24 October 2007

actKM 2007 - Day 1

I just came back from the conference dinner (congratulations to the winners of the Gold Cultural Award), and have hurriedly collected my thoughts enough to write a little about my experiences of day one.

The presentations are available on the actKM website. Click here to go straight to the table of presentations.

It would be very easy - and I have to entertain the possibility that it might also be correct - to write off my enthusiasm and enjoyment of Day 1 as being biased on account of my involvement with actKM. But I think that I'm being fairly objective when I say that Day 1 was great. It started off with some controversy - though I agreed with the concept behind the proposition - and provided a good mix of presentations versus activities.
I really think that the mix was right for this approach, and that the number of participants is really conducive to making this work. Less, and you wouldn't be able to generate the interactivity, and more would stifle it in some quarters. If even I feel that I networked my arse off, there must be something right about the way things are being done!

Presentation 1 - Patrick Lambe
Interesting first presentation from Patrick Lambe, on why knowledge managers should be sued. My take home message from it was that basically, knowledge managers need to be doing their job like their life - literally - depended on it. There were a few challenges from the audience, which was good, but I certainly thought Patrick presented a few arguments worth considering.He also presented some figures in response to a survey he was doing that suggested that - as bad as I think my involvement in the KM world is - perhaps I shouldn't complain, since the situation in Australia on average is even worse. Still, I like to complain, and since things should be better, I think I'll stick to it.

A very good start to the conference.

Presentation 2 - Dave Gurteen
This was great, as I finally got to participate in a knowledge cafe. To me, the novelty of the cafe as opposed to standard workshopping, is the definition of a successful outcome. Dave focused on this in his presentation on how cafes work - that the real value for the individual lies in the conversations, not in presenting a summary to the group that goes on a piece of butchers paper and hangs on a wall, to be later transcribed and distributed to the participants, at which point its value has been mostly lost.

The cafe itself was great - my initial feeling was that this was because I was at a good table - but then we had a larger conversation with all the tables, and I quickly realised that the entire group of attendees was good. My suspicion in the end is that - if you pose the right question - that the conversation will be of value almost irrespective of the participants, because you would have the freedom to direct conversation to the area of interest to you.

Presentation 3 - Luke Naismith and Richard Vines
After months of reading about Karl Popper and his 3 worlds, but not really understanding it, I'll be forever grateful to Luke and Richard for finally presenting this ... welterschleng? - in a way I (think) I could understand. The emphasis of this presentation was to populate a biological view of knowledge using Popper's worlds to tie together personal knowledge, organisational knowledge and the interactions in between. Some of the concepts expressed are still beyond me, I must admit, but since I came out of this presentation understanding more than I went in - and that understanding was of something I had been trying to wrap my head around for months, I'll take the small epiphany facilitated by this presentation as being well worth it.

Presentation 4 - Laurie Lock Lee
I'm still actually processing some of Laurie's presentation/activity, so it’s difficult to evaluate it just yet. Even so, this was one of 2 presentations that left me thinking that there was work for me to do away from the conference, both in terms of learning to be done, and tips to take on board. A lot of the presentation was focused on social network analysis, which I never really cottoned on to, not because I don't think its valuable, but I could never really see a way it was valuable to me. Laurie may not have changed my mind on this, but his presentation has me questioning my assumptions, and left me wanting to do a bit of personal exploration. Perhaps not the intention, but very valuable nonetheless.

Watch this space as I re-develop my thinking in this area - I'm certain I'll return to this topic again soon.

Presentation 5 - Troy Mallie
I think I speak for a fair majority of the attendees when I say "wow"! While enjoyed all the presentations today, this one had me the most emotionally involved by far. A real contrast to Patrick's assertion that knowledge managers aren't doing as well as they should be, Troy may very well be the exception that proves the rule. The work that is being done on Indigenous knowledge has been of interest me for several years, since I was first made aware of the Indigenous Knowledge Centres, but to see the power that can be derived from doing knowledge right was just amazing.

I think the conference really demonstrated its value here. I'm just not sure that this presentation would be accepted to a large KM conference, and that is a disturbing thought when you consider how important it is to see KM being done right.

Presentation 6 - Arthur Shelley and Patrick Lambe
I had fun with this. After getting ideas for short, fun knowledge sharing activities, we then put a few into practice. Not being the best networker in the world, I was a bit hesitant about the speed dating, but - for me - I did pretty well, and had some interesting conversations. There were some really fun ideas from this, I hope that I'll have the opportunity to share some of the, by putting them up on the actKM Knowledgebase.

18 October 2007

Back to School

I recently posted to actKM about my slightly insane (given my checkered academic history) desire to do a post-graduate course in knowledge management. I'm still pulling all my options together, so if anyone can recommend a good program, let me know!

In terms of my post, I received a number of very kind and helpful responses, including a link to quite a useful resource, courtesy of Boris Jaeger: the KM Education Wiki. This is a wiki listing KM courses around the globe, broken down by country - you can even do visual search via Google Maps - how cool is that!?! Well worth looking at for anyone thinking about studying KM. Thanks again to Boris for putting me on to this.

12 October 2007

actKM Conference 2007

Just a quick plug/reminder that the actKM Conference is being held in Canberra, in just over a week from now. This year, the conference also has a number of un-conference activities, as a way of providing some hands-on experience for practitioners in the workings of some cutting-edge methodologies. My experience of previous conferences is that it is a lot less formal than other KM conferences, and provides a lot of opportunities to meet and talk with other practitioners.

6 October 2007

Anecdotal Record?

I was confronted with an interesting assertion while watching an interview with the NSW Health Minister the other night. The interviewer was talking about evidence of mismanagement in NSW hospitals, and that this evidence was "what is on the anecdotal record of various sources". This then lead to a discussion around my dinner table about whether this was a contradiction in terms. This discussion questioned whether or not anecdotal evidence is considered "on the record". My position was that it can be, but there was some compelling argument that - in a bureaucratic structure particularly - the system rejects "anecdotal evidence" on the basis of it being off the record, as it is not verifiable and repeatable. Each anecdote is a different story, and in this context, is not being introduced to the system in a way it can recognise. It re-enforces to me the need to promote the work of people like those at Anecdote, building systems to deliver anecdotal evidence in a form that can be considered on the record.

28 September 2007

My New Phone

After much deliberation, I finally decided on which phone I was going to upgrade to last weekend, and went down to my local 3 Store to get it. This had become an increasing important issue, as my old phone (the now repugnant Motorola V3x), which had been becoming increasingly eccentric over the last 8 months or so, had moved into the final stages of doderage, to the point of being near unusable - I couldn't add any new contacts, or even login to Facebook mobile!
I decided for reasons of practicality and price to go with with the Nokia 6110, over my heart's desire - the N95 (I'd also looked at the Sony W880i, but ruled it out for being too fun and not practical enough). Both have GPS - which I have no real need for, due to my continued refusal to bother getting my drivers licence, HSDPA, and a slew of connectivity options. I managed to convince myself that I could live without the Wi-Fi capabilities of the N95, however reluctantly.
How pleased was I then to discover that there is a shortage of 6110s at the moment, and it would be a few weeks until they arrived? Given the urgency of my need, I was "forced" to buy the N95. I must say, after 3 years away from the Nokia, I am very please to return. Web browsing, Skype, double-slide for mp3 and widescreen viewing - all in all a good package. Enough so, that I almost immediately updated my data package from 10Mb - which even with my crappy Motorola I had trouble keeping within - to 100Mb, and soon probably to 1Gb.
So more to follow about my unholy relationship with my new mobile device.

24 September 2007

Stephen Fry - technoshaman?

I just became aware of Stephen Fry's new blog. His first post is an essay (for real) on the development of smartphone technologies. Given the lack of true wit in the world nowadays (an in particular, in the digital realms, and even more particularly, the techno areas), this is a particularly refreshing read. Enough so that I read most of it aloud to myself, mimicking Stephen.

It really is a very good read, highly recommended for the technophiles. Of course, I may be slightly biased, in that I feel that:

a) Stephen Fry is one of the sole remaining exponents of actual humour, in the sense of it being funny to the brain, rather than the arse,
b) He gives a small nod of approval to my newly acquired phone (which isn't a smartphone, but is rather clever and fun, but more on this later).

10 September 2007


Mild synchronicity events this week. I went to a breakfast seminar hosted by Anecdote which looked at the use of Narrative Techniques for Knowledge Retention. Quite an interesting seminar, with provided some new concepts for me to investigate (Most Significant Change) and some new books to find (A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink). I'd like to say new books to read, but I suspect it will be skim, given my current backlog of 30 or 40 books (plus 7 or 8 games, plus 4 or 5 TV series, and God knows how many movies). Courtesy of an interview with Arthur Shelly done for the presentation, it provided a great example of the perils of lost knowledge, and the importance of meta-metadata (recording why something important is being done, not just what the important thing is and how to do it).
So it was that with narrative on the brain, I ended up watching a movie called Stranger Than Fiction, which I had wanted to catch while it was playing at the movies, but missed as I was moving house at the time. Now, if you want to see a movie about narrative, you could do a lot worse. The central premise is that a fairly ordinary guy starts to hear a woman's voice narrating his life, and - through a single sentence - changes the course of it. Not the belly-laugh comedy the trailers sell it as, but a quite interesting and entertaining little gem.
It also examines the nature of "story" - that almost all stories are either comedy or tragedy, depending on the outlook of the protagonist, and that powerful stories aren't always the best stories, and vice versa. It also manages to examine a story from the perspective of the writer, the reader AND the main character - simultaneously!
Then, to top it all of, I ended up doing a bit of re-research to remind myself of the (in)significance of the MacGuffin - courtesy of the almost archetypal example of one in Ronin - which I also watched by pure chance over the weekend.

7 September 2007


I've spent the odd spare moment over the last week trying to get my work PC (which runs Windows 2000) to look more Windows "Vista-y". This was because with all the screenshots and image capturing I've needed to do, I want the captures to look modern enough that someone won't throw away the important stuff in 6-12 months because it looks old (note tenuous connection to KM). I figured that if the casual glance and low-res screenshot looked close enough, I'd've achieved my goal.

Feeling I'd reached a brick wall towards the end, I posted a question on Yahoo! Answers asking anyone for advice on how to make Windows 2000 look more Vista-y. The response was ... negative, its fair to say. I did get some suggestions on where to get Vista wallpapers and icons, which is about all I was hoping for, but of course the comment from most was that their completely different and it can't be done. I think perhaps I didn't say strongly enough that I knoew I couldn't make my machine look exactly like I was running Vista, but just wanted to look like I might be, if no one looked too hard.

So, accepting that the degree to which my desktop could be Vista-fied, I set to work altering the colour scheme, changing the icons, and doing all the other things I could get away with without an Administrator log-on - which my IT area is reluctant to give me, as always. I started with the icons, and decided against the default Vista set, instead opting for some icons that sported a kind of glassy, 3d look, with an icon set called NotePage, which fit the bill perfectly.

Next, the desktop colours. Colours are tricky, since Vista has the funky glass effects to match the title bars and everything to the background image. The solution was to create a colours and gradients similar to the desktop wallpaper. I set the wallpaper to be "New Aurora" (which I downloaded from here), as it essentially worked of a 2-colour gradient already, and then created some custom colour to roughly match the colours at the left-right extremes of the screen. The 3d object colour (which affects the bottom taskbar and the different application borders) I made a similar greeny-grey to that from a screen capture of a Vista desktop using New Aurora.

The end result looks like this, and I've got to say, I'm pretty happy with it overall.

29 August 2007

Forget Strategy, RFID is the Way to Go

I admit to being a bit confused. I was recently directed to the Bain Management Tools survey, which looks at around 25 management tools, and asks organisations to rate them on both the importance of the tool, and their satisfaction with it.

KM comes out middling, I guess. It ranks 8th in terms of importance, but 22nd in terms of satisfaction. This is obviously of concern, and needs to be addressed. Maybe once KM can be defined, it might stand a better chance of meeting expectations.

In this survey list, though, was a little bit of bizarreness. Amongst other leadership tools like corporate strategy, CRM, Six Sigma, TQM, and all the other usual suspects was this little guy:
Now, as in love as I am with gadgetry and technology, I cannot come up with any way that RFID can be justified as a management tool in the same class as these others. Am I missing something here? Or have I just being going to the wrong sort of management meetings?

26 August 2007

KM in the News

I came across an article from telegraph.co.uk looking at management fads, and KM got a mention. I was particularly interested in this paragraph:

The general idea of knowledge management is hard to argue with. Few do. It's still broadly in favour. However, many knowledge management schemes put in by different companies have come under attack for being needlessly complex, and for saving too much useless information.

The article places the emphasis on the technology side of KM, while also mentioning that "[s]ome knowledge management is cultural", which places the above paragraph in a neat context. The interest to me here is the perception of KM outside the domain of KM theorists and practitioners, as essentially an IT-driven process.

I'm of the firm opinion that this perception that this article has the idea barse-ackwards, but my opinion doesn't matter. Clearly, more needs to be done to promote the importance of knowledge-sharing culture within organisations, rather than the systems that support it - which are often crucial, but not the deciding factor.

Basically, the best IT system available may have no impact on KM outcomes. Most of the really good KM initiatives I have seen over the years have come not from brining in a new system to solve the problem, but from using existing systems to make cultural changes.

This was well demonstrated at the recent KM Australia conference, with the presentation that impressed me the most over the 2 days - Cheryl Walker's experiences of building k-sharing culture at National Australia Bank. Having worked for 2 of the big 4 banks in Australia in the past 10 years, my regard for the organisation and the way it supported it staff was not good, so I was expecting much. Instead, I was blown away by how much Cheryl was achieving with the small resourcing she had available. No new technology platforms, no major IT investment, but still getting results.

Such experiences are the ones that give me the most hope.

24 August 2007


Patrick Lambe on his Green Chameleon blog mentioned me mentioning to him about a great little tool called "tiddlywiki". He does a good job of mentioning some of the benefits (and drawbacks) of using a tiddlywiki.

2 things I'd add though, both connected to its status as an open source tool. One is, as with many OSS tools, is that there is a very active development community behind it. It also means that the less geeky may have some trouble getting started, which is where a great site called tiddlywiki for the rest of us comes in.

Secondly, much like Mozilla Firefox, tiddlywikis can be enhanced through the use of plug-ins (similar to FF add-ons). There are all sorts of plugins for doing anything from adding a clock to you tiddlywiki, to setting up the wiki with an rss feed and using it as a blog. There's a whole mess of plugins available via del.icio.us.

In doing some reading about tiddlywiki, I also came across a great term for referring to it via wikipedia (there must be some word for using a wiki to find out about a wiki, like using a search engine to find another search engine). You see, tiddlywiki can be used as a "guerrilla wiki", which is a wiki you can use without having to get it approved and tested by your IT area as you would a normal software, and without having to worry about internal documents and sensitive information being stored outside of your IT environment.

In fact, the colleague who introduced me to tiddlywiki was using it as a resource for his team to capture processes and learnings, and just sat on their network drive as a single html file.

So, if you've always wanted to start playing with wikis, but were put off by having you mistakes available to the world - or you're looking at introducing wiki within your organisation by stealth, tiddlywiki might be for you.

22 August 2007

Saying No

I've been flitting in and out of reading a 'conversation' (read: minor flame war) on actKM about the relationship between KM and other disciplines such as information management, records management and IT. I began to see red though, when reading through some statements made about KM's absolute dependence on technology, which really made all information and knowledge domains fall under IT.

To me, this view of the supremacy of IT over all other disciplines comes from the often desperate need of IT departments to secure additional funding to deliver on unmet user expectation. With increasingly flashy tools and sophisticated, targeted marketing campaigns, its no wonder users are getting to the point of expecting their computer to work just like the oh so clever computer in Star Trek. And vendors use this to their advantage in selling their product as a solution to all your problems, by tacking onto the product something about it being a KM or ECM solution.

I don't blame IT areas for this - given the nature of the complaints I get get to hear about "this stupid computer isn't working" problems, which end up as id-ten-t errors. Still, I've blogged before on my suspicions about vendors colluding with IT areas to get additional funding by re-badging the latest version of their product as a solution to X. Ad whoever the poor bunny who happens to be responsible for X suddenly has their budget ripped out from under them. I admit its an absurd conspiracy theory, with no evidence to support this supposition, but so apparently are parachutes.

A good example I've seen doing the traps at the moment is Microsoft Sharepoint - a fantastic tool that quite possibly not only removes any need to worry about KM & IM (and RM, and HRM, and CRM, and...), but by all accounts is likely to solve world hunger, repair the environment, and be a better lover than I could ever hope to be. Now, to me its obvious this can't all be true (until I see cookie dough flavoured Sharepoint, anyway), which makes it all the sadder when organisations blow multiple budgets on it, than can't figure (a) how to use it; and more importantly (b) hot to get your staff to WANT to use it - as opposed to making them have to, assuming you can get past (a).

KM and IM are particularly vulnerable to this sort of pillaging because a win in these areas doesn't add value, it prevents value from being lost (the price of preventing, say, a high-profile figure being humiliated by a gap in their knowledge). IT, on the other hand, plays straight into the 'boys and their toys' mindset of a number of decision makers in any organisation - and me as well - since there is a shiny new product that is the answer to all problems, despite not really knowing what it does or how it will do this (like the machine that goes "ping", for the Monty Python fans).

Now, this all ties back to a poor joke I made recently while I was fortunate enough to be dining with some KM luminaries in Canberra last week, that "you can't say 'knowledge management' without saying 'no'". As per usual, this stupid remark probably used up more of my wisdom allotment than a year's worth of considered, thoughtful comment. Knowledge managers are - by and large - are fairly communal bunch, concerned with opening doors and making connections, and generally trying to get a sort of hippy-flavoured free love, everyone should love everyone vibe going. Which is fine, until a rapacious, under the hammer, desperately under-resourced leopard comes along and demolishes your work by consuming all your funding. I think maybe its time for KM to put away the carrot and start with the whip. So, here's to the start of a bit of k-NO-wledge management.

The Saga Begins...

After being the webmaster for actKM for the past 12 months, it seems like time to begin running my own blog, as an outlet for generating content instead of managing it.

26 July 2007

Learning, always Learning

I was fortunate to have a short demonstration of a quality induction while I ate my lunch today. The manager of a Michel's Patisserie (Australian coffee and cake franchise) undertook a job interview next to me while I was sitting in a food court. She was interviewing a young OS student who was looking for some part-time work to help fund a few weeks of holidays. Over the course of the interview, the manager really caught my attention at 2 points:
  1. She described the process of trialling the new employee. They would ask the girl to staff the pies and pastries counter for 2 hours, then would sit her down, and share the story of their experiences. First the prospective employee would describe her story of how the 2 hours went, including how she felt about her performance, the customers, and the other staff. Then the manager would tell her story of how she saw the prospective employees performance.
  2. The manager spent the majority of the interview talking about what the new employee would need to learn - that the job required a great deal of memorisation, and how employees were stepped through the process of learning about the products on offer.
It really struck me that for what most (including myself, as a former retail employee) would see as a fairly basic, routine job, a lot of emphasis was placed on the individual and their experience. Perhaps it was just the aftershocks of Etienne Wegner's presentation at KM Australia, but this emphasis on the journey - both for the employee and the employer - resonated with me. It made me think of how badly "good" employers and organisations sell their roles as "journeys" - an experience that starts with who you are now and ends with a different you in some way - and just what a useful method of conveying shared purpose and direction this is for any person at any level. Metaphorically, it sure beats the broken down car, 5 tonnes of cargo, and 10-year old road map with a destination that's a 500m circle with the words "get us here" scribbled in over the street name.