Tag Archives: Knowledge

A Dichotomy of Tears

After my retirement, I determined to make this blog one in which I could write about both professional topics and personal topics, which meant I would share my thoughts about the many things I find of interest. It also meant I planned on writing about my feelings and experiences over the years. It hasn’t been easy, as I’m quite certain some of my thinking is not mainstream and — in some cases — is certainly frowned upon by some sizeable chunk of the population. Nevertheless, I keep plodding along and, in that spirit, I share here something I posted on Facebook recently.

Two things brought me to tears the other day. The first was the ending of the current episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Just knowing what has been accomplished by my fellow human beings; the incredible discoveries and wondrous inventions that have accompanied our ever-growing knowledge of the workings of the universe takes my breath away at times. The other evening was one of those times. They were tears of ineffable joy.

Japanese Umbrella

A Miniature Wagasa (Umbrella) made of Camel Cigarette Packs, Toothpicks, and thread by my Mother-in-Law, Taka Shitara

The second was being reminded of the terrible injustice wrought on the Japanese people who were living in the U.S. when Pearl Harbor was attacked. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law, as well as many of my wife’s extended family, were “relocated” in internment camps. Many lost everything they had worked so hard to accomplish, much of it never to be regained. They were not the enemy . . . and they did not deserve the treatment they received, nor did those who stole their property deserve what they gained. These were tears of inconsolable anger and shame.


Serendipity Runs Circles Around Causality

Funny how some things seem — given enough time — to come full circle. Although I have always seen patterns and complexity, as well as the intricacies of their interplay, I wasn’t introduced to the concept of Systems Thinking until I worked on the Space Shuttle Main Engine program at (what was then) Rockwell International’s Rocketdyne division. That introduction included being exposed to the thinking of Dr. Russell Ackoff, a recognized authority in the field. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with him, twice in Philadelphia, prior to his death in October of 2009.

Shortly after retiring from Rocketdyne in 2010, I was introduced to Dr. Lorien Pratt of Quantellia, LLC, who showed me a tool her organization had developed called World Modeler. I was excited at what I saw and hopeful I could somehow become involved with Dr. Pratt and her team. However, that was not to be at the time. I was provided the opportunity to more thoroughly investigate the tool, but I had made a conscious choice to refamiliarize myself with Apple products (after over two decades of living in the PC, DOS, and Windows environment) and World Modeler was not written to be run on a Mac. Furthermore, the PC laptop I had wasn’t powerful enough to do the math and drive the graphics required for running models in real time. I was hosed.

Decision Intelligence Technologies

Decision Intelligence Technologies

Finally, about six months ago I was contacted by Dr. Pratt, who asked me if I wanted to assist in writing a paper that described an effort in which they were involved with the Carter Center. I enthusiastically said “Yes!” I’ve done a couple of other things with Quantellia since then but, beginning a few weeks ago, I took on an entirely new and (for me) exciting role as a referral partner.

Right now I’m spending a fair amount of time learning Decision Science in general, and the process and tools Quantellia uses to help organizations understand complex interrelationships and make better decisions based on that understanding. As I’m doing this I watch videos, read blogs and articles, look for original research, and work on presentations that will help me educate others in this important approach to business and organizational operations.

So . . . here’s the full circle part. As I’m looking for definitions, or explanations, of Decision Science and its origins, I Google the term. The first two hits I get are to The Decision Sciences Institute and to Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Social and Decision Sciences. The third link is to a Wikipedia article on that same Department. In that article, there’s a link to Decision Science, specifically. However, it redirects to an article on Operations Research, which is where Systems Thinking originated. At the bottom of the page is a list of researchers under the heading “See Also”. One of the researchers, unsurprisingly, is Russell L. Ackoff. To me, that’s a combination of serendipity and years of working on better understanding how an understanding of systems can work to the benefit of any organization; actually, anyone.

I’ll be writing a lot more about Decision Science, including my understanding of some of its constituent parts, Decision Intelligence, Decision Engineering, Decision Modeling, and the power and value of our tools, World Modeler and DEEPM (Decision Engineering for Enterprise Project Management). I hope I will be able to clearly explain what it is we have to offer and, more importantly, what everyone has to gain by understanding it. The value exists independently of me or even Quantellia. We’ve just been at it for a while and can apply and employ the discipline both efficiently and effectively. Stay tuned.


Defining Knowledge Management

KM Wordle

KM Wordle (courtesy of Information Architected)

As long as I can remember, I have always looked for smarter and better ways to do things. Some people have described this propensity as lazy, but I don’t think working smart is really laziness. I like to think of it as a form of conservation. Of my energy! Additionally, working smart means you can be more productive; accomplish more in the same amount of time. No one should have to defend spending energy on making things easier and more efficient and effective.

I say this because this proclivity ultimately led me to the concept of Knowledge Management (KM) in the mid-90s and changed the trajectory of my career (late as it may have been) rather dramatically. Actually, KM had been around for as long as humans had the need to ensure hard-won lessons were passed down from generation to generation. However, as I was beginning to encounter it back then, it was being transformed by the proliferation of the personal computer and the expansion of the Internet and the capabilities it provided. These developments fairly exploded with the advent of Web 2.0 capabilities; the interactive web, and this ultimately led me to what has been called Enterprise 2.0 (now being referred to as Social Business).

Beginning around 1996 I began working with a small group of KM people at Boeing Propulsion and Power, a division of The Boeing Company, to apply these concepts to our various rocket engine programs. Shortly thereafter, I was appointed as the KM Lead for the Space Shuttle Main Engine Team, the largest of our then current contracts. From the very beginning it proved difficult to succinctly explain what Knowledge Management was. Although human beings have been sharing what they learn since time immemorial (it’s part of what makes us so unique), it proved exceedingly difficult to “define” KM. That is to say, it didn’t easily allow one to create a 30-second elevator speech.

I have therefore decided to offer a collection of definitions and explanations, culled from the best minds available on the subject, as discovered by me – through my research, experience, and education. I’m going to publish it as an ongoing project with the intention of adding to it, either by my own hand or through the input of those who find their way here. As it turns out, this is a somewhat convoluted process since so many have tried to define KM for over a decade. In doing just a little research I’ve come across lots of attempts to do the same thing I’m doing here, with varying degrees of success. Even my old friend, Luis Suarez, has an important collection. Unfortunately, one the main collections he refers to is no longer in existence (at least his link is broken). ‘Tis a bother.

Truth to tell, few of these are offered as definitive (which is kind of ironic, don’t you think?) by practitioners. I believe that’s because the practice is at once pervasive and deeply contextual. It’s just plain hard to pin down to a single or even a single set of practices or behaviors, or processes, etc.

I also want to include the sage words of Frank Miller, taken from a paper – I = 0 (Information has no intrinsic meaning) – he published in October of 2002. You really should read the paper if you want to understand his premise, which I think is really valuable if you want to get a grasp of what knowledge sharing (as opposed to knowledge management) is about:

This is a vexed issue. KM is, sadly, deeply embedded in most modern literature connected with the productivity of intangible assets. Yet this paper tries to make clear that when subjected to critical analysis, KM is an untenable notion. Knowledge (i.e., what people know) simply cannot be captured or managed, and hence the term Knowledge Management is inappropriate. Worse still, the language of KM suggests that knowledge is a commodity capable also of being processed, delivered, transmitted etc when it is not. Whilst knowledge sharing is an acceptable concept, the notion of knowledge management is, at best, dubious!

Please feel free to offer your own definitions, take issue with anything I’ve posted, or point me to others who you think deserve to be part of the conversation and I’ll do my best to edit it in to the body here. Thanks.

Definitions

Knowledge Management  is a field that takes concepts of Library Science & Pedagogy and, utilizing the latest trends in Information Technology, seeks to facilitate the capture, transfer, and useful application of the collective knowledge of an organization or group. – Rick Ladd

The purpose of knowledge management is to provide support for improved decision making and innovation throughout the organization. This is achieved through the effective management of human intuition and experience augmented by the provision of information, processes and technology together with training and mentoring programmes.

The following guiding principles will be applied 

  • All projects will be clearly linked to operational and strategic goals
  • As far as possible the approach adopted will be to stimulate local activity rather than impose central solutions
  • Co-ordination and distribution of learning will focus on allowing adaptation of good practice to the local context
  • Management of the KM function will be based on a small centralized core, with a wider distributed network - David Snowden

Knowledge Management is the discipline to enable individuals, teams, organizations and communities, more collectively and systematically capture, store, share and apply their knowledge, to achieve their objectives. – knowledge-management-online.com

Knowledge management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as processes or practices.Wikipedia

Knowledge management refers to strategies and structures for maximizing the return on intellectual and information resources. KM depends on both cultural and technological processes of creation, collection, sharing, recombination and reuse. The goal is to create new value by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of individual and collaborative knowledge work while increasing innovation and sharpening decision-making. – Steve Barth


Ooh! Ooh! Look At Me!

Too Old to Work?

Too Old to be Useful?

I’m fully aware my experience is entirely anecdotal. After all, it has happened – as far as I can tell – only to me. Furthermore, I really have no way of knowing why things occurred the way they did because I haven’t been made privy to the processes and decisions that went into the “invisible” side of my experience. Therefore, you may write these words off as the irascible grousing of a bitter old man, if you like.

Nevertheless, inasmuch as I have applied for a shitload full of jobs in the recent past, all of them online and most of them through LinkedIn, let me offer a little of my experience in doing so. When it comes to hiring, regardless of whatever else they may or may not do right, and regardless of the good intentions of no doubt good hearted people, HR departments suck at treating applicants as human beings.

Of all the positions I applied for, I would say no more than 20 – 25% of them acknowledged my existence in any way after I had completed my application. Of those, the majority were simple web pages that I was fed after completing their application. In total, I received no more than four email acknowledgements of my effort.

Unfortunately, my application was the last of our “engagement” and this was even true of organizations whose primary business was “Social” business. Even people I knew personally managed to avoid interviews or much, if any, communication. I don’t think it was because I have body odor, either.

One company, to which I applied for a community management position, sent me a four-page document containing around a dozen scenarios and problems they wanted me to respond to with my analysis of the situation and how I would handle it. I took the opportunity (and at least four hours) to respond to the challenge and provide what I hoped were good answers.

Despite my relatively rapid response, it wasn’t until I publicly wondered (on Twitter) why I was being ignored that I received an email (or was it a tweet?) informing me the job had been filled. Another company was kind enough just yesterday to let me know of another position that has been filled . . . months after I offered my application. I wonder why they never thought to interview me?

Here’s what I think may be happening. Despite all the rah rah talk about respect for the knowledge and experience of older workers, nobody really wants to hire someone my age. It’s pretty easy to figure out approximately how old I am simply by looking at my LinkedIn profile. If nothing else, you’ll be able to figure out I’m a Baby Boomer and, actually, with very little search proficiency, I believe one could ascertain my exact age with reasonable certainty. I have no intention of hiding it either.

I must point out, as well, I’m fully aware I have made a large portion of my life an open book by my participation in social media and through my blogging efforts. However, I also have a long track record of loyal and valuable leadership and service to an organization that played a significant role in the United States’ space program. I have also, for many years,  shared a great deal of the knowledge and experience I have gained from those efforts. There is a digital trail of my work as well.

I guess my best bet is to continue seeking clients who can use my assistance for short periods of time or for limited responsibilities. Let me say this to hiring managers, though. You really ought to figure out processes for treating your applicants with a bit more respect. I know they’re supplicants as well as applicants, but do you have to treat them like shit by essentially ignoring them throughout what is not a comfortable process to begin with? Just a thought. After all, the word “Human” is part of your process and job description, no?


How Networked Science is Stretching Our Vision

Making Sense of it All

Making Sense of it All

My original intent for this blog was something far different than it’s become. I don’t think it’s a problem, as I seem to be morphing my approach into something that can easily accommodate that original intent. In case you aren’t aware of what I wanted to do when I began this little journey, I have described it somewhat here. I intend on updating that page periodically to keep up with the developments and changes as they occur (or, hopefully, shortly thereafter). This continues to be a work-in-process and I think that’s how I want it.

I have had a deep love and respect for the concept of Systems Thinking a good part of my adult life. As a young man I didn’t even know it was something people studied or wrote about; just that it seemed to be a useful way to look at the world and try to make sense of it. Recognizing the systemic nature of things and seeing the interrelationship (no matter how distant or tenuous) between them can, in my opinion, make them far more intelligible while increasing the odds of understanding consequences and why certain things happen.

Today I came across a wonderful article on Facebook from The Atlantic, through a post by John Hagel of the Deloitte Center for the Edge. I’m not “friends” with John, though I have sent him a request. In the meantime (and I assume he will likely ignore me) I do “subscribe” to his public updates. He shares some truly fascinating and interesting information.

The article is entitled “To Know, but Not Understand: David Weinberger on Science and Big Data” and he discusses and explains how the prolific growth of data, information, storage capabilities, and computing power is facilitating the understanding of large-scale or highly complex systems, despite their being beyond our ken as mere human beings. He points out that, despite our limitations as individuals to understand why some things work as they do, the growth of networked science is providing us with a capacity for making use of this data, information, and knowledge. I found it truly fascinating and want to share it here. If you have 10 – 15 minutes, I highly recommend you take the time to read it. Here’s the link.


Why Do We Bother?

I am constantly blown away by the quality and quantity of good information that’s available on the web. I have been studying the use of social media for some time; initially for use within the firewall of a large organization and, more recently, for small business marketing. One channel I think many businesses, especially those that experience high foot traffic, e.g. restaurants, bars, retail stores, is Facebook. I will never refer to myself as an expert, but I have been gaining some expertise in both the strategy and the mechanics of taking advantage of their fan pages.

Unfortunately, I can’t keep track of all the good information that keeps being thrust my way! I want to share just one of them. I like what Jordan Julien has to say, though I find myself wondering why he’s not including mobile now in his assessments. Perhaps he is and I need to dig a little deeper but, for now I just want to share one post he’s written that I think is quite useful. It’s entitled “How Should I Use Social Media” and you can find it at http://bit.ly/ge2vwl. Check it out and see if it doesn’t clarify some things for you. Study the graphics carefully. There’s a lot of info packed into them.

So, by my title I mean . . . I sometimes wonder why I blog at all, since there’s so much information out there; much of it far more knowledgeable than what I have to offer. I know there’s got to be a good reason, else why do I bother?


Companies Should Pay Attention to Former Employees

Today, my friend (I consider anyone I can have a decent, useful conversation with on Twitter a friend) Kelly Kraft (@KRCraft) posted a blog asking the question “How much and what kind of a relationship do you have with former employees?” Her experience is much different than mine, though I think her conclusions make perfect sense for any organization contemplating doing as her former org did. The question is not – in my mind and, I think, in Kelly’s – whether or not to have ongoing relationships. Rather, it is what kind of relationships, and how extensive (or intimate), will they be?

KM Through Social Media

Over eight years ago, in response to a perceived need for understanding (and locating) the depth and breadth of expertise at Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power (then a division of Boeing’s Space & Communications business unit – whew!), I did some research and found a company that provided a tool that was a predecessor of many of the social media offerings of today. In my opinion they were way ahead of their time. The tool was called AskMe Enterprise and it offered profiles, Q&A threads (including forwarding, commenting by others, feedback as to quality and efficacy), file and link uploading and sharing, etc. We later had a customization added that provided for posting Lessons Learned and, about four years ago, they added a blogging capability.

Unfortunately, the larger percentage of our workforce (especially leadership and management) adamantly refused to participate. This wasn’t unexpected, however disappointing it may have been, and we continued to use the tool and work on building acceptance by example and through its ever-growing usefulness. Many years ago, I suggested we consider finding a way to stay connected with the constant flood of experienced Engineers, and others, who were retiring or moving on to other pastures. Inasmuch as we had a history of bringing some of those people back as contractors, I thought we might be able to find an inexpensive method of remaining in contact with the majority who didn’t return.

The proposal I thought made the  most sense was to provide retirees with a secure connection to our network and, as compensation for being available for questioning within AskMe, perhaps covering the cost of their Internet connection. I don’t believe anyone took this idea seriously and it essentially died on the vine.

Intellectual Property & Communication

Now here comes Kelly, pointing out how valuable her former organization, Exact Software, has found maintaining continuous relationships with former employees can be. She also addresses the issue of what kinds of relationships make sense for different types of employees. Specifically, she notes the difference between outward-facing, highly engaged employees as opposed to somewhat sequestered, internally focused employees like many of the Engineers I worked with. She is, however, right on the mark suggesting each of them can be successfully engaged.

For instance, she points to her own experience as an Implementation Consultant for Exact and the work she did in the years since, noting there probably isn’t a great deal the enterprise needs to do to engage her. She is also, I believe, referring in part to her use of Twitter to stay in touch. My Engineer friends are not terribly likely to engage using Twitter (or blogging, or anything else that public for that matter). There are considerations of IP protection they can’t afford to ignore, as well as governmental restrictions like ITAR that, contravened, will surely bite them in the ol’ behind. This can be, and has been, quite expensive and can be done somewhat inadvertently.

Nevertheless, as Kelly points out, there are numerous ways in which an enterprise can stay in touch, and engaged, with its former employees. In Rocketdyne’s case – especially – with those employees who have retired and are not working for another company. She is also pointing out, in my opinion, that CRM (or SCRM) isn’t just for sales and marketing to dun customers with either. Social Media have many applications. Many of them are useful for engaging with an enterprise’s customers, but many are also valuable for engaging one’s own employees (current and former). The lunches and parties sound pretty cool, too.

PS – The article she credits me with was a few paragraphs of my opinion of what Hutch Carpenter (VP of Product at Spigit@bhc3) had to say at his blog, “I’m Not Actually a Geek” (which he really is, but you didn’t hear that from me).


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