Tuesday, February 27, 2007

:-D ogs

A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. -- Robert Benchley

:):):):) BTW, why do they go around in circles before settling down? Assessment of the territory?

The Math of Life

I’d made a discovery a few days ago about which I was pretty thrilled. People who saw me that day may have seen me go around grinning but may have assumed that I was my normal self. Just discovered that Deepak Chopra has something to say about my discovery which makes me grin a wee bit more today.

"Anything that is of value in life only multiplies when it is given." Deepak Chopra.

It’s only that he did not post it on my blog but in one of his own books. Ha ha. Not so funny, I guess. Anyways, the point has been made. Do you have anything to add….or - in this case - multiply? ;-)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Penguins as Teachers - Our Iceberg is Melting

I just finished a cute book called Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber. And, here’s my reaction. :)))))))))) Read All Smiles. It’s a book on Change Management, in the form of a fable based on penguins (which is one of my favourite birds). And, it’s very relevant to KM. Because, KM is a change initiative! And, also, because KM advocates change through storytelling! The book presents delightfully commonsensical points about change and how to adapt to it. Some aspects which the book brings out which all of us have learned time and again are – need for vision, communication, leadership, champions, empowerment of the workforce, quick wins, and perseverance. But three more things I want to record here for I feel the need to single them out are:

1. Need to bring in a sense of urgency – I’ve thought about the need for bringing in a sense of importance, but not so much about urgency. This would definitely work, but I guess the caveat here is that the communication shouldn’t intimidate people so much that they stop thinking clearly
2. Need for a group of champions – This one is obvious, but I’ve never grouped the skills the way the authors of this book have – The skills mentioned are leadership, credibility, urgency, communication and analytical skills. Though the authors indirectly point out the role of creativity in change initiatives in the course of the story, it’s been left out in the final section where the skills required are summarized. Something to ponder– Does your KM team have all of these skills?
3. Need for sustaining a culture of change – This one’s important. We typically tend to heave a sigh of relief once we’ve made some progress, but this book brings out the clear need to keep on moving.

Good Food; Bad Food

It occurred to me this morning, that…

Information (food for thought) when served on the plate called context leads to knowledge, if the person who is offered it, takes it and processes (digests) it. It helps the person place it well (pun intended :)).

But information passed on without the context is almost like gossip. No one knows where it came from, where it ideally ought to be placed and whether it is true or not. It is like junk food that spoils the person’s digestive system, leave alone providing nutrition. But more often than not, it is likely to be placed on the person’s own (the one who takes it) plate, which may be very different from the original plate intended for it.

OK. Vented. Now, it’s your problem to digest this post! ;)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

EFF is fine...but ECTIVENESS is better than ICIENCY.

Hey, I love this post! I have been, for long, turning my nose up and narrowing my eyes at organizations that focus on efficiency and not on effectiveness and Dave’s story is a much better way to communicate my feelings than turning a nose or two upwards or, for that matter, narrowing an eye or two. (Oh! Come to think of it, I’ve got only one nose to turn upwards and as for narrowing one eye, there couldn’t be a gesture further away from that to communicate what I want to. ;))

PS: I’ve discovered that I share two fundamental views/beliefs with Dave Snowden (good idea to compare one’s views with that of a thought-leader’s).

- Effectiveness over efficiency (Dave’s tone in the post I’ve linked to is enough for me to realize how strong his views are on the topic)

- Paradox thinking (Patrick mentioned this to me during the KM Challenge 2004 conference after seeing me go crazy over a couple of coincidental paradoxes I’d encountered – my inspiration for the paper I presented there arose from Derm Barrett’s book on paradox thinking and the first example that Derm shares in the book is that of Boomerangs from Australia…..which was where, incidentally, the conference was happening.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

What eats crEATivity?

Today seems to be a day of delightful discoveries in blogosphere for me. Here’s a candid post from Scott (Creator of Dilbert) on the struggles that creative people go through. He talks about artists (musicians and cartoonists) but I guess it can be very well extended to all forms of creativity including thinking and blogging. Let me know if you disagree, but I think there are very few people who can be creative every minute or, let’s say, every day of their life. Creative thinking normally comes in spurts and depends on so many internal and external factors. Intrinsic motivation is absolutely fine, but there’s also energy, stamina, priorities, disturbances, interruptions etc. Creative people, I guess, like Scott indicates are forced to compete with their own selves and that’s not easy. Getting better can actually be intimidating at times because it means you just can’t slip. No, not just in the perspective of others, but, more importantly, your own. The way out, I think, is to a) not look for external acknowledgement in the first place and b) understand that life is full of ups and downs and relish those spurts of creativity and leverage fully on such phases.

PS: I was thrilled to find a mention of C&H in Scott’s post. Aww. Come on, Nimmy. How can C&H not find a place when someone’s talking about cartoons and creativity?? :)

Passionate about Passion

Curt has penned a passionate post about the importance of encouraging one’s inborn passion. I agree completely with him. We all ought to be passionate about something or the other! I hate to think that there are people who don’t have a passion for anything whatsoever. That would be like pouring water (life) into a mug (person) without a base. Empty. Always.


Have you noticed? Or are you part of the party? We speak of information overload but never of knowledge overload. Why is that? We find it difficult to find the time to catch up with and/or digest too much information. We feel overwhelmed when there’s too much information coming towards us. It’s like getting into the sea and being hit by the waves; sometimes strong enough to push us down and clog our senses. But we can’t seem to have enough of knowledge because it is perceived to be a part of us, it reflects our capability to act rather than just inform. Going back to the sea metaphor, it is perhaps like watching the sea and the waves from the shore and enjoying the view but not letting the waves hit us. I am wandering away from the point I want to make in this post, though. So, going back to it, we can’t seem to have enough of knowledge. The only two other things that come to my mind when we talk about ‘not having enough of something’ are - joy and love. (If you’re the government, you may be screaming ‘taxes’. No comments.). Here comes another important realization. There are only three things that we say grow when shared – knowledge, joy and love! Now, is this just a simple coincidence? I don’t think so. Look at it this way - The three things that we can’t have enough of are exactly those that we talk of sharing most of the time! Wow. Give me a minute. This is one of Nature’s wonderful paradoxes and perhaps the mother of all paradoxes.

There are three things you want more and more of. Knowledge. Joy. Love.

Share them. Give them away.

And, voila! You’ll get more of these three things.

Do you see the light atop my head? Twinkle. Twinkle. GRIN. :-]

Excellent Post from GapingVoid

Excellent post on GapingVoid. Period.

I love the cartoon too. Blogging is about Passion, Authority, and Continuity, says Hugh.

I am 100% in tune with his take on Passion and Continuity. Authority – I have other thoughts.

Like Hugh indicates in the same post, blogging is about telling it like it is. So, if you’re still thinking and it’s a half-baked post in that sense and are open to counter thoughts etc, the element of Authority would be missing. (Have I made this point with Authority? Hmm. Yes…! :-) )

PS: While on GapingVoid, another of Hugh’s quote I love is “If You Can Express Your Soul, The Rest Ceases to Matter”.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I have a story to tell....

I attended an experience-sharing session in which there were four senior managers that we got to listen to. One of them used a narrative style to share his experiences. It may not have been storytelling exactly but it had quite a few elements of a typical story –

It was a chronologically-based – naturally unfolded - narration,
It came mixed with his emotions, pains and gains,
There were pointers to failures and successes and a lot of people-related information.

In sharp contrast, the others mostly condensed their learnings into Dos and Don’ts. I, personally, liked the narrative style a shade better than the other. Yeah. I am saying nothing new here. Just that I am not talking about the concept of storytelling per se but bringing it out through a real experience.

Going by the session that I attended, what’s fresh in my mind is that his style had the following advantages.

He was doling out advice but it did not seem like he was. This is obviously appreciated by the human ego.
His talk was engaging and involving. I needn’t even say this.
His talk, to many, may have seemed like they had the flexibility and the freedom to interpret it the way they wanted and may have left them thinking that they could make their own decisions based on someone else’s experiences.

I distinctly observed that most of the points that were brought out while summarizing the learnings from the session emerged from what he had shared. What more can I say? :)

Knowledge Sharing Culture...

Matt Moore has come up with an excellent list of key challenges that one may encounter while trying to create a knowledge sharing culture. He adds that “these are not mutually exclusive but are often related to each other”.

- Time: Focus on achieving short-term objectives rather than longer term goals around upskilling/learning.

- Space: People in different cities/countries/time zones.

- Compensation: Focused on individual performance.

- Technology: Lack of tools/infrastructure for collaboration.

- Silo Structures: Organisational groups that do not communicate/collaborate.

- Lack of Trust: Other internal groups/individuals perceived as untrustworthy or competitive

- Power: Particular information or skills perceived as a personal differentiator. Sharing dilutes this power.

- Lack of Availability/Awareness: People are not aware that particular knowledge that is useful to them exists elsewhere in the organisation.

- Pride: "Not invented here" syndrome.

He also points out some of the important factors that impact the knowledge sharing culture in the positive sense.

- Focus on specific areas of collaboration & improvement with identified groups rather than generalised "sharing".

- Demonstrate the individual & collective value of these sharing efforts.

- Publicly reward examples of sharing (rewards not necessarily financial).

- Ritualising the sharing of experience/lessons/knowledge in dedicated sessions.

- Role-models. Senior people have to share their experience.

Meanwhile, here’s a related post that I’d put together quite a while ago. One of the additional points being internal competition, which is a shade worse than natural silos.

Time for a paradox!

Came across this today. Not new…but I didn’t know it was a German Proverb.

German Proverb - "Who begins too much accomplishes little."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Lotus...Located on YouTube

Thanks to one of my friends, I am now sort of hooked to YouTube. Trying to locate nice KM videos is fun. Here's something I just found. It is part of IBM's Lotus campaign and is a nice effort to put together all the key words and phrases that convey what is KM all about.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The (Charles Schwab) Foundation of KM

I came across a set of articles on how the Charles Schwab Foundation employs the principles of KM and found it to be very compelling. Here’s one particular extract from an article by their COO on their perception of how KM initiatives should be looked at. Wonderfully articulated, I think. (Underlining by this blogger)

While our knowledge management and evaluation team is a small dedicated staff, the importance of its integration with program staff cannot be overstated. Without that integration, knowledge management and evaluation is like the garnish on a meal – adding a note of color on the plate but often left untouched. We have made knowledge management and evaluation the spice in our dish – an element that is fully integrated with the other ingredients in our program and which flavors every aspect of our work. - Ann Christen

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi aka Mike

The post that I've bookmarked in my post below led me to another blog which in turn led me to this article from Fast Company......on the Creativity Guru referred to in the post that I've bookmarked. Okay. Apologies for that twisted sentence. If you read it and banged your head against the monitor, step back, cool it and simply click on the link to the article from Fast Company. If you read it and understood what I wanted to convey, you are fast company. Weak, eh? I shall not continue to bother you. All I want to say is that Mike is about to add on to his list of fans. :) I shall be buying those books of his on creativity sooner than later.

Do you feel out of place and in tune with the world at the same time?

I have to bookmark this. It talks about two things I am obsessed with - Creativity and Paradoxes. :D
And here's a secret something I want to share ;) - I think people who did not pay attention to their teachers in school and maintained their own interpretations of life (and therefore got poor grades more often than not) are the ones that are creative.

Be Confident of the value of Enthusiasm!

This post here is great! (Thanks to Ilker for leading me to this blog! :) )

Enthusiastic post! :) I love it. And, of course, I love the very quality of enthusiasm. As one of the people who have left their comments in response to this post, Roger, puts it, When we are enthusiastic, "it’s almost as though you have access to a divine source of inspiration." :)

Taking off on post, what we perhaps need is a foundation of enthusiasm - bricks of enthusiasm, windows of enthusiasm, doors of enthusiasm, but a roof of confidence; if that makes sense. Confidence can remind you of limits in situations where one is required to stay within limits....! What? :D

Why Blog?

What we dwell upon is who we become. – Oprah Winfrey

Bingo, as far as I am concerned. So, here’s what we need to do.
Decide what we want to be/become.
Create a blog.
Dwell upon what we want to become on the blog. Everyday. Well, at least every 2-3 days.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to become a great cook.
Talk about cooking on your blog, cook up recipes, link to recipes, provide information about dishes, nutrition facts, what’s good to eat and bad to eat and connect with others’ thoughts on cooking, read everything possible about cooking and post about what you read, think of innovative dishes and find out what others think….blah blah blah……..…..and you are sure to see yourself shaping into a wonderful cook. Just what you intended to become. There’s no doubt about it.

Yes, I heard you. What about the real cooking? Jack Addington says “Man can do whatever he is able to conceive in his mind, receive in his consciousness, expect with assurance, and accept in actual experience”. Our mind rules our body. What our mind talks about, our body will follow. Our mind is the master and our body its servant. So, we’ll find ourselves looking for opportunities to practice what we preach (on the blog) and the other way round. There’s no doubt about this too.

I am thoroughly convinced that blogging is a great way to dwell upon something. So, given that we become what we dwell upon, it is crystal clear that blogging is a great way to get there. For sure.

Do we need any more reasons to blog? :) Let’s go ahead and discover our true potential!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

All eyes OO on gOOgle and yahOO :)

Google, I believe, does well because of the passion it has for what it does and not because of anything to do with ‘competitive spirit’.

Yahoo, on the other hand, was shaken out of its complacency because of Google. Since then, Yahoo has shown us what it is capable of.

Yahoo mail, My Yahoo et al. But this is certainly a milestone - going by what the experts say - which Google may be observing from the sidelines. Or perhaps Google has something up its sleeve that has not been ‘Beta’ed as yet. For people into organizations driven by passion vs competition, this is situation reflects one of those proverbial battles and only time will tell whether competition changes the course of events for Google as much as it has for Yahoo or whether Google will continue to look inward and do its own thing. (Hey, isn’t it interesting that both organizations have two successive Os in their names but only gOOgle got creative with their Os?)

Blogs that make me think!

Ilker - over here - has emailed me to appreciate this blog and the articles I’ve posted herein. Ilker has initiated a blog meme called “5 Blogs that make me think” and tagged this blog in her list of 5 Blogs. Well, I sure am glad that some of my random ramblings are found to be good enough for intellectual consumption. :) Meanwhile, a bird tells me that there has been an increase in blog-readers reporting intellectual indigestion - whatever that means. I wonder if it has something to do with my blog. Seriously speaking, here’s hoping that my blog continues to fuel thoughts. That’s one fire I won’t mind contributing to.

Ilker has some rules, should you (the people that I’ve tagged below) choose to participate. In her own words, these are:

"Please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging. I
thought it would be appropriate to include them with the meme.The participation
rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links
to 5 blogs that make you think,

2. Link to this post so that people can easily
find the exact origin of the meme,

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking
Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote"

Ok. Time to pass on the meme. Blogs that make me think? That makes me think. Tap Tap Tap?

Excuse me for this but I think I ought to clarify a few things before I list the blogs that make me think. ‘Think’ basically means reflect/imagine/consider/feel. So I can’t, unfortunately, tag many nice blogs that I read as they inform me, amuse me, excite me, help me learn new things etc but they probably don’t help me think/reflect/imagine on the lines that I'd like to. Hold on. Something that would make me (I am talking for myself) think would be fundamental questions, challenges, counter-intuitive ideas etc. Also, what I think about is my own choice. I may visit a nice blog that talks about politics, sports, finance or for that matter, even topics like entrepreneurship, marketing etc but it may not get me thinking because I don’t choose to spend too much time on these areas. So, the list below is not, in the least bit, a reflection of the lack of intellectual content in other blogs that I read. It’s just about what precisely triggers me off (by virtue of topics and style of writing) more often than not. OK. That should ensure I don't lose any of my friends in blogosphere ;)

Here's the meme list

- Dave Pollard (I discovered this blog through Bloglines. Makes me think because Dave has a wonderful ability to analyze any issue right down to its ‘carbon’ state)
Dave Snowden(Being a KMer, I got to know of Dave’s Blog through multiple sources. Dave’s counter-intuitive ideas certainly make me think)
Nipun and Gauri Mehta - (I think I got to this blog from another blog that I don’t frequent. I know. I know. It’s not right on my part to have forgotten the source however long it has been. Anyways, Nipun and Gauri’s story is amazing enough for anyone to think about what they are here on earth for or even what on earth they are here for :-))
Innovation blog - (Got here from the Innovation Tools website which Google search had led me to, years ago. Obviously links to a lot of material that forces me to think different)
Jessica - (This is a recent addition to my Blog Roll and I got to Jessica’s Blog from one of Dave Snowden’s posts. Jessica’s posts or rather diagrams amuse me a lot but also make me think )

And here’s a bonus blog (6th one in the list) that makes me think.
Aa..ha! [Thinking Inside the Blog]. Hey, one minute please! I may be crazy but not as crazy as you, perhaps, think I am right now. :D What I mean is that the fact that I’ve a blog itself helps me think (better) because that’s the way I’ve defined my blog. Without the blog, for example, I may have just made an observation which would be stored in my brain in its undisturbed and raw state till the time it was actually required for application. But, the fact that I’ve got into the habit of blogging makes me elaborate and introspect on the observation irrespective of whether I need to apply it immediately or not. Without a blog, one needs another (and mostly practical) reason to elaborate and introspect. With a blog that one is serious about, one just gets into the habit of thinking. Thinking hard and better. Also, another view is that when I go back to some of those old posts that I’ve churned out, I am sometimes surprised about my own thought-processes. And I think about what I thought, why I thought so and how my views have undergone an evolution since then. I enjoy going back to the ‘good’ thoughts to savor them and like laughing at and learning from the ‘weak’ ones. So, there. Makes sense? Think about it. :D

PS: I am leaving out Blogs from Harvard Business Review, Fast Company and other such publications from this meme for obvious reasons.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


"Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it foregoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury."- Edward Chapin

In today’s world, where people hate to be seen as dumb, naïve, meek, weak etc, it probably takes a lifetime to understand the truth in and worth of the quote above.

CUDdling up to Knowledge Repositories

Knowledge Management in a way, and I guess unknowingly, takes some of its lessons from cows. But I wonder if it takes the complete lesson or stops midway. If you’re wondering what kind of crazy cud I am chewing, here’s the full post for you to digest. :)

Cows grab grass not with the intention of digesting it immediately but storing it in specific areas in their alimentary canals meant for this purpose – the esophagus, to be precise. Apparently this is the case because some microbes help in easy digestion by processing the food while the latter ‘rests’ in the esophagus. The microbe-processed grass is then transferred back to the cow’s mouth when required and subjected to some heavy chewing and then actually digested.

Good knowledge repositories ought to be designed on these lines. Not as a place where unwanted artifacts are blindly stored and not reused at all or are stored and reused later without any value addition whatsoever. It ought to be a place where the artifacts are stored and brought to the right people’s notice so they keep it dynamic and add value to it by commenting on it, simplifying it, appending to it some additional resources etc. So, when it is actually picked up by someone for application, it becomes easier to ‘digest’ and is a lot more ‘tastier’ than it was. Is your knowledge repository akin to a cud-chewing system? If not, it may be time to Moo(ve) it. :D

Meanwhile, here are some hilarious cartoons that I discovered on ‘chewing the cud’.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Wonderful Web 2.0 Video

A friend first led me to this video on YouTube and then I saw it referred to on a few blogs as well. Wonderfully made video, I must say! :) Can't resist linking to it on my blog as well.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

What kind of a Blogger are you?

Ron Young posts about a webinar that he attended wherein the speaker presented about there being four kinds of people in organizations – couch potatoes, collectors, critics, and creators. Just like Ron, I too think it is a cool classification. It may be based on Kotler’s marketing lessons (on laggards, followers, early adopters and innovators) but these terms are quite appealing. Needless to say, for any new initiative that involves change, it will be important to understand where who belongs.

Don’t you think even Bloggers could be categorized thus? After all, the category one belongs to in the context of organizational analysis would be reflected in one’s behaviour/characteristic as a blogger as well! So, hypothetically, if every employee in the organization blogs, they can be categorized as one of the four types of people and change initiatives can take valuable inputs from this analysis! We could use the Pareto principle (80:20) for assigning a category to bloggers. That is, what they do 80% of the time or what 80% of their posts are about determines which category they belong to. Based on these categories, I am taking the liberty of imagining what people belonging to each of these may behave like, as bloggers.

Creators-Bloggers: These are the bloggers who look inward most of the time. They normally write posts that don’t originate anywhere else. They might obviously be triggered off by what they read and hear, but most of the contents of their post are bound to be from within and original. Many of them are bound to be idealistic though there are practically-oriented ones as well. Reading these blogs would be an inspirational, thought-provoking, exciting, and knowledge-creating experience. Dave Pollard, in my opinion, is a great example of a creator-blogger. He is analytically creative or perhaps creatively analytical, if you like!

Critics-Bloggers: These are the bloggers who rant, rave, or ramble most of the time. They react to external events. They analyze and judge other’s ideas and accept/reject/take a neutral stand on them rather than create things on their own. I would imagine that most bloggers are of this kind! It basically flows from the fact that most people are also of this kind. I am not going to point to any specific blog under this category. Take a casual walk on blogosphere and you’re bound to bump into many of these. Reading these blogs would be arguably a waste of time unless one is looking to understand general human/customer/market psychology, what’s popular and what isn’t and the like.

Collectors-Bloggers: These are bloggers who have a passion for information and knowledge but for whatever reason, spend more time looking outward and collecting stuff from across the web and outside. By virtue of being collectors, they are always on their toes, are well-connected, know what’s the latest, and can therefore be great advisers. Reading these blogs is bound to keep people well-informed and knowledgeable about the world’s ways as associated with whatever topic the blogger focuses on. These blogs are bound to be a huge asset for people who want to keep track of trends and changes and cope with them and not be left behind in the race that the world runs. Gautam, I think, is a good example of this kind of a blogger. He is a creator as well, but his primary edge is probably in his connections and collections. He is a hub of information and pulls together threads from multiple sources apart from looking inward.

Couch-Potatoes-Bloggers: Quite easy to explain. These are bloggers, or rather, ex-bloggers who don’t exist on the blogosphere any more. I am talking about millions of people who created blogs and then forgot all about them. :). Or maybe it is also about people who never tried blogging because of the effort and discipline it calls for. Well, as for as the benefits of reading these blogs are concerned…….it’s a no-brainer. You can’t read them! :D

So, what kind of a blogger are you? And what kind of bloggers interest you? :)

Ron talks about another classification that he is aware of in the same post. This could perhaps be mapped one on one to the above categories.

10% Creators and Innovators
50% Pragmatists - I'll believe it when I see it!
20% Enthusiasts - boy do we need these supporters
20% Ludites - they will never change

Analogy for KM

I have a favourite analogy to make busy business managers think about the need for KM. And that is:

If your destination is the customer…
The road map, the business strategy…
The vehicle, the organization…
The champion, the CEO
The engine, the employees…
And the wheels, the business processes…
What is the fuel that your business runs on?


Now, you decide whether this 'fuel' has to be managed or not! :-)

I recently posted this in response to Patrick's question on how to get management buy-in for KM, on his blog, and he said this in response. Hmm.....!! Food for thought!

So, how different would we think and how different would our approach be to deal with KM if we believe that we cannot manage knowledge directly? Is this similar to the school of thought that says KM is about connections rather than collections? Like I'd mentioned earlier, to my mind, collection-based connection is more like it!

I want to take some time and ponder over this a little....

Friday, February 09, 2007

Comfortably Insecure?

Somebody sent me this quote today.

“They cut the grass to make it greener. Likewise, to grow continuously and sustain make people feel insecure; insecurity breeds growth”

Hey, but insecurity, more often than not, breeds negative behaviour as well. While channel surfing aimlessly a few days ago, I heard Ralph Fiennes (of Harry Potter fame) say this on TV “Comfort is death!”

I like that statement. People must make themselves feel uncomfortable. And that ought to be justified discomfort. Not a blind effort. One of the best ways to do that is to question and challenge ourselves. Different from trying to feel insecure. Well, this may be just semantics. So, please correct me if I am wrong.

Security means Safety/Protection.

Comfort means Calm/Reassured.

Insecurity is to not feel safe.

Discomfort is to not feel satisfied.

Now, which is better? Need for safety might make us defensive and aggressive. Not feeling calm or feeling satisfied is likely to, on the other hand, spur us on. Agree? Disagree? Don’t know? What?

The Craft of Connection!

During the recent break I took, an idea that sprang to my mind is an unconventional method that may be used to promote and make serendipitous networking happen within the organization. I’ve built on the idea a bit and proposed it to the concerned people. As I wait eagerly to find out whether the idea will be considered worthy of implementation and whether it will then see the light of the day, there is this article on social networking that I just came across. It talks about networking initiatives in general and their benefits. Life is full of coincidences. If you’re active on the blogosphere and exploratory on the World Wide Web, you must already be aware of the article. I am referring to “The Craft of Connection”. It has been authored by two people one of which is Rob Cross, the author of the book - The Hidden Power of Social Networks. It is a good article if you’re looking to know more about the applications of SNA. Very useful if you’re a beginner in SNA and want to know how your company could benefit from it.

Coming back to my idea, it may sound bizarre and wacky to some. But one particular case that this article refers to is way ahead of what I thought of in terms of use of technology! So, for those to whom my idea sounds bizarre, this one would be bizarre and expensive. :-)

Here is the extract of the case from the article. It left me smiling. And I personally think the idea is a breeze.

Recently, a large consumer products company held a global meeting of its researcher community. Each participant’s name badge contained a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip, coded with data about that person and his or her work: some personal background, some areas of expertise, and current research interests. As the attendees mingled during the cocktail hour, their name tags glowed whenever two people with common or complementary interests passed. As people responded to the lights and made introductions, a computer tracked the connections and continuously updated a sociogram of the participants on a large projection screen. Although a natural extrovert may find such a technique gimmicky, it resonated well with the generally introverted and technology-enamored scientists and researchers. By the end of the evening, a poorly connected network had evolved into a richly linked community of practice.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Indeed. Being an introvert, this idea appeals to me as it would make networking so much easier. The glow of the RFID tag, to me, would seem like a smile. It would give me (and the other person) an obvious reason to connect without either of us having to wonder what to start with or start an ambiguous conversation.

Meanwhile, I believe in learning from totally unrelated fields (this case only talks about connecting similar or complementary areas of expertise) as well. In fact, radical innovations spring from many of such conversations if only we let our imagination go wild. But that is a different kind of networking and ought to be a different post altogether. :-)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What kind of knowledge do you need to manage the most?

Read about an interesting perspective of KM here.

The author classifies knowledge as Practical, Craft and Architectural and emphasizes on the third category as being the most important in terms of being reused for business benefits. Knowledge Managers might take this cue to look at what kind of knowledge needs to be managed within their organization and collect and track those in a manner that befits its category!

Collaboration vs CollabIoration

Collaboration. What exactly is it?

The word collaboration is clichéd. People use the word every day. What many people mean most of the time when they say collaboration is “Hey, if you’re not helping me get this right, you aren’t collaborating”. They put themselves at the center of the word collaboration. CollabIoration is more like it, as far as they are concerned. What might be a better articulation? Just letting my thoughts flow here.

It is a combination of two key things - independent thinking and true conversation. The key qualities of a conversation that epitomizes collaboration would be to listen, re-consider, remodel, adjust, amend, admit, apologize, understand, question, challenge, agree, disagree, share, express, quote, refer, analyze, imagine, and conclude. So, it is not easy as we think it is to collaborate. Emotions and egos run amuck most of the time. Do you collaborate?

Right or Wrong?

As I was busy trying to concentrate on the article that I was reading, I heard someone asking for help with her iPOD. Actually, her sister's iPOD. She wanted to charge it using her PC. She seemed to be checking with many people in her team and she was doing it loudly enough for me to hear it. Then, she got on the phone and started asking the person on the other side for help but did not seem to be getting anywhere. I turned and looked around to find who it was and decided to go over and help her even though I don't know her.

While I was waiting for her to finish her call, I heard her saying "The last time I used an iPOD on my PC at home, something went wrong with the PC because I did not know how to do it. I don't want to do it here without knowing how to do it. It's okay if something happens to the company's PC but I don't want anything to happen to my iPOD."

I changed my mind and turned back to the article. It just did not sound right, whatever the reason might be.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bedtime Stories and Lullabies

After a post that dwelt upon some bitter truths linked to knowledge environments in organizations, I feel like taking a frivolous and lighthearted break. So, here goes. :D

My doggy sleeps through the day only to sleep again at night. As the day draws to an end and it is time to go to bed, he has this funny, nay, hilarious habit of drowsing while in the sitting position. But that’s because of me. Just before he retires for the day (for the nth time), I appeal to him to sit down and listen to my perspective of KM and life in general (hey, you don’t believe that, do you?) for a while and he normally obliges though he feels sleepy. Or, honestly speaking, one would think he feels sleepy when I start off. So, while I talk, he starts drowsing and his head keeps gravitating towards the left where there’s a wall or sometimes in the downward direction. He miraculously manages to avoid hitting the wall or the floor though. This happens for a few minutes but on seeing him drowse off, I can’t help guffawing so loudly that I hear from friends in Kerala that the elephants there awaken from their slumber and start trembling. This guy here too obviously awakens from his slumber and realizes he’s been entertaining me without getting paid for it and just rushes off to his bed in a jiffy to sleep more comfortably…and thereafter ceases to look at me irrespective of whether I dance on my head or spin on one toe. Clever doggy, what?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Knowledge Manipulators

This post has been brewing for some time now. Probably ready to be served now…. :)

Knowledge manipulators. Every organization has its share of knowledge manipulators. They are those sly characters who pry, peek, and probe…led by intentions that are far from good. Quite different from people who probe to just find out the truth. Knowledge manipulators’ intentions are not what one would call ‘right’ from the perspective of the company at large and, of course, that of the knowledge supplier. Knowledge manipulators are different from genuine knowledge seekers. If the knowledge seeker intends to further her own interests and promote her own reputation, then obviously she is more of a manipulator than a true seeker. She is doing so to use it to her advantage, may call it her creation and derive sadistic joy out of extracting knowledge from knowledge suppliers - many a time without the knowledge of the knowledge supplier herself!

In the long run, how good knowledge sharing is for the company depends on whether it results in unreasonable sacrifices for some or in everyone being benefited. Is it something that is driven by the selfish desire for credit/career development on the part of the knowledge seeker? Organizations will undoubtedly suffer in the long run when such knowledge manipulators take advantage of innocent and/or ignorant knowledge suppliers and exploit the latter under the guise of helping the organization….under the guise of KM. The knowledge suppliers, when they finally realize they’ve been taken advantage of are bound to let it affect their attitude of sharing and are likely to suspect intentions of even honest and well-meaning knowledge seekers forever. Moreover, their experiences are bound to influence even other knowledge suppliers against sharing! At the end of the day, we have an organization with a growing set of suspicious knowledge suppliers.

So, what is the lesson? What are some of the implications? If you’re a knowledge seeker who has no intentions of misusing others’ knowledge/piggybacking on others’ efforts/usurping the credit for what is not completely yours, then…

- Make your intention and purpose for seeking knowledge clear to the knowledge supplier

- When you receive something, give credit openly and unhesitatingly in private as well as public to the person who shares her knowledge. Be bold in accepting that you’ve borrowed knowledge. You may invest it in various ways, but the knowledge capital belongs to someone else. Don’t put the source of your capital in small print. You’ll be appreciated for your honesty and that in turn will bring more knowledge your way.

- Remember that if the supplier of knowledge imagines (or realizes later, in the case of knowledge manipulators) that you’ve been taking her for a ride; it causes more harm than you might realize for everyone concerned. Not only will that specific relationship be hurt but also the overall knowledge environment in the organization. Keep this at the back of your mind and look for such behaviours. If you encounter it, do everything to clear the skepticism.

- Take only what is required. Don’t scrape the bottom of the knowledge supplier’s mind and give her a feeling of insecurity. Take knowledge but don’t please take the credit.

- If you add value to the knowledge that you’ve received, don’t pretend to be the creator. Be humble and honest about the value you’ve added and be louder about the original contributor. Be self-critical when justified. Your intentions will bring you better knowledge – both from outside as well as from within you. You give what you get. Knowledge will pour into your desk uninhibitedly when people perceive you to be a true knowledge worker – one who respects others’ knowledge and gives it its due.

If you’re a knowledge supplier, the following points may help you assess the situation and the knowledge seeker. Knowing whether the person you’re dealing with is a knowledge seeker or manipulator can mean a world of difference. For you want to neither shoo away a seeker nor entertain a manipulator.

- Is the knowledge seeker clear about why she needs the knowledge? If not, ask for the purpose that the knowledge is intended to meet

- Does it look like/sound like/feel like the conversations have been stage-managed? Ask a lot of questions. Learning to ask the right questions at the right time will expose knowledge manipulators. Listen closely for the untimely ‘chuckles’. Listen to your heart.

- Knowledge manipulators may most probably use one of these two methods - They will either flatter their way to your knowledge or snub you to get it. They are also likely to be insecure which might make them find non-existent flaws in your work. Maybe it’s that very insecurity that made them knowledge manipulators. If you are good at arguing, you don’t need help. If you aren’t, at least try smiling your way through the conversation and if you’re convinced that what the knowledge manipulator is saying is not genuine feedback, just stop listening.

- Publish stuff you know rather than hoard it. Let everyone know what you know. Don’t give it all off to a manipulator and then feel bad about someone else taking credit for your work or wonder how you can prove that the stuff that the manipulator is using to her advantage is your knowledge.

- This may sound contradictory…but life’s like that. Don’t be over possessive about ‘your’ knowledge. Give away whatever you can afford to without sacrificing yourself at the altar of knowledge manipulators. But be careful about stuff that defines you and your work. Those cannot be handed away on a platter to people who will unscrupulously use it to their benefit.

- Finally, rest assured that nature has its way of giving knowledge manipulators their due. They may win the battle but not the war. You concentrate on generating knowledge. Nature has it in abundance. If you’re a true lover of knowledge, there is simply no dearth of it. It keeps coming and it gets better as you give away more and more. :). (reminds me of blood donation in a way)

Let’s discourage knowledge manipulators and pave the way for ‘happy KM!’ :)

Any thoughts or experiences you want to share?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Management Tools for 2007 - Bain & Co

Bain & Co's review of top 25 management tools in 2007, via Gautam.

KM, Blogs and Collaborative Innovation feature in here (They better...what? ;)). Gautam points out that the presence of these three approaches in the list excites him. :) Yup!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

During the break...

While in my home-town last week, I also visited one of my favouritest temples - the abode of one of the cutest Gods, Lord Ganesha/Pillayaar/Vinayakar :) – Pillayaarpatti. If you’re in India and fond of Lord Ganesha, this is one temple you ought to see. The idol is believed to have been discovered as a natural formation in a cave.

And…this time around, I spotted a lot of wonderful birds in my village but could not do justice to their beauty on my camera. But some attempts are here for you to admire -each word links to a different photograph (it’s okay to settle for mediocrity at times) or curse (I would prefer you don’t though; there’s always a learning curve). OK. Whatever.

Do identify the birds if you can; I love watching birds but still haven’t learnt to recognize most of them :- The argument that I’ve been going with - What’s in a name?? or What’s in a type? Nothing much, if what one wants to do is simply be delighted by nature’s wonderful creations. Or so I thought….till one of my friends pointed out (on seeing the photos I’d clicked) to me that what I thought was a Woodpecker is actually an Oriole and the latter type of birds travel from Europe to Sri Lanka and India is just a stop over thingy for them. So, imagine my delight when I realized that I’d actually captured such a transitory bird on camera….a fleeting moment literally! Multifold. Knowledge changes not just plain perspectives…but feelings as well. :D

Here's one of the snaps that I think has come out quite well....

ERrrr...Dear HR,

I have a sincere request. And it is directed at the HR folks. Apologies if you’re a HR professional, and this post hurts you. But I want to really get this message out. And if you're a HR person, I'd obviously like to know your opinion.

Here's the message - Please try some creative and unconventional strategies/tactics to manage Employees. Please come out of the shells that you all seem to have got into. Please think different if not radically different. Please introspect on current HR practices and what’s wrong with them. Start afresh. Try and make a true connection with the employees. Forget about pleasing the management for some time. If required, spend a lot of time on how to convince the management about why it’s first important to have happy employees. Happy customers will be a natural consequence. The fact is that I am yet to encounter a HR experience that I might love. If I were a blunter person, I might even have said “I am yet to encounter a HR experience”. I only see HR professionals talking about compensation, performance appraisals, incentives, and attrition in a conventional and stoic manner. I see them not being able to wield their wares when with business managers. Perhaps, to be fair to HR departments, in quite a few cases, this is so because they have the responsibility but not the authority. Nevertheless, I see quite a few of them just enjoying the powers of being a HR person in terms of their roles in the process of compensation finalization. Anyways, for the genuine professionals, it may boil down to whether they are able to make a convincing business case for employee satisfaction (in practice, not in theory) and thereafter make it happen. How many organizations you know think afresh when it comes to HR….and at least try a pilot project based on such an idea? How many at least take that one chance and risk failure as much as they may hope for equally unprecedented success? Screech. Stop.

Yeah. All that was empty talk leading to nowhere. So, let’s look at what may be done in reality lest you brush me off as a good-for-nothing cribber. Let’s take some of the key areas as mentioned in PCMM and think of something nice and unconventional to do in each of those….a couple of these maybe crazy-sounding but nothing ventured, nothing gained is something we’ll have to remember. And anyways, if you know me, you know I believe that being crazy is good at times.

- Compensation: What if it is not kept a secret like the way it is in today’s organizations? How about putting it out in the open and discussing it and coming up with a completely transparent way of calculating everyone’s salary? As a (mature) team? How about a process that involves people thrashing out everything in the open and then going back assured that there are no secrets and not imagining that his colleague is getting much more than what he deserves etc. Hmm?

- Performance Appraisal: What if performance appraisals are removed altogether and revamped bit by bit to make them effective and genuine? How about appraisals not being done just by the manager but by a team of people from various levels. What about changing all the parameters from individually oriented ones to collaboration-oriented ones? What about giving employees a bonus if they’re self-critical and honest about their own performance? Eh?

- Attrition: How about HR and Management spending a lot of quality time on exit interviews? Well, that’s an ordinary thought. How about introducing a clever lifeline that employees can use the minute they feel like they should be looking for other options (moving out of the company, I mean)? Maybe an anonymous lifeline that will result in suggestions and assurance that address the employee’s concerns and changes her mind? If the employee wants to leave for reasons related to compensation, then the treatment may have to be different.

- Incentives: How about incentives that are a lot more thoughtful than they generally are? Maybe employees can keep a log of what they need/want etc and the organization decides on the incentive based on this employee-specific list. An accumulation of 10 such occasions could be translated into access to a great training programme, promotion etc

- Succession Planning: Apart from getting managers to choose who their successors ought to be, why not get people at junior levels to identify who they would like to be led by?

- Mentoring: Why not keep aside one component of senior people’s salary for performance as a mentor?

- Team Building - Internal Competition Vs Collaboration: Why not identify everything that causes internal competition and do something to kill it? Internal competition may help in the short-run but will lead to dirty politics and stupidity in the long-run. It is a simple case of conditioning. Humans stop working unless they are put in an environment that is competitive. Create an environment for collaboration and accept work on those terms and things will change.

- Work Environment: I don’t know if the HR is responsible for a turnaround in work environment policies but lots of companies seem to have got creative on this. Most of the ideas I am about to mention have already been implemented in employee-friendly companies. Anyways….kill the concept of exclusive offices and experience based privileges in the work environment unless it is a scare something that is essential for a particular role (eg: huge cupboards for those who handle a lot of documentation). Everybody is equal. Everybody plays her role. Bring in the pets. Arrange for some fauna as well. Allow music as long as everybody around agrees to it.

- Communication: Well, get away from those boring mails. Use some creative methods. Go get some advertising professionals like the marketing department does. Use your psychologists. Adopt storytelling.

- Personal Competency Development: Invest in some Personal KM tools! Show your employees that you are concerned for their own knowledge apart from the organizational knowledge management. Investing in personal KM will most likely pave the way for better organizational KM.

- Training: Allow employees to attend a training programme of their choice (high quality, expensive – assuming that the really good ones are bound to be effective, a topic of their choice rather than only those associated with the employee’s current job) at least once a year.

I shall stop here. Obviously, there is no dearth of people who can get more adventurous and creative with their ideas on how people processes and policies can be revamped. No, I still haven’t read some of those books that talk about companies that do a lot of so-called weird things to keep their employees delighted. But one related book I have read is Bob Sutton’s book on 11 ½ weird ideas….

Peer Assists

Srini refers to a nicely made tutorial on Peer Assists based on the book Learning to Fly (links to my post on this book) by Chris and Geoff. Check it out!! :)

While on Srini's blog, he has also coined a new acronym called HMPF and asks us if we've got examples to share on this topic. HMPF stands for Hurting the Many to Prevent the Few. Srini, I think some of the implementations of the LAWS of the land are a clear example of this! In fact, many rules that society practices reflect this approach. And, I don't see an easy way out! It's about trust, risks, and paranoia.

Sports Enthusiast

My friend writes passionately about the Indian IT culture and what drives it.
You ought to keep a tab on her blog if you're a sports enthusiast. Her posts on Tennis and Racing are so amazing that I've been telling her that she ought to move out of IT and become a full-time sports journalist. Sari, you genuinely ought to consider it... :) You've got a 'pen' that's as poetic as a tennis champion's racket....or a racer's vehicle...!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Mission Statements (Rambling...)

Just rambling.....!

Being an idealist, I have a fascination for Mission statements. Personal as well as corporate; (Hey, why leave out families? I love the concept of mission statements for families as well. ;)) In my opinion, mission statements that just revolve around money or ranking (fame/popularity) are not worth the paper they are written on. Because, they can’t truly inspire everyone (employees) to perform. Even if we were to assume that they can - if the mission is only about making money or becoming the No.1 in some kind of eye-washing list, you don’t have to stay with a PARTICULAR organization to do it in case you are looking for your own, individual, involvement/contribution to such a mission. It will make sense only if the employee is ‘attached’ to the organization and feels a sense of pride in being associated with it. What does an employee get out of contributing to the organization’s ranking/turnover? Pride and maybe job security and better salary as indirect consequences. If this is all that the employee wants at the end of the day, he can still work with another company with a similar potential and ambitions and end up feeling proud as well earn a good salary. And come to think of it, would false pride and job security/salary be sufficient in case there are ground-problems that override the pride as associated with the world outside the organization? And needless to say, an organization that is only focused on its bottom-line is bound to be plagued by ground-problems. So, what is it that can keep an employee with a PARTICULAR company apart from the basic requirements?

In one of the training programmes I was in, we discussed the difference between Goals and Purpose. (A goal could be delivering something to the customer on a particular date while the purpose could be to build skills/gain knowledge/learn, to delight the customer, to make money, to directly or indirectly contribute to the development of the society, etc) The class had a somewhat skeptical response to my statement that a team with a common sense of purpose is unbeatable as compared to one with a common goal. They did not challenge the logic in the statement per se but were very doubtful about finding a team with a common purpose. The trainer said it was probable only in perhaps a group of people fighting for independence. I do think that it is tough to create or find a team with a common purpose but not impossible. There are brilliant and dynamic teams that have social upliftment as a common purpose, teams that have innovation as their sole purpose, teams that want to save the environment, teams that want to win a game for its country, launch a rocket etc.

Thus, in my opinion, one single reason why an employee would stick to a particular organization would be its unique and meaningful mission statement that the employee identifies with…….due to the values it reflects. But, reiterating the question that was posed earlier, is it possible for a commercial and for-profit organization to be of such a character - Have an inspiring sense of purpose, set of values and ensure complete involvement, consistent communication, and a following in word and spirit? Organizations can’t take their eyes off the top and bottom lines. But, I believe that obsessive focus on making money will dilute the sense of purpose. What are the examples of organizations that belong to this category? Or at least come close to it? I myself have come across a few companies that at least claim to focus equally on things other than just making money. Like making employees happy, identifying products that help conserve the environment, etc. Such companies, in my opinion, are bound to do much better than ordinary companies. The common sense of purpose ensures that the teams perform really well, employees are happy, they trust each other, they give each other credit and encouragement, they discuss mistakes openly and are generally honest in their dealings. Do you have/have you had the bliss of being a part of such a team? :)