Mittwoch, 30. März 2011

Knowledge Mobilization in the connected community – examples from Ericsson

First of all: This isn’t a sponsored post - though I wouldn’t mind the donation of a fortune ;-) I stated recently that commoditization as a good part of Knowledge Mobilization. Commoditization puts abstract insights into action by making them tangible, e.g. by showing examples. Working for Ericsson, this is my home turf, these are the examples that I can bring to the table. If you want to add examples from other industries and companies, you are very welcome; this would make the picture much richer and Knowledge Mobilization a stronger “brand” (see the discussion on the “brand name” Knowledge Mobilization).
Recently I discussed Knowledge Mobilization for the corporate, and Knowledge Mobilization for the global community, concluding that the corporate can make a strong contribution to KMb for the connected community (what is mainly discussed and coined KMb), and to what additional demands KMb is exposed, in case of crisis and when the community is not yet connected.

Here you find some Ericsson examples for the connected community.
The Consumer Lab analyzes data to create consumer insights and thought-provoking ideas in areas of strategic importance for the ICT sector and thus works at the edge of Telecommunication, Business Arts and applied social studies.

Technology Insights explains ICT technology of today and tomorrow, inventions in terms of products and services, stretching the definition what is possible, and how to understand it.

Both are good examples of externalization and commoditization from Ericsson, but the most pronounced one is the Ericsson Academy.

Industry drivers do not only producs and sell, but drive the agendas. This is about asking the the relevant questions; questions, which are crucial for the future, Ericsson brings to the table The Networked Society.
Huge companies have the capabilities to facilitate and build the stage. The stage making thought leader, researchers and influencial thinkers heart towards a larger audience. This can be in the real world, e.g. by conference sponsoring (Ericsson: Atlantics Corridor) or in the virtual world, where Ericsson puts various video spotlights (Hans Rosling, Brenda Walker, Vint Cerf, Don Tapscott) on the question of Life in 2020.

Facebook and Twitter are many-to-many social media tools and thus best serve discussion (of knowledge), Technology for good is an such a discussion representation.

So now it is my turn to listen and to read, whether your examples fit into the above mentioned categories or whether they broaden the field of Knowledge Mobilization even more.


Montag, 28. März 2011

Knowledge Mobilization in the global community

We all know this situation from our favourite soap: in episode number 321 our hero gets to know that he has two twin brothers, who were separated from him early after birth, so he had no idea that they existed. And they hadn’t had the prosperous life in a developed country like Canada.
“Knowledge Mobilization is turning research into action” is the theme of Researchimpact, Canada’s knowledge mobilization network, and they really have come far to put it into place! And Kmbeing has put it into a nice picture showing the totality of the concept and the interaction of the various parts of the community. To mention only some of modes that are described by their model of Knowledge Mobilization: distribution, externalization and commoditization of knowledge, driving agendas and creating thought leadership, providing the stage for thought leaders and influencers, discussing and creating the dialogue, internalization (I am avoiding to create more terms, as there is already some confusion) .
A fairly comprehensive Knowledge Mobilization? Yes, for a global company however Knowledge Mobilization is not only applicable in Canada, in fact it doesn’t stop at borders (that is paradox somehow, as Knowledge Mobilization was mainly driven from the academic and governemental perspective, while the corporate rather neglected it, it is now the view of the global corporate on KMb that enriches the picture – perhaps this is in itself a good example of Knowledge Mobilization)
So, what does Knowledge Mobilization mean for the global community? Isn’t it the same as before? The above mentioned describes Knowledge Mobilization for the connected community. But what if the community isn’t connected? Then Knowledge Mobilization must live up to other, to more basic expectations first – before it can deploy the KMb for the connected community.

This is the case for huge areas, where connectivity has not yet been established, or in crisis situations.
Where connectivity has not been established, the first task for Knowledge Mobilization is to create the connectivity. We talk about knowledge infrastructure - be it simple things like pencils and school buildings, be it the IT infrastructure to access knowledge (mobility and broadband). It also includes access to knowledge resources, you might think of libraries in the real world as well as databases and online libraries (research articles, blog, discussion fora).
Knowledge Mobilization for crisis situations – one could say – is just a combination of the creating access (connect) and mobilization (leverage on connectivity), but this is missing the particular point of KMb for the crisis. To twist it upside down, a crisis in this context is a situation that asks for a very particular way of deploying KMb, which is different to the above mentioned.
Some examples help:
  • After the Haiti earthquake, KMb had to establish the communication infrastructure again, but it wasn’t the same situation as when it was established for the first time (the "ordinary" build-up), time was crucial, as the communication infrastructure was essential to organize and structure the overal crisis management
  • When the H1N1 virus was at the edge of pandemic extension, there was a need for Knowledge Mobilization, but it wasn’t the “white”, even distributed need of KMb from astro physics over sociology to genetics, a crisis is characterized by very specific knowledge needs for individual and collective decision making.
  • What now happened in Japan combines both aspects, secure and or re-build access (including power supply), as well as specific knowledge needs on atomic radiation
  • Within the above context a crisis is not only a crisis situation that has become reality, but also a potential crisis situation; do you remember the US movies from the 1950’s, what to do after a nuclear strike, or the crisis prevention infrastructure established after the tsunami in South-East Asia in 2004, a tsunami-warning system? Here the potential crisis triggers a knowledge need and demand (no matter, if or when the crisis breaks out).
So for the global community, where access and connectivity cannot be taken for granted and were crisis situations are – sadly – not to be neglected, Knowledge Mobilization is a much wider field.
A field, where the Corporate Social Responsibility is contributing to a larger extent as before (in the following posts, I will show particular examples of all 3 kinds from an ICT company. Views from other industries (e.g. pharma) might add even more kinds, you tell me!


Mittwoch, 23. März 2011

Knowledge Mobilization for the corporate

There is a new kid in the zoo: Knowledge Mobilization.
Not another word! Please, not another hype, if you try to sell the same old fish! Is there really a need for another term?
There is, but in order to see this, we need to take a short tour through the corporate knowledge zoo:

Knowledge Sharing (KS):
the good old pet, the act of individuals of externalizing and distributing knowledge, so that others can use it; the other – long neglected - side of the coin is Knowledge Demanding (something that is very well supported nowadays by Social Media).
Knowledge Management (KM): this animal needs some more attention, because as discussed in earlier posts (Lessons from failures , KM is dead) the idea of KM is often confused with its manifestation in time, context and culture, or even worse reduced to the IT tools supporting the idea. The idea however is very simple: knowledge is a company assets, KM is thus the management discipline that optimizes the use of this assets for the well-being of the company. The aim of KM is the corporate wealth, in other words, shareholder value. Although in more advanced considerations KM reaches beyond the corporate and includes customers, partners, suppliers, or even the whole industry, the aim nevertheless is the competitive advantage of the company. The mechanism is to create value for the company from knowledge. With the aim of the company, the mechanism also includes Knowledge Security, meaning knowledge leaking to others is avoided and counter-acted, if this is doing harm to the companies well-being and position.
If you limit the purpose of the corporate to increase shareholder value, there is nothing beyond Knowledge Management.

So why would you leash and pet Knowledge Mobilization? Or, in which cage to put Knowledge Mobilization in the first place?
According to Wikipedia it is a different species:

Knowledge Mobilization (KMb): may be defined as putting available knowledge into active service to benefit society.

So instead of the corporate aim of KM, the aim of KMb is society. This explains also from the historical point of view the strong footprint of KMb in health and education. Knowledge Mobilization has been very much on the governemental and academic agenda, as both these entities’ aims is society. The mechanism by which this is done is mainly the externalization, exposure of knowledge (in particular research knowledge) towards the public. And as academic research is not always formulated in a language suited for a broader audience, it also needs a commoditization of knowledge.
But also the private sector / business – the corporate is represented in the model in the picture (Myers KM vs KMb).

Literature identifies their main application as internalizing. Put simple, they take the research knowledge and create value out of it (for the corporate and with the help of Adam Smith’s invisible hand for society).
That’s the shareholder view, in recent years however also economists have argued the stakeholder perspective, the Corporate Social Responsibility. In a global village global players take responsibility beyond profits, the most prominent example is sustainability, but child labour or anti-corruption can be named. In this context Knowledge Mobilization is a responsibility for the corporate.
So as a conclusion Knowledge Mobilization for the corporate and Knowledge Management are very different animals, living usually in different ecosystems and on different nutrition, if they match and meet, it should be considered the exemption, not the default. Thus Knowledge Mobilization for the corporate has its purpose and justification.

How this is realized, shall be shown in the next post.


Sonntag, 20. März 2011

Learning from failures: Thou shall not make yourself an idol

I am a Knowledge Manager, I have more than 8 years of experience in all kinds of roles in Knowledge Management (community leader, management community leader, community strategy & coordination, Knowledge Manager for a small organization, for larger organizations, global KM ways of working and coordination, KM strategy and evolution), I have the expertise. I have a proven track record and look back on successful implementations. I know what Knowledge Management is, and I know how Knowledge Management works. That's how I got my new KM job.
And all of a sudden I realize, I am in deep shit! It is not working. My KM approach & implementation is not working! And worse, I am not the first one to realize it, I am one of the last.
A painful experience, and the reflection of the failure is even more painful.
What has happened? Some Stituation Analyis: My strength, experience and expertise became complacent. While I was preaching that KM must always be adequate to the business, and thus be flexible and dynamic, my own picture of KM became static.

This is a common failure, a failure of decision makers as well as of experts.
Often when discussing KM with decision makers, they are not dicussing KM (that is a field, where they do not feel comfortable in language and concepts), in order satisfy their need of security they ask for other safety-belts: Best Practices or Benchmarking.
Both of these concept have their justification and successes (when applied with good understanding), but both often express a static picture of Knowledge Management.
Best Practices, their failures (e.g. Cramm, Suarez) as well as their value (Milton) have been discussed extensively elsewhere, so I keep myself short and focus on the language only: Best as a Superlative, when you have implemented the Best Practice, you are done, it can't get better, which is deploying a static picture of KM (many experts, who speak in favour of "Best Practice" and myself wouldn't agree on such a black & white picture, "Best" can only mean for a certain situation ... actually "Good Practice" is then the better term).
For Benchmarking partly applies the same as there is the idea of putting an order of sequence, a size, basically a one-dimensional parameter to Knowledge Management, although there might be no upper limit defined (as with Best Practices), the underlying concept is a one-fits-all KM. A static picture.
Now comes the irony of my failure. For me as a Knowledge Manager it is very easy to explain, what went wrong.
The problem arise from the fact that "Knowledge Management" can mean two things: The idea and its manifestation in time, space, context.
The idea of Knowledge Management you might call static, as my mind at this time is too limited to imagine an economic system were knowledge isn't an asset, and Knowledge Management is the management discipline fostering and harvesting it for the well-being of the company (sorry to say that not all managers do understand this).
As I have outlined in an earlier post (Knowledge Management is dead) this shall not be confused with it manifestation in time, space and context. Often Knowledge Management is taken synomym to its manifestation in the 1990's when it had large scale industry traction and in order to manage the knowledge as asset deployed e.g. IT systems for the first time, tool-driven implementation, mailing lists, taxonomies and ontologies, Communities of Practices - often with rigid governance structures). Rao then has detected a generational war between Knowledge Management and Social Media, which is actually a "generational war" between the KM manifestations of the 1990's (static KM picture) and the KM manifestations of the 2000's. You can quote me that there will be another "generational war" (and war of buzz words), when Social Media becomes old-fashioned in some years - and still corporate aims to manage its knolwedge assets - with a new generation of KM manifestations.
As soon as the business and the environment changes, the static "Knowledge Management" manifestations becomes distangled from the business that it was developed for. "Knowledge Management" becomes an isolated discipline and an anachronism (e.g. Is anybody reading newsletters?)
Idolatry is not a bad word to describe it.
If I look at the topics of this year KMUK conference (#kmuk2011) some of the speakers seem to address it from the organizational point of view.
It is very easy to see the time-dependence of KM manifestations, what we call today state of the art is different from the 1990's, when Nonaka coined the term. This is for larger, locally and time-zone distributed organizations very much connected to the technological possibilities (Web 2.0 technologies is a good example).
Recently e.g. Gurteen (up to now twitter post) and Milton were striking the cultural chord, so I am extremely interested in this. Too early for me to fully understand.
Although the context point of view is to me rather simple, it needs nevertheless always be mentioned: KM justification is to support the business, the business of an organization might largely differ in different industries (knowledge economy or smokestack industries) and also in operational entities (sales, delivery, support functions)
You see the point, as practitioners always have to struggle and master the manifestations of their time, space and context, after some time the shelves fill with learnings, solutions and ways of working, that is the experts bread and butter. And these experts, to be taken serious, shall walk the talk, that is: Re-use.
And now the pendulum in in full swing: static bad! KM must be dynamic, every situation is unique, KM must start anew all the time. Uuups. Wait a moment! Knowledge has no value in itself. Knowledge only can create value. When? When it is re-used.
Also the abstract idea of re-use can have very different manifestations: it can be copy/paste, it can be an adaptation, innovation, the development of a counter solution, competence build-up. To reduce Re-use to Copy/paste only would mean a static picture again.
So my learning from the failure of a static KM picture is not to apply an KM iconoclasm (start from the scratch all the time), but a quasi-static KM picture (you might as well call it quasi-dynamic): A thourough Situation Analysis to what extend the challenge is a known one, that is how much sense does it make to apply a static picture and re-use, and to what extent the dynamics demand development (in Ericsson we call the trinity of Situation Analysis, Objectives and Action Plan the Structured Approach).
Or to be more blunt: if you skip Situation Analysis, you directly jump into deep sh...


Mittwoch, 16. März 2011

Is anybody reading newsletters?

Are you?
Luis Suarez, IBM thought leader has a very strong opinion on email in general. He wants to ditch it completely. And he is not the only one (Atos Origin). In my opinion there is a purpose for email, but it is mainly the one it was invented for: one-to-one communication. I agree about the vast misuse. The misuse that has arisen from using email for communication formats that it wasn’t invented for: Many-to-many and one-to-many communication.
Whoever got himself into the quicksand of a many-to-many email conversation (reply to all “please stop using ‘reply to all!’”), knows what I am talking about, best if you even work – or try to work collaboratively on a joint document via email. Many-to-many communication is exactly what Social Media have been invented for.It is a no brainer and belongs more to a future blog post on how corporates get stuck in irrational behaviour.
The one-to-many scenario is a bit more complex one, and – although a similar argument might be applied – I would like to make my point from a different angle. The failure hides behind what at a first glance looks like a success: the distribution list. The distribution list makes email look like well suited for one-to-many mode, but whoever had the fun to create a huge distribution list by hand, and had administrated it, knows in fact it is not. But most of the time someone else has created it, and we are happy to misuse it. What is a purpose of a predefined distribution list? To ease your collaboration with a defined group of people on a regular basis on a defined purpose – the defined group goes together with the defined purpose – otherwise you couldn’t define the set of people for the distribution list; and if it is only for one email, you wouldn’t really take the efforts. It is a classical collaboration scenario – collaboration tools are invented for scenarios like this – email has not.
No, although true, the reply about collaboration sites popping up like mushrooms is not an argument in favour of email, but only observes that we not yet have learnt to work with collaboration sites in the most efficient way.
Back to the distribution list: There is one very specific one-to-many communication mode using often distribution lists – the newsletter. Would you say that newsletters use the distribution list for collaboration? Rather seldom, usually a newsletter is not asking for collaboration, usually a newsletter is not asking at all! Usually those newsletters are created based on the interests and needs of the editorial teams, who think they know better what their readers would need. The underlying concept is a one-way push mode deployed based on a hirarchical knowledge understanding. This hirarchical knowledge understanding is however a model that is close to end-of-life; this is Why it is not enough to be a Knowledge Worker. No surprise that newsletters more and more lack the impact, the format is offensive for a Knowledge Citizen, as it is not creating the peer-to-peer dialogue. You cannot promote the empowered employee and expect them to deploy collective leadership and at the same time send out newsletters.
That is an anachronism.
An anachronism? If it works, so what? It is perhaps not the only one: How social are Social Media?
So it is not shooting the winning horse, but explaining why the horse not moving anymore might be dead.


Montag, 14. März 2011

Learning from failures: Activity-based KM KPIs do not work

While everywhere I am reading that we learn best and most from failures, not so many admit that they have failed. So I have decided to publish a series of my failures and the learnings that I have made.
In this post I reflect on why we have worked so long with activity-based KPIs, and why they still do not work for Knowledge Management.
Looking generically at the change management landscape from the measurement perspective, on can draw a picture below.

Looking at it from the result, a change is triggered to achieve an effect or impact. In order to do so, change applies to the employee, the structures and processes.
If we zoom in and apply to Knowledge Management, we see, most often the measurements relate to actions & activities. Do x numbers of these activities, accomplish y numbers of those actions. E.g. create 4 knowledge objects per head per year; perform 2 webinars, 1 Best Practices, do 2 re-uses ...
In Ericsson we have extensive experience with activity-based KPIs, and there were good reasons why they have been implemented, and there are more good reasons, why they fail.

Here are some of the expressed - and also unexpressed - reasons for implementation:
Easy to define
As KPIs are applied to huge organizations, and often monetary incentives are connected to them, and they need to be approved by management (non-KM experts): the expectation on the KPI is that it is simple, easy to understand (decision makers), communicate, understand (employees). Actions and activities can often beeasily defined digitally (done, not done) and thus quantified and counted, and they are very tangible.
Easy to measure
This goes hand-in-hand with the definition: The best-defined KPI is worth nothing, if it cannot be measured. But there is another twist in the argument: Knowledge Management is tightly connected to the Knowledge Management IT landscape, even often misunderstood to be the same. So if the IT department has been the driving force in the implementation (of what? KM or KM IT tools?), then it is very manifest that the success of KM is defined as the acceptance and the usage of the respective tools. And activity-based KPIs materialize often in tool actions, which can automatically, that is most easily measured.
Acceleration of KM
The idea to rely on diffusion for the implementation (better uptake) of Knowledge Management behaviour must alienate management. Not few of them have read their Keynes: "In the long run we are all dead!" The activity-based KPI steers the employees towards the behaviour and/or tool. Those who have reflected on the fragile balance between force and empowerment, realize that the activity-based KPI shall only used in the early/low maturity stage as accelerator.

And yet Activity-based KPIs lead to failure
From the generic change management landscape it is very obvious that result-oriented change management (change management with effect / impact) must be anchored in the behaviour and culture of the employees.
This will lead to the adequate actions / activities. Changing the culture by whipping employees into actions does not work. It does not work. The activity-based KPI distracts from the essential work on behaviour and culture. Working on the behaviour and culture takes much longer, costs more energy (as you face and meet the resistance of the sub-conscious) and is much harder to put into measurement (define and measure). So management is fooled by appeasing false impression of impressive achievements towards and usually over-achievement of activity-based KPIs. The numbers are great (KM is implemented, tick in the box - although we know that it is never finalized) and the management support and focus goes somewhere else - the poor Knolwedge Manager lose management support when it is most critical. Because now the activity-based KPI is not only not doing the trick, but exhibits a negative impact: As easily as they are defined and measured as easily they are short-circuited (we call it the famous December hockey-stick, close to the end of the measurement period, usually December, employees formally fulfill the KPI by a knee-jerk action, and receive the incentive connected). This actually is counteracting the behavioural change, makes it even much harder. At the same time this (mis-)behaviour is polluting the database with poor quality contributions and thus corrupting the usage of the tool (why should I use it, there is only crap in it). In this situation your efforts to work on the culture will not find any acceptance. It is scorched earth.
Losing the key contributors due to activity-based KPI is a devastating experience.


Dienstag, 8. März 2011

Bad tools/services and the speed of innovation

Another bad tool discussion. Oh, no! There are so much more important things to discuss around Knowledge Management and Collaboration - that is always my reflex. However we are discussing bad tools/services again, this is frustrating.
Does this sound familar to you?
To turn frustration into something constructive, I looked at the speed of innovation.
The graph shows the model of difussion of innovation:

Now I play with the impact of bad tools on the different adopter categories:

Agile as they are, innovators jump on new ideas very quickly, however they will move on very fast, if frustrated by bad tools. A key engine for change gets out of phase.

Early Adopters
In this class I see the employees professionally engaged in the implementation. While they should work on the change of the way of working, a lot of their energy is wasted in the "bad tool discussions", working with Innovators as well as with later adopters, they create more of hot air and fire instead of steam.

Early Majority
They will sit and wait a bit longer, as the benefit is diminished by the bad tool performance.

Later Majority
Usually said to have very little opinion leadership, with bad tools, their opinion turns in collective reluctance.

They will hide behind the bad tools in order to avoid change.

So as a consequence, if you want to support innovation, one of the worst things you can do, is to go with bad tools/services. Because there are more important things than tools, the ways of working and the culture. As I have tried to argue bad tools create an innovation adversary culture. In a picture it looks like this:

What do you think, am I bending the model? Or do you see even more impacts?


Mittwoch, 2. März 2011

The Knowledge Charter

Apart from the authors of "The nonsence of 'Knowledge Management'", almost everyone praises the importance of knowledge and its management for companies in the 21st century. It is one of the buzz words, and in a kind of collective gymnastics exercise many companies claim it the vital asset and resource.
And many companies have heavily invested in IT systems in order to harvest the knowledge treasures.
Nevertheless we have extreme difficulties to measure this intellectual capital (see Sveiby for "Methods for Measuring Intagible Assets, an overview of 34 methods with links)".
Perhaps this is also the reason, why knowledge has often failed to enter corporate culture and values, which I would consider a very natural and logical consequence of the buzzed vast meaning.
In the last post I have argued Why it is not enough to be a Knowledge Worker and that modern companies (as well as world society) needs the "Knowledge Citizen". There you find the expectations that we in Ericsson have formulated on every employee with regards to knowledge and collaboration. Which behaviours and attitude an ideal employee should deploy.
"Citizen" is a term from social contract theory, which carries with it responsibility.
But this is only one side of the coin, at the same time is carries also rights with it. Rights that have neither formulated nor discussed so far. A company, which calls itself really knowledge-centric, must not only demand from employees, but must also commit to provide. It must constitute itself as knowledge-centric. A Knowledge charter is a first attempt towards this constitution.
Ingredients of a Knowledge Charter:
  • The right to be a Knowledge Citizen
  • The right to collaborate
  • The Big Picture in open leadership communication
  • Constructive feedback and a learning organization
  • Recognition to performance as Knowledge Citizen
  • Facilitation to act as Knowledge Citizen and to collaborate
  • Freedom of thought and speech
  • The right of initiative (address topics by referendum to top mgmt)
As a Knowledge Citizen, everybody should have an opinion. Do you agree? Are there key ingredients missing? Would you skip anything?
Obviously such a document implies further consequences.