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.

    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.

    Mashup (KM + LD + HR + SN) = Culture 2.0

    November 15, 2008

    Mashups are generally used in discussion of Web 2.0 sites such as, a combination of Google Maps and property listings on Craigslist. Mashup is also a musical term where two or more songs are mashed together to create an entirely new song. Check out: for some good examples. In each case two stand alone and complete works are mashed together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

    This week I came across a third mashup: combining Knowledge Management, Learning and Development, Human Resources and Social Networks. I’m not sure if there is a name for this, perhaps Talent Management or Organizational Development but these are still too limiting. For now let’s call this mashup Culture 2.0. If you have a name suggestion let me know.

    By mashing traditional Knowledge Management ideas such as:
    • Knowledge Repositories
    • Communities of Practice
    • Knowledge Capture, Sharing & Reuse
    • Content Management

    With Learning and Development techniques such as:
    • 70:20:10 rule
    • Mobile & Online Learning
    • OJT
    • Skill Development

    With Human Resource support structure around:
    • Recognition Programs
    • Job Descriptions, Job Families, Competencies
    • Measured Business Objectives
    • Career Path Opportunities

    And leveraging Social Network & Web 2.0 tools:
    • Facebook & LinkedIn functionality
    • Instant communication (IM, Skype)
    • Expertise Location / Employee Histories
    • Forums, Wikis, Blogs, Global Search, Tags, etc

    By taking a strategic look at combining and reinforcing the efforts in these areas I think one could have a positive impact on the company culture, how it innovates and improve overall collaboration. This is not an easy task. Individually each area has a large degree of focus and bringing together the right team and setting the right priorities would dictate the degree of success.

    Individually each area is traditionally seen as a cost for the business, continually having to justify budget and staff. Mashed together and taken as a whole, suddenly Culture 2.0 defines how successful your business can be. I’d be interested if you have seen companies take such a mashed-up approach.

    LIN – NYC

    November 4, 2008

    I recently attended the Learning Innovation Network conference in New York city. The conference is a joint venture between Jeanne Meister and the folks over at the Human Capital Institute. The event was hosted by Merrill Lynch.

    I was invited to present on my experiences with Communities of Practice at HDS as part of a panel with Tracy Dodd from CA. Together we talked about our experiences with communities and the tools we use to support them. I noted that the folks at CA are using SharePoint 2007 to connect their communities.

    The coolest part of the conference was the demo of how Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America) uses mobile learning. Merrill Lynch’s application MoBull (great name!) pushes content to their employee’s Blackberries. Read more about the application at CLO Magazine.

    Overall I learned a lot. Having never attended a ‘learning and development’ event it was interesting to see how companies can focus on developing their people. I was even more struck by the 70:20:10 rule. I’ll be posting more on that soon.