inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #51 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Mon 18 Nov 02 08:57
    
In doing a little more research, I found another definition of a k-log
as an individual's notations of what they are learning and doing in
their job. This approach assumes that each worker documents his/her
knowledge as it is generated and then uses this database for reference.
In a k-log culture, people would have some access to one anothers'
logs. I haven't seen any of these in action.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #52 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Mon 18 Nov 02 10:28
    
I'd like to circle back a bit to the issue of ease of writing and
reading. I think this is about more than spelling, but about the way
people are prepared to communicate. There are some people who have very
difficult experiences reading on a screen and responding. It is a
cognitive black hole. This does not mean they aren't fluent readers or
writers, but that the screen/monitor environment is difficult for them.
Then there are those very sequential learners who quickly become lost
in a multi-dimensional conversation environment. 

What do we do about them? Leave them behind? The assumption that
people will use online conversational tools if the culture is
supportive is not the full picture. What are the consequences of
leaving some behind?
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #53 of 80: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 18 Nov 02 16:32
    
Or how far should you go to avoid it? (One of the toughest accessibility 
issues for web developers is figuring out how to address cognitive 
differences. There's a lot of 'em, and some are classed as 'learning 
disabilities,' ergo falling under the ADA...)
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #54 of 80: John Payne (satyr) Mon 18 Nov 02 22:36
    
Recently introduced collaboration software...

        Collaborate   http://shimkus.com/CLI/
        iStorm        http://www.mathgamehouse.com/istorm/
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #55 of 80: Nancy Rhine (nancy) Tue 19 Nov 02 09:49
    
Hi Nancy - it's always seemed to me that that online communication is
only part of a complete communications toolkit - a very important and
useful part - but only one part.  It's about options and alternatives
from which people can pick and choose.  There should be so many ways to
exchange knowledge that having a druthers for one or another should
not be a disadvantage.  If you have regular informal conversation
opportunities for employees in f2f lounges, after-work hang-outs,
online email and discussion and IM areas, phone conversations, written
notes and docs, etc - then there is plenty of opportunity for each
group member to be up to speed and connected. As they say here on the
WELL, your mileage may vary. :)
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #56 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Tue 19 Nov 02 09:58
    
Thanks, John for those links. I'll check them out and comment soon.

As to how we deal with people who are less able to use online textual
media for communication, I don't think that we have an original answer.
There must be adaptive opportunities for everyone to contribute and
participate in every meaningful activity. So Jon's bringing up the ADA
is apt; we need the equivalent of wheelchair ramps for those unable to
take part in the kind of conversation we're having here.

In a knowledge sharing setting, this translates into F2F meetings that
can be reported on or transcribed for the online population and the
reverse -- text-to-speech or other audio presentation of the written
conversation. It's fairly simple to describe these solutions. The
difficulty is in actually implementing them.

Online knowledge sharing is a convenience. We now have the ability to
converse across distance and without the restrictions of schedule. The
tradeoff is that we lose the social bandwidth of physical presence. To
be 100% inclusive, we must devise methods for translating one kind of
experience into many others -- text to voice, English to Hindi,
graphics-rich to low bandwidth.

Each organization has to consider who the essential members of its
knowledge sharing population may be and what the costs will be of
leaving any individual or group behind. We think that, looked at as a
whole, our access to these online tools is a net positive. More people
who were previously left out of conversations now have the opportunity
to participate.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #57 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Tue 19 Nov 02 11:23
    
In international development it has been a double edged sword -- those
with: 

* strong educations that focused on reading, writing, language skills
* cultural norms which supported individual opinion sharing, 
* access to internet connected computers -- 

... these folks play a larger role in the conversations. Often they
dominate -- not out of bad intent, but out of the situation and
cultural context. 

The conversations are important and productive, but they still leave
out many voices. Changing away from the western cultural paradigm to a
perhaps slower and different conversational style is challenging. Some
say time wasting. 

So do we slow down those northern/Western early adopters or try and
speed up the newer entrants from the South and East? What techniques
have global organizations learned to facilitate a truely intercultural
discussion? Do we segment at a more local level and build up, looking
for people with bridging skills to facilitate? There is a huge
opportunity here, but huge challenges. Any stories of succes to share
in this area? 

(yeah, I'll also get off my soapbox. Grin)
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #58 of 80: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Tue 19 Nov 02 12:11
    
As far as differing writing skills goes, if knowledge capture is so
important, how about having a writer going around and interviewing
people and updating the documentation?  (Or just acting as the
librarian - collecting and arranging what's already out there.)

It's kind of ironic that there is less specialization and division of
labor when it comes to the written word than in the "old days" (I
assume) when there were more secretaries.  But if a task is everybody's
job and nobody's job in particular, often that means it doesn't get
done.

Perhaps this is the real reason why documents are scattered all over
the place in various network locations.  The high-tech fix (new
software) may be less effective than just putting someone on the job.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #59 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Tue 19 Nov 02 14:18
    
Hm, may I borrow that idea, Brian? I have a specific example where I
can test this out right away!!!
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #60 of 80: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Tue 19 Nov 02 14:35
    
Of course!
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #61 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Wed 20 Nov 02 06:23
    
Cliff and Nancy, you mention CoPs in your writing. What role do you
see for CoPs in supporting knowledge networking within and between
organizations? 
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #62 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Wed 20 Nov 02 07:35
    
I worked for two years in the highlands of Guatemala. I was field
director for a development team providing educational and resource
support for villages installing drinking water systems and learning to
grow more nutritional crops. The people I worked with spoke some
Spanish but were, for the most part, still living and communicating as
Mayans. This was 1978-1980, before PCs and the Net, but we did use ham
radio.

In my role, I had to translate ideas, needs, experience and opinions
from agrarian, illiterate Mayan villagers to the vernacular and
understanding of (1) my organization, (2) the militaristic Guatemalan
government and (3) the politically sensitive funding sources at CIDA
(Canadian International Development). More than simply getting projects
done, my responsibility was to listen and translate. 

It's pretty clear and obvious, when you're in that situation, what has
to get done to accomplish your task. Our "clients" were unable to get
into the organizations with which we worked. We were the
intermediaries. I think the reason we were effective is that we were
able to identify with both our clients and our sponsors and funders.

Perhaps many people in development, especially if they are citizens of
the country where they are working, must work through rigid class
identification that separates them from the people for whom they must
communicate. This class separation is -- more than any other single
factor I can think of -- the main barrier to collaboration, and it's
made even more severe by the use of technology.

So, again, we see that a lot of work must be done in correcting or
compensating for cultural prejudices before open conversation can take
place. And again, let's not blame the technology for making things
worse. Technology is neutral. It provides the potential for
improvements, but it's the people and their attitudes that must realize
that potential.

Communities of practice are, in theory, made up of people who practice
the same skills. That commonality reaches across departments and
organizations. There have always been communities of practice; only now
they can communicate online as well as in person.  

In our book, we begin with a chapter on the history of knowledge
sharing. For the vast stretch of human history, there is evidence that
collaborative learning brought great advances in knowledge and
technology. Only in the past few centuries have we developed
organizational models that de-emphasized internal conversations in
favor of hierarchical direction. So the recent "rediscovery" of
communities of practice is simply a revival of natural human tendencies
to talk about vital skills and interests.

Competition is the main stumbling block to CoPs. While they should be
the most effective way for a group to share experience and knowledge,
some managers and practitioners may see them as security leaks for
proprietary knowledge. We didn't spend much time on CoPs in our book
because (with all due respect to Etienne Wenger and company) we see
them as natural, informal occurences within organizations who have
created conversation-friendly cultures.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #63 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Wed 20 Nov 02 10:25
    
>Competition is the main stumbling block to CoPs. 

Hm, isn't it the main stumbling block for knowledge sharing at all?
This must mean it is time for the ROI question! 

A business person reads your book. Gets the theory. Buy's the concept.
What does she then need to do to make the business case to support
conversations in her company. What guidance would you give her to gain
support for an initiative in her ROI-focused company? 
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #64 of 80: Andrew Alden (alden) Wed 20 Nov 02 11:04
    
Cliff, your #62 reminded me instantly of an example that I wrote about after
the Seattle earthquake a few years ago, when a spontaneous CoP grew into a
pathbreaking institution:

"Earthquakes are bad news anywhere, of course, but in Seattle they can be
especially severe because Cascadian subduction quakes can be so large. The
challenge to emergency planners is great. One creative approach to the
challenge grew organically, starting one day when a small group of IT
professionals from different firms got together to share notes about
protecting their computer systems from earthquakes.

The group of geeks liked sharing advice in an informal, trusting atmosphere.
Over the years their talks expanded into other emergency-response issues,
and municipal agencies got involved too. The group took the name CPARM, for
Contingency Planning and Recovery Management Group, and the public/private
collaboration now has a valuable role in Seattle's larger disaster program,
the FEMA-sponsored Project Impact."

Just a data point.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #65 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Wed 20 Nov 02 12:29
    
Great story. Thanks, Andrew! 
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #66 of 80: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 20 Nov 02 15:21
    
Cliff and Nancy, I'm wondering what you guys are really passionate about, 
disregarding books and careers and stuff...?
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #67 of 80: Nancy Rhine (nancy) Thu 21 Nov 02 09:39
    
Heehee, Jon.  Well this isn't disregarding books and careers and stuff
per se, but I am absolutely taken with studying American history - the
lessons I find there are so relevant in terms of bringing perspective
to current events.  Just briefly, for instance, the Virginia Company
founded Jamestown in 1630 with a clear "get rich quick" emphasis
illustrated by the composition of the first settlers sent there.  There
were no women, and the men's group was composed of three elements:
gentlemen, servants, and artisans who could quickly turn raw materials
into high margin products for sale back home.  There was no focus on
longterm sustainability or community building.  Jamestown experienced
severe mortality levels, incurred huge debt, and eventually had its
charter revoked for "mismanagement".  On the other hand, the
Massachusetts Bay Company was also founded with a profit motive, but
the founders were even more determined to build longterm community
using spiritual as well as material goals.  Commitment to family,
community service, hard work, and values was paramount. Families led to
a reproducing population and community service and hard work that came
out of shared values led to cohesiveness not found in Jamestown.  The
Massachusetts Bay Company steadily thrived, despite severe winters and
lack of know-how.  Doesn't this kind of remind you of some dotcom
stories we know?  
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #68 of 80: Nancy Rhine (nancy) Thu 21 Nov 02 09:39
    
Oops, correction, Jamestown was founded in 1607.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #69 of 80: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 21 Nov 02 10:16
    
Dang, we just never learn, do we?
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #70 of 80: Nancy Rhine (nancy) Thu 21 Nov 02 10:35
    
Well we do, I think. It's just that we do have this unfortunate human
flaw of reinventing the wheel.  Retelling stories from history is an
historian's contribution to knowledge sharing.  Not to get us
depressed, but maybe so we can make strides forward, save time, and
perhaps even not take ourselves sooo seriously!
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #71 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Thu 21 Nov 02 13:27
    
I wonder if there is an evolutionary advantage to wheel reinvention
since we seem to do it so well? ;-)
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #72 of 80: JONAS VORMWEG writes (tnf) Thu 21 Nov 02 16:30
    

From Jonas Vormweg:



Hi Cliff & Nancy!

Currently, I'm working on my diploma thesis. The topic is:

"The relevance of virtual communities for industrial marketing - an analysis
based on examples".

So, what do you think? If you got 40 pages to write about that, what would
you point out?

Thanks a lot,

Jonas
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #73 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Fri 22 Nov 02 09:40
    
Hi, Jonas. I assume you're using David's account to post -- unless
David has changed his name. I'll try to address your question along
with Nancy W's about ROI.

Ah, the ROI question. Or, "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?"

Well some companies do get rich through active conversational
learning, and because of their cultures, it's not a big deal. My
current day job is in the outdoor gear industry (three birds with one
stone -- this is my real passion, Jon). The leaders in this industry,
some of which you've all heard of like The North Face and Patagonia,
grew originally out of what we would call communities of practice.

Climbers, skiers and backpackers who used gear and clothing
intensively in challenging conditions of weather and altitude
discovered the weaknesses in designs and decided to begin making and
selling improved products. They could then market these innovations to
people who would recognize the improvements and purchase them so that,
in essence, they would be more comfortable in the cold and wet of the
outdoors.

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, used to drive around in his
old beat up station wagon to prime climbing sites where he would take
out a his portable blacksmith setup and fabricate climbing hardware on
the spot, customized for the specific climbing conditions based on
feedback from the local climbers. 

Innovation in any industry relies on communicating the needs of the
customer into the best products to meet those needs. By focusing on the
most expert users of a product, designs can anticipate the extremes of
use. Of course some balance must be struck between the cost of the
product and the actual needs of the bell curve of the market. 

I'm too old to make use of the US$450 parka that leads the line
produced by Arc'Teryx. This jacket is welded together -- not sewn. It's
very lightweight and durable, but the shaved ounces only matter to
extreme climbers. Yet, whether it's for fashion or actual use, they
sell enough of them to fund their very active R&D, which involves a lot
of conversation, much of it via email, with people in the field.

So, in terms of ROI, improved and productive online conversation can
be considered an extension of R&D as well as customer service and
support. The clearer the communication between customer/users and
designer/marketers, the better the products will sell.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #74 of 80: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 22 Nov 02 10:02
    
Wow, what a boost to the paper-writing.  I am going to guess that Jonas
mailed his question to inkwell-hosts@well.com -- something we like to 
suggest from time to time in each of these interviews.  If you are 
a reader who comes by a lot and follows many of these author, expert and 
artist conversations, keep the email address handy for the next one.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #75 of 80: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 22 Nov 02 10:10
    
A new inkwell.vue discussion starts today, so we want to thank Cliff, Nancy, 
and Nancy for a great discussion, and figure out how to do it without 
conveying the impression that the conversation has to end now.

So, first, our profound thanks for devoting your time and energy to the 
inkwell. It's been great!

And, second, please consider this your home away from home; feel free to 
continue the discussion indefinitely!
  

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