A place where stories, thoughts and ideas come together

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Our round table

On Friday, we (the Pellea partnership) organised a round table to present our efforts in the direction of introducing the portfolio evaluation method in IT formal education.
Now this was quite a challenge, there were about a dozen of round tables running in paralel in the same big room. The session was scheduled after two other speeches, and people were already bored.

I decided to take some initiative and started wandering around the halls during the break, with a cup of coffee in my hand, looking for the people I met one day before and inviting them to join. My strategy proved to be effective, because after 15 minutes, about 10 people joined us. We started with asking everyone what was their interest and involvment in using portfolios. Then Ole Bech Kristenssen, our project coordinator, made a presentation of our approach- but we stopped several times to discuss different matters. It looked like people are really interested in our project outcomes - they would like to have them today, but we still have to develop them. Here we are in the middle of the debate.

In the afternoon, there were 5 different presentations running in parallel -another difficult decision. I picked up "The Balanced Scorecard in managing an educational institution", but I think it wasn't the best choice. The presenter from Finland wasn't very enthusiastic about his topic. His slides contained unreadable schemes and there wasn't any coherence in his presentation. The BSC is a tool I studied for my PhD as a possible way to evaluate the investments in IT. It is very difficult to apply, it needs a lot of efforts, but in the end, it could be extremely rewarding. What surprised me was the embarassment of the speaker when I asked him to give us some examples of strategic objectives, related success factors and key measures. He did it till the end, but he seemed quite surprised, and it took him a while to come up with an example. I was trying to help, I knew an example would make it easier to understand!

I think I should write a post on how to make the worst presentation in the world - I gathered so many "dont's" related to presentations, that I think it would be worth it! And I am sure my readers could add quite a lot to it!

|| Gabriela 10:51:00 AM
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Friday, October 29, 2004

Tuscany, Italy- EFVET's 13th Conference

I flew RyanAir for the first time in my life. It wasn't bad at all! The bad part was getting with Sales-Lentz from Luxembourg-Ville to Frankfurt-Hahn: we were more than an hour late because of some works on the highway. The driver told us it happened every day in the last 2 months, I wonder why the travel agency does not inform its customers to take a time provision and use an earlier bus!

I arrived in Pisa in the evening - the organisers sent a car to pick us up, and after about 2 hours by car, we got to Il Ciocco, the conference center. It's in the middle of nowhere, but it's a wonderful place!

The EFVET conference started on Thursday - and there's a hard working person maintaining their website- quite rare thing, to have the pictures on the website 20 min after they were taken! I was able to identify myself in the second picture, I am sitting at a table(take the diagonal line and count 3 tables), wearing a black suit and a pink blouse!

The president, Hans van Aalst, made a very interesting speech on competence based learning - it made me very happy because it proved something is happening in Europe too- policy makers are aware of the new evolutions and have at least a picture of what they should do!
In his speech, he presented the progress from supply based learning through outcomes oriented learning to competence based learning. And in paralel, he presented the European initiatives going in this direction, the achievements and the shortcomings. His presentation, like most of the others, is available for download on the conference website.

There were 2 introductory speeches and they were a bit long - following Italian habits the conference started with a 30 min delay, and there were 2 more coming. There was no oxygen in the room, people looked tired, and then... the presenter suggested we should open the doors to the terrace to get some fresh air - and the- surprise! a band of Brazilian drummers entered the conference room, and they brought in a wave of fresh energy. In 5 minutes, all the participants entered the rythm, standing up and following the beat. As Learning Laboratories Denmark is performing a study on how could we make conferences a better place for knowledge transfer, I think I will send them this hint!
If a short break would have been suggested, the audience would have left the room and it was difficult to bring them back. Without a break, people wouldn't have paid attention to the speech of the EC representative. This was a perfect solution, the organisers had a great idea!

Later on, I attended a workshop on Portfolio. Really great! A 20 minutes presentation made by Tina Marsden from the UK, a 40 minutes plenary discussion, and a 30 minutes group discussion. Excellent facilitation and good interaction - very different from what we got in the afternoon from Antonio Mocci in the "E-learning in the context of competence based education" workshop, who tried to give us a lecture for 90 minutes. I must recognise I've been rude, but after 70 minutes I had to interrupt him - I couldn't stand anymore! We are adults, we are able to read by ourselves the information posted on the website, we were there to share experiences, not to be lectured!

The other participants were supporting me, so finally we got it our way. This gave me a sort of popularity - in the evening, during the cocktail, I kept hearing behind my back: "she's from Romania!". I must confess the presenter tried to ignore me when I first intervened - he let me speak a bit and went back to his lecture. Than I felt he's ignoring my arguments because of my origin and I brought my teaching experience at CNAM into discussion. This was the moment when they started to listen to me! It wasn't quite a nice thing to do, I know, but I felt like I was there to talk to these counterparts and to listen to them!

I met a lot of interesting people, mostly from Denmark and Netherlands. I spoke to so many people that in the evening, I had a sore throat! But it was worth it, I'm sure.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Blogger seems to have a bug!

It inserts a table at the beginning of every new post, and also of every old post you're trying to edit. That drove me totally crazy during the last two hours. Deleting the table always left my post with an error and I was failing to post, and losing the text every time!

I tried very hard to finish the posts about the ECKM conference in Paris, and I lost several times my last 10-20 lines .

Finally, I have them all, except some smalltalk I wasn't in the mood to reproduce the third time.
In chronological order:
One day before ECKM
ECKM Day 1
ECKM Day 1 in the afternoon
ECKM Day 2
ECKM Day 2 in the afternoon

This was a tough job, trying to blog this conference, even with such a delay, and I forced myself to do it till the end because I was the only blogger there (as far as I know). It was not the case with I-KNOW and BlogTalk, where several bloggers were present.

Actually, I wrote all drafts on the 6th of October, 4 days after, but it was impossible to find time to detail the posts immediately.

I'll be on my way to Italy tomorrow, for the EFVET conference and the Pellea project meeting.
The KM Europe in Amsterdam follows, from 8-10 November.
And then the ECITE '04, also in Amsterdam, 11-12 November.

I love conferences, but I would give anything for a peaceful quiet week-end right now!
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Sunday, October 24, 2004

I wonder what is this

Googling a verse in Romanian, I got to a website called Agonia, meant to encourage people to write on the Net. The slogan is "If you write, they can be your readers". The site contains different sections for Poetry, Essay, Prose, Screenplay, and parts of it is available in 5 languages other than Romanian. They also provide a top for each category, according to the number of visitors of each page! Quite a challenge to find a catchy title for your writing and bring more readers!

Interesting endeavour, I'm curious who is Radu Herineanu, the guy who seems to be behind it. He's looking for editors in any language, pretty ambitious!
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Saturday, October 23, 2004


My course in Montbeliard was a challenging experience : my audience was formed of 1st and 2nd year master students with a linguistics background, now studying e-commerce. I gave my presentation in English, but we discussed in French, because I was told they are shy in English.
I named it Blogging in Corporate Environments – a Fresh Approach on Marketing (On Markets Being Conversations). It will be soon uploaded on the university website, and I'll add a link here.

I tried to make it interesting by bringing in all kind of stories like The Raging Cow, ILoveBees,
Michael Hanscom's case, Mena's Blogs, Bandwidth and Banjos. It was really hard to keep their attention, every time I was getting into more theoretical details I had to switch quickly to new stories and examples.

And most of our interaction was on forums - why blogging when we have forums?, and on how to find useful resources - it seems that my presentation of Bloglines made them perceive a source of already digested information!

I tried to persuade them to try out blogs during their stage in companies in the Spring semester and I offered myself to assist them, but their answers didn't sound very enthusiastic.

Anyhow, it was a positive experience. Montbeliard is a nice place, and it was good to see my former university mates again and to talk about our professors, our colleagues and the good old times when we were students in Bucharest.

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Friday, October 22, 2004

Using blogs as a marketing tool

I'm on my way to Montbeliard, France. A former university mate invited me to give a presentation on Blogs in Marketing for her master students in e-commerce. I'm excited about the subject and I'm looking forward to meeting these people! Posted by Hello

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

The way I'm functioning

As always, I have lots of things to do - and all of them are extremely urgent!
Of course, I could come with all kind of excuses- lots of meetings to attend (I still hope I will succeed to blog the 2-day event organised by our Institute, The Way toLisbon), headaches, blogs reading (I'm far behind again!), surfing the web...
By the way, I keep asking myself what are the limits- how deep should I dig when I discover something- sometimes the subject is so interesting that I want to find out all I can about - and I follow all links, read all comments and all linked posts...
I remember the discussion with Lilia at BlogWalk2 - we were talking about blogging and blog reading habits and she confessed she's doing this as the first thing in the morning, to warm up. My question was: how do you stop? and Lilia's answer: have you heard about deadlines?

Yes, I did, Lilia - but it isn't easy at all to stop reading blogs and go back to "real, urgent work".

When I start my day this way, the morning usually vanishes while posting bookmarks to, ideas and cut&paste text to my dump blog, and there's no visible result of my work.

Then, without no warning, a day like today arrives. In the morning it looks just like any other day. But with a cup of good coffee, Yanni's music in the earphones as noise protector, and after a short IM brainstorming with a project partner in Sweden, suddenly the fingers start to dance on the keyboard, my neurons seem to be sparkling... and I suddenly switch into the active mode.

And then flow arises - I enjoy every second of it - I'm thinking of details I don't have time to write down, hoping I will still remember them later, I'm seeing future events with my inner eyes- as if they were happening here and now- and I'm enjoying them already!

I seem to have a sort of special feeling telling me if a future project is going to live or not which almost always proved to be true. It feels either like I found a valley were my energies can flow and fruitify -or like I meet a stone wall. Probably anyone could feel this, if he/she opens up.

Is there any way of supporting or provoking this flow? Could we do anything to make it happen more often? My copy of Csikszentmihalyi's book just arrived, let's see if we can find out more!
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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

ECKM Day 2 - afternoon session

Paris, 1 October 2004
For the second day, the organisers prepared a round table with representatives of the French industry, titled Knowledge Management - Integrative Management.

The panelists were:
Franck Halmaert - AlmaTeam
Lionel Baraban - Entopia
Jean-Louis Ermine - Institut National de Télécommunications
Gilles Proriol - Cognito

The discussion was meant to be get-together of academics and industry people.
The animator of the discussion, which started with few questions for the panelists, was Charles Despres, from CNAM-IIM. He gave about 1 minute to panelists to answer some important questions regarding KM:
1. Is KM alive and well today?

FH: yes, KM is alive- and it has all the reasons to be so, if we are to accomplish the objectives of the Lisbon strategy.

LB: K is alive, M is alive, but not KM. The only way to manage knowledge is to be alive, a machine could only decrease the amount of choices, but people are those who have to share information and integrate KM ideas into their practices.

JLE: yes. KM is extremely important for some fields - as Nuclear Energy, in which he is involved.

GP: KM does not exist in the real world. Out there, they don't call it KM, they simply pick up tools for solving problems.

2. What are the main KM drivers and barriers ?

FH:There are no KM drivers, there are some drivers for KM. And as barriers: KM should not be made by a department, but be diffused in all departments.

LB:One of the drivers is expertise identification- who knows what- in order to use better the existing resources. But people are afraid they are spied, that's why trust is badly needed, both between people, and between the people and the system. The barriers: the budget, the practice, the current content managemen.

JL: Drivers: innovation, technology usage, self-accomplishment. Barriers: the lack of a pragmatic answer on how to imply KM in everyday work, transversality, and the assertion that knowledge is power - on the contrary, sharing knowledge is power.

GP: Drivers: value creation, collective intelligence, how to place people in the right positions. What we should aim at with this are attractivity, social cohesion and employability. Barriers: money, power, mentalities (resistance to change).

The discussion continued with the audience.

Karl Wiig: the picture is not clear. We experienced some positive results - but the organisations doing KM are not calling it this way. KM is embedded in the organisational culture, it is a way of life. Sure, it utilises existing technology.

Dan Remenyi: one of KM's main problems is it's lack of clarity. Definitely, from the economic point of view, Europeans are a)overpaid and b)underworked. We have to work smarter both as industries, as organisations and as countries. In order to make change possible, the board of directors and the individuals have to be interested in it.

Gilles Proriol: money and power are the problems; all these assumptions on the ROI on KM could not be proved.

Jean-Louis Ermine: we should find special incentives for encouraging people to share. From his experience, people tend to put lots of documents into the system before the annual evaluation, it's not a question of quantity, but of quality and usefulness.

Frank Halmaert: former CKO at Valtech (the case was described by D.Chauvel and Ch.Despres in several papers available here, here and here) - tangible rewards can make the situation worse; tangible rewards should be granted only after showing results. We should replace the push approach with a pull one. You cannot sell KM solutions to a company that does not need them: it's like swallowing multivitamins just in case. The challenge for KM specialists is to find real problems that need solutions.

Lyn Gosz: we have to sell incremental solutions - and this could be a problem. People need a solution that wouldn't cost more than the current one, and would give better results in weeks, and in the next 6-12 months. KM is a long term solution, but we need quick fixes for convincing people.

Jean-Louis Ermine: what we need is a waterlily strategy- starting with small projects and valuable people. In the end, the waterlilies will grow by themselves and cover all the lake. For this purpose, we need good common sense and ROI in weeks.

Ronald Maier: the KM community is about people: people change people, and the tools are only part of the story. The Internet is there, and it makes sharing very easy. Intranets are sometimes suffocated by too much content. We need to make actionable sense of available knowledge.

Nicholas Leck: we shouldn't emphasize the role of the consultant in solving a problem. What we need is problem-solving architecture. The client is the one who should solve the problem, while the consultant should leave the company very soon.

Karl Wiig: this is probably the least understood element: diagnostics. We look at KM as the pistons of an engine, while we are driving a car. We think that if we forget about KM, it would be the end of the world - it is not!

Closing question of Charles Despres addressed to the panelists:

3. What should be the future of KM?

FH: sees no future. It will become a normal task, part of the job.

LB: it shouldn't try to be an infrastructure covering all needs. It should address specific needs.

JLE: between top-down and bottom up, he would choose a a middle top-down approach. KM should look at both the near future and the long time perspective. Team global, act local. Steady organic growth.

GP:KM should become pleasure. Sharing knowledge with others is pleasure, it makes people enjoying their work.

There was laughter in the conference room when Gilles said this, and I myself was thinking only a French man could say this- but giving it a second thought, I realised he was talking about nothing else than flow.

This was it, it could have continued for the whole afternoon, but an other paper session was scheduled, so the discussion moved on the halls.

I went to listen to the paper of my Hungarian colleagues - I knew some of them from ECKM 1 and 2, and they also assisted to my presentation. But the main reason was their topic, they were speaking about ITIL and I was really interested, since my Institute has also some involvment in this topics.

A knowledge based perspective of IT service management - Peter Feher and Zoltan Szabo from the Budapest University of Economic Sciences and Public Administration presented the paper, while the third author, Gabor Klimko from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was assisting them.

And the very last paper belonged to Bill Martin, from RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia:Knowledge management and the public sector: the Australian Federal Government as a case study

Prof. Martin has being studying KM in the public sector since 1994. In 2000 I had the chance to meet him at ECKM in Bled, Slovenia, and he was the one who suggested my topic for my ECKM'01 paper, Knowledge Management in the Academic Environment. What was really astonishing was that he remembered me and my presentation at the first edition and the nice talk we had then!

Saying good-bye was a difficult task, I was among the last people who left, because even if we spent two full days together, we still had a lot of things to discuss. I wish to be able to attend ECKM 05 in Limerick, Ireland, next year!

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ECKM Day 2

Paris, 1 October 2004
I decided to leave my laptop at my hotel. There is a HotSpot next to CNAM, but one day before I realised I can take no coffee break without missing something or somebody- so I decided to trust my memory and my blogblock.

By the way, French hotel keepers have a very strange idea about providing Internet access to their guests. I picked up my hotel because of this mention, but there I discovered I have to call my own provider in Luxembourg, which was not convenient at all. And Larry Lucardie told me he was expecting wireless, but got the same indications- dial your provider's number!- from his hotel.

On Friday morning I had to chair a session, and I wanted to make sure I will get there on time. I left my hotel 1/2 hour before, I got on time in the Arts et Metiers subway station - but then...
I picked up a different exit and couldn't figure out where I am. Fortunately, I found the entrance of Musee des Techniques and passed through it to arrive at CNAM. It was 8:55 when I arrived , the first two speakers were already installed, and everything seemed under control.
Afterwards, one of them confessed that they had an awful revelation arriving at the conference - the secretary copied on their memory stick the Word and PDF versions of their paper, but not their presentation. Finally they realised the organisers already prepared the presentations on the laptop available in the conference room, and they were saved!

The session I chaired included 4 papers:
- Cross-culture context in the implementation of knowledge management: A cross cultural case study analysis, presented by Roger Darby, Derbyshire Business School, and Emilio Herbolzheimer from Henley Management College, UK.

The study, meant to contribute to a better understanding of the impact of national culture context on KM practices, included 5 international companies, 5 countries and 7 KM constructs, assessed in correlation with 5 national culture constructs.
The authors did a thorough analysis of outcomes, and some of the outcomes were predictable, while others were quite amazing. Everyone would expect US culture to be technology oriented, while the French and Brazilian ones are oriented toward relationships and contextualisation.
But UK and China being more dedicated to exploit existing knowledge, while US and Brazil focus on knowledge creation is not that obvious.
The factors they found out to have the most discernable influence on the deployment of KM initiatives were:tolerance of ambiguity, individualism vs collectivism and power distance.

-Antecedents and outcomes of knowledge management: An individual-level model, presented by Iris Reychev from the Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Iris' paper proposed an original model of the factors influencing the participation levels in the
management of knowledge inside an organisation and their implications for the individual, based on the Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975)
The factors taken into account were:
- organisational identification,
- organisational commitment and
- job involvement)
The model also included two implications of the participation in the process of knowledge management and knowledge sharing at the individual level: expecting compensation and tendency to leave.
The research was excelently documented, but what a pity that Iris was so focused on what others said and wasn't able to communicate her enthusiasm and confidence in the proposed model to the audience!

- A short critique of the methods for using narrative enquiry in organisations:Refolding the envelope of art-Luddism and techno-fabulism- brought to us by Gary Oliver, University of Sydney, Australia and written in collaboration with David Snowden
Now this was quite exquisite - a paper on storytelling having David Snowden among the authors! While the published paper speaks more about the literature research and the Cynefin method and its attempt to overcome several perenial shortcomings of the story-telling method, such as changing narrative, inconsistency between narratives, and varied perceptions of a narrative, during the presentation Gary had the chance to speak more about the application of the method in some projects, giving details and examples. Some interesting links we got from Gary: and Gary also recomended us the Storytelling in Organization book, available at the Elsevier stand organised at the conference location.
My question to Gary was if he found any references in the literature to storytelling in online communities. He promised to send me some.

- Senge's systems thinking for successful knowledge management: people, process and information technology, presented by Helen Richardson, The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, New Zealand

In Helen's view, KM initiatives failed because of their incapacity of bringing together the elements of people, process and IT. She tried to apply Senge's systems approach to the case management performed at a New Zealand health insurer. Her analysis revealed that IT’s most valuable role was to enhance the relationship between the clients and the case manager rather than replacing it.

And here's my story about Helen: I met her on the first evening, at the welcome cocktail. She almost couldn't speak because of a bad cold. I encouraged her that it will get better till Friday, but the next day she still had no voice. On Friday, the day of her presentation, she got a little bit better. Her paper was so interesting that we almost didn't notice her voice problem and with all my warnings as a chair that her presentation was taking much longer than planned, the audience asked her to continue, even during the break.

It was nice to be a session chair, but I lost a lot of interesting presentations going on in the other rooms. Presentations I would have loved to attend and why:
-Driving Corporate Performance through Knowledge Sharing - A Case Study, by Liviu Cotora, Integrator Group, France
- interested in their SPID approach and also because Mr. Cotora is of Romanian origin

-Knowledge Management, Intellectual Capital, and Dynamic Capabilities: What is the Link?- presented by Bernard Marr, Cranfield School of Management, UK

Bernard is an old acquaintance from the first editions of the ECKM and ever since I was trying to stay up-to-date with what was happening at their Centre for Business Performance. Performance evaluation applied to Information Systems was one of the approaches used in my PhD thesis.

-Process-Related Knowledge Management – From Workflows to Emergent Process Support, Olivera Marjanovic,The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
I met Olivera one day before and we found out we have many things in common - and I am also interested in Business Process Modelling.

-Personal Knowledge Management in a Peer-to-Peer Environment, Ronald Maier, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
This was the critique of large KMS I am subscribing to, and the alternative solution introduced in the paper was extremely inviting - I wish I could have heard more about it!

-Entrepreneurship and Knowledge Transfer: A Cross-Cultural Perspective, a paper by Chiara Cannavale and Rossella Canestrino, Instituto Studi Aziendali, Università Parthenope, Italy
I met Clara 4 years ago in Bled and her approach to cross-cultural issues was direct and genuine. She was not in Paris this year, but still...

-Design Principles for Table-based Knowledge Bases – A Case Study From the Financial Sector, presented by Larry Lucardie, Knowledge Values, The Hague, The Netherlands, and Department of Information Science, Uppsala University, Sweden

Because Larry made me curious- and because I read the paper one evening before!

Next choice was difficult, but I think I picked up the most interesting one:
-Knowledge Creation at the Learning Conference, Ib Ravn,Learning Lab Denmark
Ib and his colleagues at LLB are trying to develop new methods and techniques for making knowledge transfer during conferences more interesting. Instead of adopting the empty vessel format, where the audience is considered to receive what the speaker is sending out, they are experimenting with more participative formats.
They propose a modern, humanistic learning theory: People go to conferences to 1) get concise input, 2) interpret it in the light of their concerns, 3) talk about their current projects and 4) meet the other attendees and be inspired by them.
Ib introduced some practical techniques for the so-called “learning conference”, and then gave up 10 min of his presentation time for an interaction with the audience. We were asked to think about 2 solutions that could make this conference more valuable from the knowledge sharing point of view.
My quick fixes were:
- providing a list of keywords before submission- asking people topick up from this list or to add new ones, then employing some tool for drafting a topics map that should be provided on the conference site. Visible clusters could enable participants to network with the right people in the shortest time, but could also be useful for organisers when composing the sessions.
- a participants directory like the one we had for BlogTalk2, set up in advance -if possible, with pictures ( I still can't forgive myself for not meeting Flemming Funch at BlogTalk2!)

Then Ib asked us to turn to the person sitting next to us and share our ideas. In the end, we were invited to speak about the ideas we found really valuable. And there were some:
- Lyn Gosz- give more time to the speaker- 40 min- give her/him time to find out about the audience- each one in the audience having the chance to name his interests. Then the speaker should try to relate spontaneously his presentation to the audience interests. Sounds interesting and ... challenging!
- for the Knowledge Cafe- trying to group people - mixing them- the organisers should assign topics to each group.

During a later discussion with Ib, I had the chance to tell him about the Open Space technique and the manner BlogWalks are organised. And I also sold him the solution of prof.Hans Röck, from Rostock: at the conference dinner, force people to change places every 30 min, synchronising it with the dishes served by the restaurant. Five years ago, when attending a Business Informatics Conference there, I got to know all the participants (about 35 people).

Next presentation I attended was:
The Importance of Human Networks of Communication as a Key to Organisational Effectiveness: A Case Study of Informal Networks, made by Helen Hennessy from AIB, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Ireland , probably a graduate student of Fergal McGrath. The University of Limerick is going to host next year's ECKM, and the Irish presence was remarkable this year.

For the closing of the morning session, I chose a presentation made by Camille Rosenthal-Sabroux, from the Dauphine University, France on Gameth:
GAMETH®, A Decision Support Approach to Identify and Locate Potential Crucial Knowledge, paper written in collaboration with Michel Grundstein.
Gameth is a method for enabling stakeholders to identify and locate potential crucial knowledge.

For lunch I joined Iris Reychev, Roger Darby and Ib Ravn. It was against my strategy, but I still had to talk to Ib, and the only places we found happened to be next topeople we knew. But I can't complain - the discussion was extremely interesting, both in pairs, but also between all 4 of us. One of the topics was academics giving consulting in private or under an organisational umbrella - and we were able to talk about different habits in each country. This is a common practice everywhere, but is it legal? moral?

We had to hurry, because in the afternoon, an interesting panel discussion with 4 representatives of French KM companies was scheduled.
Hope to find time to finish this story tomorrow!
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Lyn Gosz, USA, Mihaela Munteanu, Romania, and myself preparing for a gala dinner on Bateau Mouche - the organisers really made me feel like Cinderella on that special evening! Posted by Hello

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ECKM Day 1- afternoon session

Paris, 30 September 2004
In the afternoon, a Knowledge Café was scheduled, following the model established by David Gurteen together with Dan Remenyi. A Knowledge-Café is an effective vehicle for opening up conversations and discussions which will lead to knowledge sharing, says the presentation at the Academic Conferences web site. In 10 minutes, a brief introduction on what a Knowledge Café is was given by prof. Remenyi. Then, we were all sent to the Café des Techniques , to sit at the table with 3 other people and talk about what we thought to be the important problems academic research on KM has to address in the next 4-5 years. In one of the previous breaks I had the chance to meet again Ronald Maier, the author of that impressive monograph on Knowledge Management Systems I studied recently for my ECITE paper. We first met at the I-KNOW conference during a debate dedicated to possible cooperation projects under FP6. I didn't have the chance to listen to his paper then, because it was scheduled in a parallel track to mine- the BPOKI track, while I was an KMEL person. And it happened again at ECKM - different sessions, different schedules. But at least I had the chance to talk to him a little bit- about the book and about KM tools. On the run, he gave me some very fresh input - about e-learning, about the need to make it flexible and less formal. Once again I discovered we think the same way. I couldn't find him again at the Knowledge Cafe, it would have been nice to sit together for one hour and talk. And because I arrived late, I had to join other 4 participants - Duncan Shaw, John Perkins, Ann Karin Jörgensen (from the University of Central England) and a fourth young lady also coming from a British university. Now when I look back I think it was a bit impolite to bump into these English people and start preaching about Stephen Downes' theory of e-learning as a flow, blogs , and the Cluetrain Manifesto. My choice for the next 4-5 years of KM research was the new learning model provided by blogs. John's was connected to communities and Duncan's to innovation and facilitation. In my opinion, we had an interesting conversation – but don’t trust me: I was too much in a me-sharing mood, and even if I forced myself to shut up and listen to what the others had to say, it doesn’t look like I can remember much of it. Shame on me!
I think it was John who gave us a reference: Margaret A.Boden- a psychologist involved in IT and studying creativity. To have a closer look later.

After one hour, we gathered back in the conference room to hear some of the opinions. A few of the ideas expressed by speakers:
- focus on groups (I entirely subscribe!),
- have a more integrated approach (from the political, organizational and social points of view, including the society level),
- focus on people
- look at the cultural differences
- be optimistic
- realise an amalgamation
- 3 P - people people people
- pay attention to employees – supporting them to get the knowledge they want and to use it
- personal communication
- the application of knowledge
- story telling- its ethics – stop it from turning into manipulation
- KM as production factor in the context of the theory of abundance and of cooperation as opposed to competition
- taking the culture as given – the diagnose of the knowledge gaps
- KM as a way to a better world
- what should we do to provide a better sharing environment – important resources still unused - finding a method to measure the value of IT Tools
- evidence-based medicine
- have a closer look at tools and practices that proven helpful
- a growth of KM in the application aspects
- a study of barriers and means to break them
- a definition of KM at the macro level
- have a look at the KM side of all success stories
Karl Wiig closed the list of speakers (some of the last ideas belonged to him) by asking a question: “Do we really need KM? Or it’s just some idiot that came up with this idea?” Karl Wiig is definitely a young spirit, despite his age and authority!

At the end of the closing discussion of the Knowledge Cafe, we were invited to embark in buses that were taking us to Seine. On the bus, I sat next to a young lady of Chinese origin coming from a British university – and she asked me questions about the situation in Romania. I reassured her that things are going to change in this part of the world too, and I was feeling very comfortable - enjoying the conversation and the light of sundown while we were approaching Place de l’Opera.

Finally, we arrived at Pont d’Alma to take the Bateau Mouche where the conference dinner was organised. Well, just looking at the tables on the ship from outside I was kind of stunned– everything looked like in a fairy tale! I saw these ships so many times before in movies, but also in reality as I’ve been in Paris before –but I never dared to dream I could spend an evening on one of them! After all, it is expensive, but not that expensive – I think what I couldn’t imagine was the situation and the company that made it so enjoyable!

Once arrived there, I tried to join a table with mostly unknown people. I applied this strategy – of joining new people every time- at many conferences and it always brought me new acquaintances and interesting information. There was a Swedish guy from Linköping- Alf Westelius- taking notes on his laptop during the conference – I’m not sure he was a blogger or not – and because I saw a place next to him, I stopped there. But the place was already taken, and I was invited to sit down next to Larry Lucardie, a Dutch consultant and Swedish Associate Professor at Uppsala University (his tag name said he was coming from Sweden). Next to Larry, I had the pleasure to discover Cheryl Yu, my former student at CNAM, who also had a presentation during the conference. On my left, there was a South-African lady working on her PhD in Paris, a Malaysian lady, and another Chinese coming from a British university. Because of the wonderful French music on the ship, the hearing span was of maximum 2 persons to the left and to the right. And we were 10 at every table! Most of the conversation was with Larry and Cheryl. Larry developed some KM software based on an idea he had during his studies and he’s still working on improving it. .....Again, it was a pity I wasn’t able to attend his presentation on Friday. He was a good listener too – he asked me and Cheryl a lot of questions about ourselves, about what we do and what we would like to do, and it was kind of fun, because knowing each other we both could see some of the strengths and weaknesses of the other one and talk about. It struck me that we were three different types of people according to the Tipping Point– Larry was a Maven, he knew everything about his particular field, me a Connector – trying to find out what people are up to and bringing together people with similar interests, and Cheryl, she was the perfect Sales Person- she was ready to find out about things and enjoyed selling them to others.

Half of the table was made of vegetarians, and after the first dish, Cheryl decided to become one too, so we got the majority. This is strange, it seems to confirm the theory that people gather according to resonance principles - their common ideas and habits seem to bring them together . Ceux qui se ressemblent s'assemblent said Homer (I don't know how it sounds in original, but it definitely sounds good in French!)

Some of the table neighbours' ideas I was able to review later in the night, when I came back to my hotel:
- Alf Westelius's paper was titled Knowledge Management and King Midas - Beware, Your Wish Could Come True - a study case on a portal that became too successful, making human interaction very rare. A real warning that IT and the wish for efficiency could lead to unexpected results!
- Larry Lucardie spoke about Design Principles for Table-based Knowledge Bases . Actually, he was concerned by the lack of design principles for hierarchical table systems, and he developed such procedural, logical and semantic principles. He also presented an example of application fromthe financial sector.
- Cheryl Yu's paper was a case study: A Top-down Knowledge and Resource Management Software Solution - coming from the Chinese industry and meant to synchronise the business strategy and the knowledge strategy.
That's interesting, to have a look at the papers after having the chance to meet the authors and listen to their ideas. It makes everything more comprehensible!

I was looking for a chance to talk to other people too - what a pity we couldn't switch our places during dinner! - and then my Romanian colleague came to me and we found a still corner to talk and plot. What about? About bringing ECKM to Timisoara, Romania. I talked to prof. Remenyi before about this, but now the conditions seem to be more appropriate then ever. The venue - The Faculty of Economic Sciences - seems to be perfect, and Timisoara, my hometown, is quite a Western City- it is sometimes named "The Little Vienna". Then we went to prof. Remenyi to present him our proposal - ECKM 05 will be in Limerick and ECKM 06 in Barcelona, but we were accepted on the list of potential organisers of ECKM 07. It would be a perfect way to celebrate Romania as a new member of the EU, but prof Remenyi was a little bit concerned by the small number of people interested in KM in Romania.

When the boat approached again the Eiffel Tour, we found out that we could admire it from the deck, so everyone went out. I met again my former students from CNAM, who were helping with the organisation of the conference, and we had the chance to chat a bit. I met again Andras Gabor, from Hungary, an old acquaintance from the first two editions of ECKM. But the best part was when I approached Charles Despres who was talking to Larry Lucardie, and Charles tried to introduce me again, after me talking to Larry for more than one hour during dinner! We burst in laugh and asked Charles to cut it off!

And, as a perfect closing for the wonderful evening, after watching all my former CNAM students taking photos with Karl Wiig, I dared to ask myself for this honor.
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ECKM Day 1

The venue of this year's European Conference on Knowledge Management was the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris, a very old and famous educational institution. Charles Despres and Daniele Chauvel were the local hosts, while Dan Remenyi and Sue Nugus of Academic Conferences took care of the general organisation of the conference. It was almost perfect- where, there's always something that goes wrong - this time Karl Wiig's book didn't arrive on time.

My relation to ECKM and to prof. Remenyi is quite an old one - it was him who first spoke to me about Knowledge Management and who sponsored my participation to the first edition. At the time, I was focused on IT Evaluation, and tried twice to attend the ECITE - the European Conference on IT Evaluation - but without any success. I started my research in KM 5 years ago - and now here I am, doing something I really enjoy - research in KM!

Back to the conference - we had an opening session with a very short welcome speach given by Charles. Then, Daniele Chauvel and Gilles Proriol from Cognito presented a visual map of topics included in the papers and diverse corelations. It could have been very interesting, but as long as keywords were arbitrarily picked up by every author, I don't think it was relevant enough.

If the method used at I-KNOW would have been used here too - to ask the authors to pick up their key words from a given list - the topics map could have been more relevant. But anyhow, the initiative was interesting, and as Daniele confessed, it was a last minute idea.

This could grow into a tool to be used by conference organizers- to be provided on the conference CD. Having the ability to search for other people interested in the same topics would be of great help in locating them on time. In a 200 people conference like this one, it is difficult to manage to meet every person you would like to meet. This time, the organizers succeeded to match papers in sections excellently- but even so, you're always interested by other topics too, and some choices are very difficult to make.

Then we had the keynote of Karl Wiig. His presentation, titled KM- 20 years after, can be found here. Just a few ideas from his speech:
- we're at a point in time when KM is slowly coming back, after the disapointment caused by not being any universal cure or silver bullet in itself. So we went through enthusiasm, disappointment, and here we are in a period of more balanced ideas- a sort of plateau
- we're not rational- our decisions are based on mental models- these are encoded stories - people learn stories, not facts
- when we are addressing a particular situation, we go through several steps:
- sense making
- decision making
- problem solving
- even a good decision can be badly implemented
- there are several different levels where KM is significant:
- personal
- industrial
- societal
- being informed IS NOT being knowledgeable!
- there are several attitudes we can manifest toward knowledge :
- unconcerned
- aware
- reactive
- literate
- proactive
- vigilant

- the Knowledge-Vigilant enterprise - that type of enterprise where most people possess an
asset management mentality - to create, maintain, exchange, and utilize Intangible Capital

- KM has to be considered a part of management - and not treated separately
- the weakest link in KM is the application of knowledge in practice
- mimicking what some other organization did before in a different environment cannot help -the myth of good practices.

The presentation was really impressive - Karl Wiig possesses a special mind agility and the rare faculty to enable the public to see the clear connection between his ideas. Discussions followed, and I was happy to see the public felt like challenging some of Wiig's ideas, while he brilliantly stood for them.

For the rest of the conference, Wiig kept moving from one section to another, picking up interesting topics, and everytime I met him in a room, it was a confirmation I made the right choice.

The abstracts of all papers presented at the conference are available for download, while the proceedings can be purchased from Academic Conferences Ltd.

The conference timetable is also available online.

This time I was lucky- our paper was scheduled immediately after Karl Wiig's keynote.
This paper has a nice story and maybe one day I will find the time to tell it here. It was written together with Patrick Waterson at Fraunhofer IESE, and it involved two other people for the study cases- Teade Punter and MickyKerr. Its title is Online Communities: what motivates people to take part? and I enjoyed every minute of working on it.

The chair of my session was Fergal McGrath, the host of next year's ECKM in Limerick, Ireland. I met him at the first two editions of ECKM and it was nice to meet him again this year. By the way, he brought with him quite a few excellent PhD students. There were about 25 people in the room, more than I expected, and the audience seemed to be interested in the topic. I got several questions, and the afterwards discussions were really interesting.

The next paper was Sharing knowledge in communities of practice: taxonomies for enabling inter and intra organisational collaboration, presented by John Perkins from University of Central England, UK. An interesting study case on the problems faced by an industrial manufacturer of soft drinks. Perkins and Cox identified 3 different levels of analysis:
- macro- policy, organisational and interorganisational level
- meso- CoPs
- micro- individual skills and expertise
As a strange coincidence, the presenter mentionned a dilemma we were discussing at my institute few days ago - how to pick up the most appropriate KM tools for a particular situation.
Baring in mind that Karl Wiig also complained about the lack of a general directory of KM tools, maybe one day someone (don't look at me!) will decide to take this challenge!

The last paper in our section was that of Yang Tian and her colleagues' from Leeds University Importance of mutual benefits in online knowledge sharing communities. A solid study, starting with the hypothesis that mutual benefits have a positive effect on participation and contribution in knowledge sharing communities. The empirical study succeeded to prove the hypothesis, but isn't truth in the eyes of the beholder?!

Lunch was organised at Café des techniques . I had the chance to meet Olivera Marjanovic from the University of New South Wales- now that was a strange coincidence - few days before, I discovered their Knowledge Acquisition Group on the web. She was also interested in Business Process Modelling, so we had a nice talk together.

Being in France, it was impossible to strictly respect the schedule - it took more than expected to serve lunch to so many people. Sue tried to announce everyone that the session was rescheduled and had to begin 15' later, but when I arrived back to the conference site, Duncan Shaw from Aston Business School was already at the 2nd or 3rd slide of the paper: Supporting group knowledge management with software-based facilitation.
Now that was really interesting - all kind of tools meant to support social interaction in groups of 3-15 members: Compendium, V*I*S*A*, Group Explorer.

I wondered if there's anything alike in the Open Source world. And if similar tools for online facilitation exist. And afterwards I talked to Duncan, explained him what BlogWalks were, and asked him if he wouldn't consider the opportunity to facilitate one. He seemed really interested- this could be rewarding for both sides.

The next presentation I chosed was that of Helen Rothberg from HNR Associates, USA -Risky business: managing knowledge in a competitive intelligence world - very impressive for multiple reasons: the topic was interesting (a little bit scary too!), the presenter was bright, and her presentation was very persuasive. A bit too persuasive on my taste - it remembered me some glamorous presentations of MLM companies, where black was turned into white and people were extremely enthusiastic about it!

Helen launched her book From Knowledge to Intelligence : Creating Competitive Advantage in the Next Economy at the conference, and her editor accompanied her. She spoke about the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, their Journal, and their annual conference. All this info made me think the salary would be extremely high for such a professional, but I don't think I would like such a job with all its implications. Helen made it very clear they are no spies, but people aware of every piece of existing public information and able to do the right connections!

The next presentation was that of Sven Carlsson from Lund University, Sweden- Enhancing Knowledge Acquisition through KMS-based Relationships with External Sources.
I picked it up for several reasons:
1. I am a big admirer of Sweden, which I visited in several occasions,
2. I knew Sven Carlsson long before meeting him in person, because he was so kind to send me one of his papers when I approched him first via e-mail, in 1999, and
3. One of my current "obsessions" are Knowledge Management Systems - I sent a paper of ECITE '04 on a related topic (Empirical Study on Knowledge-Based Systems), and now I'm very keen on listening to others' opinions on it.

I was a little bit dissapointed - the paper was mainly about the companies' capacity to absorb new external information, using it for commercial ends. The KMSs mentioned in the paper were mainly portals on Internet: those of Hallmark, Fiat, Zoomerang.

The last paper I had the chance to listen to in the afternoon was that of Syazwan Abdullah, PhD student at the University of York- having Chris Kimble as co-author: Designing knowledge-based systems to manage knowledge. Again, my attraction for KBSs lead me there. The paper was about the importance of modelling processes in designing KBSs, Model-Driven Development and XMF. Syazwan and me had an interesting talk about how could these systems be brought back down to earth to really serve the needs of the users, and not only claiming it could solve all the users' problems.

Before this presentation, I finally succeeded to identify the other Romanian lady attending the conference, Mihaela Munteanu, from the West University of Timisoara. Unfortunately, her presentation was scheduled in the morning, in another room, immediately after mine, so it was impossible to attend it.

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Back from Paris

Back from Paris, with tones of new stories and contacts. Instead of blogging from there (as I initially planned), I talked to as many people as possibly.
Now I'm trying to re-construct the stories from bits, pieces, business cards and photos, so you must be patient! As a general impression, the conference was really great, and being there was for me a sort of fairy-tale!

The news of the day: one of my project partners (all of them felt at least once intoxicated with my blogging stories!) sent my today a piece of news: George Soros is blogging! with his own comment: in the end, I will have to learn this too!

Trying to Google it, I got to Kottke, and this is not the only interesting piece of news I found there today. Just for giving you an idea:

"The Forbes 400 Richest Bloggers
Ok so there's not 400 on the list, but there are at least three billionaires who blog:
- Pierre Omidyar, $10.4 billion
- George Soros, $7.2 billion
- Mark Cuban, $1.3 billion

Tim Shey on reblogging (5)So many of these observations apply to blogging in general that it makes me wonder: what's the difference between blogging and reblogging?

The 36 possible plots of role playing games, adapted from a list of the 36 dramatic situations # "

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One day before ECKM

Paris, 29.09.04
One day before ECKM, I was invited to a special lunch where the former CNAM-IIM KM MBA professors where supposed to meet Karl Wiig. In case there's anyone here who does not know who Karl Wiig is, he's called the father or great-oncle of Knowledge Management, because he was the first who ever used this term in 1986, at the ILO conference in Zürich.
The lunch was planned by Charles Despres - the IIM Director, and Daniele Chauvel- the KM MBA Director. Actually, Charles and Daniele co-organized the ECKM this year, together with Academic Conferences.
The lunch was at Fontaines d'Elisabeth, a small and cosy restaurant close to the Elisabeth Church next to CNAM.

A few words on the participants:
- Nicholas Leck – from Entopia -used to be the head of a EC workgroup on KM initiatives
- Andrew Lewis and his colleague – from Nemesia
- Michel Grundstein
- Gilles Proriol- Cognito - a company involved in knowledge cartography networks software
- Franck Halmaert – AlmaTeam
- Andre Yves Portnoff

It was a lovely meeting with excellent food and wine, but mostly with interesting talks. Karl Wiig told us about his Norvegian origin, about being retired (he doesn't believe it himself - he's only officially ;-) retired! ), and declared himself happy that his newest book which I ordered via Amazon did not arrive on time. Why? Because otherwise I would have been able to attack his ideas!

We talked about different professionals using the concept of "Knowledge Management" to name very different things - this being the cause of tremendous misunderstandings. This reminded me again the story of the six blind wise man trying to describe an elephant. Changing its name? Karl Wiig told us about the replacement word he thought of - and this would be epistemics. Mentioning the fact that in Romanian, knowledge is translated in two different ways: (1) as the process of knowing (cunoastere) and (2) as the result of the process (cunostinte), Karl Wiig noticed that the first approach was dynamic, as opposite to the second, which is static. This made me think that the first approach belongs to societal, human resource sources, while the second originates from the technological domain.

It was interesting to see how such an important person was paying attention to what other people said, asking them questions and not imposing his point of view. I think this is one of the important features of a free spirit, you can't speak about knowledge management without being open to learn from every experience and from any person you meet! And during the next two days, Wiig kept on passing from one room to the other, talking to lots of people, asking questions, offering his ideas.

I had the chance to talk also to some of my "teaching colleagues" about our grup of students- their special way of learning as a group. I was happy to receive a confirmation - it was not only me who noticed they worked better in a group than as individuals. We all agreed on the rewarding experience in itself, and on the fact that selection criteria should be improved.

In the evening, there was a cocktail offered by the ECKM organizers, where registration was also possible. This gave me the chance to meet some of the participants before.
Charles Despres tried to introduce me again to Karl Wiig, and both of us played our roles with dignity, getting acquainted once more, till we started to laugh lout. Actually, Charles kept promoting me during the whole conference as a star, which was bad, because after 3 days I almost bought the story myself;-)! This is it, we all have an ego, no matter how deep we try to hide it!

I had finally the chance to meet Sue Nugus in person, who was of great help to me in the last 5 years regarding my conference participation. And met again Prof. Remenyi, the person who brought me to KM as a potential research field, almost 6 years ago.

And two other nice ladies, Iris Reychev, from Israel, and Helen Richardson from New Zealand, who were going to present their papers on Friday, in a session I was going to chair. I kept telling everyone that I am from Romania, I got a research fellowship, spent 9 months in Germany, and now I'm in Luxembourg for the other 9 months. I think I told the story 50 times during the 3 days. So when Iris asked me if I speak any Romanian, I said: Naturally! Her parents immigrated to Israel from Romania, and she was still able to speak Romanian, even if she was born and grew up in Israel.

A very interesting conversation with Tiit Elenurm, from the Estonian Business School, made me lose the last chance to get a drink (all I desired was water!), becase the bar closed. Anyway, it was worth it! So I accepted the dinner invitation, and joined a group made mainly of the organizers, but also of few conference guests.

Roy Williams - whom I had the chance to meet at the very first ECKM in Bled, Slovenia, Tiit Elernum and I debated the future of e-learning, talking about the paradigm shift. Of course I brought Stephen Downes' ideas in the conversation - it was inevitable:-)

Attracted by the discussion going on on my other side, I got acquainted to Elena Bou from ESADE, Spain. She and Charles were talking about career targets and the dream position. As several times before, being asked an unexpected question made me give an unexpected answer - unexpected even for me. It was about my dream job after my fellowship comes to an end next year. Charles asked me what is my major criterium : fame? money? a particular place in the world? more free time? And my answer was: usefulness. This is how I'd like to be: useful - not rich, not famous, but useful. I'm actually looking for a job that would put most of my skills to work, and would make a difference in this crazy world, making it just a tiny little bit better.
I know this sounds a bit odd and idealistic, but this is how I feel.

And then another gentleman showed up: it was Ib Ravn from Denmark. After introductions, we got very fast to informal learning, and I said Danish people are better than most of the other nations at informal learning and knowledge sharing. Ib asked me why do I think so - and what came into my mind where their tradition in longlife learning - after all, Grundtvig was a Dane, and the flat hierarchy in the Scandinavian companies. And also because the Danish culture is not one of competition, as the American or German ones. He agreed with the arguments, even if he didn't totally agreed with my first statement. We continued our talk in the next days, and Ib's presentation was one of the best I heard at the ECKM.
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