Tag Archives: sharing

Living Out Loud

Lanterns afloat

My intent is for the act of sharing to be liberating for me . . . and informative for others.

I decided to celebrate my birthday this year by doing something I may regret. No, I’m not taking off to Vegas with $5k and a desire to lose my inhibitions completely, nor am I going to see if I can find some Window Pane or Orange Owsley and relive the late sixties. I’m going to delve a little deeper into what I see as a corollary of something I’ve been writing a little bit more about lately . . . working out loud. The corollary is . . . living out loud. Let me explain.

Working out loud is about finding ways to work where not merely the fruits, but also the cultivation, planting, and meticulous care and grooming of those fruits are conducted in a manner that allows others to follow along, perhaps contribute somewhere along the way. It involves activities such as moving conversations away from email and into other forms of internal communication; e.g. micro-blogging, wikis, other types of social networking/communicating/collaborating tools, etc. I have found from experience it is not an easy thing to do, even when you are a wholehearted supporter of the idea. The entire ethos of our work culture militates against it and, for some, it’s downright dangerous and heretical.

Living out loud, however, is something a little bit different. I’ve never had to do an activity report though, come to think of it, as a kid I did have to face my father’s wrath when I forgot to do one of my chores. Now, however, I’ve retired from the last place I had a regular job at, so nobody much requires me to report to them. I do have some activities I’m involved in where I keep people apprised of my efforts and progress, but it’s not the same as when I worked at Rocketdyne. Anyway, in an effort to share a little more of me, here’s my first formal attempt. I posted the following on Facebook first.

This is the first birthday I haven’t much looked forward to. Although it seems not to mean all that much, since some time in April I am seven years older than my father was when he died. I think about it, because I grew up being told I was “exactly like your father”, especially when I did something untoward or displeasing to my mother. Medically, although my experience is not like my father’s, I am nonetheless in uncharted waters. It’s a situation both my daughters will likely have to deal with their entire lives.

Also, this year I will be closer to 70 than to 65. I am entering my dotage and, frankly, my worry isn’t for me. If it was just me and Linda, I think we’d be fine. We’d get along OK. However, we have two young girls to care for and see into adulthood and sometimes I fear I won’t be there for them much longer. I’m not yet losing any sleep over it and I surely don’t plan to, but the thought I could be gone any day has a little more power than it would have even 10 years ago.

I also think the feeling was somewhat exacerbated by the sudden loss a couple of weeks ago of a long-time friend who was a half a decade or so younger than me. I was deeply affected by her loss and I’m quite certain it’s still haunting me a bit, though I don’t consciously think about it that much.

I know a few of my friends are older than I am. If you’re reading this and you’re older than me, please take pity on me.  I’m a relatively new old man. It takes some getting used to and I’ve also kind of determined this is one hell of a good place to leave some stuff for my kids. It’s why I welcomed the Timeline when it was introduced, and why I’ve uploaded some pictures I have that were taken before digital pics existed.

Sorry if I’m bothering or boring anyone. I’m experimenting with living out loud. Your mileage may vary.

 


Teach, Learn, Share

The following is from a post I published in LinkedIn, in response to an emailed request from Dan Roth, Executive Editor. They implied I’m an “influencer”. How could I resist?


Giving advice to young people beginning their professional careers is not something I’m generally asked to do. How does someone whose background and experience is as unconventional as mine even relate to others who have already gone a different route? You just finished earning a Bachelor’s Degree. I never attended undergraduate school. What can I say to you that will make any sense? Nevertheless, LinkedIn has suggested I give it a shot and even ensure my thoughts stand out by tagging them with #IfIWere22, so here goes.

Twenty-two! Whew. That was 45 years ago. I have a hard time even being certain what I remember from back then actually happened. By that age I had already been in the US Navy (medically discharged after a short stint), owned a small business, lived on the streets of the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco during the waning days of the Summer of Love, and the North Campus district above the University of California at Berkeley after that.

By all measures of the time, I was a failure. I had nothing to show for those years save a hell of a lot of street smarts. How does one put that on a résumé? I did manage to get a job at a jewelry manufactory, where I learned to melt . . . er . . . solder gold and silver, making some very high quality jewelry, but it surely wasn’t a career I was interested in pursuing. In the next few years I had lots of jobs, but no career to speak of.

Law School Graduation

Don’t take life too seriously.

At 26, despite having no undergraduate education and never having taken the SAT, I was able to attend an accredited Law School, largely because I scored very high on the LSAT and after my first year easily passed the First Year Law Student’s Exam. It was not required of those who had their Baccalaureates. I received my Juris Doctorate in 1976.

I was lucky. I had some resources at my disposal and I had always been an avid reader and a self-learner – an autodidact. After graduating Law School I realized I didn’t much care for the legal profession and, coupled with my father having a major heart attack, I felt I had no choice but to join my family’s wholesale food distribution business. For the next 12 years I worked with my family and in several different jobs and businesses. You can see my profile for yourself. This is LinkedIn, after all. :)

Now . . . the question remains, what did I learn and what can I pass on to you as you begin your career? One thing, probably, is you don’t want to do what I did. However, there are at least two very important things I think brought me to where I am today (btw – check out my last job before retirement. It was a doozy), which isn’t wildly successful, but has given me a considerable amount of satisfaction.

First, don’t ever stop learning. Read, experience, experiment, test, and share. Learn so you can share what you know with others. It is the best way, IMO, to move forward. Too many people try and create a persona for themselves they hope will be perceived as irreplaceable. Don’t be one of them. Your value is in sharing knowledge, not hoarding it. You will be much happier because you won’t be constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering who’s sneaking up to replace you. You’ll be too busy concentrating on the steps above you.

Second. Perseverance. In the words of Coach Jimmy Valvano, “Don’t Give Up . . . Don’t Ever Give Up.” No matter how bad things are, they will improve if you just don’t give up. This doesn’t mean you won’t experience failures and setbacks. They’re inevitable. What it means is, despite your losses, despite those failures and setbacks, you need to pull yourself up and get on with your business. And when these things happen, refer to the previous paragraph; learn. Turn that sow’s ear into your very own silk purse; defeat into victory. You can do it.

I hope some of what I’ve written here will be of use to you. If you are in the intended audience for these “If I were 22″ posts, you’ve got your entire career ahead of you. Keep your eyes and ears open. You don’t need to plan every step; serendipity is a wonderful thing. As you can see from the picture of my Law School graduation in 1976, above, I also think it’s important to not take oneself too seriously. Enjoy your lives and make others happy. Good luck out there.


“Follow Me” Instagram Photos

Follow Me

Follow Me Instagram Photo by Murad Osmann

So . . . I was sharing an interesting collection of photographs done by a Russian (Murad Osmann) who takes Instagram pictures in parts of the world he visits. Each picture is taken from the perspective of his girlfriend leading him by the hand. They’re each set up nicely to show off some aspect of the countryside, city, village, or familiar tourist location and his girlfriend’s clothing and hair are always different. I’m no fashionista, but it appears to me her hair styles are sometimes related to the location they’re in.

These are really nice photographs and you can see a collection of some of them here. Part of the reason, however, I’m posting this is because, as I was sharing (using a HootSuite widget that allows me to share directly from a web page to numerous social platforms) to Facebook and Twitter, I accidentally sent it here. I meant to send it to my LinkedIn profile. The way this widget shares with WordPress is less than adequate so, rather than just delete the reference, I thought I would share more fully. The pics are pretty interesting.


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


Why I Love Facebook’s Timeline

A Pic From My FB Timeline

How My Friends Can Share With Me

Change is Good

Every time Facebook changes something on their (not sure whether to call it a platform, app, or service) offering, people seem to get all freaked out and complain because they have to learn something new or change the way they were doing things. I understand and appreciate change can be a bit disconcerting, but I’m one of those people who not only accepts change; I actually seek it out. So when Facebook adds or rearranges things I immediately start looking for how I can take advantage of it.

Just so I’m clear, I am not referring to the issues of privacy and information security that arise now and again. That’s an entirely different story and, while I am clearly not as protective as many, I am always concerned about the security of my truly private information and that of my family. Changes in functionality are an entirely different animal and that’s what I’m concerned with here.

Embracing Timeline

When Facebook first introduced Timeline and made it available as a developer version, I was all over it. I was anxious to try it out, primarily because I was building a business that was based in large part on my understand of and familiarity with Facebook. I was anxious to see what they were doing, even though at the time it was not available to fan pages, which is the part of FB my business is involved with. I went through the necessary steps and got myself going. Much like my introduction to Twitter well over four years ago, I really wasn’t sure how I was going to use or benefit from it, but I was sure I wanted to figure it out.

Now that it’s a part of fan pages and I’ve grown increasingly familiar with it, I’ve finally figured out how to use it for myself. Not my fan page, but my personal Timeline. I came into this world about the time personal photography was starting to take off. As a firstborn son, my parents took lots of pictures of me. They also took lots of pictures of family and, over the years, many of them have come into my possession. It wasn’t until Facebook made it possible for posts to be scheduled, i.e. given a Timeline date in the future and held in a queue until that time, when they would then appear, that I made the connection to the past.

Yes, It’s About Me

Up until very recently I have shared some old pictures, but I have dated them on my Timeline on the date I posted them. I have since come to realize I can create somewhat of an autobiography by posting items (pictures, scanned documents, etc.) and dating them appropriately. I can even add in locations and people I was with, provided they are current Facebook friends. This is no small thing for me, as I have two fairly young (11 and 8) children to whom I want to leave a record of my life. Using Timeline to do so seems so much easier than writing a book. It also is far more graphic and, because many of my friends (including those who were present when some of the pictures were taken) can post comments to them, they become even richer and more engaging. Furthermore, as evidenced by the picture above, my friends can share pictures they have, which become part of my Timeline as well.

Interestingly, this picture was posted last November and I only just tried to change the date to the year and approximate month in which it was taken. I wasn’t able to do it, but I requested my friend who posted it to make the change and he did. Actually, he told me he didn’t know how to do it (people my age seldom do), but he had someone take care of it. I also realized there was a friend in the pic who has since become a Facebook friend as well and I was able to tag him. He chimed in within less than a day.

I could never recreate my past in this way by myself. First of all, I don’t know any other tool that provides the combination of functionality that Facebook does. Surely there’s nothing that would allow me to slowly record a retrospective with input from many people who were there at the time or who experienced similar episodes and milestones. I believe I have a lot more to learn about doing this, but I’m enjoying discovering new ways in which to create the virtual experience I want to leave for my kids. Maybe it won’t work the way I am envisioning. Maybe my kids won’t care when it comes down to it. I don’t much care at this point. It’s a great learning experience and – so far – it’s a lot of fun because I almost always get feedback from others when I do post something. After all, it may be dated long ago on my Timeline, but it’s something new and it shows up in my friends’ news feed when I post it.

Anybody out there have stories about their use of timeline, or have you discovered a bit of functionality you really like that you think others might want to know about . . . or that I might want to know about? Please be so kind as to share. Thanks.


Knowledge Management Ain’t Actually Going Anywhere

I completely forgot I had posted this over a year and a half ago. I never actually posted it here, but did post about it and provided a link to it at Content Management Connection. Despite the passage of time since I did post it, I don’t really think much has changed, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

PS – Click here to see an up-to-date graph and some regional data as well from Google Trends.


Google Trends Graph

Knowledge Management vs. Social Media Searches via Google

As a result of two tweets I just read; one from @SameerPatel and the other from @ralphmercer, I wanted to get a thought down before it recedes forever into the darkest corners of my brain, where I know I will feel the remnants of its presence, but will also never be able to fully recall it.

Based on something Sameer said I went to Google Trends and searched on the terms “Knowledge Management” and “Social Media”. In the past almost two years, with the exception of a large drop at the end of 2009, and a slight dip at what looks like the end of June in 2010, Social Media searches have been steadily increasing. During that same time period, searches for Knowledge Management – which are now less than a fifth of the searches for Social Media have remained arguably steady, with perhaps a bit of a continuous waning.

I suppose some would suggest this portends the eventual death of KM, but I really don’t think that true . . . or even possible. KM has always been based on the belief that we humans are unique in our ability to pass knowledge on to others, as well as to collectively create new knowledge and retain it for future use.

As I had suggested to Ralph, and what he was kind enough to point out in his tweet, is the reality that it’s “very expensive to reacquire knowledge”. This isn’t something anybody wants to do, anymore than they want to produce re-work or scrap. Yet people seem to be mulling over the viability of KM for the future.

I think the reality is two-fold. First, the need for sharing and re-using knowledge or information continues as strong as it’s ever been. What it’s called is of little consequence and, if KM has gotten a bad rep, then let’s move on and call it something else.

Second, I believe a lot of what we mean when we refer to social media is actually the next iteration of KM, insofar as it enhances collaboration, sharing, finding out what others are doing, etc., as well as captures and makes available collective knowledge and wisdom.

So, what do you think? Has KM run its course, or is it just taking on a new “identity” in the form of social media and (something I don’t think I mentioned above) Enterprise 2.0?


You Can’t Be Trusted!

How many of us have heard those in charge of the organizations we work for complain that the use of some of the newer technology available is a threat to company security? How many are blocked from sites like Twitter or Facebook because – as the argument goes – the risk of compromising company security or inadvertently sharing intellectual property is just too great?

I recall a time when the company I worked for had a policy against bringing cell phones to work if they had a camera, the fear being we would all suddenly start taking pictures of . . . what? . . . papers? . . . hardware? . . . and sell them to the North Koreans, the Russians, or the Chinese. That restriction didn’t last very long and this presentation pretty much sums up why.

The futility of such an attitude, given the ubiquity of smart phones, is almost unworthy of discussion. In addition, much of this hand-wringing is tantamount to closing the barn door after the horses (or one high-level horse) have escaped. I have personally (along with tens of thousands of my colleagues) been subjected to training designed to “help” us not do what some corporate executive did, all designed to convince the government we had learned our lesson and would not do what none of us had any intention of doing in the first place.

I’m confident I could go on about this subject for quite some time and, no doubt, will in the future. However, I really just want to share this wonderful PowerPoint presentation I was recently reminded of. It’s one of those that is somewhat timeless. Hell, it may never quite go out-of-date. I think it’s deserving of a reprise. Please feel free to share. The author placed it in SlideShare, so I’m confident he wants you to see and share it.

View more PowerPoint from normanlamont

Are You Comfortable With Being Social?

A Child's Trust

Trust. Catch Some!

Funny thing about blogging. Unless someone takes the time to comment, or they subscribe, there’s no way to know who is reading and what interests them. There are lots of tools to figure out where traffic comes from, including a list of the search terms that brought people to my site, but it really doesn’t help me understand as thoroughly as I’d like which of my posts strikes a chord

On the other hand, I’ve been testing the waters with a couple of different styles and I’m working on changing voice as well. So, I’m mostly writing to say what I have to say and it’s kind of like “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead” . . . “let the chips fall where they may”. That isn’t to say I don’t care. I do. What it does say, though, is I’m not sure who will be interested in what I’m sharing today.

My history with, and interest in, Enterprise 2.0 (now mostly referred to as “Social Business“) has brought me a lot of “friends” I would not otherwise have encountered. When I say “friends” I am referring to people, some of whom I have never met in person, and some of whom I’ve only actually seen once in my life. The person who gave the presentation that appears below is one of the latter, though we’ve communicated in various ways in the past nearly two years.

I first met him at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston in June of 2010. I didn’t realize it at the time, but later discovered he coined what had become one of my favorite words – folksonomy. I had been arguing for some time that we (Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, where I was working) should concentrate less on a formal taxonomy for our explicit knowledge artifacts (meaning paper reports and electronic files) and go with tagging, which would create a useful folksonomy. Actually, I was arguing at the time for developing a hybrid, i.e. providing a “recommended” set of tags, allowing leeway in using them and creating new ones, and occasionally “culling” the list to get rid of the less useful tags while retaining the most useful ones for later use.

At any rate, Thomas has become a valuable source of understanding. I appreciate his insights and only wish I was in a position to attend more conferences and the kinds of presentations from which I can learn other viewpoints about the use of social media, especially for business. While I have some reasonably well-developed concepts and a fairly good understanding, there are so many areas where others have far more experience than I, especially when it comes to the information technology (including IA, Information Architecture) aspects of how it affects people and their relationships.

Below I’ve embedded the presentation Thomas gave at a recent conference on IA, which he just uploaded to Slideshare. Since he uses the same philosophy of presenting that I and many others do, i.e. avoid bullet points wherever humanly possible, use lots of interesting graphics, and talk your butt off, I can’t be quite certain I understand the point(s) behind every slide, but I think I get his drift. In fact, I love the concept of “Social Comfort” as I spent many years working to alleviate the discomfort so many of my colleagues seemed to feel back in the day. I also like his idea of avoiding use of the word “Trust” and – instead – substitute related words that evoke a feeling of trust, e.g. dependable, believable, treasured, consistent, honest, etc.

Going back to my use of the word “friends” for people I don’t really know or, at least, have never met in person. I consider them friends precisely because over time they have shown themselves to be dependable, consistent, honest, etc. That is, I’ve come to trust them based on numerous instances of conversation or reading something they’ve chosen to share not only with me, but with the entire online community. People who are unworthy of our trust don’t stick their necks out very often . . . if at all. The people I consider friends do so repeatedly, which is something I cherish.

I hope you can glean something useful from Thomas’s presentation. I believe I have. Feel free to comment here or to go to Slideshare and comment directly to Thomas if there’s something you don’t get or would like to discuss with him further.

Trust photo by mikebaird


Move Along Now. There’s Nothing to see Here.

Be Careful What You Say

So . . . after deciding to open up a bit and start to share a little more of what I want to share, rather than what I think I need to be sharing (mostly business stuff), I’m still struggling with how best to do it and what, exactly, I feel comfortable with writing about. It’s actually bothering the hell out of me that I can’t pull the trigger and get out some posts on the things that matter to me: My children and the circumstances of their joining our family (international adoption); my feelings about the direction our nation is heading in (backward), as well as the responses to it; education as it relates to where our nation is going (both school and life-long); and my thoughts regarding these subjects.

My biggest conflict revolves around my children and how much I can share without violating their rights to their own story. Yes, I believe they have rights like you and I and I wish to respect them. On the other hand, I’ve learned so much from raising them and from dealing with their circumstances and my role in them that I want to share how it’s affected me as well as the things I think need to be done to lessen the burden for them and those like them, many of whom I now call friends and from whom I’ve learned much.

Painful and difficult as it is, I’m determined to write more frequently, though the past few weeks surely haven’t evidenced that. Nevertheless, I intend on pressing on even if I trip, stumble, and fall. I’m deeply thankful to those of you who take time out of your precious day to read what I have to say and I really appreciate the comments I occasionally receive. I’ve sat on this post for far too long, so I’m going to fire it off even if it feels more like a placeholder than anything else.


The Hell It’s Not About The Tools!

Hand Axes

What Would Lizzie Borden Do?

I had lunch a while back with a former colleague from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. He is also a fellow cohort member from my Masters in KM program, from which we both graduated in late 2009. We have worked together extensively. After eating we were discussing the situation at my former (and his current) place of employment, which is a bit unclear at this point.

As I shared my thoughts about the value (as I see it) of using social media to increase the organization’s capabilities (you know, the innovative, collaborative, communicative ones), he said something he had said to me over and over while I was still a colleague . . . “It’s not about the tools!”

Now, essentially I agree with him – at least to a point. Tools are, by themselves, absolutely useless unless they’re used to get things done in the manner for which they were designed. Even better, if you can figure out how to use them creatively they can be even more powerful. Try pounding a nail into a stud with your bare fist, though, and then tell me it’s not about the tools.

Nevertheless, this argument is valid when taken in the context of an organization where people think that throwing tools at a problem will somehow, magically I guess, solve the problem confronting them. I have personally seen this happen quite a bit and, in fairness to my friend, it did seem to be a common occurrence at our place of employment.

On the other hand, we’re probably all aware of situations where the simplest of tools served an organization well in dealing with a particularly difficult situation. This can only happen, I think, when the people confronting the situation are open and honest about what they’re facing and how it’s affecting the processes and people who are tasked with dealing with it.

This means they have to be able to think both critically and creatively. Too often people get to thinking in predictable ways and they pigeonhole the problem, thereby confining their possible solutions to the things they’re familiar with and have previous knowledge of. This usually leads to failure.

The thing about tools, though, is that they frequently give us the ability to use a bit of lateral – or even sideways – thinking. In the case of social tools such as Jive or Socialcast or Yammer, we’re also given the possibility of working together and sharing our information and knowledge in ways not previously possible.

A perfect example of how not to do it is the way in which the company I used to work at shared their knowledge of rocket engine design and manufacture. It was always the case that younger Engineers would send email requests to their older counterparts, requesting information on design intent or material properties or manufacturing techniques, etc. The older colleague might spend days researching and crafting an answer, which would then be sent back to the requester in an email.

The problem with this was that access to all this wonderfully useful information was now confined to the two (sometimes a few more, depending on who was included initially) people engaged in the conversation. Usually, within a short while the information and knowledge so thoroughly and carefully created was lost; frequently even to the original person asking the question. This was because there was no useful method by which email could be easily searched.

Nowadays we can do much better. We have tools, applications, and systems available to us that provide functionality like instant broadcasting (micro-blogging), collaborative creation (wiki, even Google docs), and ubiquitous indexing and search. There is, in my opinion, no excuse for not taking advantage of as many of these tools as is reasonably affordable – taking into consideration the culture of an organization and its tolerance for experimentation and change. Frankly, from what I’ve experienced and from what I learn from friends and others who are engaged in community organization and leadership, there are ways to introduce, champion, and develop these kinds of tools in just about any organization.

So I would wish to characterize the use of tools just a bit differently. I would say it most definitely IS about the tools, but it’s just not entirely about the tools. Having functionality available that was not possible five or ten years ago can change things dramatically. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a conscious effort and, sometimes, dramatic changes in the culture of an organization. Nevertheless, the pain associated with change is usually ameliorated by the newfound capabilities the change brings; the possibilities of developing innovative processes and organizational structures and of increasing both the efficiency and effectiveness of those things we engage in. If anyone tells you it’s not about the tools, as if to say they aren’t important, ask them when was the last time they combed their hair with a fork!


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