13:51 11/06/2004 Mathemagenic: Mathemagenic
...giving birth to learning...


  Tuesday, September 30, 2003

  K-collector links and questions

I put it here, because this is not the first time I'm collecting links explaining k-collector in one e-mail :)

Once I started to write about k-collector, I'll ask a question I have in my mind for some time... I'm thinking about possible uses of k-collector in companies and about motivation of bloggers to use it. I believe that the idea is great, but as a potential user I'm not motivated to use k-collector because:

I'm a liveTopics user. I use liveTopics because this tool provides me with a way to structure and access my own ideas. K-collector doesn't  (see also earlier post on liveTopics vs. k-collector).

K-collector provides a topic-based overview of different weblog posts. Fine, but Waypath does it better, indexing all blogs and not only small fracture that uses k-collector. So, why should I narrow it down?

To use k-collector before it gets smarter I have to add topics to my posts. I can't use them to navigate my own weblog, so the only motivation is to make navigation between all weblogs easier. Nice and altruistic, may work for me, but my experience is that it doesn't work for most people (e.g. people tend not to add keywords to documents in a corporate document repository even if it makes their own documents more accessible).

  • And I'm also not sure how smart k-collector will become to suggest right topics. In many cases I use topic that says something about pattern behind a post and doesn't have visible connection in the text. For example, the "suggest" button liveTopics does not suggest "technology adoption" topic unless I mention it explicitly.

At the end my main point is simple: I believe k-collector has more chances to be used if it offers more to endusers. Personally I'd like to have an opportunity to switch between "all weblogs" and "my own weblog" views :)

Update: Paolo and Matt answered some of my questions by demonstrating and explaining "to be released soon" k-collector version. The system is not perfect yet, but I like their future-customer-friendly way of working :)

And I missed one link - K-collector update: topic matching

  Monday, September 29, 2003

  Learning: teams vs. communities

Bill Seitz reacts on communities don't practice with a suggestion to focus on teams and not communitities, because their focus on outcomes "creates a shared ConText which makes learning much stronger".

This triggered my response, which I'm reposting here.

Agree that distinguishing between team and community is important. Not sure if learning in teams is stronger:

  • People in teams have a natural drive to learn - they learn in order to get things done. But after "things are done" (e.g. a project is over) the motivation to learn from past experiences is much lower, because "new things" call for "new learning".

  • Shared understanding (ConText) is stronger in teams, but it may also lead to "group think", while a community provides more diversity (and I believe that learning comes from recognising differences).

  • "Doing" focus of teams creates another problem for learning - lack of time to stop, look back and reflect (more).

Summarising I would say that teams create better conditions for "learning while doing" (implicit learning) and learning directly related to the task, but they don't provide enough time and motivation for reflection and "learning beyond task focus" (e.g. learning more about a field to prepare for a future job).

  Skypememe: Record a call

Phil Wolff wants Skype calls recording. I'm thinking of using Skype to do the same - I'm thinking of using it for interviews... Is there any quick solution before Skype developers come up with this functionality?

More on: tools 

  Friday, September 26, 2003

  Chaos, stress and creativity

Thanks to George Siemens for just-in-time reading, Managing Yourself Through Change. Worth reading if there is any slight change happening with you. For me it was just-in-time.

When we are in Chaos, we are uncertain about what we can do to make things better. We try a variety of responses. We do more of what we have been doing, or less. We try behaviors that worked at some other time and place. We try things we have never done before, hoping that something, anything, will work. We search frantically for information, though we are uncertain about what information will help us. We yell, or cry, or shut down, or run away. We may try each of these things, one after another. Our behavior becomes very unpredictable.

To express this in a different way, we become very creative. Our stress jolts us into extraordinary creativity. We generate a great variety of possible things to do, and we try them.

More on: change 

  Waypath: emergent uses

For me the greatest value of Waypath is in helping me to find discussions related to my posts AND outside of my blogging ecosystem.

By pointing to weblogs beyond my ecosystem Waypath amplifies connections with relevant people and ideas. As I understand this power comes from analysing conceptual connections between weblogs' posts instead of tracing links. For me it works much better than Radio Google-It! macro, which usually brings weblogs I read regularly or those that I track anyway via Technorati.

In case if you don't know, Waypath supports RSS feeds for your searches, so you can receive updates on new posts in the blogosphere on specific topic. For example I use it to monitor posts that say something about knowledge worker.

But what I really like is Waypath plug-in that shows related posts for my own posts. I'm playing with it and so far I have discovered two ways to use it:

  • finding new connections (there are some good matches here already)
  • finding old connections (if it shows only weblogs I know than I suspect that the topic is likely to "belong" to "my corner of the blogosphere") 

  Communities don't practice

Jack Vinson points to Knowledge Flows: Mainstream or Myths? by David Skyrme. As Jack says, it's good to read again. This time I picked up the following quote about communities of practice:

With rare exceptions it is individuals who practice, not communities.

  Wednesday, September 24, 2003

  KM Europe

Ton asks who is going to KM Europe. I will be there. Not sure about specific days yet. Curious to know about others.

More on: learning event 

  Skype: joined the club

Just to let you know - I installed Skype. Talked to Dina, Phil and Ton. Loved it.

I have no idea how to write CALL tag properly, so you have to look for me under mathemagenic.

Thanks to Dina, I know it now - Call me on Skype (please, make sure that I recognise your name or you have a nice autorisation message - I tend to decline calls from people I don't know :)

More on: networking 

  Tuesday, September 23, 2003

  My inner child

How Old is Your Inner Child? via Ross Mayfield. I don't have a birthday today (still two weeks to go :), but it was a lot of fun to find out that...

My inner child is six years old today

More on: fun 

  Monday, September 22, 2003

  Waypath plug-in installed

I wrote earlier about Waypath Radio plug-in, but didn't have time to install it. I did it today - check my homepage to see how it works (I'd like to play a bit more with styling, but this is for another time).

Let's see if it survives in my templates :) 

  Sunday, September 21, 2003

  Three categories of knowledge work

Jack Vinson points to Sharing Leads to Abundance by Don Tapscott, which refers to work of Roger Martin:

He argues that managers should think of knowledge work as falling into three categories: procedural, heuristic, and executive.

This looks interesting. There is not enough detail in the article, but I found a page with publications by Roger Martin. Too late to search for the specific article, so this is for another day.

More on: knowledge networker 

  KM as a system to experience, welcome and embed flow

Dina Mehta articulates the best vision of KM I've ever seen

the vision of KM [...] is of a system that helps users experience, welcome, and embed, within themselves or their organisations, flow

Read the whole post to get Dina's passion...

More on: flow KM 


Go with the weblog flow by McGee's Musings:

The promise of weblogs in the organization is that they help us get more accustomed to flow. The threat the pose is the same thing; they work against those who are more comfortable with control than with performance.

The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world by Kurtz&Snowden [via Column Two]

Corporate experiment in banning email (Clay Shirky) [Many-to-Many]

Mapping knowledge by Denham Grey (see also knowledge mapping wiki page)

More on: flow knowledge mapping 

  Best use of a new technology is hard to foresee

More On Fear and Innovation [via Roland Tanglao: KLogs].

The reality is that extensive experimentation and trial and error may have to occur before the best use of a new technology can be discovered.  And the creator of the technology may not even know what this best use might be.  This suggests that managers ought to downplay the hype about the enormous potential of a new technology  until some compelling uses begin to emerge - both to keep investor expectations down, and to reduce the possible consumer fear factor associated with that new technology.

More on: technology adoption 

  Learning: community vs. individual perspective

Denham commenting to my community vs. individual perspective for learning post:

To change entreched mental mosels you need the energy supplied in deep dialog, the explication and defense of alternative points of view, you really need 'community' help to discover, surface, articulate & examine your personal assumptions. To get to those burried models you have to have external support - they just cannot be reached via personal introspection.

Stephen Downes commenting on Important Learning Must Occur in Groups by Spike Hall (check 17 September 2003 as there is a problem with direct linking):

That fact that there are some irreducibly social elements to learning does not mean that the whole thing is social. You can learn some things, in some ways, on your own, without a social network. Specifically, you need a social network in order to teach others or to learn from others. But that is not the whole of learning.

I agree with both. "Community" or social context is very important for learning. At least, this is true for myself: I always need a conversation for growing my ideas.

I believe that learning comes from recognising differences. This could be done in several ways: confronting your today's ideas with yesterday's, confronting mental models with practices or confronting your views with the views of others. The last way is probably most natural for us as it is part of our social life anyway.

But there is a simple question that makes me looking at the individual differences: why not everyone learns from being a part of social interactions even if "creative abrasion" is there?

I think about very simple example. I studied for my Master's degree in the Netherlands (here). I was part of an international study group, had international social life and many opportunities to observe people from different cultures. When I look back I say that learning about different cultures and their interplay and learning about my own myths and perceptions about other contries probably gave me more than learning for my studies. But I also observed another extreme of this "cultural" learning: getting closed, staying in one's "own country" club only and almost visible resistance to look what could be learnt from differences.

So, why same conditions provoke learning and change in some people and resistance in others? I can think of many explanations, like personal need to learn about specific things or personal need to belong to your "tried and tested" communities without being open for new experiences, but all of them have to do with something "personal".

Summarising I would say: social context is vital for learning, but not enough. I wonder what else do we need and I suspect that this "something else" is hidden at individual level (or, better, in interplay between social and individual).

  Saturday, September 20, 2003

  Learning vs. doing: implicit learning and reflection

Do Yourself a Favor and Stop Learning made a few circles in my news aggregator before I found time to write. In this post Deane writes about drive to learn new technologies:

It's true — we learn far more than we are ever able to use. We learn just for the sake of learning. [...]

This may seem harmless, but does it, in fact, hinder our ability to produce? Does all this learning and all the attention span we spend on new technologies detract from what we should be doing in the here and now?[...]

Is learning a defense mechanism? Do we keep learning so we don't have to write code? Is learning just an easy way to avoid having to actually put ideas into practice? Is this a case of, "Those who can, do. Those who can't just read a few more blogs and test new theories."?

I agree with the main idea of "application-oriented learning" instead of "learning for the sake of learning", but this leads me thinking about something else: learning vs. doing dilemma.

I wrote a bit about it earlier, referring to the time to learn vs. time to do things discussion at I-KNOW 03 conference. Now I have better explanations.

I'm reading papers on implicit learning (drafted notes). Implicit learning could be defined as 

the process through which we become sensitive to certain regularities in the environment (1) in the absence of intention to learn about those regularities (2) in the absence of awareness that one is learning, and (3) in such a way that the resulting knowledge is difficult to express (Cleermans, in press)

In other words, implicit learning is the one that happen while doing (so there is no learning vs. doing dilemma here :). The funny thing is that most people are not aware of it or don't consider it to be "learning".

But there is something that takes time from doing - it's reflection we use to articulate what was learnt implicitly (see reporting vs. reflecting in conference blogging for an example and notes on informal learning for articulation techniques). Note, that explicit (e.g. self-directed or other-directed learning) is likely to take time from doing too.

So how do we find a good doing-learning balance? I don't know yet, but I'm going to do some doing on Saturday afternoon instead of reflecting :)

  Friday, September 19, 2003

  KM: what's in it for me?

A weblog by Olaf Brugman - Knowledge Bridge (many know Olaf well via communicating at the Knowledge Board, where he also supports Special Interest Group on KM in NGOs).

I'd like to pick up a couple of posts by Olaf. First one is on Social Networking: Beyond Communities:

Social networking on the internet is beyond the communities of practice phenomenon, since the former is initiated and driven by the individual, and the opportunities for networking are more flexible, dynamic and fluid than communities of practice.

This somehow brings me to the old conversation with Denham Grey about individual vs. community aspects of knowledge and learning (see also recent post by Dehnam on personal learning). In one of the discussions at KM Summer School 2003 I found some kind of formula to explain my position.

I believe too that learning is social, but I take perspective of an individual while looking at it. I would bring system analysis here and say that I'm more interested in individual as part of a ecosystem of communities than in a that ecosystem (still having the ecosystem in mind).

For me, there are still many secrets in differences between our individual motives and practices regarding "knowledge work", many uncertainties about knowing how to help people to find What's in it for me? answers and many open questions about releasing energy of others... The funny thing is that my most difficult "KM discussions" are with "community people", with whom I share so many beliefs.

...and another post of Olaf on What do I want Knowledge Management to be for me?:

What I want Knowledge Management to be is to make a meaningful difference in someone's life.

To me, this means:
- I need to find the 'someone',
- along the lines of communality of interests, competences and circumstances,
- without wasting my time.

So what do I expect from KM solutions on the internet such as, teamsites, CoPs, blogs, professional networks, web directories:

1. To offer me a "Issue and Interest Finder" navigation to:
. interests (why),
. issues (what), and
. places (where) that
. I relate to.

2. To offer me a "Resource and People Finder" to:
. relevant people and experts
. relevant projects
. relevant competences
. relevant previous experiences
. relevant methods and tools

3. A Workplace:
. to meet
. to exchange/learn/teach
. to coordinate and work together
. to build community, competence, memory, work products

  Weblogs are technologically simple and socially complex

A few month old writing by Jim McGee:

Weblogs are interesting in organizational KM settings because weblogs are technologically simple and socially complex, which makes them a much better match to the KM problems that matter. One thing that we need to do next is to work backwards from the answer - weblogs - to the problem - what do organizations need to do effective knowledge management. We need to avoid the mistakes of other KM software vendors and not assume that the connection is self-evident.

More on: blogs blogs in business 

  Thursday, September 18, 2003

  Making sense of weblogs in the intranet (in Lucent)

Thanks Dina for bringing it in. headshift moments on Excellent presentation on supporting K-logging within a large organisation:

Lucent's Michael Angeles has posted the slides from his presentation to the (US) Usability Professional Association's "Blogging in Corporate America" event in New York. His talk was called Making intranet weblog data usable.

The presentation, which is actully called "Making sense of weblogs in the intranet: What they are, why people are using them, making them useful for knowledge management", is must read. It gives a good example of talking about weblogs in a corporate world, tells a lot about intranet in Lucent and describes Lucent's approach to internal weblog support (strategy, which is not implemented yet).

More on: blogs in business 

  KMSS03: KM trends and challenges as I see them

Christian asked KM Summer School 2003 organisers to reflect on key issues and challenges of KM based on our observations during last week. I believe this may be useful for a broader audience (and please don't forget that these are my personal biased views :)

One trend I could observe is that "KM is about technologies" is not there anymore. We didn't have to convince the participants about it. But it's difficult to say why: we made the program without much space to talk about technologies and may be we just have not attracted "technology-oriented" KM crowd.

Action research is gaining momentum as research methodology in KM. It could be considered as a good sign, as action research allows better connection between KM research and practice. From another side, action research is still not widely accepted in academic circles that could lead to alienation of KM researchers who use it from "mainstream" research. I've got an impression that many participants liked the idea of doing action research, but I suspect that they are not aware that producing valid scientific results using action research requires a serious look at methodological issues and methods to be used. We didn't have much discussion on this "practical" side of action research.

KM research challenges

Understanding how to make things work. Going beyond models and theories. Implementation. Acceptance by people. This brings the main research challenge – understand how KM initiatives could be connected to our everyday practices without being an "extra thing" or  answering What's in it for me? question (I'm so biased here, this is my own research focus :)

The related research/practical challenge is to understand emergent and self-organising nature of knowledge work and knowledge networks. I share beliefs of others that you can't manage it, but I can also understand that in business context you need to do something with it. So, I would put it as understanding how to manage (=facilitate, or suggest better word) emerging complexity (still talking about KM context here).

Speed up learning curve for young researchers: it's important to know the basics, but there is a need to go through them faster and join current discussions.

  • Getting rid of old models (everyone is starting from Nonaka SECI model and is loosing much time on it, instead of reading something more advanced or at least critics of Nonaka next to him).
  • Another observation feeds this – many of KMSS participants seem not to be aware of storytelling research, so they proposed and supported a "research proposal" to reinvent the wheel instead of going further.

Practice what we preach. Do KM in KM research community next to studying it. Build on results of others instead of reinventing them. Keep and eye on trends. Share and learn proactively.

  Wednesday, September 17, 2003

  Developing reflexivity

From e-mail discussion about reflection techniques, by Christian Rangen:

I believe debriefing to be a personal characteristic far more than anything that can be learned by anyone. The techniques, of course, can be learned, but what is far more important is:

  • The natural curiosity that leads up to a debrief
  • The desire to learn (from ones own mistakes in order to improve)
  • The desire to help others learn (by learning from their mistakes and helping them focus on their strengths)
  • By enabling group processes and group learning through debrief sessions.

For my part, I’ve (unconsciously) been running debriefs for years prior to joining KMG. While still in school, we often sat down and asked;

  • What was supposed to happen?
  • What happened?
  • What can we do to improve the next time?

Debrief is one of the ultimate learning tools, but require a natural thirst for learning.

I'm not so sure, but there is something true in it. At least I tend to ask a lot of questions along this "nature vs. nurture" dilemma, for example:

  Beyond 'blogs = easy webpublishing' (2)

Paolo Valdemarin in To innovate or not to innovate:

It's interesting to read some of the comments to my post about free weblogs.

I'm seeing the same trend also here in Italy where the most popular provider of free weblogging tools does not provide some basic features such as ping to weblogs.com, RSS feed or trackback.

People is asking "Why should we care? We don't even understand what you are talking about!". New features are often perceived as unnecessary "bells and whistles".

I think that there's still plenty of room to improve todays' tools, but with the audience growing every day at a steady pace and consequently having a lower average technical culture, it becomes very important to effectively communicate what these improvements are about and why they are needed. We must be able to explain why something is important (if it is).

Otherwise we can all sit back, relax, move to a free blogging app and wait for the next wave because this game is over.

I couldn't agree more.

I strongly believe that having RSS feed enables social processes around weblogs (there are other things next to RSS of course). For me these social processes are the core value of blogging. Introducing weblogs without introducing good ways to read other weblogs (=RSS) makes it more difficult for a new blogger to establish "blogging social network" and there is a risk that the networking value of blogging will be never discovered.

Next to it, RSS enables a lot of smart add-ons (think of k-collector or edu_RSS) to process and aggregate weblogs content, and I guess it plays a great role in enabling tracking tools (I guess some of them subscribe to RSS feeds instead of crawling web-pages). So, newcomers who use free tools without RSS will not be visible in a "easy to digest ways" for others.

Back to Paolo's words, I believe that providing only easy weblpublishing tools is not good enough to surf this wave and we'll have to wait for another one.

[Related posts: a weblog without an RSS feed..., Beyond 'blogs = easy webpublishing' , How selection of blogging tool functionalities influences specific uses of blogs?]

  Fubini's Law: interplay between technologies and our practices

James Robertson posts on Fubini's Law:

1. People initially use technology to do what they do now - but faster.

2. Then they gradually begin to use technology to do new things.

3. The new things change life-styles and work-styles.

4. The new life-styles and work-styles change society

... and eventually change technology.

I loved it, did Google search on it to find the original, but found mainly posts in blogs. I'd like to know the story behind it.

And this one (via John Robb and Martin Roell)

First we build the tools, then they build us (Marshall McLuhan)

More on: technology adoption 

  Out-of-the-box thinking

Martin Roell cites unknown author:

To think outside the box, you can't look inside the box for instructions.

  Monday, September 15, 2003

  Open-Ended Manifesto on Research and Learning

Open-Ended Manifesto on Research and Learning [via OLDaily]. Pieces that correlate with last few days thinking:

§2. To live is to learn and to learn is to live.

§4. What we know, we know together.

§9. The distinction between having knowledge and using knowledge will break down. Knowledge is becoming a dynamic phenomenon. Something is only knowledge when it circulates in networks and only when the knowledge facilitates actions. Then it becomes competence.

§16. We need much better tools of reflection to be able to organise and manage in a society where knowledge and symbolic work are central.

§23. To be meaningful, research today has to take place in networks.

§25. A socially meaningful and practically relevant form of human and social science today has to build on a renewal of the tradition of action research. What we need are common forms of reflection, common tools for reflection and reflexive practices that are not only effective but also constantly are a source of new experience and knowledge. We could call it second generation action research.

§27. Research and learning are converging. The distinction between a situation where knowledge is produced or created and a situation where it is used is breaking down. More and more often knowledge is created in the context of its application and use.

  Links on reflective skills

[Follow-up on previous post] Did Google search on reflective skills. Some pointers:

More on: meta-learning 

  Understanding real value of blogging: time, connectivity, need for reflection

Sebastian Fiedler asks How to seed a learning environment that allows for evolutionary growth?:

Most people who kept personal Webpublishing projects (Weblogs, Wikis, etc.) running for months and years can report how certain qualities and benefits only emerged over time. They remember how they were basically talking to themselves at the beginning, how they found a small circle of like -minded authors, how this circle grew through chance meetings and focused search, how their readership grew and got more diverse, and so on.

Now, my question is: what parts of this evolutionary growth model could we hope to seed and watch unfold over the period of a semester? ... or will we never be able to touch the "real potential" of personal and collaborative Webpublishing in formal instructional settings because of the usual constraints on time, pace and structure?

Sebastien Paquet comments:

Sebastian offers an interesting questioning on how the constraints of formal education settings make it difficult to fruitfully integrate personal webpublishing in student activities. Time is one of the key issues.

From my experience it does seem hard to reap the benefits of personal webpublishing within a short timeframe. It easily took me four months to integrate myself into the network - and I spent a lot of that time in the blogosphere, something a time-pressured student is unlikely to be able or willing do.

I agree: real value of blogging unfolds with time. This would create problem in any setting with time pressures and low initial motivation for blogging, not only in the classroom. The first thing I thought about was introducing weblogs in a company: most of the people I talk with about weblogs say "sounds interesting, but I don't have time". 

Even more complicated, introducing weblogs in any "protected" environment, such as class-only access server (or Intranet), decreases the probability of establishing critical number of meaningful connections.

So, what I would do? Quick brainstorm...

  • Integrate weblogs with meaningful activities: use weblogs as communication medium (e.g. by asking team to document design decisions), eliminate other assignments...
  • Simulate/stimulate connections: ask outside experts to comment on classroom blogs, ask students to comment on each others weblogs, reveal posts close to each other by using topics/categories...

We can work it out in more detail, but I'd like to come back to Sebastian's original question "how do we address and foster the necessary reflexivity in our novice learners and aspiring practitioners?". I wonder what if weblogs do not provide a good environment for developing reflective skills, but simply work as "reflection capturing and amplifying devices" for people with existing need and skills for reflection? Where do we start when?

I'd love to see any good references about understanding the nature of reflexivity and techniques that foster it. I just realised that even this topic has been an important part of my thinking for several years, I don't know much about existing literature on it. To be more specific I'm interested why for some people reflection seems to be an integral activity (e.g. I have no idea how did I develop reflective skills), while others need support to develop it?

  New blogs: Denham Grey and Elliott Masie

The greatest finding of last week: weblogs by people I really wanted to see blogging.

The first one is Denham Grey. I guess I don't have to explain much for regular readers of my weblog :) Denham is one of the best critics of blogging. His questions provoke searching for true values of blogging and artuculating them.

To make it easier: a sample of my posts provoked by Denham (in reverse chronological order)

The second weblog is not a new one, but I found it only recently. It's by Elliott Masie.

Before I started blogging, TechLearn TRENDS - the newsletter published by The MASIE center - was one of my regular sources of unexpected insights about learning. I'm curious to see how it will work with new medium :)

More on: blog new 

  KMSS03: back home

I'm back from KM Summer School 2003. Didn't have much time to write :) I have several posts drafted, they should be on-line soon.

I managed to check my news aggregator several times - a lot of interesting things, hope to find time to comment.

More on: KMSS life 

  Sunday, September 14, 2003

  KMSS03: What I have learnt by organising it

I wrote earlier that I didn't have much time for learning and networking during this summer school. I was wrong.

I didn't have enough time to do usual networking, so I missed some interesting people, but working together with others to organise this event allowed building deeper connections with some people instead of scratching the surface of "who does what".

Learning was different as well. I didn't learn much of the program (which is not surprising as I was involved in organising something during 3 days out of 5), but I've learnt a lot about organising a learning event like this one.

So, these are my lessons learnt. They are based on participants' feedback, organisers' debriefing and many one-to-one informal talks. Important conditions to take into account if you think about reusing them:

  • This is a summer school, not a conference or a training course. We tried to balance some elements of both.
  • It was organised mainly for young KM researchers (although we had enough experienced researchers and practitioners), so you can't rely on participants being active and confident all the time.

Team and process

We worked as a distributed flexible team; most of the program committee members were volunteers and we didn't have any "formal" leader. Most of us met during last year KM Summer School without knowing we will organise this one. After forming the program committee somewhere in beginning of 2003 we didn't have any single face-to-face meeting with all of us, but few people met each other on other occasions. We had to rely on e-mail (somehow threaded discussion didn't work), bi-weekly phone conferences and occasional phone calls. No conference management system, no document-sharing repository, no centralisation…

As some others I'm quite impressed with what we were able to achieve given these settings. But if someone asks me if I would do it this way again, I would say no.

It takes too much energy to achieve results in such a distributed network with no formal commitments (as a volunteer you can always have valuable excuses), no process/communication facilitation and no shared understanding/experiences of organising a learning event like KM Summer School 2003. Too many uncertainties altogether.

So I would work in a distributed network if there is a clear process and responsibilities or if there is shared understanding of how things work. The last one is probably most important: shared values, shared approaches, being on the "same wave" makes sure that you can work on achieving results and not on achieving shared understanding first.

Then there are some practical sides: using conference management system (e.g. free one like ConfMan or ConfMaster), structuring and capturing communication (ideally forum/wiki + file exchange server), a bit more centralisation and face-to-face contact.

Program, sessions, networking


  • No presentations after lunch
  • Be careful with several presentations in a raw; better think of something interactive in between
  • Prepare inexperienced presenters (ask them not to read their paper, focus on few most interesting issues, provoke discussion)
  • Ideally make parallel sessions with inexperienced presenters (the risk of getting the whole audience bored is too high :)
  • Questions
    • Make more time for questions
    • Do background negotiations with "talking too much" people, so they give more space to others to comment
    • May be writing down questions on paper can work to give space for more people to ask questions

Interactive sessions

  • Make sure results of small group work are presented
  • Do not leave group work for self-organisation, structure the process (and leave more time at the end to continue with self-organised discussion)
  • Provide group process facilitators if possible
  • Find ways to involve everyone and not only "leaders" talking (e.g. asking everyone to brainstorm on paper first and then discuss results in a group)
  • Give reading materials in advance and then don't rely too much on people reading them

Socialising and networking

  • Make sure there is a bar/restaurant in the hotel ("common space" in the evening)
  • Make sure there is a group of people initiating "having dinner together", so people without established network can easily join
  • Longer breaks (at least 30 min)
  • Write countries on badges
  • Support finding each other by interests
  • Scaffold active position (this is a separate topic which I hope to address one day)

  Thursday, September 11, 2003

  KMSS03: Innovation -> connecting research and practice

My (almost raw) notes on the session on Innovation.

Innovation success factors by Hank Kune

(background reading - Critical success factors for innovation in non-profit organizations, .doc) 

  • Organisational structure for innovation processes
    • Treat innovation as a systemic process
    • Create space for innovation (physical, emotional, budgetary…)
    • Set ambitious goals and combine them with small steps
    • Focus on results
    • Learn from innovation process
  • Organisational culture
    • Create a climate for innovation
      • Making time for innovation, e.g.
      • Rewards and recognition
    • Foster valueing innovaton
    • Break patterns and abandon excepted truth, e.g.
      • Look for ideas that do not work, but still get implemented
      • Support nonconformists
      • Confronting solutions proposed by managers by ideas collected from schoolchildren
    • Motivate personal
  • People
    • Make people central to the innovation process
    • Communicate about innovation
    • Involve senior managers directly
  • Environment
    • Search for and make use of opportunities outside organisation
    • Be customer-oriented

"You can't give people freedom and space without accountability"

Sources of innovation

  • Burning platform (hot problem to work on)
  • Burning passion (creative people driven by their own passion to find answers)
  • Low threshold: everyone everywhere in the organisation knows how to do work, so listen to all people (e.g. secretaries) to find new ideas

How to facilitate creativity

  • Network of facilitators, web-site with creativity techniques
  • Finding people outside of organisation
  • Artists functioning as translaters between different parties

Models of innovation and management of knowledge by Hilary Kane

See Models of Innovations and KM presentation (.pdf) and a corresponding paper How Might Models of Innovation Inform the Management of Knowledge? (.pdf).

During this talk I regretted of not reading the paper in advance. It's worth it. And I also enjoyed much the way Hilary has presented - making links to presentations and discussions of two previous days.

Citing Kuhn: "If we don’t marry theory and practice we are not more than fact gatherers"

Interactive session on innovation by Gerald Prast

This was an interesting interactive session. First we have brainstormed do's and don'ts of implementing innovation, then went into "what I can do to make it happen" and finished with discussion on connecting research and practice. Full brainstorming summary is on-line, but I'd like to cite the last piece:

How to marry theory and practice ("heaven and hell/hell and heaven")

  • Use what is there
  • Teach each other
  • Avoid big words 
  • Use the theory of innovation stages
  • Bridge the (artificial) divide by people who have experience in both
  • Do action research 
  • Use Free discussion 
  • Try to understand each others’ pressures 
  • Engage people with deep knowledge of one subject and an interest in one or two others ("T-professionals")
  • Use triads: Theoretician, practitioner, journalist/story-teller
  • Re-wire the brain using Goleman theory
  • Create common space to exchange points of view (e.g. Google answers)
  • Act as a change agent, not as a lecturer
  • Practice what you preach

Summary of the day (including parallel session on KM in SMEs) should be availiable here soon.

  KMSS03: Knowledge networks and communities

You can find overview of this theme on-line, so here I'd like to write about a couple of things that caught my attention.

In his speech Bruce Cronin did an introduction of theories, practices and tools "around" social networks. As I'm reading other weblogs (also papers) on the topic, that wasn't much new. What I really liked is an opportunity to get a bit of conversation with not-blogging expert on social networks (he was aware of weblogs anyway :)

Next to other things I was wondering if being well connected (or being a broker) in a network is a function of personality type or job responsibilities/position in a company. Bruce couldn't generalize from his experiences and suggested that both play an important role. Or it also could be that people with "networking" personalities much easier reach positions in a company that require being well connected.

Christian Van’T Hof shared his experiences on creating Good and Best practice database with KM cases (presentation should be on-line; paper is here). He talked about a trend of moving from IT based KM to a community-based KM with using nice metaphor of Borgs (from Startrek) and guilds. What I found interesting is not the trend itself (not new for me), but Christian's suggestion that it will go back in search of the balance [later: see Sam Marshall about the same trend].

Tobias Mueller- Prothmann talked about usability evaluation for on-line knowledge communities (paper + presentation). He and his colleagues are working on usability evaluation questionnaires, which I hope to be able to use one day. It was very nice of Tobias not only to read How to get the most out of conferences by Scott Berkun that I linked to from participants page, but also use some ideas to make his presentation more fun.

  Wednesday, September 10, 2003

  KMSS03: KM map

We had several goals for the day one. First, we wanted to explore multidisciplinary of KM. And second, we wanted to create conditions for meaningful (also topic-based) discussion. I've got a feeling that this worked well.

We started from KM mapping game, asking each participant to draw his interests on the "draft" knowledge map (prepared by Gerald Prast). When this maps were compared in random groups and finally participants had to form for their "own" group, finding people with similar interests. It seemed to work well generating discussions that are hard to stop. I was especially happy to see meaningful conversations and involvement so early.

The second round was more challenging: after few presentations we moved to "research agenda" sessions. Based on their interests each group had to come up with research proposal and present it. When groups could "fund" proposals they liked with our own currency, KM$$.

During these sessions we found out that some of our intentions came into a conflict: from one side we wanted to get a good overview of research questions I the field, but also a bit of competitive element to keep the work of groups focused. We ended up with interesting research proposal, but not an overview :)

To give you an overview if topics that participants considered interesting to study:

  • Multidisciplinary communities
  • Storytelling
  • Leadership in communities
  • Virtual coffee-table
  • Community measurement
  • Recycling innovation
  • Customer knowledge management

I won’t write about all of them – some may end up published at the Knowledge Board (we left the decision about going public or not to participants). Nice that in my blog I can be subjective. I liked two ideas.

Recycling innovation proposal focused on finding the way to reuse "dead ends", knowledge what have not end up being part of the new idea/ product.

Virtual coffee-table proposal was a bit unfocused, but with really interesting underling idea: funding the limitations of technology use for informal knowledge exchange and socialisation. As many others I believe that technology can not substitute real life communication, but I also see that it can contribute to developing trust, shared understanding and sense of coffee-table discussion even in cases of no face-to-face contact. Weblogs provide a good example of such a case.

More on: innovation KMSS 

  KMSS03: Start

I didn’t manage to write in time – I was one of the people responsible for KMSS day 1… I’ve got a disappointing finding: being one of the organisers means not much learning and no time for networking. Hope it will be better on other days.

So, I couldn’t write participant notes, but I can share some organiser’s observations :)

See also KMSS day 1 notes at KnowledgeBoard
More on: KMSS 

  Friday, September 05, 2003

  KMSS03: Getting ready

I'm leaving for KM Summer School 2003 tomorrow.

At the last moment I decided to make a poster about my research (posters are optional), still busy with it. Will share it after coming back because no way I can make an on-line version given the time left before my plane :)

I'm going to blog it, but it may be difficult as I'm a member of organising team. Really looking forward to see how it will work :)))

More on: KMSS 

  Waypath: better search in the blogosphere

Sebastien Paquet writes about Waypath. Last few days I was exploring Waypath too, but Seb points to an interesting example of using it: Michael Fagan adds Waypath link to all external links in his weblog. Michael explains it:

For those using newer browsers, you will also see bw after most links. These are both for further information. The b link takes you to a page on Blogdex that shows other blogs that link to that same link. You can visit these other blogs to read what other people have to say on the topic. The w link takes you to a page on Waypath, that shows you blog posts that are related to that link. This is another way to find what other bloggers are saying.

It's a pity that I didn't find any explanation how to do it (I guess this is not manual). But I found something else: Waypath plug-ins for MT and Radio to add "related posts from Waypath" link to your posts. Will try it in the evening.

As I understood in this plug-in Waypath uses some kind of smart keyword search instead of linking to other posts using links texts/addresses. I wonder if it will work better than Radio's Google it! macro, which I don't find very useful.

Finally, Waypath also allows RSS subscription to your searches.

  Monday, September 01, 2003

  Weblogs: enterprises must maintain the integrity of the medium

Martin Roell cites Jupiter Research: Weblog Best Practices (Login required):

Weblogs offer an interesting marketing opportunity for enterprises, but should not be considered a marketing tool. Weblogs are currently independent of advertisers or corporate underwriters—a unique feature. Because Weblogs are untouched by corporations, the objectivity of the content remains trustworthy and seems untainted. Enterprises must maintain the integrity of the medium if they wish to be taken seriously.

More on: blogs in business 

© Copyright 2002-2006 Lilia Efimova Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Last update: 4/10/2006; 4:39:27 PM.