The Perfect Corporate Weblogging Elevator Pitch
How to explain the possibilities of weblogging to a corporation? A debate that has been going on for a long time now.
Judith Meskill invites you to imagine you're finally in an elevator ride with the CEO and you have this one chance to explain it all in the one and a half minute it takes to bring you to the floor you need to be. What will you say?
And never mind that group of people pretending they are not listening in and curious about what you are telling the CEO, standing at the back of the elevator cabin. They're just the judges in the Perfect Elevator Pitch for Corporate Weblogging Competition. And yup, that's me with them in the corner there, taking notes and keeping scores.
Rules, Preparation & Requirements:
Submission: text entry between 50 to 160 words.
One entry per person.
Please make sure that you include, with your submission:
your full name,
your website and/or weblog url(s), and
a valid email address.
All entries must be received by midnight (EST) April 15, 2004.
Entry scoring will be completed by judges by midnight (EST) April 22, 2004.
Winning entry will be announced shortly thereafter —
date to be announced in the near future.
No ‘monetary compensation’ — but excellent ‘sur-prizes’ To Be Announced!
Competition Submission Format:
For now, please email completed submissions to:
pitch at weblogsinc dot com
Every Signal Starts Out As Noise
During BlogWalk 1.0, a few of us concentrated on how blogs could serve as an early warning system to alert organisations to developments that require a response, i.e. as a business intelligence tool. (See the picture of the poster we made)
As one of the organisational attitudes I put forward as required to do this, was the notion "that every signal starts out as noise". It sounded cool at the time. What I meant was that you cannot know in advance what is useful information until you recognize it as such. Noise in this situation more or less equals unsorted data and information, and signals are data-patterns.
Why do we call information and data coming to us noise? Because we know not all that stuff is useful, we label the unuseful stuff as noise. And because of the tilted signal to noise ratio we perceive, i.e. what little we actually use from what comes at us, we say we suffer from information overload. I say that this is rubbish.
There is no such thing as information overload. It does not exist.
When trains were first introduced passengers suffered from jet-lag like symptoms, even at speeds as low as 20 km/h. Most likely because for the first time sensory input became asynchronous. What you heard and smelled (the train, people in the car with you) did not coincide with what you saw (the landscape passing by). We adapted, we have to do so now.
Different domains, different information needs
Dave Snowden of Cynefin, when he talks about complexity, divides the world in 4 basic realms. They range from the known, the knowable, through complexity to chaos. In chaos action precedes any order, in the known and knowable order, or routes to order, precede action. In complexity there is an intricate interplay between action and perceived order. Action is based on immediate observation, and shifts and changes with the surroundings, until patterns stabilize and migrate into the knowable or known realms. Only with hindsight is the causality chain apparent, and it does not hold any predictive power for the future in the complexity domain.
(picture taken from this presentation by Dave Snowden (ppt), copyright IBM UK Ltd. 2003)
Each of these realms has its own information need, and hence a perception of what constitutes noise, i.e. unuseful information.
In the areas of the known and the knowable, where causality can be predicted, any information that forms a distraction is considered useless up front. In measurements we e.g. call them anomalies, and ignore them.
In complex surroundings there is however no way to know causality in advance, and hence there is no way to tell signal from noise. All stimuli are equal at the start. And you need as much stimuli as you can possibly get, in order to heighten the chance that you will stumble upon something that will form into patterns for you, that has meaning to you.
Knowledge Work Is Making Sense Out of Noise
Knowledge work, in my view, increasingly means shifting your activities from the known (routine practice) and the knowable (the classic approach of science), to the complex, where you have to choose your course of action by judging as much data as possible on the basis of experience, skills and attitude. It's in the complex realm where disruptive innovation is born, where continuous (action) learning is a prerequisite. Knowledge workers, ergo, need to be exposed to as much background noise as possible, to open up as much opportunities to respond as possible.
Adapting to 'Information Overload'
Information overload I say does not exist. It is based on the wrong assumptions, that try to apply the way we work in the known and knowable areas to the complex realm.
Those three assumptions are:
In the known and knowable areas, these assumptions make sure that you take the right decisions about causal relationships, and thus be able to control or to cope with your situation. This made perfect sense where information was limited or even scarce. There is fear hidden behind these assumptions, that culminate in the fear to make the wrong decision.
Those three fears are:
In complexity just as there is initially no distinction between signal and noise, there is initially no right or wrong decision. There is just decision, and the three assumptions don't hold up, and no longer improve your track record.
From a complexity perspective the answers to the three fears, and the three assumptions are:
Or when put into actions:
We've Dealt with Information Overload Since the Dawn of Humanity
It all boils down to trusting upon the notion in Open Space of "whatever happens is the only thing that could have". It is also basically how we humans have looked upon the earth for most of our existence. We always take in all our surroundings all the time. We focus on those things that seem most intriguing, and in the end act upon only those of the intriguing things that we think require a response. The old sense, fright, fight or flight sequence. We now have to learn to apply that to written and other new media. But 150 years of our industrial and a hundred more of our scientific paradigms (and educational methods!) stand somewhat in the way, until we learn to surpass them.
Cro Magnon, as information overloaded as we are, only media have changed
Blogs as Early Warning Systems
Let's bring this back to where I started. When organisations reach a certain size (albeit in number of people, the different geographical locations they occupy, or the different cultural backgrounds they encompass) natural communication flows are interrupted, and connection to the general background noise is lost, and there is a need for tools to fill that gap.
Blogs create and aggregate an enormous amount of often prefiltered background noise. Being exposed to the blogosphere enables companies to reconnect to their noisy surroundings. It requires however that they accept that their organisational structures are not all that make up reality and don't want information to flow along those structures only, and also accept that they will not know in advance what is useful information. All signals start out as noise, basically until someone decides it 's a signal. To disseminate blogging in an organisation some simple social network mapping might help establish who are the essential trusted people and hubs that could get blogging started. These maybe also are the people most likely to enjoy blogging, as they are already above average exposed to inputs from their surroundings. It's what makes them hubs in the first place.5 Comments and 10 Trackbacks | Permalink
KM is Not Like Selling Soap
Today I received this e-mail from the Ark-Group:
As a valued Ark Group and Knowledge Management magazine contact, if you take a subscription to Knowledge Management before 5pm tomorrow (25 March 2004) you also receive a free USB, MP3 player and voice recorder worth over £100.
Knowledge Management magazine is the essential magazine for the knowledge-management professional, featuring: case studies, news, reviews, opinion, country focus, profiles and events listings.
In this months issue:
- Is your KM initiative customer focused? Arno Boersma asks why KM has yet to make an impact on the marketing function and offers formula that can bring the disciplines together
- How connected are your internal functions? We highlight the often neglected relationships between knowledge management, internal communications and human resources and examine the value joined-up working practices can bring
- Failing to understand the value of innovation and creative ideas will result in the decline and ultimate death of any company, says Laurence Prusak. We profile the knowledge-management pioneer and idea practitioner
- When Ernst & Young’s knowledge-management team was formed in 1996 it envisaged working itself out of a job within five to ten years. Tina Mason outlines their journey so far and explains why a knowledge manager’s work is never done
To get your hands on all this vital information you need to subscribe to Knowledge Management magazine. A subscription costs £345 for 10 issues over the year including full online access to www.kmmagazine.com, and subscribe by 5pm Thursday (25 March 2004) and you will receive a free USB pen drive with MP3 player and voice recorder.*
Reply to this e-mail with code KM-SE6 in the subject line and we will establish a regular subscription for you as well as provide you with a unique password to access these articles and our full archive online.
* The free gift will be despatched once we have received confirmation of your subscription in the form of full payment.
To which I replied with:
I think offering a MP3 player 'worth over 100GBP' to sell subscriptions to KM Magazine does more damage to your promotional campaign than help it.
Questions come to mind like:
Why do they have to convince me to subscribing by appealing to my greed in stead of pointing to the value of their magazine?
Why don't they give their loyal customers a treat in stead of bribing potential ones? As a subscriber I'd feel cheated.
Will I be overpaying for the magazine, as they seem to be able to fork out 'over 100GBP' and still make money?
Why not just give me an introductory subscription for a reduced price?
Why don't they stop offering me their magazine, even though I indicated repeatedly I wasn't interested in the past?
Knowledge Management is all about realizing the value that is contained in relations between human beings. Leveraging that value is what makes organizations work and create a profit. Promotional campaigns like these do nothing to establish new and real relationships between people, in this case you and me, and so do not help at all to leverage any value such a relationship between us might contain. In fact, these campaigns destroy value as they make perfectly clear that, even though you open your message with 'dear Anton' you're in no way interested in establishing a real connection, only in pushing your publication and thus increase revenue. Otherwise you would not have resorted to cheap tricks (well, cheap, 100GBP) to get me to subscribe.
In this way I've become a means to your end, and people should never be treated as mere means. Human relationships are always goals in themselves. As it stands I find your 'offer' downright insulting. The campaign does exactly the opposite of what the people expressing their visions in the KM Magazine, which you are aiming to let me subscribe to, would tell you on how to run your business. Content and packaging are thus diametrically opposed to eachother.
I have had very pleasant phone conversations with colleagues of yours in the last few years, and ocassionally I visit events organized by the Ark Group. And even though I think those events also could be way better (see this post), I will continue to do so in the future, as they do provide real value to me (in stead of a 100GBP's worth of USB devices). In no way am I saying that the Ark Group should not aim to make money. I am saying that you will make money if you succeed in brokering and building human relationships. You will be rewarded if you really aim to provide value first. The causality is not the other way around, where you aim to be rewarded, and in order to achieve that try to provide something labeled as having value.
In case you're wondering, the title refers to this post, about a company presenting at the Ark Group's KM in Europe conference last year.
[Addendum] And I hadn't yet fully appreciated the enormous irony in the Ark Group's message when their mail says that in this months issue "Arno Boersma asks why KM has yet to make an impact on the marketing function and offers formula that can bring the disciplines together" :D3 Comments and 1 Trackbacks | Permalink
Facilitating Open Space
Friday at BlogWalk 1.0 I found myself in the role of facilitator of the first part of the program. We planned the morning as an Open Space event, and though it was planned otherwise, I facilitated it on my own, never having done Open Space before.
As I was preparing I took the last meeting of the Medinge Group as an example. I copied some improv games from John Moore, adapted the schedule we used in January, and dived in. Lucky for me Flemming Funch, one of the participants had experience with Open Space and he saved an important moment for me.
The improv games at the start were a gamble. I needed them to get everybody out of their chairs, and moving, to energize the room a bit. Up front I wasn't sure that I myself would be comfortable doing it, as being a participant in these games often feels somewhat awkward to me. But it served it's purpose. I asked a few people about their experiences, and they thought it worked out ok. Even if for some it felt awkward playing along, and others expected that the games were leading up to making some point, which they didn't. Maybe I could have made their purpose clearer.
The point where it could have fallen apart, but for Flemming, was right after everybody had split up in 2's and 3's to talk about why they were present that day, and what they thought they wanted to achieve. Most people immediately launched into deeper conversations, and when I called everybody back to attention I wanted to interrupt the flow as little as possible. As a consequence I hurried, and two things could have gone better:
We all saw the writing on the wall
During the rest of morning things went smoothly, though I was a bit worried at first that only a few post-its seemed to emerge from the conversations. It turned out they were just saving them as to have to leave the conversation only once to put the post-its on the wall. When the energy level was starting to drop, I called the group together again, and we started organizing the stuff we created. We ended with a few people explaining what patterns they saw emerge from our output.
Two other observations from this:
But then again, I learned a lot from facilitating it. A big thank you to all present!
[Addendum] I completely forgot to mention, that I deeply enjoyed facilitating a get together like this. It's so much more fun, and fit's me much better, than the enlightened dictatorship one has to excersize when presiding a meeting of some sorts.
Our post-it wall, group blog or group wiki?
Changing business models takes time, and comes in small steps. These small steps might seem insignificant or like noise to you, but you might be witnessing the birth of a signal emergent from that noise.
In a similar vein:
The Corporation documentary, both at Robert Paterson's0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
BlogWalk Topic Exchange
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All entries on BlogWalk are aggregated at Topic Exchange
Emerging Acceptable Behaviour
One of my observations during BlogWalk yesterday, is how the advent of digital cameras has brought new behaviour to become acceptable.
As a child I remember that taking pictures sort of always involved posing. 'Hold on, let me adjust the camera, ok now smile', and click. Pictures were made by artificially 'freezing the frame'. Digital cameras have changed that.
BlogWalk 1.0, impressions
The first BlogWalk was a success. We didn't walk much, and we certainly didn't blog, but we had a great day regardless. I'll be posting impressions in the coming days, was already blogging in my head as I took a shower just now to shake of the fatigue, but let's start with showing you pictures.
How We Might View Organisations
While browsing the Actionable Sense Wiki (see right hand side) I came across this statement of mine, that I scribbled down some weeks ago:
Organisations are clusters of relationships between people. |
The invididual and the network are the relevant economic units, not the organisation. |
Value is in the relationships, organisations are transactions along those relations.
The first statement puts people and their relations in the spotlight, thus including informal structures in orgs, not just the formal ones.
The second includes all stake holders in any situation from the get-go not just share holders.
The third brings into view that the prime goal of organisations is value creation, not it's own continuity.
The sum total accepts every organisation as a temporary phenomenon, created and dismantled to fit value creating endeavours by networked individuals. Would this be called something like the 'Open Space Organisation'?
Putting this into an image you would get something like these. What happens when an organisation is first founded? Is it individuals joining (their networks) together, or is it a box to be filled with employees?
Organisations as a clustering of relationships between people
Organisations as templates to be pseudo-randomly filled with people
Google Adsense Added
Yesterday I have added Google Adsense to this blog. After I was turned down when Adsense started I forgot all about it. Until I got an e-mail by the Dutch Google team that said that my request was now approved. It turned out that the original reason to turn it down was that my site was in Dutch, which is true of course for the root-page. Everything else is mostly English. Anyway, since they offered, I decide to go ahead and try it. I bet I will be rich fast. The last two days I made a whopping $0.06, which with the current weak dollar is even closer to zero in Euro's.
Let me know what you think, is it annoying, have you had interesting experiences with GoogleAdsense?2 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Blogging during Conferences
Kaye Tramell writes "I'm going to try my best, but the SXSW Interactive program actually suggests that attendees STOP blogging & start interacting".
It also echoes something Sebastian Fiedler said the other day in a phone conversation with Lilia Efimova and myself. We talked about whether or not to provide connectivity during the BlogWalk meeting. We decided not to, as to strengthen peoples connection to what goes on in the room face to face, and let people blog afterwards. Sebastian then said "We don't want them to report, we want them to reflect".
So I guess this is the new question we have to ask ourselves when going to a meeting. Am I here to report? Or am I here to participate, and reflect on it later.3 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
From Earl Mardle's Networked World:
How do I know it? It's in the grammar, on how some languages use grammar to indicate source and validity of the given statement. Use your grammar wrong and you're suspected to be a liar.
Redefining Best Practices
Bob Hiebeler, formerly of Andersen Consulting, redefines Best Practice.
"An example of the best way to perform a process." It used to be "The best way to perform a process." See Jack Vinson (Knowledge Jolt with Jack) for more.
This of course is an acknowledgement of a much heard complaint that Best Practice leaves out the context of time and place, with David Snowden as a loud voice. It does not accomodate however for another critique, that copying what the competition does well won't make you leading in your field. It can only help you catch up. Doing it differently, finding your own way, and learning from both good practices (preferrably outside your field) and worst practices has a much better chance of bringing that reward. See also Frank Patrick (Focused Performance) on the Best Practice meme. (and here too)
It is a significant change in definition though and from a surprising source, as Andersen Consulting is old fashioned/command &control oriented enough and culturally American enough to miss the significant ramifications of the difference between good and best practices. But then again, Hiebeler doesn't work there anymore.1 Comments and 1 Trackbacks | Permalink
In many discussions on social networks the number 150 comes up as a 'natural' limit to how much social interaction a person on average can handle.
Intuitively I always felt uneasy with this number, and have on several occasions suggested that this could only be a limit in a specific context on a specific point in time, as this fits much better with personal experience and anecdotal evidence. (See references further down this post)
Christopher Allan, author of Life with Alacrity now comes with a thorough analysis and origins of the 'magical' 150.
The anthropologist Dunbar predicted the 150 as group size, based on brain-size, as the number of relations we can keep up by grooming. Language disrupted that barrier, being a much cheaper way (in brain usage) for 'social grooming'. So taking 150 as an optimum or limit would be false. By coincidence this concept of language as a cheap solution to grooming came up last week during a dinner preparing for BlogWalk. I think it was Janine Swaak who mentioned it. Check out her blog on 'Knowledge Animals'.
Chris then goes on the apply Dunbar to on-line communities. It wouldn't do to try and summarize it here. Go read Chris's posting, as he also links to several other postings e.g. by Ross Mayfield that hold relevance to this.
Previous comments I made about the 150 threshold:
Lurking and Social Networks
Taking it one step further, maybe the 'magic numbers' we see in networks of humans relate these meshing concepts to our mental capacity to juggle social data.
Networking Stagnation Fatigue or Growing Pains? II:
I can come up with a little over 170 names of people I am in regular contact with. So the limit seems about correct at first glance. Thing is, I don't feel my network is full. [...] If I'd adhere to the 150, my guess would be that 150 is more likely to be a mental limit for any one of the contexts [ I move around in].
The Tipping Point (book review):
For an idea to become epidemic you will have to keep this threshold of 150 in mind. It will not do to convince a whole stadium with 15.000 of something; the mass will go home not remembering you. But reach a 100 of those groups of 150 and you’re rocking. Now the book seems to imply that each of us functions in a context of about 150 people.
That does not sound right to my ears, especially if I look at the examples given. For instance a company is mentioned that is organised in independent business units of 150 people. But each of those 150 employees will have a life outside of the company as well, so even if those workers indeed know 150 people, they won’t be all colleagues. Is Malcolm Gladwell implying we can only keep track of a group of 150 people at any one time, but can easily switch groups, because that is what seems to fit my own experience more?
Dave Pollard is A OK
Starting Monday March 15th until March 26th, Dave Pollard will be moderating the discussion list of the Association of Knowledgework (AOK), as David Gurteen did last month. The topic of this month's discussion ties in nicely with the conversations we hope to have at next Friday's BlogWalk meeting:
My subject for the discussion, which runs from March 15 to 26, is officially "Weblogs and other Personal Content Management and Social Networking Tools in KM", but the discourse is always wide-ranging, so just about anything about KM may be discussed.
David starts off with some opening remarks and tries to reassure those who might think this will be a tech-focussed discussion (which it won't, as everybody who's read Dave blog for a while knows) by blogging his list of KM principles.1 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
At 7:40 this morning my commuter train had pulled into the main station in Hamburg, and I was on my way to the U-Bahn to go work. At the same time in Madrid, 190 commuters [...] were killed by at least 10 explosions at 3 commuter stations. I can only think of the words from the memorial service for the victims of 9/11. To paraphrase for todays events... this was not 190 people being killed, it was 1 person being killed, 1 person with home, family, friends, 1 person being killed.... 190 times.
While I realize that it is necessary to find those responsible, [...] I find the speculation on which group is responsible to be somewhat cynical. Does it really matter to the victims for which supposed cause they were killed? [...] At this moment, I would rather think of the father and husband who, unlike me, was not able to step off the train and onto the platform at 7:40 this morning, than about the twisted reasoning and motives of those who killed him.
Indeed.0 Comments and 1 Trackbacks | Permalink
Last October I announced in this blog that I was on the look out for a new job. And I found one.
It is with great pleasure that I announce that starting May 1st I will join Proven Partners, a KM consultancy firm. I very much look forward to this new position. We've been talking since early december, and I think we connect very well on a personal level as well as in our professional attitude and perception of KM.
Interesting to note here is of course if my blog had anything to do with finding a new position. Not directly, but it did help establish my professional level and areas of interest. During one of the interviews my counterpart had a googled stack of printouts from my blog and Martin Roell's Jobblog in front of him. He quoted Martin's piece where he describes me as "an unbelievably sympathetic, educated, interested, intelligent and reflective person". He then asked me if I had written this myself or Martin. On my answer 'Martin', he asked "how does he know that?". We then talked about how blogs build relations through conversations, and how this carried over into face to face meetings and e-mail discussions.
Another blog-related thing was that I blogged a meeting where several of my new colleagues were present as well, which they were pointed to by one of their clients (who hosted the meeting).
As for the future, in my plan for the rest of this year, introducing blogs and wikis as a co-creativity tool into my new company has a place on the agenda.
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It's a pleasure to announce the first BlogWalk meeting in what hopefully becomes a travelling series through Europe, bringing researchers and practitioners together for in-depth conversations. First stop: March 19th in Enschede, Netherlands. The topic of discussion will be weblogs in knowledge management contexts.
The second edition will take place in Nürnberg Germany later this year.
The intention is to complement BlogTalk with smaller scale opportunities to meet and to talk. The idea was in the air for a few months already, but we couldn't start working on it. Then one late evening Sebastian Fiedler came up with this great name and it went rolling. Walk means that we will be "walking" around places and have fun there. It also means that meetings will include walking in and out of pubs and nice places to eat because everyone knows that alcohol and good food fuel conversations. Note: this fun side is about complementing hard reflective work together and not replacing it. :)0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Master Narrative II
Last September I bookmarked an entry by David Weinberger on how a master narrative shapes our perception of the world. Deliberately stepping out of that master narrative usually is a time and energy consuming thing to do. It seems to me out of the box thinking is required to recognize the master narrative you're in, and stepping out of the master narrative then can be viewed out of the box doing.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink