A place where stories, thoughts and ideas come together

Monday, November 22, 2004

More travelling

On the road again - this seems to be the busiest season of my life!-this time in my hometown, Timisoara, in Romania, attending a Leonardo project meeting. It is nice to be back home on such a sunny and freezing time.

Still editing my KM Europe and ECITE notes, I really hope to be able to post them in a few days. Posted by Hello

|| Gabriela 10:41:00 PM
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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The "danger" of blogging

Maybe this sounds odd, but it seems blogging is perceived as a danger!

OLDaily points to incorporated subversion, the blog of an American academic who was asked to "cease supporting and promoting weblogging, wikis or any other technology not officially supported by the University".

Thinking a bit further, I remembered Stephen Downes himself spoke of blogging as an alternative empowering self-directed, self-organised learning. Probably we shouldn't wonder too much that it is perceived as a threat by some people in the academia!

During the last project meeting of the Pellea project, I introduced an ePortfolio solution based on weblogging - simple, free and open. All the other partners were using Learning Management Systems to do that. I was actually forced by some technical problems to pick up a different solution, otherwise I would have done the same.
I got a prompt reaction: your solution is great, but if the students will be able to learn by themselves, what will happen to academia? Are we going to dissapear? Do you have an alternative business model for it?

A similar question was asked at BlogWalk2, when Thomas Burg was trying to play the devil's advocate, asking almost the same question: if all the students will become able to self-direct their learning, why would they need us anymore?

Well, in my opinion, this dilemma is similar to the close vs open source software one. "If we give them the source code, they won't need us anymore." And it proved to be false. Of course, we will need new business models.

A brief look at The Research Observatory (found via OLDaily, thanks Stephen!) gave me a glimpse on what teaching and learning could become in the future:

  • a Pull approach instead of Push,
  • the learner being able to pick up his own way, choosing between a tutor, an e-tutor, WBL support, a trainer, an adviser and who knows who or what else to assist him,
  • the ability to select the topics according to his interests and the competencies he wants to acquire...

I see academics becoming more like mountain guides. They know the way to the top, they made it several times, they have plenty of experience, but there are still many unexplored paths and places where they could go with their apprentices and learn from each other on their way to the top. Could be scary, isn't it? not being able to hide behind the desk, the slides, the rhetoric questions anymore... But so challenging, so enriching, so unpredictable at the same time... Students choosing their own guides, their own targets, their own pace...

Really, this utopia of mine sounds really scary for the ones in control today - it will make them turn around their learners - as we preached with the TQM - education becoming student-centred, but we never did it in reality... But what I see is more and more people are willing to take the challenge. The biggest problem are learners themselves. Do they want to take the responsibility for the learning journey in their own hands? A few of them. But what about the rest? the amorphous mass that prefers to travel in group, hiding behind the others, trying to pass completely unobserved? Will they follow? Is e-learning a better alternative for getting them out of their shell than traditional education? Lots of questions, and no answers at this point in time.

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Sunday, November 14, 2004

The European Conference on IT Evaluation

ECITE took place this year in Amsterdam on the 11 and 12 November, so I was lucky to be able to attend two important events in the same week and same city. The Conference is at its 11th edition, but for me it was the first time when I succeeded to attend. Both for the 5th and the 6th edition, I sent papers( one of them was also published in EJISE) that were accepted, but with all the efforts, I couldn't find the necessary funding to go there.

Actually, IT Evaluation was the topic of my PhD, and prof. Dan Remenyi, who's leading Academic Conferences International - the conference organiser, and prof.Egon Berghout, the host of this edition, helped me a lot at the time to find my own way in this very controversial field. Meeting them and another couple of big names and reconnecting to what was going on in the field was my primary motivation - even if in the last few years my research interests went more into the direction of knowledge management. And my first paper on KM was an attempt to build a model for evaluating a company's KM strategy - trying to marry the two of them, KM and IT Evaluation ;-) !

The conference events started one evening before with a get-together at the IBIS hotel. Dan Remenyi and Sue Nugus, together with Egon Berghout were already there to welcome us. I had the chance to meet few interesting people from the Organising Committee (Ann Brown, David Barnes) and to get acquainted to a group of participants (Shailey Minocha, Mohini Singh, Zuzana Kucerova). The organisers also draw my attention to a Romanian PhD student coming from Finland, Dorina Marghescu and it was nice to exchange few words in Romanian with someone.
It was a long day and I was exhausted, and I decided to go back to my hotel, hunting the hot spot. No chance - the signal was too weak!

Thursday, 11 November
Our host, Egon Berghout welcomed everybody and told us a few words about the building hosting the conference, the Trippenhuis. Built by a rich Dutch family, the building hosted the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences since 1887. For a period of 70 years, it also hosted the famous Night Watch of Rembrandt, and that's why one of the rooms hosting the conference's sections was called Rembrandt. It was really impressive, the upper part of the building was probably looking the same way as 1-200 years before, while the ground floor was transformed and redecorated in order to adapt it to the current destination: few offices, a big conference room, a cosy lobby and a cafeteria.

The first speaker in the A track was Frank Bannister. I found the title of his paper appealing(IT Value, meaning and identity: An exploration of things to come) and I was acquainted to some of his previous papers(see 1, 2 ,3 and 4). But I think Frank Bannister surpassed anyone's expectations: his paper was a sort of radiography of what IT Evaluation will have to deal with in the future. Starting with a classification of technologies in incremental, transformative and disruptive, Frank reviewed the possible developments together with their ethical implications.

The problems he foresees for IT Evaluation in the years to come have to do with:
-metric shifting- the more transformative an IT induced change, the more difficult to evaluate;
- subjectivity- the more transformative the change, the more likely evaluation will depend on subjective metrics;
-uncertainty- the more transformative a technology, the greater the degree of uncertainty about the outcome; the law of unintended consequences;

The conclusion was that we probably need brand new techniques for solving this kind of problems and a new critical approach, and we need them yesterday.

The comments after the presentation proved most of the audience was in a state of perplexity:
- Egon Berghout- your story was like a roller coaster!
- Dan Remenyi- paraphrasing Disraeli (there are three types of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics)- there are crackpots, super-crackpots and ICT futurologists!
The speech presented a rather scary perspective, involving cyborgs and RFIDs. But just refusing to think about will not make these possible alternatives disappear, I guess!

Another interesting paper was that of Dan Remenyi & Paul Griffiths & Ed Dinsz: Manager in the field & IT Success. The authors maintained that business management is by itself challenging, even without taking into account ICT. ICT can help or destroy a business, and in our days using ICT is so common, that it doesn't provide any competitive advantage anymore. "The manager in the field" concept proposed by the authors is a decentralised approach meant to overcome the ICT paradox. The key to ICT investment success is, according to the authors, to place all the responsibility and decisions at the manager-in-the-field level, who will be the owner and the user of this technology.

Frank Bannister opposed his perspective arguing that not everyone has business and IT competences at the same time-not everyone can do everything, and that for the sake of creating synergy, the decisions on IT investments have to be centralised. He advocated for decentralised use and centralised standards.

Another interesting paper - I was more attracted by the title (my blogger friends were at the time attending the Howard Rheingold seminar in Umea, Sweden) Smart Mobs' and technology probes: Evaluating texting at work- authored by Mark Rouncefield, Keith Cheverst, Dan Fitton, Conner Graham, from the University of Lancaster. Well, it was not exactly what I was expecting, but it was interesting. Taking Rheingold's claims on the social impact of texting as starting point, their studies are mainly concerned to understand the use of SMS texting as a means of enabling people to send messages to displays situated in the fabric of a setting rather than to another mobile device. The setting was provided by UK Mental Care Houses, where the personnel has to face various coordination problems. This was a concrete example of how common technology can become an organisational success. A logging system was embedded in the technology - as a device for understanding technology in use.

Beyond the “Average” User – A General Framework for Understanding the Determinants of IS Success Judgement at the Personal Level From Information on Individual Thinking and Reasoning About IS - Tuan Yu, Canterbury Business School, University of Kent- an interesting approach, suggesting an individual centred approach to IS evaluation. The interesting part of the approach is that it provides an insight into how the IS user reaches a judgment of whether and to what extent an IS is a success, and it tries to merge individual assessments into a generalised one. Tuan proposed a new definition for IS work effectiveness - the match of the information system to the task, and four "fits": User-Work, User-IS, IS-Work and User-IS Organisation, in an attempt to diffract the IS user's concept of IS work effectiveness into four components.

From Tuan's perspective, reflection and reasoning should play a bigger role in IS Evaluation, and the field itself should be considered part of the Organisational Learning and Knowledge Management processes - perspective that I am endorsing 100%.

The Knowledge Cafe in the afternoon was dedicated to an attempt of finding some answers to few important questions for the future of IT Evaluation research:

1. What are, in your opinion, the key research issues that academics and practitioners should focus on in order to help organisations achieve their most benefit from their investments in ITC? 2. What are the most appropriated research paradigms for these research issues?
3. What we should do as a research community to disseminate our ideas better?

Our group, formed spontaneously, included Mohini Singh (AU), Reima Suomi (FI), Jan Bots (NL), Peter Wendorff(DE) and myself. Four academics and a consultant(Peter) who declared he came there to learn what IT Evaluation really was and if it is worth it- what an explosive mixture!
After a short table tour for introducing ourselves and our experience in IT Evaluation to each other, we spent most of the time trying to provide Peter with good reasons for businesses to commission IT/IS Evaluation studies to academia and consulting companies. I must confess I was disappointed myself by our flawed performance - while KM and blogging were concepts I was prepared to explain to my mom, I never thought of IT Evaluation this way. Maybe because there are so many possible approaches, ways of doing it and situations when it proves necessary...

Of course we got to the sensitive topic of academic studies being more unbiased than those provided by consulting companies - it should be like this, but is it really?

Some interesting conclusions that were shared in the plenary discussion:
1. main research issues to be addressed in the next 5 years:
- while the field of IT Evaluation is very broad and context-dependent, there are some issues that deserve our attention: benefits management, value systems, change management, organisational culture, agile systems, technology acceptance and dissemination;
- the most important matters for the next 5 years: mobility, IT-business linkage, IT processes improvement
- people are only interested in what should they do to increase benefits
- we should look for new models; we also need better ways to present our studies;
- we will have to reconsider what we mean by success, taking into account different drivers(financial, human, health etc);
- not IT investments in particular, but complex investments including IT components will have to be evaluated;
- we will need to redefine what is value , both for profit and for social organisations;

2. research paradigms to be employed:
- positivist, interpretative, critical, post-structuralist research paradigmes should be used adequately while we are thinking ahead to new approaches;

3. better dissemination of our ideas:
- the lack of cohesiveness in the field is a barrier for dissemination;
- IT evaluation researchers should become change agents rather than "trusted third parties";
- better visibility in MISQ;
- producing a web site;
- a really significant book in the field, that would appeal to a wider audience, written in a simple language;
- presentation in Wikipedia ;

Friday, 12 November 2004 - Day 2
Keynote Speech:
Daniel Hartert, CIO Philips - IT Governance and Value at Philips

Introducing the speaker, Egon Berghout spoke about 4 categories of businesses:
1. companies for whom IT Governance does not exist;
2. companies where the IT department tried to define it, but the managers don't care;
3. companies where IT Governance was defined, agreed upon, but it is not applied;
4. companies where it is defined, agreed upon, and lived every day.

Of course, the Philips case belonged to the 4th category. And we listened with astonishment to the presentation of a case where most of the things we talked about a day before were applied into practice, and real benefits were realised.

Knowing the Knower: A Systems Development Case Study- a paper by Ciara Heavin, John McAvoy and Karen Neville from University College Cork, Ireland, describing the efforts for designing and implementing an Expert Development Project Forum. Its aim was to enhance communication between learners and experts(both from inside and from outside the college). Because the forum had not been yet implemented, we couldn't find much about it's success.
I dared to ask if they ever thought of encouraging their experts to blog, as a direct way of communicating their experience and of interacting with students. The answer was negative.

My own presentation on the Empirical Study on Knowledge Based Systems went all right. Well, the story of this paper is an unusual one. At Fraunhofer, I was commissioned a study on this topic (do KBSs still exist as a research topic? who's involved in building them? what methods do they employ?). Well, my first reaction was to answer I haven't heard speaking about KBS in the last 10 years. But after an extensive literature and Internet research, I had to change my opinion: it was still there, but different research teams were focusing on different things, labelling them as KBS. Abandoned after the end of my German stage, the study received a new focus in my current host institute: which are the domains where KBSs can be useful for doing KM, what KM functions do they merely support, what methods could be used for selecting the appropriate tools for KM in every situation.

While I was pretty sure in my presentation where was I coming from, I wasn't decided about where am I going to - and this was noticed by the audience (few people I remember being there:Frank Bannister, Tuan Yu, Dirk Deschoolmeester(the session's chair), Peter Wendorff, Shailey Minocha). There was an interesting discussion afterwards, and some of the questions helped me a lot to see the flaws in my paper and its possible continuation.

Thank you all, your help was extremely valuable and I will use your suggestions for re-writing it, since my paper was selected for being published in the EJISE!

Later on, I had to chair another session. Three papers were presented:

Using Causal Mapping methods to analyse risk in an implemented Information System project as a post-evaluation process.- Abdullah Al-Shehab, Robert T. Hughes and Graham Winstanley, University of Brighton, UK - graphical representation of various risks A

Structurational Perspective on Technology: An Evaluation of why the same Technical Solution is Adopted Differently Across an Organisation- Arild Jansen, University of Oslo and Nes Terje, The national archives of Norway, Norway - an evaluation of a complex system for case processing based on the Giddens & Orlikowski structuration concept and on the Actor Network Theory.

Building evaluation into REALITY Telecare- Ewart Carson and Abdul Roudsari, City University, UK - the results of a European project on caring for patients in home settings - a summative evaluation and the difficulties encountered in quantifying different attributes.

Afternoon- Panel discussion led by Egon Berghout
Questions to be answered:
1.Do organisations really take ICT evaluation sufficiently seriously?
2.Should they take ICT evaluation more seriously and if so why?

The panelists were Dan Remenyi, Frank Bannister, John Cormack and Shaun Pather.
Well, the panelists mainly answered "yes" to both questions, so Egon Berghout as a moderator had to play the devile's advocate trying to balance the discussion. The way he did it was excellent: he unvailed a lot of weak points of ICT evaluation we were all aware about - in a sort of enlightening mockery.

Some of the arguments brought into discussion:
1.Do organisations really take ICT evaluation sufficiently seriously?
- yes, but unfortunatedly most of the times the benefits figures are twisted to suit people's concerns;
- yes, at least in Ireland in the public sector, where almost no public service computer disaster ever happened. The secret- a set of accounting type guidelines, focused on costs and benefits.
-yes; management is ready to listen, but not ready to act upon. All they want to know is how to use ICT evaluation to increase benefits. While cost reduction reached a limit, other alternatives such as option pricing and built-in risk are rising.
-no; 1) it isn't the first priority 2) it's a mess anyhow 3)it works without it.
-the tools (BSC, ROI) are not good enough - yes they are, it is not a tool issue;
-studies are usually initiated by the IS/IT departments - biased;
-business people are not interested in evaluation - we, the academics, are;

2.Should they take ICT evaluation more seriously and if so why?
- there are specific domains, like banking, where they don't have any other choice;
- for other situations, evaluation is expensive, time consuming, nobody's pressing us to do it - so forget about it!
-yes, they should, and non-monetary evaluations should be given more attention;
-yes, but putting the emphasize on more strategic matters (not discounted cash-flows)
-not for every investment; think of the IT embedded today in most of the machines; in the public sector, benefits could be pretty nebulous;
-yes, because companies should become more aware of what ICT means for their growth.

After the panel, I had to run and catch my train.
Few other things:
A couple of interesting papers found in the Proceedings (when there are 4 parallel session, you always miss something important :-( ):

A managerial release-decision model for IT -applications- J.A. Sassenburg and Egon Berghout, University of Groningen

Narratives: Missing Link in IS Evaluation - Andreas Borell, Tetra Pak Global IM, Sweden, Jonas Hedman, Lund University

Evaluation of open source software: comparative perspectives between propriety and open code development - Andrew Schofield, Amit Mitra, Salford University

IT Governance Disclosure of Web100 Companies - Gail Ridley and Qiang Liu, University of Tasmania

Networking was great:
- long coffee breaks and unsofisticated lunches gave us the chance to speak to each other; the organisers did a great job by introducing people to each other and by bringing together people sharing the same interests; I had the chance to meet Ann Brown (who's name and face were so familiar to me from the conference site ever since I started to study the field) and to spend quite some time with her, Mohini Singh, Tuan Yu, Dirk Deschoolmeester and a lot of others.
- the conference gala dinner was held at the Sea Palace, a floating Chinese restaurant. Didn't have the chance to circulate much around, but I found great company at my own table.
- I didn't lose any chance to convert people to blogs, wikis and social networking; definitely, IT Evaluation people are far away from these tools, but why should they?
- I found several people who never heard about Wikipedia; am I a kind of weird?
- a young PhD candidate, Dace Apshvalka, from Riga Technical University, presented a paper on Personal Knowledge Management; I didn't have the chance to attend the presentation, but I had the chance to talk to her during the coffee break. She wasn't aware of the blogging phenomenon, never heard of Lilia Efimova, Denham Grey , Steve Barth or David Gurteen. Well, I think this is the risk when you stick to the books and paper magazines, and avoid Internet sources - not to get the real touch of things. Funny, right now I tried to Schoogle PKM - I got lousy results. I think I'll stick to what Google says.

Getting back to your first love doesn't prove to be a good idea in most of the cases. Well, IT Evaluation was "my first love", but I suppose I changed a lot in these last 5 years, I do not feel the same anymore. I feel much better now when I meet people from the Knowledge Management field, and even better around bloggers. Anyhow, it was an excellent conference and re-connecting to the field gave me some great ideas for future research!
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Thursday, November 11, 2004

KM Europe Day 3

In the last morning of KM Europe, I "accidentally" met Karl Wiig on the halls and he was kind enough to sign on my copy of his latest book, "People-Focused Knowledge Management". He told me he's expecting feedback - but no praises, and I promissed a critical opinion.

I decided to attend some of the ECLO workshops in the morning. There, we were welcomed by Józefa Fawcett who's name sounded very familiar to me. I remembered her being one of the AOK Star Series guest moderator this Summer, and I was glad I finally got the chance to meet her in person, her experience in KM being a special one.

The meeting started with a presentation of ECLO - the European Consortium for the Learning Organisation made by Józefa. The presentation was repeated several times during the day, to ensure that all the attendees were exposed to it. It was a short one, so I have no complaints about having to listen to it twice!

The organisation was founded in 1993 and it is open to businesses, academia, consultancies as well as to the public sector organisations interested in exploring new directions for successful development in a learning organisation perspective.
Their activities range from research and development to expertise sharing and promotion of the learning organisation concept in Europe.

Under the name of Action Learning Research, the participants were asked to participate in a survey, by voting for the top five KM concepts that, in their opinion, contribute to a Learning Organisation. Józefa promissed to have the results posted on the ECLO website, but it seems it takes a bit longer than expected.

The next presentation was made by Professor Michael Kelleher(CIBIT UK) and Dr Rob van der Spek (CIBIT NL) : "Building Smart Organisations". Smart organisations was used to substitute the term Learning organisations, and the presentation was actually about helping organisations to continually create new products and services. The succes factors where defined from a have to(what is actually the focus?) - want to(what is the motivation for action?)- can do (what is the available infrastructure?) perspective.

One question asked after the presentation triggered an interesting discussion. The presenters were asked about what does the concept of corporate memory include. The answer was: past experiences stored in documents or in the memory of people. A part of the corporate memory doesn't show, but is very powerful: people tend to repeat what has been done before. Project albums, mind maps, prototypes, cartoons, audio recordings were all considered as useful artefacts to store past experiences.

This presentation will outline how knowledge management helps build smart organisations through illustrating the lessons learned cycle; demonstrating the KM issues relating to the five stages of the innovation pipeline; and examining how you can identify your key knowledge areas and align them with key performance indicators. These will enable you to focus attention on the most important aspects of your knowledge strategy.

For the next time slot, I moved to a Squarewise presentation: "How to turn social networks into knowledge networks". Most of the presentation was dedicated to the concept of network organisation and to basic notions of Social Networks Analysis. The most interesting part was a case study, where SNA was used for building accounting teams.

Later on, I attended the “KnowledgeWorx Swap Shop” event organised by KnowledgeWorx (UK) and animated brilliantly by Józefa Fawcett. While the idea of knowledge exchange has nothing new, I am always ready to get involved in such events, because they proved to be places where you can meet the right people to complement your knowledge in a specific field. First, a Kworx tool for assessing the knowledge workers' contribution to KM was presented. The model uses 3 axes (being, thinking, doing), and 6 values(Souls, Connections,Examples, Paradoxes,Supports, Adaptation) . If you're interested in giving it a try, you can still do it in exchange of some feedback.
The Swap Shop was introduced as a chance to reflect, to map our individual skills and to think what kind of pesonal knowledge could we contribute to knowledge management.

When the Swap Shop really started, I couldn't refrain from making comparisons with the Open Space we experienced one day before. Jozefa asked us to use Post-its for writing our own coordinates, what kind of expertise could we offer to the others, and what kind of expertise would we like to find (NAME - HAVE - WANTS). Another round of post-its was dedicated to the most important idea we are leaving KM Europe with. We just had time to have a brief look at what was posted on the walls - and then the workshop came to its end - another event was following. It was pretty frustrating, because I didn't have the chance to talk to anyone, even if I saw some very attractive offers and demands on the post-its.

While having some interaction is always great, the fact that the workshop did not reached its aim, that of exchanging knowledge, is pretty annoying. Jozefa promissed they wil try to match the wants and the haves and to put the persons in contact. I had the idea that the two lists should be made public on their website as a whole, even without the persons' names. Maybe it's not too late and they will do it some day...

Now look at me criticizing the organisers -maybe I should have a look in the mirror first!, who am I to cricize them if I am writing this post weeks after the event!

Posted by Hello

The last presentation in the ECLO series was that of Ulrich Schweiker (CBS CH): "Knowledge-sharing amongst the ‘top shots’". It was a really interesting talk on how story-telling was used to facilitate knowledge exchange between CEOs: they were invited in Dildesheim, a village in a famous winery area, hosted in an old castle, and the meeting was organised to avoid all disturbances. The organisers started telling stories, but after a while, the participants took over, and (even if not mentioned under this name) a state of flow arose. At the end of the event, they all talked about time that was flying and about how much hey enjoyed themselves. At their request, a new similar meeting was organised few month after, and they brought new participants with them. The word "learning" was only mentioned at the end of meeting - top executives are not the kind of people you can send back to school!

At the end of the day, ECLO invited everyone at an afternoon tea and cakes and I had the chance to exchange a few words with the speakers and a few participants. But I had to leave everyone quickly, because on my agenda for that afternoon were two other things: a short visit to the Rijksmuseum, and the welcome cocktail of the ECITE.

I arrived at Rijksmuseum with exactly one hour before the closing time. One of the clerks informed me politely that The Night Watch can be admired at the 1st floor, and I understood they are accustomed to rushing tourists who's only wish is to see the famous Rembrandt painting. But this is not my case, I was after Bosch, Bruegel and Dutch landscapes, and I must confess I was rather disappointed: I couldn't find any! OK, there were few landscapes! I had the chance to admire more of them in Vienna, and even in a small exhibition here in Luxembourg, than in the Rijksmuseum! But even so, I had the chance to admire some impressive well-known paintings of Vermeer, Frans Hals and Rembrandt - and it was a real joy to see the originals. They had to kick me out at 18:00, it was really too short and I'd like to go back one day!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

KM Europe Day 2

As you already read and saw, I allowed to myself to take the morning off - not that it wasn't anything interesting going on at KM Europe. Even if I'm a bad, bad workaholic, I couldn't stand the idea of coming to Amsterdam and not really seeing it!

So, after visiting Holland experience (don't smile at me, I enjoyed every minute of it, it's in all the tourist guides of Amsterdam, so why not?), I remembered I had a meeting in the afternoon and I tried to get there on time. Of course my "perfect" sense of orientation made me walk in the opposite direction instead of taking the tram! Well, when I figured out where I was - the Botanic Garden area- I took the tram to RAI!

The meeting was organised by Martin Roell and was meant to bring together face to face the people he knew on OpenBC - of course, the ones visiting KM Europe(OpenBC is an European-based on-line networking platform already available in 7 languages).
We were 5 of us: Peter Franken (NL), Florian Heidecke(CH), Herwig Rollet(A), Martin(DE) and myself(LU) (you have to be a member in order to be able to see our profiles there - and you can easily become one!). I found out that what brought together Martin, Peter and Florian in the first time was their shared passion for music - and not only listening to, but playing it. It was not the case with Herwig and I, we are just music lovers.
We started with a first round, introducing ourselves to the others. Then we tried to talk a bit about our plans for the next 6 months and for the next 2 years. It was a nice meeting and we had in interesting exchange of ideas, I really felt sorry we didn't had a bit more time to spend together. Actually we didn't say good bye - we hurried all to attend the Personal KnowledgeManagement Workshop, organised by KnowledgeBoard.

I sat down and I look around, then I had a sort of childish reaction, turning to Herwig and asking: isn't this THE Richard Mc Dermott in person? Maybe there wasn't anything extraordinary in it, he was attending the workshop, just like anybody else, but seeing the face I was only associating with the covers of his books and his website in reality...

Let's face it , there was a time, not so long ago, when I was doing research having Internet searches and the British Council Library in Bucharest as only support. I had no one to talk to about what I was interested in. Even buying a book was a dream too far!
And here I am, a fully-grown Cinderella, spoiled by fabulous research teams, able to attend first-class conferences, having a great network of people from all over the world sharing the same interests from whom I learn new things almost every day, and ... getting the chance to meet KM gurus like McDermott and Karl Wiig in person! Doesn't this sound overwhelming? Well, sometimes it is!

The PKM workshop was prepared by Lilia, Ton and Piers, and moderated by Lilia and Ton.
Lilia made an introduction, trying to explain what Personal something management (or personal productivity in a knowledge-intensive environment) was all about by asking a few focusing questions:
- what can I do to be more effective?
- what can the company do to be sure people are assigned tasks they can learn from and grow?
The idea is to help people doing what makes them happy and to see how can the company profit from it, Lilia said, and I'm backing her 100%. I was able to see behind this the attempt of finding a way to support and maintain the state of flow, which is one of my main concerns.

Ton complemented what Lilia said by speaking about freedom and accountability -knowledge workers claim more freedom, but this is only possible if balanced with personal responibility and personal activism. (Why do I have the feeling we are only talking about an elite? I perfectly agree with this position, but how often does this happen in the real world? Can we see knowledge workers as a prototype for an enhanced human?!)

I was familiar with the OpenSpace format from the BlogWalks- but this time we were more than 50 people. The organisers had the inspiration to prepare some teezers - this way was much easier for the participants to join specific groups afterwards. Few words about these teezers:

Piers Young had a rather skeptic position, by stating that PKM is nothing new and it is more about groups than about individuals; but in the real world, being nice and sharing is not the top priority- someone has to pay the wages ("Nice guys finish last.")

Martin Roell showed that currently, KM is focused on intervening at organisational level, while its real role would be to improve personal productivity. There is a better way to do it - try bottom-up.

Andy Boyd - again, KM is nothing new; all the people who are doing things well are doing KM. And we have the examples of huge companies like Unilever, HP, Siemens, who are focused on the individidual. People and their needs must be taken into consideration for building strategies.

Heiko Haller who's a psychologist working with knowledge visualization tools had a very interesting contribution on how mapping tools could help for a better understanding of concepts and reduce overhead (everything what's not directly connected to the task!)
(Probably I would have joined Heiko's group if I wouldn't have been so eager to argue with Lloyd!)

Roberta Cuel - no matter how well we manage our personal knowledge, without a good network it can not lead to good results. A good network is a key matter and it should be given the necessary attention.

Lloyd Davis approached the emotional responses to knowledge management, emphasizing on fear: individuals' fear that their knowledge gaps will be discovered, their fear about making mistakes, their fear of losing power, of telling the truth, and then the fear of entire groups. He highlighted the contradictions between the intention to empower people and the fear of losing control, between the need to be truthful and the fear of telling the truth, which tear people apart. (In the first moment, I refused to see the picture the way Lloyd was describing it - I remember the talk about fear at BlogWalk4 in London left me puzzled; in our experiement, fear was never mentioned. I joined this group prepared to argue against Lloyd's point of view- but in the end I had to recognise he was right. Simply because I only seldom experienced that fear didn't give me the right to say it was not existing!)

Florian Heidecke briefly presented a case study from the pharmaceutic industry, involving mobile salesmen.

As mentioned before, I joined the "fear group" formed around Lloyd Davis. Piers, Andy, Carla Verwijs and several other joined us. Most of the things we discussed about are reflected here (thanks, Ton!). Someone presented a case in which the fear of speaking about own mistakes was overcomed in a company by forcing managers to report each month on several types of lessons learned; who had nothing to share was considered as refusing to learn!
Another topic was that much more frequently people perceive their peers and boss as prime ennemies, and not their competitors.
Being part of a group sound great for doing the work, but people would like to get individualised rewards and keep complaining about unfair assessment of their personal work.
A lot of fear is caused by misunderstanding, communication problems, lack of a common language. Then there's the fear of changes, any type of changes.

In a short break, I had the chance to talk to Carla Verwijs, who's blog I started to read ever since she started it.

I moved around, trying to grasp a bit of what was going on in the other groups too. This is how I met Phil Riding, who seemed very interested in weblogs and their possible use in his organisation. I also changed few words with Aldo de Moor - another well-known to me from his weblog, but whom I was meeting in person for the first time.

While the discussions were going on in smaller or larger groups, Ton asked Florian and Martin Dugage to try and rearrange the post-its on the wiki wall around some main ideas - if they could. Later on, Martin confessed being puzzled by the task, because he missed part of the event - but as you can see, the two of them did a great job!

The afterward plenary talks turned around some lines of thought discovered in the post-its:
Heiko did a great job by drawing a map that summarizes all these topics.

In the end, the best characterisation of the event was expressed by Tessy Bezuidenhout, who flew all the way from South Africa to attend KM Europe. On the first day- she confessed - she was rather disappointed, but the PKM workshop convinced her it was worth it to come! This shows again how important interactions are for such an event - and these interactions have to be organised and supported, because in most of the cases they don't just happen by accident!

I hope everyone in the room enjoyed the workshop as much as I did, but as far as I heard, all the participants considered it a success.

As a continuation of the event, we went for dinner to an Australian restaurant - Coco's outback .On our way to the restaurant, I had the impression of seeing in our group somebody I already knew - actually I met Candace T. Grant(Strategos) and Ken Grant at the ECKM conference in Paris. While with Candy I had the chance to exchange a few words in Paris, because she was chairing a session I attended, I never got acquainted to Ken there (he was chairing a session, and I was chairing another one). We met again now and we had a very interesting conversation during dinner. Wilma Garvin , Raj Datta and Ton Zylstra joined us. The interesting thing was that during the conversation, Raj mentioned ideas from a book titled "Innovation Nation", to discover that Ken Grant was one of the authors. The rest of the discussion turned around cultural differences, careers, the future of e-learning and students motivation.
Richard McDermott joined us too for dinner and I had the chance to exchange a few words with him too. Saying goodbye to prof.Grundstein, I landed in a French speaking island (Prof. Grundstein, Martin Roell and Martin Dugage) and introduced myself to Martin Dugage who's interest and work on Communities of Practice are remarcable and quite inspiring to me!

As a last conclusion, there were another two "victims" contaminated with blogging after KM Europe:
- one is Roberta Cuel who's brand new blog is called Knowledge Node - thanks for turning on your Atom feeds, Roberta! and welcome to the blogosphere!
- the other one is John Curran who called himself a "knowledge activist" at the PKM workshop. His blog is named A Compound of Alchymie - what could be more appropriate when speaking about KM?! What about trying FeedBurner, John? And a warm welcome to you too!

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I love Amsterdam!

This morning I saw the sun shining and I decided to take half a day off - checking my schedule for the next 4 days I realised there was no other chance to see the city!
In several occasions I was on the point of getting squashed by bikers, the 4 degrees in the morning made me freeze, but I found the city wonderful - picturesque and welcoming, surprising you at every corner with its architecture, its colours, its channels...
Very romantic, very crowded and unpredictible...

More about the serious stuff tomorrow - this was just a test! My hotel is situated on the opposite side of the street from MacHouse Amsterdam, on Raadhuistraat, and it looks like I'm able to use their WiFi! Posted by Hello

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KM Europe - Day 1

Being for the first time in Amsterdam and at KM Europe, I wasn't so quick to arrive at the RAI Center before the start of the KnowledgeBoard workshop - I guess I got there about 5' later. I lost more time trying to find the room, and when I found my way out, I was stopped and warned the room is already full. I wasn't discouraged, I didn't had to sit down, but when I got there, the room was really stuffed with people. I noticed Karl Wiig sitting on a side, listened for about 20' to Ed Mitchell's presentation from the lobby, and because nothing sounded new to me - it was a plain presentation of KB functionalities - I left. Maybe dividing the audience into KB old users and KB potential users would have been more rewarding!

I made a tour of the exhibition area - stopping in the so-called EU Village - where several EU projects were presented: REWERSE, CognIT, CREATE.

I tried to get a general impression on the exhibition- search engines, Content Management Systems, data mining, portals - these were the majority. I was a little bit disappointed - I was prepared to see a larger range of products, being obsessed by my attempt to build a taxonomy of knowledge management tools.

I had an interesting talk at the SiteScape booth - they were offering various solutions for collaboration management(Forum, eMeeting, a kind of support for CoPs) . My attention was drawn to a Moderator Support module included in the Knowledge Networks service, which could be further developed based on our research on e-Moderation. I can't forget the obvious disappointment in the exhibitors' eyes when I was confessing I'm coming from the research side of KM. They wanted to sell, and there were almost no buyers there.

This is something I noticed in several IT fairs: they are places for benchmarking and exchanging ideas, but usually the potential clients are not attending. Consultants and journalists attend such events and spread the word - and probably this is the main benefit. An idea for reviving the exhibition area would be to schedule 5-7 minutes presentations several times a day at every booth. Maybe with a contest in the end - the most pertinent question coming from the public... What I noticed is a certain shyness of visitors doubled by a lack of initiative of exhibitors. Nobody is doing the first step!

And of course, I went to visit the Google booth, just like anybody else. And I got my Google bag, my Google notebook, my Google pen and some sticky candies. I had a short talk with one of the guys from there, trying to find out what did he know about country-specific filtering. He confirmed that they signed agreements with each country to comply with the country laws, just like I was expecting it to be. Maybe China is more restrictive from this point of view, but if Google wants to be there, it has to play by the rules!

Later on, I attended Liviu Cotora's presentation ( Integrator - Linking KM to Corporate Performance ). At ECKM 04 I couldn't attend his presentation, having to chair a parallel session. Their methodology on multi-value management and the related software tool (SPID™ - Strategic Performance through Intangibles Development) are paying attention both to tangibles and intangibles (know-how, competencies, partnership). Managing intangibles becomes more and more important - according to the speaker, starting with January next year, a number of companies will have to report on intangibles too (see IAS 36 and IAS 38). It was interesting to see how the idea included in my PhD thesis - that corporate Information Systems as a whole should be seen as an intangible value, different from the separate values of hardware and software - takes shape and is included in regulations now.

It was nice to meet on the halls Lilia Efimova, Herwig Rollet and Roberta Cuel again, right when I started to feel lonely. And of course Martin Roell, with whom I had the chance to travel from Luxemburg to Amsterdam. It was not easy to start speaking to strangers - as it is usually in a conference. The crowd was just too big!

In the afternoon, I picked up the wrong workshop- the topic was Increasing the Usage of your electronic-records-management programme, and it was offered by the Fair Markets Group, DTI. Of course I had no idea what DTI or DSTL stand for, and when the speaker asked the participants if they are all British, I realised I was an intruder. But it was already too late to leave the room!

Later on, Anita Pos, Knowledge Management Specialist from Unilever gave a presentation titled Communities of practice: Knowledge sharing in practice. The experience presented was impressive. She spoke about an interesting matter- the CoP life cycle. I was wondering about the efficacy of the top-down approach used in building CoPs in very big multinationals (it was pretty much the same in Josef Hofer-Alfeis's presentation at I-Know), but it seems the only way to do it in such huge organisations. I was a bit disappointed - these events were titled "workshops", but they were, most of them, simple presentations, allowing no space for interactivity. I don't remember getting acquainted to anyone during these events, except for knowing the speakers.

Lilia directed me to the hot spot discovered by Martin - this was quite a relief after seeing the access cards with their impossible prices (19 euro for 24 h, 30 euro for 48 h)

The same Lilia came up with a dinner proposal, so I went to my hotel to check in and I joined them for the dinner at the Tibet restaurant, in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. Delicious food and excellent company, most of them from the KnowledgeBoard:
Posted by Hello

Lilia Efimova, Patricia Wolf, Sari Ehrlich, Roberta Cuel, Peter Troxler, Ed Mitchell, Piers Young, Lloyd Davis, Magdalena Boettger, Heiko Haller, Herwig Rollet, Martin Roell.

We closed the day with a walk through the city - with Lilia as Dutch host. Of course I tried to take a photo in the Red Light District - I was so charmed by the lights reflected in the channel, that I completely forgot the warnings I read in my guide - never use a camera there. Lilia was so nice to remind me the rules of the place, so that I stayed out of trouble.
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Sunday, November 07, 2004

Amsterdam this week

This week I'll be in Amsterdam, visiting KM Europe,(8-10 Nov) and attending ECITE,(11-12 Nov).
If you'd like to meet me there, I'll atend the PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) workshop on 9Nov - details on the Wiki homepage - .

This time ERCIM will only partially support my trip - my conference budget is almost gone! but I'm convinced it will be worth it. Let's hope the flue I caught in Italy will not come back!
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