Information Illness & Coxcomb Consultants

This is a nice post by Igor Palmer in Oblique Angle. He writes about the need to improve knowledge diffusion capabilities within organizations. He says :”Hording up information in corporate silos is easy and glamorous. Creating and diffusing knowledge, however, is difficult and not glamorous. The fact that it is far easier to sell technology than to asemble useful, contextual information and diffuse knowledge has led to the proliferation of coxcomb consultants who equate any kind of information with knowledge and will do anything to tickle technology worshipers’ ego for a quick & easy sell.

Customer Knowledge Co-Creation

Chris Lawer in hig blog Creating Positive Context has written about Capabilities Of Customer Knowledge Co-creation

He has written about the capabilities firms could develop to harness customer knowledge. He classifies these capabilities as:

  • Firm Antecedants
  • Customer Antecedants
  • Customer Knowledge Acquisition
  • Customer Information Distribution
  • Customer Knowledge Use

He has also listed down the potential benefits of the customer knowledge co-creation process.

Consensus Seekers-Judging Quality of posts in threaded discussions

A comment in the APQC KM Blog led me to this interesting site consensusseekers

Dave who runs this site says : “The project attempts to speed up the process of finding quality input by asking participants to sort a set of several posts (the top-level posts under a given topic, or the replies to a given post, for example) into a list reflecting their quality. It combines the ranking input from a number of members to identify those posts that are recognized as having quality. Posts recognized as having less quality can then be skipped by readers who don’t have time to read all input.

The reason he began this site : “The working together aspect of what I was saying reminded him of the Slashdot website. It had the basic idea, but something was missing. I also later found Wikipedia and E-ThePeople. All of these sites allow members to judge individual posts, but none allowed a member to judge posts against each other. So I built one that does, and here it is!


Links for the day via Furl

Please check the “Recently Furled Pages” section on the right hand column of this my blog for the latest links on “Knowledge Management” from my Furl archive. This feed seems to be an easier way than writing a seperate blog entry for links everyday!! I hope to keep this list as fresh as possible!!

Retention Strategy & Implications on Social Capital

Attrition seems to have interesting side effects from a KM perspective.The idea of knowledge walking out of a company when a knowledge worker leaves is just one dimension of the problem. The implications of attrition on the flow of knowledge within networks of which the employee was a part of and the resulting impact on social capital(which is not evident upfront) has been getting a lot of attention.

As a corollary companies that succeed in maintaining attrition levels below industry averages seem to have a competitive advantage.

Larry Prusak,in one of his speeches said:
If you have constant churning of the workforce, for example, the Big Five consulting firms, are up to 40% turnover, you have pure transaction organizations. There is no trust because there are no durable networks, except at the very top. That’s true in a lot of organizations, organizations that like stirring the pot, that like constant turnover. You don’t get durability in networks and you lose social capital.

He goes on to say: “They don’t work necessarily for money. What do they work for? Recognition. Identity. Feelings about your coworkers really count. And that’s what’s ignored in the workplace so often, including in my own firm, in any large firm. We have forty firms as members of the Institute for Knowledge Management, and all of them are facing these issues.”

It is imperative that formal HR policies geared towards employee satisfaction and retention are augemented using techniques to build “rich and dense” social networks. Communities of Practice fill the void pretty well acting as a platform for peer recognition.A pay hike and a bonus every year seems to be a naive way to retain people. There needs to be a more comprehensive framework to retain employees that recognises the fact that “ people need a sense of identity, a sense of “groupness”, a sense of working with other people. We’re made that way. We’re hard-wired that way.“(Larry Prusak)

Good retention policies, as a side effect preserve existing pathways of trust and knowledge flows and in the process has a positive impact on the social capital of the company.

One of my earlier posts in related areas:(Has a link to the Nick Bontis causal model)
Knowledge Challenges-Aging Workforce

Knowledge Sharing-A Complex Practice

Denham takes a deep-dive into the nuances of knowledge sharing and the issues surrounding it including sharing expertise as patterns,capturing rationale,sharing metaphors and stories etc.,
He argues the need to have solid understanding of collaboration and group processess and reinforces that groupware tools by themselves are not solutions to knowledge sharing problems that enterprises face.

He goes on to say that :”Clearly KM folk talk a lot about knowledge sharing, but we have done little to explore the patterns, gather solutions, understand the role of context, and explicate the real meaning of this complex practice.”

One of his metaphors on the benefits of knowldge sharing is very straightforward and gets to the crux of the issue: “ Sharing knowledge is comparable to sharing your lighted candle: you have the opportunity to share your flame with others who have unlit candles, increasing the visibility for everyone and losing nothing yourself or you may keep your candle to yourself and get by with a feeble flickering single candle which is eventually going to burn out anyway. By sharing the fire with others, we enable others to keep the fire going and grow it, benefiting everyone. Which scenario do you choose? Which scenario do you think most people choose? Why do you think people don’t share knowledge more easily?”

KM survey results-Economist Intelligence Unit

A report in webitpr on a suvey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit says :”Knowledge management solutions are now the most important strategic technologies for large companies, according to a new report and survey of European executives by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Tata Consultancy Services.

One of the most interesting findings is “Two-thirds of companies in the survey complain that while their IT systems generate huge volumes of data, much of it is not actionable.”

When I see “actionable”, I remember Larry Prusak’s video(titled “Environmental Sensemaking”) on how IBM resisted the change to move away from being a “mainframe centric” company and join the network computing revolution(I am not able to locate the URL for this).He spoke about the mistake IBM made by focussing excessively on documentation and access to information assests.

In summary, Larry said:

1. Access is not equal to value.

2. In the late 1980s every one in IBM had access to every piece of information they needed. Inspite of that, they almost went bankrupt.

3. Effective decisions weren’t made from the information they had.

4.The mental models of managers and their openness were not influenced by the documentation they had. They believed that mainframes was the the way forward.

Some of the conclusions from the survey by Economist Intelligence Unit and my thoughts :

1.”Too much information impedes decision-making. Over half (55%) of executives say that IT’s failure to prioritise information is the main barrier to effective decision-making. Consolidating information and providing consistent performance indicators are regarded as the most important step firms can take to improve the speed and quality of decision-making. “

Are we back to square-one here? Decisions are made by people. Consolidating information is just the next level of abstraction from “too much information” to “lesser information to deal with”. This is good as long as people “act” with “consolidated information. Did people not act “only” because there was too much information? Is the world so linear and simple? Is too much information the only variable?

2.”Corporate culture is as important as IT for effective knowledge management. The biggest obstacles to knowledge sharing in large organisations are organisational, rather than IT-related. Half of executives say that internal barriers between departments hamper information sharing. Ignorance of what knowledge exists, or of where to find it, is another major barrier according to 41% of respondents. In some cases, a simple solution such as keeping a regularly updated record of who knows what can be more effective than throwing IT at the problem, according to the report.”

Are we addressing the fundamental issue of “trust” here? “Who knows what” is step two. “Do employees trust each other?” is the most fundamental question that needs to be answered. Otherwise irrespective of “Who knows what”, work will not get done. Focus on fostering a environment of trust, nuture communities and then focus on “Who knows what?”.Focussing on “Who knows what?” alone would again be a step backward into the producer-consumer model of knowledge. Effective knowledge sharing happens when the expert “actively engages” with the person who raises a query.

Download the complete survey results here