How We Decide

November 13, 2009

My MBA at Babson continues and I am currently taking a course on Decisions. The professor is Tom Davenport who is a big fan of analytics as a decision process. Part of the reading for this course included the book “How We Decide” by Jonah Leherer. Blink was also assigned reading for the course and the two books provide some insights into the the very messy way in which our minds work. Leherer’s book concludes with some general guidelines, I’ve summarized below:

  • Simple problems require reason. Use the rational brain (that part where you actively think about a problem) when the number of factors is less than 7. Beyond seven factors and the mind gets easily confused. For more complex problems such as buying a car, business decisions, use your emotional brain. Give yourself time for the unconscious brain to ruminate on these choices that have a myriad of options and linkages. A selection will present itself.
  • Novel problems also require reason. Does your past experience provide insights? Use your rational brain to focus on the problem.
  • Embrace uncertainty. Hard problems have no single Goldilocks solution. Give yourself time to let the argument unfold in your mind before making a decision. Look at what you don’t know and don’t assume that you’ve heard and seen it all.
  • In the end Leherer asks you to study how your own mind works in decision making and understand which decisions were right and which weren’t. Think about how you think.


    Personal Information Management

    May 6, 2009

    At our first ever SIKM-Boston face to face meeting in Feb I had the opportunity to meet Bill Ives. The conversation around the table turned to ‘how do you write your blog posts?’. The answers from around the table:

  • I use the built in WordPress editor
  • I use Word and copy/paste to my blog editor
  • I use Outlook email to craft the entry and copy/paste to my blog editor
  • From there the conversation went to ‘Well how do you keep track of information?’. the replies (greatly simplified):

  • I blog about my ideas and useful information, my blog becomes my online resource for keeping track
  • I write an email, or file my emails into folders in Outlook and use Google’s desktop search
  • I keep a Word doc with interesting bits of information
  • I write down on paper what I need to remember and what I find interesting
  • So here we have a diverse group of KMers who each have individual methods to capture, share and reuse the information they come across. My point is that KM is always focused on ‘how can we take all of this information’ and then get it into the heads of our employees. The reality is we spend little time on helping our employees manage their information.

  • If I am unable to keep up with my email, I’m sure not going to go blog about something.
  • If I am unable to search for a document within my company, why should I contribute to our collaboration space? No one will find it.
  • If I can’t find a document on my laptop, how can I share it with my team mates.
  • In the corporate world we get inundated with information through email, phone calls, F2F meetings, company town halls, more email, RSS feeds from blogs, wikis, Word docs, Powerpoint files, still more email, texting, IMing, Yammering, Twittering, Skyping, conference calls, Webex-es, webinars, Podcasts, Videocasts, and on it goes as technology marches on. Just like the ‘last mile’ is often neglected, the ‘last foot’ between the employee and computer is also neglected and overlooked. In building KM systems, processes and embedding those into business processes, yet not taking into account the diversity of information, information sources and tools to manage and consume the information we end up hurting the employee rather than helping.

    I am curious if any of you have focused on helping employees to become better consumers and producers of information as part of your KM program.

    KM Guru – Larry Prusak

    April 21, 2009

    I had the opportunity to meet one of KM’s biggest thinkers and practitioners, Larry Prusak, at the Working Knowledge conference. Larry along with Tom Davenport run the Working Knowledge Center at Babson. Soon Larry will be retiring from the Babson Center, and Brook Manville will help Tom continue their research.

    This was Larry’s last Working Knowledge conference as co-founder and he prepared a brief talk reflecting on his observations and experiences in the KM field.

    Here they are as best as I could summarize:
    • Knowledge is social
    • Trust within the group is a key ingredient to success in KM
    • Learning is the vowel of which knowledge is the verb
    • History counts, it provides boundaries and what is possible
    • Innovation, Collaboration and Learning
    • Companies experience amnesia when KM works
    • Democratization of knowledge is here to stay
    • One economics, many countries

    “Its the community stupid!” – Boston KM Forum

    April 1, 2009

    I was able to spend part of my day yesterday at the Boston KM Forum’s Leveraging Virtual Teams & Social Tools for Business Advantage: Blogs, Wikis, Twitter, et al. Note slides are available at the Boston KM Forum site. The first speakers were Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps from Netage. This was a great presentation about virtual teams and how to make them more successful. They co-wrote the HBR article (along with a bunch of books) “Can Absence Make a Team Grow Stronger?” Three rules from the article:

  • Rule 1: Exploit Diversity
  • Rule 2: Use Technology to Simulate Reality
  • Rule 3: Hold the Team Together
  • Jack Vinson at Knowledge Jolt also blogged about the article when it first came out in 2004. Jessica also blogs about the event at her blog Endless Knots.

    The next speaker was Ken George from WBUR. Ken’s presentation was great because it was visual and not a lot of bullet points on slides. The quote for this blog entry was from Ken’s presentation as he spoke about the challenges of using social media tools in the non-profit context. Overall I was impressed by WBUR’s effort to embrace social media and encourage participation from their devoted fans.

    The last presentation I saw before leaving was from Suzanne Minassian from IBM Lotus. She presented on the evolution of social media tools within IBM and how some of them actually made it into some of IBM’s products today.

    Marc Solomon also blogged about the event.

    Coolest Meeting Summary Ever!

    March 5, 2009

    At the Working Knowledge Center at Babson, I was given an opportunity to see KM and art melded together to produce a summary of the discussions during the meeting. Heather Willems offers a service call Graphic Facilitation. Here’s an example from the meeting:

    Heather Willems Graphic Representation of Cass Sunstein talk

    Heather Willems Graphic Representation of Cass Sunstein talk

    I blogged about Cass Sunstein’s presentation before. During the discussion Heather was at the back of the room drawing in real time as Professor Sunstein was giving his talk. The image above is the end result, a much more interesting representation of the topics and ideas discussed in the meeting.

    On her site, Heather describes graphic facilitation as “the act of using text and images to visually represent a conversation. In real time, a mural-size drawing is “scribed” at the front of the room. As the conversation develops, the graphic facilitator utilizes a variety of skills including listening, thinking, and drawing to synthesize the dialogue.”

    Its certainly a lot more interesting to review than a bunch of bullet points from a meeting.

    KM as a Managed Service

    February 14, 2009

    At the Working Knowledge conference, Kelly Cimmino from Price Waterhouse Coopers discussed how PWC is using an internal managed service to deliver KM services to PWC business units. I’ve written about this before and it was great to see that others had similar ideas and have been able to successfully implement it.

    Offering KM as a service (KMaS anyone?) would allow companies to track time, expenses, output and assign business value to knowledge management. For example, your local librarian is essentially a KMaS model. In fact corporate librarians and knowledge managers are one and the same. See Michael Stephens interview with Boeing Librarians.

    Some argue that Web 2.0 has reduced the need for librarians and other ‘organizers’ of information. I disagree, I think there is always a need for someone to pre-digest, qualify, sort, sift and organize information produced in a corporate environment. Certainly technology can augment and increase the value of your KM team and make it easier for your employees to consume the information produced by your corporation.


    December 16, 2008

    One of the benefits of being a Fast Track student at Babson’s MBA school, is access to great professors like Tom Davenport. Professor Davenport runs the Working Knowledge Research Center at Babson. Recently, I was lucky enough to attend one their semi-annual conferences. Look out for lots of blog posts on my take aways from the event.

    One of the most interesting discussions was provided by Cass Sunstein, professor from Harvard Law School. Professor Sunstein in collaboration with Richard Thaler has written a book Nudge. As Professor Sunstein described his efforts to get the book published, he initially called the book Libertarian Paternalism, which many book editors passed on. Eventually they called it Nudge and now I’m telling you that you must read it!

    Libertarian Paternalism’s premise is that by architecting the choices that people are given, providing easy, one click opt-out and transparency throughout the process, populations and groups can be nudged into actions that are beneficial for them and society. For example:

  • Having employees automatically enrolled into a 401k plan when they joined the company as opposed to signing up for the plan, leads to more participants in the 401k program.
  • Save More Tomorrow plan – a percentage of an employee’s future pay increase is automatically put into a savings plan.
  • The key ideas to Nudge are:

  • Choice architecture: The default option has a huge effect on how many (or how successful) people participate.
  • Context & Framing: How the options are presented and supported are equally as important. For example, in a study conducted, people were asked whether they would have an operation if there was a 90% success rate, most elected the surgery. If they were told there was a 10% chance of death, most declined the surgery.
  • We each have two brains that take over depending on the context: The Homer Simpson brain and the Spock brain. The Homer brain has unrealistically high expectations of success, adds more weight to the probability of an event if you’ve already experienced it and weight short term decisions more than long term decisions. The Spock brain is high logical and calculating.
  • So what does all of this have to do with knowledge management? Well in my last post I spoke about Culture 2.0. Using the concepts in Nudge around architecting the choices that employees have in each area, I think you can improve the odds of success of building a Culture 2.0 program.