What is your type?

From Vol 40, No. 4 of the IBM Systems Journal, a special edition dedicated to Knowledge Management, is Views of knowledge are human views by Gunter Dueck. In the essay, he discusses the different types of knowledge and different “types” (in the Keirseyian sense) of people.

Bottom line, says that when you are working up your KM strategy you need to keep in mind what “type” of people are in your organization. More importantly, probably, is that you have to remember that your organization is likely made up of a bunch of different types of people.

In other words, there is no one-size fits all solution for KM.

More on Storytelling

Picked up the Matrix Reloaded DVD yesterday. Didn’t have time to watch the movie (that’s OK – I’ve seen it already), but I did have time to check out some of the extras. Unfortunately, the quantity of extras leaves something to be desired, but the quality is pretty good.

My favorite is the breakdown of how they prep’ed for and executed the huge (I should say HUGE, since the budget and time required for this one sequence probably rivals most full movies) freeway chase. As with any good story, they talked about what they were trying to do, how they set out about doing it, the challenges along the way and how they overcame those challenges.

What struck me while watching this, though, was the fact that this story was not told in retrospect – as in, “This is what we wanted to do, this is what we did, etc.” – but as the story developed.

If you are familiar with DVDs today, you know that these making of features are pretty much expected, especially for big movies like the Matrix or Lord of the Rings. In the early days of DVD, before this caught on, many of the making ofs were somewhat retrospective. And if you look at new, special-edition releases of older movies, they’ve gone back to create these featurettes because they know that is what people want.

But today, making the making-ofs is as much a part of making the actual movie as any other part, again especially for big movies that are doing things that have never been done. Obviously, some movies don’t lend themselves to a making-of featurette. Romantic comedies, for instance, are enjoyable to watch but very rarely have anything so new and cool in terms of film-making that make a making of worth making (or watching).

And this leads me (finally) to my point(s):

When considering story-telling as a component of your knowledge management or organizational learning strategy, are you looking at it primarily from a retrospective viewpoint (“Wow, this project worked out pretty good, we should tell the story to others so they can learn”) or do you plan to tell the story from the beginning (“Well, we don’t know how this is going to work out, but we’ve never done anything like this before so we should document it as we go so we can share with others”)?

Do you consider the value of the story you are going to tell in terms of uniqueness of the event? In other words, do you bother trying to tell stories of things that have been done before, or do you focus on the new things that can bring value and competitive advantage?

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Knowledge management and organizational learning – part 1

This is going to be a long running, multi-part stream of thought. Just a warning….

When I think of Organizational Learning, I can’t help but start to think of an organization as something, an entity, that can learn. It doesn’t have to be a conscious entity, think of ant colonies. But why not look at it from the context of it being a “conscious” entity?

Acknowledging the risks and short comings of anthropomorphism, I can’t help but look at an organization – say a corporation – in the context of a complex, conscious system such as a person. Once you’ve taken that leap, you can start to consider all sorts of analogies and metaphors for how an organization works.**

To the point: If an organization is a complex, “conscious” entity, then I submit that knowledge management is the sub-conscious of the organization. Individual members, teams, etc within the organization make up the neurons, organs, etc., and knowledge management is what pulls it all together so the “mind-body” connection works.

The obvious example for people is driving a car. How often have you arrived at a destination only to wonder how you got there because you don’t remember the drive?

In an organization, the analogy would be some process, any structured rote process. The ‘know-what’ of the process would be explicit knowledge that each member of the organization acts on, consciously determined by the organization: You do this, they do that, etc. The ‘know-how’ of the process, however, is the tacit knowledge of the organization, something that is embedded in the way the organization works. The organization just does it, with no conscious thought at the organizational level, only action at the ‘neuron’ level.

to be continued…

** It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway): Just because I am looking at an organization as “conscious” for the purposes of this discussion does NOT mean the individual consciousness of the members of this organization is unimportant. If you stick around long enough in the discussion, I hope to get around to how to keep all that in mind to help an organization do what’s best for the organization as a whole and for the individual members of that organization.

Personal mastery

I really don’t like washing cars. I like having a clean car, but get no joy out of the process of getting to clean, so I usually go to a car wash.* For my wife’s birthday not too long ago, I got her car professionally detailed to make it look like new.

Those guys spent all day on the thing (it is a fairly large SUV), I don’t know how they do it. But at the end of the day, when I was there to pick up the car, they weren’t quite finished and I had a chance to talk to the guys a bit.

Turns out there is a lot more to “car washing” than meets the eye at first glance. There are different types of materials to use for washing and drying, the various different compounds and waxes and detergents for different types of finishes and types of dirt. And that is just the OUTSIDE of the car.

I guess my point is that any job, no matter how ‘trivial’ it may look to someone not involved in it, has a lot involved. Encouraging and making use of an individual’s personal mastery in these areas can only help your company and the individuals improve (whatever that means to you.)

* The car care industry is much bigger than I ever thought, check out Car Car Central.

Intranets must support several different types of users

When looking at how you are going to design your intranet, a key thing to remember is that you have several different types of users of the intranet, and what works well for one of them may not necessarily be appropriate for the others.

The two main types of users of an intranet are producers and consumers. Common sense tells us that the design should be optimized for consumers of information, but obviously you want to make it as easy as possible for producers to publish their information as well.

Otherwise, you end up with something like e-mail: it looks good in the short (very short) term, but causes serious big-picture, long-term issues.

Every team needs a coach

We all take for granted the fact that professional sports teams have coaches (a whole bunch of them, as a matter of fact). Coaches help individuals perfect their own skills and, more importantly, help individuals work together as a team to achieve the common goals of the team. In many cases, this means that the needs and desires of individuals are secondary to achieving the goals, because if the team achieves it goals all members of the team will benefit. On the other hand, if the team fails, so do the individuals no matter their own individual achievements. (In other words, it doesn’t matter how good an individual football player is – if the team isn’t good that player will never get to the Super Bowl.)

The need for coaches isn’t limited to professional sports teams. Every professional team, which includes a wide range of organizations and groups, could benefit from a coach. Seems simple enough, but then comes the issue of figuring out who is the coach.

  • Who should be the coach?
  • Should it be someone from the team?
  • If so, it will probably be the team leader?
  • If not, should it be a consultant of some kind?
  • Or what?

When you look at coaches on sports teams, they are usually not a “member of the team”, IOW someone actively involved in “playing” the game. Of course, they are “playing”, just not on the field.

Look at the “team” you are on at work. Is everyone actively involved in “playing” the game that is your work? Is your team leader more of a team captain (kind of the quarterback) or is your team leader more of a coach (sitting on the sidelines and keeping you going in the right direction)?

Do you think a coach could help your team?