Living Networks

Ross Dawson and I shared a late lunch in rainy San Francisco this afternoon before he fled east to lead what sounds like a really cool workshop in New York on Thursday. If I were in New York, I'd head over to the W on Lex for this event in, well, a New York minute.

Ross is author of Living Networks and the session in New York puts the book into practice.

The Social Network Analysis meme is making the rounds. At the Dave Winer dinner in Berkeley a week back, I asked my table, "How many of you are not doing something with social network analysis?" Community, collaboration, and context are hot. But analysis is still just that. It sort of lies there, waiting for someone to pick it up.

So Ross is experimenting with Social Network ENHANCEMENT. Now that you have a map to experts and kindred spirits and so forth, what do you do with it? On Thursday, attendees will be wearing Meme Tags that chirp when you're in the proximity of someone with similar connections. How do they know? The Spoke network is feeding participant profiles into the tags. Chirp, chirp, chirp, hi, who do we know in common? And now that we've figured that out, let's play with some collaborative work tools.

Setting up the Workflow Learning Institute with Sam Adkins has me revisiting Vilfredo Pareto's 80/20 rule. The overpowering inefficiency that workflow learning goes after is the 80% of virtually any workflow cycle that is wasted on transfer time, slack, idle moments, distractions, looking things up, and so on.

Here's a cycle. Of anything. It's the time from starting one item until starting the next. Of manufacturing a widget, of making a sale, of processing a loan application, whatever. Time and time again, we find that only 10% to 20% of the time is spent on the real task, adding value. That's the green. The remainder is "other." It doesn't add value. What more do you need to know?

Peter Drucker tells us that "Knowledge worker productivity is the biggest of the 21st century management challenges...(it is the) only real competitive advantage in a global economy."

How can we knock some of the inefficiency and slack out of knowledge work? As I said earlier, I'd love to be able to attend Ross's session in New York.

More on this at Ross's website. I'm making Ross a member of the Internet Time Group ecosystem.

Naturally, Ross is also a blogger.

Posted by Jay Cross at December 1, 2003 11:59 PM | TrackBack

Is it really such a bad thing to spend 80% of our time "not adding value"? As an independent consultant, I spend a lot of time not focused on a direct, client-related task. That's when the ideas come forth; not when I'm doing the task at hand. Maybe we need that 80% to let the right side of our brain explore relationships that we wouldn't see when on-task.

Posted by: Harold Jarche at December 2, 2003 03:49 AM

Harold, I don't disagree. For a creative professional, some of that right-brain time falls into the 20% that counts. That still leaves lots of idle time waiting for others, placing phone calls that don't connect, and twiddling thumbs while the workflow lurches from one boundary to the next.

Posted by: jay at December 3, 2003 04:11 PM

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