone these practices in collaboration with others (As I like to say, “Knowledge management people share, relentlessly.) .
Next up: Personal KM
by Patti Anklam
I’ve written a few presentations this past year to audiences who are not conversant with knowledge management. In those talks, I’ve started to distinguish what I call “Three KMs:”
- Big KM
- Little KM
- Personal KM
This distinction paves the way not only to understanding, but to choice. These presentations were given in the context of organizations trying to decide if they need KM and if so, to what extent. In today’s post, I’ll share the “Big KM” concept; subsequent posts will expand on the “Little” and “Personal KM”.
Big KM is enterprise-wide:
- There is a CKO, Director, or someone of similar stature and credibility in the organization who if not at the executive level, is at a minimum called upon to contribute to or be responsive to the corporate strategy
- This high-level person either manages or is responsible for the Intranet and related IT capabilities that support capture, storing and sharing information and provision of collaboration infrastructure for teams, communities of practice, or groups of any kind
- It is structured as a set of services provided by or through a central KM organization to business units
- It evolved from or remains an integral part or partner with the organizational functions of training, library/information services, or documentation. It may also advise or be partner to HR functions of talent management, knowledge mapping, or strategic HR planning
A recent dialogue in the SIKM group (Systems Integration KM Leaders Community) led by Stan Garfield (a fellow traveler from my KM days at Digital/Compaq) began with a question about the “best practices on integrating KM, Training, and product documentation” that led to a set of responses about the “top 3 knowledge management services” (“top” from the perspective of leadership support, acceptance by associates/employees, and success/metrics/business benefits).
The responses provide a rich picture of what is happening with Big KM these days:
- Content management (including KM portals, search strategies)
- Consulting (to business units) on knowledge container and sharing methodologies, embedding knowledge capture and sharing into business processes
- Providing thought leadership on the application of KM to IT and the implementation of the KM infrastructure
- Innovation and ideation services
- Social software advocacy
- Key community (centers of excellence and expertise) support to build and transfer vital corporate knowledge
- Project materials
- Stewarding a collaboration strategy in support of communities of practice
- Providing learning and knowledge transfer opportunities through best practices, stimulating conversations that matter, and experiential learning practices for teams
The organizational structure may be formal (staffed knowledge “champions” assigned by business unit or geography) or informal (using a voluntary staff of committed employees). The formal model is based on the pioneering knowledge management organizations in the large consulting companies, CSC, E&Y, Accenture, Deloitte, and so on, so it is no surprise that a community of people from these systems integration firms would derive the list above.
I have always defined KM as a “collection of disciplines, methods and tools embedded in an information infrastructure that supports creation and sharing of knowledge assets to achieve business goals.” The KM community within an organization is responsible for developing and constantly renewing a repertoire of KM tools and methods that are ready-to-hand to support emerging business needs. A small number of annual conferences (including the up-coming KMWorld) bring practitioners together to see and share experiences and practices and to keep raising the bar.
In a post today, Dave Snowden (who is one of those experts who continually raises that bar) offers a part of a set of recommendations given to a client on the requirements for a knowledge management organization (Alternatives to a CKO). His primary caution to a company that is thinking about installing a Chief Knowledge Officer that it make the CKO position rotational and/or build in the structural assurances that a CKO be exposed to a wide range of ideas.
The continual flow of new methods, ideas, and perspectives is what keeps me involved in the KM community. It is a diverse network and offers, for those who are not entrained to a specific set of processes the chance to keep learning and making the learning count. This is true of all three KMs. I’ll talk about Little KM in my next post.
by Patti Anklam
In an interview about Writing the book on Enterprise 2.0 with KMWorld’s Editor-in-Chief Hugh McKellar, Andrew McAfee (who will be keynote speaker at this year’s KMworld Conference), McAfee talks about knowledge management and Enterprise 2.0. He describes three shifts that are — or must — occur in order to get an organization to a state in which “knowledge is fresh and findable and represents the best thinking in an organization:”
- The shift from channels to platforms (where channels, like email, are directed toward specific, targeted audiences, and web sites are open platforms where content is freely shared)
- The realization that even though it the web seemed chaotic (great quote: “the Internet is the world’s largest library and all the books are on the floor”), we have developed ways for structure, process, and governance to occur (instance Wikipedia)
- The mindset change from “hoarding information is the way to get ahead” to “sharing is the way to get ahead”
The way to achieve #3 has been, if not the holy grail of KM, then its persistent bane. And how will we get to this shift? Put the knowledge sharing in the flow, McAfee says. That should sound familiar to KM types as mantra #4: build it into the business processes. What’s different this time, is that the tools really are becoming so pervasive, easy to use, and just plain sensible, that we really might get there.
by Patti Anklam
Fish (@nytimesfish) argues for the importance of teaching English composition as a vital requirement for success in any profession. Happe is thinking that it’s hard to fill senior positions because many people who are skilled in social media lack experience navigating large organizations.
One of the questions these both raise for me is the effect of social media practices on our ability to think and communicate, and especially the need to be able to construct models of thought. Dr. Fish provides a wonderful example of how he teaches the “neither/nor” construct, not as a “rule,” but as an experience of learning the pattern. Similarly, I think that the ability to navigate large organizations comes from time spent experiencing the territory.
What is the experience, what are the learning patterns being developed as laptop-toting students express themselves using shorthand? Yes, they (and we who tweet, blog, and befriend) are learning to cope with fragments and put those pieces together. Yes, I believe that the primarly new skill of management is the ability to manage complex sets of interactions and set up boundaries and spaces for possibility to emerge. And yes, I know that the trajectory of my own career experience is based fundamentally on my ability to write.
by Patti Anklam
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Business Week’s current issue is focused on changes in R&D, by which the future of Innovation.
IBM, which has maintained its R&D spending at a steady rate despite the economic downturn, is now launching a global initiative to work with other companies and countries in what it calls collaboratories: partnerships aimed at generating more product ideas while establishing long-term relationships. Here’s what the article says:
The attraction for IBM is clear. The collaborative strategy snags more research with roughly the same amount of IBM money. Performing research with a variety of partners in many locations also exposes IBM to science challenges and ideas that it might not otherwise encounter.
There it is again: IBM is putting itself at risk of good ideas. It’s just sound business. In one example, IBM has established a nano-technology partnership with a ETH Zurich, a Swiss government funded university. The value to the countries is the potential to launch new industries while its universities can “attract the best faculty and students.”
IBM is literally covering the globe with the collaboratories. Each project meets a complex set of criteria, which I assume has a heavy dose of value network analysis (even if they don’t call it that).
The initiative is not without the issues that confront networks (intellectual property negotations can bring a project to a halt) and economies (why should IBM be focusing outside of the U.S. at a time of great economic need here?). But it is a network vision of amazing reach.