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Tag Archives: tools

Making Sense of All That Data

Deep Data

Transforming Big Data Information into Deep Data Insights

Yesterday I posted a question to several of the groups I belong to on LinkedIn. It was related to several of the things I’m interested and involved in: Systems Thinking, Knowledge Management, and Decision Modeling. It was somewhat informed, as well, by an article appearing in the Huffington Post, where Otto Scharmer, a Senior Lecturer at MIT and founder of the Presencing Institute, talks about the need to make sense of the huge and growing amounts of data we have available to us. He argues the importance of turning from “Big” data, where we mainly look outward in our attempt to understand what it is telling us about markets and our external influence, to “Deep” data, where we begin looking inward to understand what it’s telling us about ourselves and our organizations and how we get things done.

The question I asked was designed to seek out capabilities and functionality that people would like to have, but that is currently unavailable. My interests include working with others to understand and provide for those needs, if possible. I thought I would present the question here as well, where it will remain a part of my online presence and, hopefully, might elicit some useful responses. Here it is:

With the growing proliferation and importance of data — a development at least one author and MIT Lecturer has suggested is moving us from the information technology era to the data technology era — what tools would you like to see become available for handling, understanding, and sharing the new types of information and knowledge this development will bring?

In other words, what would you need that you don’t have today? What types of technology do you think would offer you, your colleagues, and your organizations a greater ability to make use of data to bring about a transformation from primarily siloed, outward looking data to collaborative, inward looking data as well?

I would love to hear of any ideas you might have regarding the kinds of tools or apps you could use to better deal with data by turning it into useful information and knowledge . . . perhaps even a smidgen of understanding and wisdom.

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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.

 


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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