A place where stories, thoughts and ideas come together

Monday, September 26, 2005

Interesting papers at the ECKM

Some of the presentations I went to:

An Answer Shared is a Problem Solved: Encouraging a Knowledge Sharing Culture in the NHS- Caroline De Brún , National Knowledge Service, Oxford, UK - very interesting case from the medical field - "Clinical KM" - there's a lot of information accumulated in time in that particular field. An interesting detail: in the UK,
Her project also started a blog , and this is an interesting resource she mentioned: you can't see very often people sharing stories on what went wrong!

Knowledge management strategies of software development organisations- Feher Peter, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary

The Knowledge Management Strategy of Agile Software Development
-Wendorff Peter ASSET GmbH, Oberhausen, Germany and Dace Apshvalka Riga Technical University, Latvia

Promoting people-focused knowledge management in the engineering industry: The case of IDOM - Aramburu Nekane and Josune Saenz, University of Deusto, San Sebastian, Spain
- almost incredible story of a company (IDOM in Bilbao, Spain) that seems to value more the individual development needs of its employees than profit!

Josune presented a quite impressive fragment from the farewell letter written by the company founder, Rafael Escola, when he retired, which I'd like to reproduce here:
"Keep the trust each of you now has forever. Nobody should even imagine that another person would maintain a less than noble attitude towards him or her. Even less so in the case of the managers who one must always believe will wish the best for each other and who will always say exactly what they mean rather than something else. They must really feel like that and, furthermore, look the part … So far, this climate of trust in IDOM has been incomparable to any we see in other environments; as long as you preserve it, you will continue to form work teams that provide engineering services efficiently to the extent that you will have no competitors. At the present time, unity is of vital importance: how inappropriate it would be today to lose this value owing to the bad luck or bad temper of but a few! I don’t want to think of a group of individuals from IDOM losing a customer who had sought us out, having seen our unity. Yet this fact of being vital is not the most important reason for not losing this value, the true crux of the matter lies in the fact that without it there can be no friendship among us or a worthwhile working environment."
It made me think that after all, we might see in practice more illustrations of what Ton once said: " Value is in the relationships, organisations are transactions along those relations."

Coordination mechanisms for knowledge work: A case study-Walsh John, University of Limerick, Ireland
My team is doing some work on coordination too, and finding someone here at UL interested in the same topic was quite a surprise!

Knowledge creation in groups: The value of cognitive diversity, transactive memory, and openmindedness norms- Rebecca Mitchell, University of Sydney, Australia
Again, in our project we are looking at group knowledge - I found a few interesteng connections!

Narratives of knowledge - Beyond the tacit and explicit- Williams Roy, University of Portsmouth, UK

Communicative action in intellectual capital creation: An empirical test - O'Donnell David, Intellectual Capital Research Institute of Ireland
- based on Juergen Habermas' theory; I need to do more reading in this direction!

SWITCH ON - Semantic Web Integration Through Converging Hybrid Ontologies- Sandra Moffett and Martin Doherty, University of Ulster, Ireland
- interesting survey on key knowledge factors; the way the macro-environment and the organisational /internal technical climate influence informational, technical and personal capabilities within the organisation; few links provided by Sandra: the On-to-Knowledge project , Semantic Edge.

I missed some other interesting ones, because of another conference taking place at UL on the 9th of September, CALIBRE.

I had the chance to read them in the proceedings, but still... I wish I had been there...

An integrated approach to knowledge management strategy
McGrath Fergal, Rebecca Purcell, Catherine Parkes and John McCarthy, University of
Limerick, Ireland
- Their research focused on the impact produced by the perception and understanding of IT Professionals on the nature and roles of KMS deployed in that organisation.

Unitas - An Integrated Approach To Knowledge Management Strategy-
Rebecca Purcell and Fergal McGrath, University of Limerick, Ireland
- sensible approach, based on the balance between codification and personalisation strategies, planning to bring together:
- Knowledge and Knowing
- Subjective and Objective views of knowledge
- Epistemology of practice and possession
- Exploitation and Exploration
- Organisational knowing and Organisational learning
They did an empirical study on high technology firms engaged in R&D in Ireland.

Inter-organisational collaboration; A social network analysis approach -Whelan Eoin and Brian Donnellan, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

Knowledge Discovery from unstructured data -Balasubramaniam G and R Suresh, Institute for Financial Management & Research (IFMR), Chennai, India

Managing project and process knowlede in a pan european initiative - Hessami Ali and Kurt Andersen, Atkinsglobal, London, UK
|| Gabriela 3:36:00 PM
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Larry Prusak's keynote speech

I tried to make a podcast and I only took a few notes - unfortunately the result was of very low quality, I couldn't use it at all.

Here are just a few ideas from Larry Prusak's speech:

Before - you could earn a living from making things; today - the cousins of knowledge - e.g. entertainment, design, consulting, tourism - become more and more important.

There was a study in the Economic Review showing that 28% of the US GNP was based on persuasion (encompassing marketing, public relations, lawyers, marriage counselors, ministers etc ).
Persuasion is, after all, a form of knowledge (this reminded me of the lab at Stanford!)

KM will never go away. It's not new, and it won't disappear, no matter how we call it.

KM&learning -have both a theory and a practice level.

In 1990, Tom Davenport & Larry Prusak were advocating that talking to a knowledgeable person is usually preferred to reading.

In a paper written together with Robb Cross (I assume he was talking about “The people who make organizations stop - or go”), they showed that people talk 14 times more than they read.
Human beings tend to accept knowledge easier when it is alive - acquired through interaction.

In order to make people confident in KM, you need cases - stories of success. There are already several famous cases that increased the public awareness on what managing knowledge means: BP, Xerox, World Bank, Mc Kinsey.

Larry's advice: write stories, get them published and legitimized.That means printed in business magazines like The Economist and FT, not on the web.

Management is not a science.

Management was mainly based on the command & control (& fear) mechanism (with the most successful managers in the history being the military, and the Roman Catholic Church).

This model was ok for managing land, labour and capital, but it doesn't work for knowledge - if you try to use this model on knowledge organizations - people just walk out!

"Technology alone, per se, doesn't change the behaviour".

The famous study of Wanda Orlikowski from MIT spoke about "farmers and hunters", and Lotus Notes being a farming tool given to hunters.

Most people are individualistic; but knowledge is not individual, knowledge is profoundly social;
there is no such thing as individualistic knowledge.

The unit of analysis has to become the group - not the individual, not the organization.
The group can be a university, a community or a country, a CoP or a network.
The ideal size of the group ranges from 50-300 people - they can share trust, stories.

Companies like SAP and Microsoft thought: wire up the enterprise and you will control it. It proved false.

We witness today the rise of the social capital.
In the last 10 years, at least 20 books were published on trust.
The anglo-american culture is individualistic, and knowledge is sticky.

Trust lowers the transaction cost.
How do you create trust? By modelling an adaptation. Transparency,charisma.
Trust is asymmetric - it's enough to make one single mistake, and you lost it.

Social norms are as important as trust.

Future directions for KM research:
1. Space - the role of various types of space: physical, cognitive, social;
(I couldn't stop from checking Wikipedia on Social Space !)
- knowledge is a local phenomenon - and now organisations have to manage it globally;
- knowledge is local, sticky, intextual.

2. Measurement - how can one measure knowledge productivity? We tend to measure what can be measured - and most of the time this proves useless.

3. The perspective of learning - training inside the organisations will have to evolve; we still train people like you'd train a dog.
The way people learn involve emotions; how could organisations adopt a substantial second loop deep learning?

Note: this is my perspective on what Larry Prusak said. I might have distorted things without intention. Feel free to comment!

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My own paper presented at the ECKM

I always wondered how do the organisers always succeed to match my paper with other related ones - it happenned every time I attended the ECKM. This time, the panel included three papers:

  • Knowledge management strategies of software development organisations- Feher Peter, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
  • The Knowledge Management Strategy of Agile Software Development-Wendorff Peter ASSET GmbH, Oberhausen, Germany and Dace Apshvalka Riga Technical University, Latvia
  • At the crossroads of knowledge management with social software - my own!

and was chaired by Tiit Elenurm, who did a very good job - he tried to make the session more interactive and asked the participants to make remarks and formulate questions on transparencies he handed out. (Later on, in a discussion, Heather spoke about a session chair who googled the names on the panel, and was able to give a proper introduction to the speakers. I thought of a few "chairing guidelines" for next year...)

Both Peters were old acquaintances - I met Peter Feher at several editions of ECKM (he was in Paris last year!), and Peter Wendorff at ECITE'04 in Amsterdam.

Listening to them, I tried to position my paper against theirs.
  • They both spoke about KM in Software Development organisations - very interesting from the perspective of my current project, while I was looking at software tools for KM.
  • Peter Feher referred to KM strategy initiation, that can be done top-down, bottom-up or middle-up-down, while I was literally advocating for a bottom-up approach. His empirical study looked at Codification vs. Personalisation. (cf Wikipedia: codification vs. personalization - the trade-off between capture and storage of explicit information and making connections to people that know.)
  • Peter Wendorff(who presented the paper he co-authored with Dace Apshvalka) focused on Personalisation, as being the dominant approach in agile software development.
  • I never thought at Social Software from this perspective before, but I would say that while wikis provide support for coding and storing knowledge, online social networks essentially enable access to people who know things; blogs are somewhere in-between, enabling mainly individuals to publish personal knowledge, but also to become more visible.

I started few minutes before the time indicated in the timetable - while people were continuing to come. Tiit hoped to leave time for discussions in the end - but I kind of "ate" it all!
I was so "taken away" by my topic that I used 25 min(instead of the 20 allotted) for my presentation and used most of the time to talk about Social Software - I never really got to the KM stuff!
Most of the audience was familiar with the blog&wiki concepts (I did the quick handraising survey before starting), but I felt they wanted to find out more. I know, I know, I'm trying to find excuses...

This was the structure of my paper:
  • Introduction - What could Social Software do for KM?
  • What is actually named Social Software?
  • Social Software as Support for Knowledge Activities (based on the Despres&Chauvel taxonomy);
  • Few Illustrations of how blogs, wikis and social networking systems are used for KM purposes;
  • Unsolved Problems and Future Trends;
  • Conclusions
Thanks a million again to Martin Roell, who reviewed my paper when I was lost in fogg (I knew precisely it was not good enough, but I simply couldn't read it again with a fresh eye), and made a lot of useful suggestions.

The paper is available for download and so are the slides (sorry for the non-clickable links in the PDF version!).

I got several interesting questions from the public - David Gurteen took a photo of me backing the wall and rushing to answer. Fortunately, later on I got the list of questions from Tiit and I will try to answer in more detail here. Here are the questions:
  1. Most KM theory looks at the organisation. Social Software is very much about the individual. How do the two meet?
  2. How does the "peer network" aspect of blogs/wikis relate to Communities of Practice like Groove?
  3. What about the use of Social Software in enterprise setting (security, confidentiality etc)?
  4. How can management ensure that Social Software contributes to the organisation's goals?
  5. How can you increase the number of the people visiting your blog?
  6. Why would Wikipedia be a more reliable source of information than a book written by a single person?
I'll leave the answers for a future post, otherwise these old drafts will never get published!
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Friday, September 16, 2005

The ECKM Knowledge Cafe

I got a lot of publicity from David Gurteen for my blog. Unfortunately, the busy week at work and the crash of my laptop at home prevented me from posting anything on the ECKM.

I'm in a lousy Internet-Cafe right now, with kids crying and horrible loud music. But let's give it a try!

The two questions for the Knowledge-Cafe where:

Dan Remenyi introduced David Gurteen, who gave a short introduction. For those who are not familiar with the concept, there's a briefing available on the Academic Conferences website.

David made a short reference to Theodore Zeldin, who's running The Oxford Muse. He also mentioned The World Café as inspiration for those who would like to organise a similar event.

I hope to find a bit of time for another post on how to make such events more interactive (or transform them into un-conferences), but now let's stick to the subject.

There was a question from the audience: " Is there a way measure the success of a Knowledge-cafe? Do such events yield any results?" David's answer was "the measure of success is what people take away from here". Another comment was about such events being useful for the individual, but not for a company. David repeated that for inside a company, a knowledge-cafe is not the best way for encouraging interaction, for several reasons - there are other more appropriate techniques.

I was part of two different groups, and in both cases the discussions were very interesting. We started by introducing ourselves (name, type of organisation, occupation, country, and one thing we would like to mention about ourselves). It took a lot of time, because in both cases the groups were made of 8-9 - instead of 4-5 people, as recommended by David. People felt like joining and we couldn't refuse them. (For next year, we could think of some post-its to be pasted on our name tag and to include a bit more information on ourselves - it would save some time).

Some of the areas of research (or research questions) mentioned in my two groups were:
  • How to better explain Knowledge Management to managers and to the grand public ( some success stories were considered the most useful)
  • What is the kind of knowledge that needs to be managed (actually, we agreed that knowledge cannot be managed - what we try to manage is actually a knowledge ecosystem)
  • How to develop a Knowledge Management system (and not necessarily from the technical point of view)
  • How to manage large scale knowledge ecosystems (nationwide, for example)
  • How to change people - to make them more receptive to sharing knowledge (possible solutions suggested were: more case studies, success/war stories, story telling).

It was difficult to leave the group just when the discussion started to get a shape. When we exchanged groups, some of the participants couldn't find easily a second group and preferred to leave:-(

David Gurteen lead a final plenary discussions, where some of the proposals issued by diverse groups were briefly presented.

The general conclusion was: "IT doesn't have anything to do, it's all about people"(we know how to manage IT solutions by now, we can design State-of-the-Art solutions, what we don't really know how to do is how to deal with people.)

Some other comments:
On the very term of Knowledge Management
  • Knowledge Management got a negative connotation because its extensive use for labelling expensive IT solutions;
  • KM is not the only wrong term out there - just think of Change Management and other buzz words like BPR and TQM;
  • terms like KM and QM are misleading - we can only manage processes;

Problems of current research:
  • we can't manage knowledge, what we can manage is the ecosystem encompassing it;
  • there's a severe lack of tangible benefits of KM;
  • can we at least manage our own knowledge?
  • what we would consider the useful research areas can be very different for the industry and for the academia;
  • the aim of research: when done from a customer perspective, would refine understanding and eventually produce tangible results;
  • KM research is meant to solve existing problems; can pure research exist in the field of KM? should we look beyond the problems that companies face now? Yes, because innovation can create new needs. Someone gave the example of the walkman - nobody asked for it. David Gurteen gave another example:
"Look what happened with social software- blogs and wikis and all the others– mainstream software development organisations were not interested because they haven’t been demanded by corporate customers; they’ve been developed by a small groups of enthusiasts, who’ve seen the benefit, they’ve been growing and developing, and slowly, but surely, the large corporations have started to see the value".
  • how can we convince people to share their knowledge?
  • is there a knowledge divide (similar to the digital divide)? research is needed on how richer nations share their knowledge with the poorer ones;

For the second question, regarding the most appropriate research methods, there was very little time left. The whole audience agreed that we need a balanced combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods. The methods mentioned were:
  • case studies (especially on failures)
  • grounded theory
  • action research (change the organisation as social system, communicate and involve people)
  • ethnographic observation
  • participative design.
The discussions continued all evening, first at the Millstream Common Room, where the participants were invited for a glass of wine, and later on at the Bunratty Castle, where the conference banquet took place. The photos on Flickr can tell you more than 1000 of my words;-) You can start here and go back to see them all!
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Thursday, September 08, 2005

ECKM '05

The European Conference on Knowledge Management is hosted by the University of Limerick this year. Most of the guests arrived yesterday, and we had a cocktail and a nice dinner together. Academic Conferences did a great job with the organization, as they did in every year.
I was so happy to meet Dan Remenyi, Sue Nugus and their whole team again!

Yesterday, I met David Gurteen in person, and we had an interesting talk over dinner. I guess we annoyed a bit the others with our blog-wiki-Lilia-Ton-Martin jargon, but we tried to convince them it was worth it at least to have a look at the Social Software phenomenon.

Bernard Marr gave his keynote speech this morning.
David Gurteen will run a knowledge-cafe this afternoon.
Charles Despres will deliver a speech after the banquet at the Bunratty Castle.
And Larry Prusak will give the other keynote speech tomorrow morning.

It's amazing how much energy I can get from being in the middle of "my kind of people".
I don't experience hunger, sleep or thirst anymore... I guess I'm in a state of flow;-)

I'll have to run back now.
Btw, Carla Verwijs is here too - she might be blogging the event!

Few photos already on Flickr!
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