Updated: 6/30/2005; 11:31:31 PM.


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  Monday, June 14, 2004

  Managing NOT knowing

Just a quote from Johnnie Moore:

This reminds me of my long held view that Knowledge Management is an unattractive term. What really engages me is how we manage our NOT knowing... if we can handle that lightly, then other things have a chance to drop into place.

More on: asking questions KM 

  Diving vs cycling or from practice to theory and back

There was a great metaphor developed by one of the discussion groups at CPsquare open house.

Think of nurturing communities as a crossing a bridge (due to local circumstances the only transport offered was a bike ;) You can go pretty straight (and follow something like "10 tips for facilitating communities of practice") and cross the bridge. However, in most cases it's not that simple: many people fall from the bridge and discover deep waters of underlying theories and practices under it.

[I hope to find a photo and post it here. This one gives some impression.]

Some people just swim on a surface, others go diving to discover the treasures of depth. Divers are different as well: some are supported by a team on the surface, stay in depth longer, but explore only limited part of the bottom; others take risks of diving by themselves to get more flexibility.

Some people just want to cross the bridge as fast as possible and don't want to go diving into theories. Others get addicted to diving and stay underwater with fading memories of the bridge. Others get out of the water, but forget to take of all their diving gear, surprising other bicyclists on the bridge with wetsuits and masks.

This metaphor provokes many questions:

Is it necessary to dive into deep waters of theories to cross the bridge? Some just want to get to another side faster. Are people prepared for diving? Do they need crash course or long training in a swimming pool to get ready for the surprises of the depth?

Which diving style to choose? Are there any "fitness" conditions to go diving?

How to make diving fun? Do you need an experienced guide to show you around?

What do you if you get addicted to diving?

How to remember to take you wetsuit off if you decide to go back on the bridge? How to explain others on the bridge what you have seen in the depth? How to share experiences of deep waters with those who can not even think of swimming?

Why do we have to stick to cycling on the bridge after all? One can use boat or fly over the riverÖ Of course, the bridge is persistent; it embodies expertise of earlier generations to make crossing easier to newcomers. It also fast. However, the bridge keeps distance from the water, so those who fall down from their bicycles can get surprising cold showers. May be we should think of a ferry: a bit slower, but at least the waters do not get out of sight :)

Of course, I find the metaphor particularly appealing as it speaks diving language :) Thinking where I would position myself on the picture... I guess I will be a diver establishing a ferry business. My ferry would be fast enough to make a good alternative to cycling on the bridge. I'll make sure that it has glass bottom, so those on board can see the beauty and depth of waters under the bridge. I'll provide some safety training, so those falling in the water will not be shocked, and basic introduction to diving, so those interested get a starting point. Iíll do something "not super fast, but with a lot of fun on board" and make sure "deep water education" activities are well embedded into the river-crossing experience.

I guess I'll also arrange for a helicopter flights across the river, so people (especially addicted divers who rarely get out of the water) can appreciate the surroundings and see that the river if only part of the landscape ;)

  CPsquare open house

CPsquare open house was an interesting experience: the fun of meeting new people and discovering new connections between ideas. I also couldnít avoid mental comparison with things we do at BlogWalk ;) Thanks for being open for newcomers!

Some ideas:

Weblogs and personalities of their authors. We had an interesting discussion about weblog vs. forum/mailing list choice. One of the things that came on the way is a distinction between global and sequential thinkers, foxes and hedgehogs, generalists and specialists. First operate in "clouds" of ideas, spanning boundaries of different fields, picking out relevant bits everywhere and connecting them into a whole. Second follow the trail of their chosen field, focusing and digging deeper. (Of course, it is a continuum :)

Many webloggers say that their weblog serves as a one place to collect their ideas. It make a good sense for those thinking global, so they have a Home to bring ideas from traveling to different online spaces, many of which are strange and exotic. Keeping track of different combinations of ideas and spaces they come from can be too complicated without weblog as a base camp.

In contrast, for those who focused in their quest for knowledge, participation in different online spaces may not be a big problem: at least their line of enquiry is clear, remembering spaces from there ideas come it not that difficult.

Think of organizing a collection of travel photos from two people: one interested in things people do differently in different cultures, and another, who travels across the globe in search for best waterfall shoot.

Weblog introduction. Weblog practices differ in different weblog neighborhoods, so to a great extend a newcomer experiences of blogging are shaped by bloggers around. One gets exposed to practices of using different tools, to different writing styles and to social norms in a community and is likely to pick up some of those. If someone starts with an idea that weblogs are easy webpublishing tools and do not upon a weblog neighborhood with different practices, he may never discover the fun of social connections arising from weblogs.

Of course, Iím still thinking about the city metaphor for blogging. Just imagine what you will think of Amsterdam if you walk into the red light district after arriving and get hooked into it, never discovering museum quarter or business areas?

An illusion of shared experiences of in online communities. We think of a online community as a whole and talk about shared experiences, but at the end each member sits in front of a computer and experiences something totally different from others. Whose experiences are rarely shared (unless members get involved into a reflection on it; Iím thinking of meta-blogging posts that sometimes reveal how differently people embed blogging into their daily routines). See also: Nancy White about it.

Distinction between a (social) network and a community. We tried to draw the line between those two, but didnít get very far (at least I donít have a convincing distinction for myself :). The criteria suggested for a community during the discussion: leadership, ownership, shared practices, greater accountability, shared purpose, many-to-many relations (vs. a system of one-to-one relations).

We also talked about differences in constructing someoneís identity, accommodating different cultures (national, professional, early adopters vs. majority), the core and the fringe of a community in context of welcoming newcomers and many other topicsÖ They landed somewhere in my thinking cloud, somewhere in those areas that are not ready for words yet :)

Quite a few people from the group are presenting at Virtual Communities conference today and tomorrow, so I joined them for dinner in The Hague as I had to stay overnight as well to get a Swiss visa. Nancy White, John Smith and Alasdair Honeyman are presenting on improvisation and design in communities, so yesterday evening was pretty much in Improv style: getting Indonesian food from nearest gas station and eating it in front of five star conference hotel followed by rehearsal of their presentation. That was a lot of fun, so I do not really feel that bad typing this in a café while waiting for my visa, instead of being at the conference :)

See also: notes and pictures by Ton Zijlstra, summary by Erik van Bekkum, notes by Nancy White

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© Copyright 2002-2005 Lilia Efimova.

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.

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