CLO magazine June 2004 - Jay Cross
What would you think of an assembly line where workers didn’t know where to find the parts they were supposed to attach? Absurd, you say. Heads would roll. Yet for knowledge workers, this is routine. Consider a knowledge worker stymied by a lack of information—hardly an uncommon situation. In fact, in many professions, knowledge workers spend a third of their time looking for answers and helping their colleagues do the same.
How does our knowledge worker respond? She’s five times more likely to turn to another person than to an impersonal source, such as a database or a file cabinet. Often she asks whoever happens to be close by, the denizen of the next cube or someone getting a cup of coffee. Half the time, this person doesn’t have a clue.
Only one in five knowledge workers consistently finds the information needed to do their jobs. This happens to “knowledge customers,” too, half of whom bail before completing online orders. Other studies have found that knowledge workers spend more time re-creating existing information they were unaware of than creating original material.
All this slows the pace of the enterprise, burns out the workforce with scut work, reduces responsiveness to customers and increases job dissatisfaction. Reinventing the wheel, looking for information in the wrong places and answering questions from peers consumes two-thirds of the average knowledge worker’s time. Slashing this waste time provides a lot more time to devote to improving the business, reducing payroll or, more likely, a bit of both.
This knowledge productivity problem is destined to get worse before it gets better. The haystack is getting bigger exponentially. Corporate information doubles in volume every 18 months. Half of the recorded information in the entire world has been created in the past five years!
Specialists used to keep their heads above the floodtide of incoming knowledge by knowing “more and more about less and less.” In today’s interconnected world, boundaries between disciplines are becoming porous. Everything’s multidisciplinary. We have to know more and more about more and more.
Successful organizations will connect people. Learning is social. We learn from, by and with other people. Conversation, storytelling and observation are great ways to learn, but they aren’t things you do by yourself.
Job one is to help knowledge workers find the answers they need. Rob Cross and others describe many ways to go about this in a marvelous new book, “Creating Value With Knowledge,” edited by IBM’s Eric Lesser and Laurence Prusak (Oxford University Press, 2003).
If people are going to go to other people for answers, make it easy for them to get to people in the know. (Get them to look for their keys where they’re likely to find them, not where the light’s better.) Set up help desks to support new product rollouts and organizational initiatives. Have the help desk apply the 80/20 rule and document the common queries in a mercifully short FAQ. Then, tier responses by triage. First query the FAQ, then ask the help desk, and if those don’t work, contact the prime subject-matter expert.
Learning a new software release is a special case. Since a release generally builds on an existing foundation, workers more often need answers to specific questions than the sort of overview that workshops and courses provide. Trial-and-error is a great way to learn—as long as there’s a way to deal with roadblocks. Since the release is new, learners won’t find answers in-house. In this case, outsource mentoring to a firm that does have the answers.
Web standards and smart software can monitor workflow to provide lessons or contacts precisely when they are needed.
Now that business organizations have been de-layered, downsized and re-engineered to the bone, how will they transfer their special ways of doing things to new employees?
The answer lies in exploiting the savvy of seniors, the wise elders who have “been there, done that” and can offer counsel and know-how to the newcomers. Old hands often make outstanding sales and service coaches, too.
The Internet Time Glossary defines Knowledge Management as "whatever you want it to mean."
His views on Knowledge Management echo many of the themes I've talked about here on the Internet Time Blog.
Dave comes up with these bottom-up processes:
That covers just about everything a knowledge worker is challenged to do. Do what you can to improve these dozen processes and forget the top-down stuff.
My thinking is so conceptual that I sometimes see patterns where none exist, but Dave's approach seems like yet another illustration of this:
It is so difficult to free our minds to recongize that context trumps content. There's life outside of classrooms, books, and databases.
This is the third in a series of reports on the 2004 ASTD Conference.
|Fifteen minutes before the last breakout session of the Conference, I found myself at the front of a nearly empty room with seating for several hundred. When the big hand got to twelve, fifty or so people had joined me. Whew. I'd hate to give a presentation on collaboration to just two other people.|
This afternoon I meshed my PowerPoint deck with a recording from the Conference. Then Macromedia Breeze uploaded the narrated presentation to the web, converted it into Flash for rapid playback, and stuffed it onto a publically accessible website. This is the way life oughta be.
|The full presentation, narrated, is here. I'll describe the flow of things since you may want to pick and choose what you listen to.||
Here's what a sixty-minute mpg3 of my presentation looks like. Sort of pretty, eh?
|We began by looking at a universal model of everything.|
This led into a discussion of blogs, RSS, plogs, and customer education blogs.
You'll note in the online presentation that major changes in direction are indicated as SHIFT GEARS.
|Next up: the scary part. We are drowning in information, the world grows ever more complex, time is speeding up, and everything is topsy-turvy. Rigid organizations won't make it through this. Flexibility is prerequisite to survival.|
|Networks are the next step in computing, business organizations, and more. As internodal communication costs drop, networks replace hierarchies.|
|The age of collaborative learning is at hand.|
|Mentoring used to be tied to events. Collaboration can be omnipresent. We considered examples.|
We wrapped up with the evolving framework for Emergent Learning Forum.
Internet Time Group on Blogs
Emergent Learning Forum
Spoke, our choice for social software
Social Network Analysis (Rob Cross)
Robin Good is the best source of info on collaboration.
Robin Good & friends
Ross Dawson wrote the book on networking in organizations.
Next week at the ASTD International Conference & Exhibition, I'll be describing how Collaborative Technologies Supercharge Informal Learning.
Bear in mind that I wrote that description nine months ago. I'm writing the presentation this week. Any resemblance between what I talk about and what's printed in the brochure will be purly coincidental. Most of what I talk about will be relatively new stuff.
I'll also be saying a few words at the reception at the Canadian Embassy on Monday evening.
Heard today in conversation: "Strategy is a luxury now."
Last Friday, David Woolley and I took part in the kick-off of Robin Good's Competitive Edge series on collaborative tools, trends, and practices. Robin has the full rundown and will soon have recordings available. I extracted Robin's transcript of my comments, edited his editing a little bit to restore my original meaning, and post the results below. (I'm not comfortable revising David's words.) For the full impact of the event, visit Robin's informative Kolabora website.
Question: How does the future of conferencing and collaboration look? What are people doing in elearning that is different than before?
JayCross: The future is here! It is just not evenly distributed.
There are some very advanced things going on but there are also some people still finding elearning brand new.
"Traditional" elearning courses are dead. Those types of courses where you have to do course preparation work in advance, where you have to spend a lot of time to read and study stuff on your own, stuff you may never use, or that you may forget long before it is actually useful to you. Those courses are history.
It used to be that..., all the world is a stage and people used to memorize their roles. Well now people do improvisation. They try out new roles and solutions by simulating "what if" scenarios and sophisticated role-playing.
So if people need to improvise while they are meeting online, we need easy access more than anything else.
Simple, intuitive, stupid-proof access to these technologies.
This is where you need to look if you want to see the future of these technologies as well as the future of learning:
learning and work = same same. No difference.
Learning and working meet and melt into each other, to a point where learning is an integral and ongoing part of work. It is work in fact that will need to be changed the most to be able to accept without unneeded restrain those open-ended collaboration traits so essential to the growth of an effective learning culture. (italics mine)
Question: Who do you think has a bigger say in how tools are developed by collaboration, conferencing and live presentation companies today? The end users or the companies creating the technologies?
Jay Cross: Well, in overall terms the workers have a bigger say in what they are going to use and what tools get developed.
We had a history and tradition that has accustomed us to listen to an instructor who is often not even a practitioner. A person who is trying to explain things as if people are missing something rather than taking this coming-together as a unique opportunity to discuss issues, solve problems and share knowledge.
Collaborative software that puts someone on a podium is being replaced by virtual offices and meeting rooms where people share knowledge, ideas, documents and tools as equals..
The companies that don't listen to their customers will be toast. There will be so many options that nobody will go with a vendor that doesn't keep up with what customers really want.
Question: How are these tools changing the way in which organizations operate?
Jay Cross: As I was saying before, we are really in the midst of a powerful paradigm shift.
If you look at instant messaging you can see that it has sneaked its way into the mainstream. The corporate world was not paying attention to its benefits and potential for a long time.
I remember telling Cisco five years ago that "IM is going to be part of learning because it is easy,it's informal, it's immediate, it's kind of fun and it makes for nstant communication between people." Nobody bought it at the time.
Now Cisco and many others are large adopters of IM, and they leverage much of its potential to their benefit.
If someone comes up in the IM arena with something free or low-cost that encourages more of the legitimate stuff, it will win rapid acceptance..
I deal with a company which is one of the leaders in global communications, butI talk to them using Skype.
Question: How do academic organizations and commercial companies meet the challenges created by collaboration tools who disrupt the barriers of command and control and strict hierarchical line of command that exist in most such institutions?
Jay Cross: I follow the corporate sector a lot more than the academic market these days, in part because academics are slow to change. And even slower and less open to change when it comes to changing their professional roles.
We have all heard the griping of faculty members about being bothered by students! Often that is ironic... the students still want to learn something by openly adopting these new technologies but when the faculty needs to learn something new then they prefer to go back to research or to some other safe activity. Except for some leading-edge institutions, academia's use of collaboration technologies has not been directed so much at collaboration so much as replicating traditional lectures, office hours, and workshops.
Jay Cross: The coupling of the power of information systems with communication channels is where the real potential really sits.
If I call somebody at IBM and want to get referred to someone else, they tap into something called Blue Notes and search for the expertise I need. In a matter of seconds they can connect automatically to the right people (further knowing through presence awareness if these people they are looking for are actually there). And then you can set up a meeting immediately instead of wasting weeks trying to get everybody together.
It is these technology combinations that will drive a lot of the future change.
Question (from event attendee): Where should be these real-time collaboration technologies be used? Pre or post an event? Do you know of any examples of companies that have benefited by the adoption of these?
Jay Cross: There are thousands of them!
Here is a philosophical point from Jay:
I made up the word elearning because I wanted to highlight learning, but I don't think learning is at the head of the train.
It is performance that is at the head of the train and only a fool would expect to get results from the technology alone.
It is the technology in support of key organizational goals that is key, and that involves incentives, leadership, innovation, esprit de corps....and this is all mixed in together.
As a matter of fact I'd be somewhat sceptical of any company that would highlight their intense of collaboration technologies if they left out "What is important to us is to serve our customers and this ishow we go about it".
Question: What do you think of the use of video in collaboration and conferencing technologies? Is this a critical component or is this something that in most business and training sessions we can do away with?
Jay Cross: It all depends on context.
Yes, sometimes there is something that you don't want everyone to see but the addition of video to a collaboration session is nearly always a positive and useful addition. Video adds a visual dimension that can be quite important in many events.
There was a famous study at Stanford about a dozen years ago that resulted in a book called "The Media Equation". In this study researchers Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass found that people treat computers like other people, not like inanimate objects.
Our brains are not wired to deal with devices, so we treat them like other people.
To me this is an indication thatyou don't need high-fidelity, full-color, full-screen, full-motion video to make things work. Often a black and white caricature is just enough to enhance the quality level of a conversation and to provide body language feedback which is so essential in direct interpersonal communications.
Video has certainly a role to play.
Plus, let me add if I don't have video, how could I, who enjoy much showing objects during my lectures/presentations, show you something live rather than having to describe it?
It is so much easier to show things instead of having to talk about them.
Jay Cross: One week ago the Emergent Learning Forum met in South San Francisco where we had at least 50 people in our meeting room. At that time we were using Macromedia Breeze to run some live presentations as well as some simulations.
But at all times we displayed a postage stamp view of the actual speaker in one corner of the screen. At one point we switched from the local speaker to a presenter sitting in Philadelphia. WIthout the video, it would have been confusing to tell who was speaking.
And this was just a simple and easy video add-on, that showcases the usefulness under different circumstances of video in conferencing and collaboration events.
Jay Cross: I have been working with a global communication company in Canada, which I could define as a collaboration company offering mentoring on steroids.
Their software is aware of the device, connection speed and whatever else is needed to allow the end user to access the information he or she needs. The user is shielded from having to know which tools, setup, and requirements need to be met to access learning and knowledge that is needed "just-in-time". She goes after it and the system takes care of finding the best way to deliver the message given the tools, technologies, and Internet connection available at that moment. Their technology is all based on interoperability, open standards, and user-centered design.
I am in favor of open source and open standards but one major thing is truly missing here: We do not have standards for human interactions.
If I call you to give you on the phone because your sister died that is a lot different than calling a help desk to get instructions on some item I have just purchased. Our IT systems can't tell the difference.
We really need to do work that is parallel to what is being done in Web Standards efforts, and as of now, on this front, we are really just at the beginning.
Jay Cross: The divergence that David has been referring to is just a sign that there are many opportunities in this field and that there is ample space for experimentation.
This collaboration market is ready to be approached in a multitude of ways and the truly important things that are going to be critical to those who operate in these spaces and industries is the fact that "we live in an unpredictable world".
Since we are here in a more intimate setting than large conferences usually offer let me give you a definition what complexity science means: Shit happens.
A lot of unpredictable things will come to pass in the near future. Count on it. Organizations must be flexible to cope. Rigid hierarchies are not going to function in these circumstances.
For such times we need flexible tools, interoperability, universal access.
Robin Good and I just concluded a half-hour conversation. Robin was in Italy, I in California. The quality and timing were as good as if I were calling my neighbors. Since we were talking over the net instead of one the phone, our call, like so many things on the net, was free for the asking.
In fact, our Voice-over-IP (VoIP) connection was better than a standard phone call in several ways. First of all, before calling, I could check to see if Robin was available to talk. With this technology, you never need receive a busy signal. Second, during the call I asked for a URL. Robin keyed in it and it popped up on my screen; an instant messenger is always available during a call.
Robin and I used Skype (rhymes with "hype"), a free download that installs in a couple of minutes. Only one caveat: You must have a broadband connection for Skype to work. Robin finds Skype a breakthrough technology because of its simplicity, feature-set, and transmission quality. His review:
Why do we keep paying the phone companies for something we can get for free?
Robin Good is Mr. Online Collaboration. He spends more than half his time online and probably knows more about online collaboration tools than anyone else on the planet. The Robin Good/Robin Hood connection is apt, for he shares lots of information on his sites: Kolabora and Master New Media.
If you're like me, a little fuzzy about the differences between all the collaborative software that's appearing on the market, you may want to attend Robin's free event Thursday, April 22. He tells me he'll pick several products, do a side-by-side comparison, open the discussion for lots of live questions/opinions, and conclude with a new form of survey. Should be fun. Admission is free to the live session; a recording will set you back thirty or forty bucks.
George Por, in the Blog of Collective Intelligence, asks: How can a group of individual intelligences become truly collective intelligence? How can they escape into a more complex and capable collective intelligence, without sacrificing their autonomy?
“Collective intelligence is a distributed capacity of communities to evolve towards higher order integration and performance through collaboration and innovation."
“These shared values, perceptions, meanings, semantic habits, cultural practices, ethics, and so on, I simply refer to as culture, or the intersubjective patterns in consciousness.” Ken Wilber
What's necessary to foster this collective intelligence (CI)? George suggests it's
Tugging in the other direction are these inhibiters:
For this thinking to advance, you've got to share your take on things. Blog it. I'll give that a shot.
Noosphere Evolution and Value Metabolism, An examination of the nature and behavior of the structures of consciousness and culture, by Steve McIntosh, is 55 pages on the worldview of Ken Wilber and the "value metabollism," which begins:
During the 20th century, thinkers and pioneers such as Alfred North Whitehead,
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Jean Gebser, explored and discovered many of the evolutionary properties of consciousness and culture. But in our time, there is emerging a new understanding of the noosphere1 which has been achieved by combining the best of empirical science with the subtle insights of the world’s great wisdom traditions. This synthesis has created a powerful lens—like Galileo’s telescope—with which to view the interior dimensions of reality. This new understanding illuminates the structures of consciousness and culture that until now have only been approached dimly and by different paths without a common terminology or mutual recognition.
The person most responsible for the emergence of this new view of the world is
Sounds great, but not how I plan to spend the first Saturday morning of spring.
Yesterday I began reading Gerald Edelman's take on consciousness. He's focused on individual consciousness. I'm interested more in group mind than individual consciousness, but I figure they're both complex systems, why not see how one viewpoint cross-fertilizes the other.
What I'm doing today on the blog, a common activity for me, is "daylighting" the flow of thinking that's always happening in my head but, like the creeks, generally out of sight. Culverted thought.
The material from George Por resonates with constructs I'm already happy with. Admittedly, this one stretches a few concepts:
I'll admit that I have never read Wilber in the original. (His books are too thick.) However, if Ken can improve the fit of my evolvong worldview with the real world, I'm game.
Here are some of the pieces floating around in my current inquiries.
One common denominator among complex systems, and this may be Jay's brain inventing patterns as much as the reality other people see, is the demise of top-down in favor of lateral connections. Teams, not hierarchies. Experiences, not curriculum. Expertiment, not dogma.
Imagine for a moment that the little guys in the graphic above are files, not people. The organization of my files has long resembled the "Past" organization. Instead of layers of people, I have layers of directories and files. Most files are at the end of a long chain. Over time, files change categories, e.g. prospects become customers, scribbles become articles, notes become printed reports. For years, I've manually moved the files around. This time-wasting activity leaves me with an electroniic filing system that's about as ratty as my paper files, which are located all over my office and downstairs cabinets and basement storage.
This morning I was experimenting with X1, the new search tool that indexes your hard drive for rapid search. Given that I have three or four hard drives whirring away at any given time, a tool like this makes life much easier.
I'm swapping the metaphor of file cabinet for that of informal organization. I'm going to give up on assuming I know where an item is going to end up in favor of stuffing enough unique naming or metadata into it that I can always retrieve it when I want. No more "Let me speak to your supervisor" crap when I want something.
I've been calling the new form of organization "bottom-up," in contrast to "top-down." Bottom-up is actually a poor description of what I have in mind. It's closer to the mark to say horizontal rather than vertical. Or wavy instead of straight. Neural instead of hard-wired. Tacit rather than explicit. Flexible rather than rigid. Impromptu rather than pre-defined. Responsive rather than planned. Dynamic, not static. Ever changing, not tradition-bound. Evolving, not self-satisfied. It's as if...
George Por lit my fuse this morning. Using his blog entry as a starting point, I let whatever come to mind guide my thinking. I enjoy converting word-images into graphic representations. Dorking about in PaintShop and Visio gave me time to reflect on the concepts embodied in the flow of words. Had you asked me in the midst of this flow experience, I would have told you this was all my thinking, my interpretation of reality, and my fresh thoughts.
As I was cleaning up graphic fragments and electonic Post-It notes from my screen, I noticed some images from a piece by John Seely Brown that I'd read some time in the last few days. (Research on the web can be another timeless flow experience for me.) Damned if he hadn't beat me to the punch on some of these thoughts by eight or nine years!
Part of this collective intelligence meme is operating below our level of consciousness.
This morning I wandered into a hotel ballroom set up like a theatre-in-the-round, with a raised 20'x20' platform in the middle and big video screens in each corner. Sonny & Cher were belting out "I Got You Babe" as I took my customary seat in the front row. Then Grace Slick and the Airplane did "I Need Somebody to Love." The came The Doors.
Screens reminiscent of sixties' light shows appeared on the screens.
WebEx's first User Group meeting was underway. I asked marketing director David Thompson if they were aware of the double-entendre of the name of the show:
He assured me WebEx understood. "WebEx advertising...," he began. I cut him off. Yeah, this was the outfit that blew their initial marketing budget on a Superbowl ad featuring transvestite RuPaul.
Inuendo? Sex? Drugs? Rock and roll? Us?
Co-founder and CEO Subrah Iyar took the stage, telling us how he and Min had shared a vision seven years ago. WebEx was born five years ago. Since then they've hosted millions of meetings. Last year they racked up in excess of 20 million person-meeting hours.
continued in next blog entry
Our topic, the impact of social networks on corporate learning, perfectly fit the bill. Social network software is a relatively recent phenomenon, pundits and investors feel it is ready to take off, and very little consideration has been given to how it can improve the quality of learning.
Alex Gault, a director of Emergent Learning Forum, the founder of Small World Ventures, and proprietor of Collaboration Café, conceived and moderated the Emergent Learning session in Menlo Park.
Alex’s introduction to social networking, coupled with presentations by Spoke’s Andy Halliday and Tacit’s David Gilmour, provided a wonderful introduction to what’s going on in social networking and gave us a foundation for discussing how it can impact learning.
Since Alex is too busy to do so, I’ve extracted his introductory material below. (All the presentations from the meeting will be available, with sound and video, shortly at www.emergentlearningforum.com.)
Recent History of Social Networking
q Expertise Management
q A dozen or so researchers/consultants doing applied work, notably:
§ Eric Lesser (IBM Institute of Business Value)
§ Andrew Parker (Stanford Phd Candidate; former colleague of Lesser’s)
§ Karen Stephenson (Netform; Graduate School of Design, Harvard)
§ Andrew Hargadon (Technology Management Program, UC Davis)
§ Rob Cross (Darden School of Business, U of Virginia)
Key Historical Moments
q 1967: Small World Phenomenon (Stanley Milgram)
§ 6 Degrees of Separation Experiment
q 1974: The Strength of Weak Ties (Mark Granovetter)
q 2000: The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)
§ The Connector archetype enters vernacular
q 2003: Friendster
§ Online social networking goes viral
Very close friends might have more motivation to give you information about available jobs, but they are often getting the same information you are.
While acquaintances culled from a wide circle may not be as motivated as close friends to share information about jobs, they will do so because often it is not very costly for them.
Because the friends of friends can be distant, their sources of information are different, producing new and sometimes unexpected leads.
Consumer Market: Models
q Friend of a Friend (FOAF)
§ Ryze, Tribe, Friendster, Orkut
§ Match.com, Yahoo Personals
§ Linkedin, Spoke
q Harvesting contacts from address books & emails
§ Spoke, Tacit, Visible Path
Enterprise Solutions: Expertise Locator Systems
q Xpert Universe
§ Integrates with Lotus collaboration suite
§ For Physicians & Hospitals
Trust & Privacy
Respect individual relationships
q Don't force workers to share what they wish to keep private.
Enable users to retain control over their relationships
q ie. opt out; opt in anonymously; opt in, but not share everything about a relationship; or opt in, but share information with only a select group of people.
Provide mechanisms to ensure relationships are not abused
q Knowing What We Know: supporting knowledge creation and sharing in social networks. Rob Cross, Andrew Parker, Laurence Prusak, and Stephen Borgatti. Organizational Dynamics 30.
q A Bird’s-eye View: Using Social Network Analysis to improve knowledge creation and sharing. Rob Cross, Andrew Parker, and Stephen Borgatti. IBM Institute for Business Value.
q Knowledge Brokering. David Gilmour. Harvard Business Review.
q Karen Stephenson’s Quantum Theory of Trust. Art Kleiner. Strategy + Business.
q What Knowledge Tears Apart, Networks Make Whole. Karen Stephenson. Internal Communication Focus.
q Trust and Knowledge Sharing: a critical combination. Daniel Z. Levin, Rob Cross, Lisa C. Abrams, Eric L. Lesser. IBM Institute for Knowledge-based Organizations.
Collaboration Café: Tools, Trends & Know-how
Many-to-Many: A Group Weblog on Social Software
Ross Mayfield’s Weblog: Markets, Technology & Musings
q Trust. Francis Fukuyama
q Tipping Point. Malcolm Gladwell
q Linked: The New Science of Networks. Albert-László Barabási
q Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. Duncan Watts
q Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks. Mark Buchanan
q How Breakthroughs Happen. Andrew Hargadon
At the conclusion of the meeting, Alex announced the Emergent Learning Forum social network which will debut in April.
From Robin Good at Kolabora:
Set to break many of the conventions and formalities typical of online Web conferences and presentations, the Kolabora Live! premiere showcased six live presenters in the glory of full and audio and video and seven simultaneous a/v feeds. For the over one hundred registered participants who attended live, the format of the event itself became the most interesting thing outside of the actual issues being reviewed in it.
I was delighted to be part of the show.
Most synchronous meeting tools are imitations of the classroom (e.g. Centra) or the lecture hall (e.g. Placeware). There's an authority in charge. The rest are listeners. A listener may (metaphorically) raise his or her hand; the authority-figure may or may not respond. The teacher has PowerPoint slides; the listener has a chat window. The traditional sync set-up is a one-way event. Even audience questions are usually filtered before being asked. While we don't always realize it, our tools shape the way we look at and do things.
In real life, people learn from conversation. The interaction of several people is invariably more interesting than the dogma of one individual. Give and take. Dialog, not monolog. Think you're the equal of Jay Leno or David Letterman? Stop kidding yourself. And even they would lose the audience if they droned on alone for more than ten minutes.
In real life, people speak in the vernacular, not in PowerPoint-speak. The Cluetrain got that absolutely right. In the session, I mentioned an experiment at Harvard School of Education. Two groups of students were given the same paper to read, being told they would be tested. The group that was also told the paper was controversial retained more of the information. Why? Because uncertainty engages the mind.
Yesterday's event was like live television. (Kids, we used to watch the Perry Como show because it was fun to see him grimace when he forgot the lines to the song he was singing.) No one was ready for it when Nancy and I put on masks during the event. I imagine people were watching a little closer after that.
The technical glitches were a disappointment but quite understandable. If you don't have a few screw-ups, you're not being daring enough. Sorry I disappeared early, but I experienced enough to have a real fire in the belly for this approach.
From Kolabora comes news of a Three-Dimensional Virtual Conferencing Room system.
I want it! I want it! I want it!
You can download a demo of AliceStreet or a 30-day eval.
Join us this coming Wednesday morning as Emergent Learning Forum looks at how social software can leverage corporate learning. We'll have the CEO, Tacit Knowledge Systems; a VP from Spoke; and we've located Intel's expertise locator systems expert! Presentations, discussions, and a panel session. All moderated by Alex Gault. Check Alex's blog, Collaboration Cafe for latest developments in collaborative software.
We're meeting at SRI in Menlo Park. Go to http://www.emergentlearningforum.com for registration and complete details.
Kolabora Live!: "What Experts Need To Do To Prepare For A Killer Web Event" with Jay Cross, Stephanie Downs, Nancy White, Heike Philp, Wes Kussmaul and Robin Good. Tuesday February the 24th at 12 noon EST
Robin Good invited me to participate in an online event named What Experts Need To Know To Prepare A Killer Web Event at noon Eastern on Wednesday, February 24th.
Since I prepared three online presentations in the last two weeks and am working on two more this very moment, I thought I'd better being recording some of what I'm doing, sort of acting as if I were an introspective anthropologist. At this point, I'll be jotting down more about presentations than events, because mine were 1:200 affairs, not back-and-forth conversations.
Alignment. My first step for any event or presentation is to contemplate my intended audience. Who are they? And what point of view do I want to convey to them? What's my stance?
Message. Next I brainstorm things I want to get across. A talk may have half a dozen messages. For each, I try to think up an illustrative story or an interaction/demo.
MindMap. If I'm juggling a lot of ideas at this point, I draw a Mind Map to sort them out. This is for my use; rarely do I share these with others.
(Here is the final presentation that began with this map.
PowerPoint. Whether you use PowerPoint or not in your final presentation, it's a wonderful tool for organizing ideas, images, sound, and even video snippets. I dump things into PowerPoint and move them around.
Sleep on it. At this point, I delegate organizing and embellishment to my subconscious, knowing that I'll awake with new insights. If you believe that, they will be there.
Get feedback. This item really covers several points:
This may sould like a time-burning activity but it doesn't have to be. For me, I copied the presentation to my laptop. I cut on Macromedia Breeze, gave the talk, and uploaded it to the web. I invited a friend to review it on the web. He emailed me feedback. Granted, this is a short presentation, but going through this cycle took me no more than 45 minutes in all.
Notes. I invariably print out what PowerPoint calls "Handouts," pages with 4 or 6 or 9 slide images per page. I usually go for 9. And I add notes to myself on transitions, rough spots, and announcements on this "shooting script."
Posture. Whenever possible, I give presentations standing up. (I do the same for important phone calls.) Standing up makes the voice richer and mroe powerful.
Mantras. Immediately before I begin to speak, I say these words to myself; it's a prescription from speech coach Dorothy Sarnoff:
Breathe. Whenever you want to be calm, take a deep brreath. Do it now. Nice, eh?
Do it before you speak online, too.
Treat the microphone as you would a person.. In the photo, the presenter is using handsignals to make a point during a webinar.
Sometimes an essay is timeless. That's an apt description for Cyberspace Innkeeping: Building Online Community by John "Tex" Coate. I met Tex online when Fig-Tex (Cliff Figalo & Tex) ran the WeLL. Tex won the respect of everyone on the WeLL, even the over-the-top rowdies who trashed everything else in sight.
This article dates from 1991-92 and was last updated 1998. It popped back into my active stack when Tex sent me an email to tell me the URL had changed. As Stuart Brand once said, "Tex knows community."
When it works right, an online gathering is a kind of organized mind pool. Everyone picks each other's brains. The informal nature of online conversation encourages people's amazing generosity in sharing the things that they know. It's a potluck for the mind.
...traveling through the chips and wires, as a kind of sub carrier to the words themselves, is real human emotion and feeling. The spectrum of the "vibes" is just about as wide as it is when people meet face to face. It's sometimes harder to interpret them because there isn't any facial expression or body English, but they are there just the same and people feel them and react to them. Furthermore, the quality of the vibes - the atmosphere, the ambience - largely determines whether or not the people involved will develop any affection for the system at all.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Jay's takeaway: Criticizing blogging by looking at individual blogs is akin to denying the importance of books after looking at individual pages. Pages may inform but the power is in their aggregation into books. Individual blogs inform but a sea of blogs may change our lives and work. The sum is greater than the parts.
Back to realtime notes. I'm tuning in late and wandering in and out of the room. Chad Dierson and Bob Scoble are going to talk about enterprise apps. Chad is the CTO of InfoWorld. He's going to dicuss how InfoWorld uses RSS
RSS is so simple that it saves days of phone deliberations. Negotiating with other content providers is a snap, e.g. how to mark up a headline. (The slides are out of sync. Joking about how these slides are clunkier than RSS.) InfoWorld uses blogs to share information internally. Chad shows a page -- but notes that this is the first time he's really looked at the raw blog because he gets all this through RSS.
RSS as PR http://www.idc.com/en_US/st/rss/idcpressreleasees.xml
PR newswire http://rss.prnewswire.com
See www.newsgator.com/casestudies/triplepoint.aspx for more on using RSS in the enterprise.
RSS? RDF? Atom? InfoWorld chose RSS 1.0 because they need to exchange RSS with their sister companies. The public feeds are RSS 2.0. Chad uses Moveable Type (used to use Radio) because he wanted to be able to post from anywhere he was; Radio generally runs from one machine. No single system meets all needs.
IT choices are often top down, but with RSS, things can be bottom-up. ("We're bottom-up at InfoWorld. The desktops here are virtually uncontrollable.") We tell people to install whatever tool they want.
Scoble: Things won't take off (in business) until there's pressure to post. There's no cross-team collaboration until you can see who's posting and find them. You can import and export RSS feeds via SharePoint. We're constantly trying to evangelize RSS internally at Microsoft.
Via .NET, you're going to be able to see live news notices in the sidebar of your browser. Put a few feeds right there.
We gave up on Groove because it wasn't apparent when someone added something new.
Some people mistakenly think that blogs are just diaries for teenagers' journals. They don't appreciate that this is a great way for people to collaborate.
NewsGator is a way to introduce things because "everyone at Microsoft lives in Outlook."
Scoble gets through to his own execs by writing things in his public blog. He posted something about SharePoint needing to incorporate RSS and heard back from the general manager within minutes.
Microsoft is trying to become more transparent. It's not fast enough for the revolutionaries.
At InfoWorld, a weekly column takes a week of leadtime -- for fact-checking, edit, etc. But when a reporter posts to his weblog, it's out there immediately.
InfoWorld uses Technorati and Feedster for market intelligence.
Robert Scoble, who is fighting the good fight to clue in Microsoft and make the company take the Cluetrain pill, kept pushing his mantra, "I read 1200 blogs a day in an hour." Then he threw in "plus 200 internal Microsoft blogs." As the day wore on, this morphed into 1,200 blogs in an hour or two.
I'm plugged into RSS WInterfest, an online conference and roundtable about the future of syndication. Currently there's an online discussion among Dan Gilmour, his brother Steve, Bob Scoble, Chris Pirillo, and Jon Udell. The wiki is here.
"People get syndication when they see it. If they know Google and email, they say, sure, I see how to use that."
"The power-user audience is the key to the rapid acceleration of the RSS environment."
Jon: says "A lot of the action has been around the writers. They tend toward being geeks. The big action will happen as readers come on board. They will gravitate toward their own groups, e.g. doctors, lawyers, etc." Steve Gilmour thinks we're further along.
Scoble has been evangelizing RSS at Microsoft. It's amazing how few people have heard of RSS or know how to use it. When they see Bob reading through 1200 blogs in an hour, they get it. All of the presidential campaigns have RSS feeds which shows that RSS is crossing the chasm.
Chris Pirillo woke up when he noticed that half his traffic was coming through RSS. It's not a replacement; it's augmentation. Lockergnome gives equal billing to RSS and email delivery. Rolling Stone, Virgin UK, and Warner Bros. have RSS feeds. Advertising within the feed may help bring things on.
"Once you find one blog in your area of interest, you can springboard to people with similar internests. Technorati is looking at assembling groups by interest."
Dan Gilmour brings up the notion of RSS news delivery. Hand-RSS works on a Treo. This can be big. His brother concurs that the multiplatform aspects are important. Steve foresees RSS morphing into a rich client, an information router, in the middle of the corporate desktop.
Folks who experience this as reading only have one particular experience; it's awareness transmission. When you also begin to publish, it becomes collaborative.
Directories? Check out 2rsss.com. DMOZ has syndic8.com.
As a learning experience, it's great to listen in on a conversation among experts. For me, note-taking cements things in my memory. The downside of taking part in this sort of event is the general problem of distractions when learning on the desktop. Several phone calls broke my concentration. One of these kicked off a new business relationship, so I was happy for the interruption.
My take on RSS and parallel efforts: This is technology in the making. It's very important. It's how individual blog-islands will bridge together.
The mainstream press seems oblivious to the power of the hive in this. The New York Times writes as if blogs were little but teenie-boppers' online diaries. John C. Dvorak suggests that blogs are a failing channel for geeks. Pundits discount the importance of hundreds of thousands of individual voices because most blogs never go anywhere; they miss the point that this occurs because the barriers to entry (no cost and intuitive set-up) are so low. If five hundred thousand people were to take up any other new pursuit, e.g. frizzbie golf or roller-blading, that alone would be news. We wouldn't see news stories that "Roller blading may not last because five million people thought about doing it but only one in ten actually took it up."
At TechLearn, Mark Oehlert presented his findings on The Future of eLearning Models and the Language We Use to Describe Them. Mark calls it like he (and I) sees it. This is a perceptive, on-target summary of where eLearning is headed. Mark's key findings:
Mark interviewed Stephen Downes at length. You must read his unexpurgated version to get the full flavor of the exchange. Stephen:
At this point in history we not only have much greater powers of communication and expression than ever before, we also have access to greater riches than ever before. But there is a sense that we are at a peak, and with shortages in raw materials looming, there is a retrenchment happening, a vigorous conflict over the control of ideas, over the control of resources, and in the end, over control of people.
Clearly Canadian, Stephen gives his view of cultural imperialism:
Most of the world is far more communually oriented than the United States, far more than most Americans realize, and the political and social agenda that is offered under the banners of 'freedom' and 'democracy' are perceived, even in modern industrial democracies as Canada, as undermining hard-won social and cultural values. This is not merely a cultural facade; it will not be addressed by merely 'localizing' materials; it runs deeply into the selection and presentation of learning. Renaming the 'French and Indian War' to the term everyone else in the world uses, 'The Seven Years War', isn't just relabeling, it is a change of context, of protagonists, of history. Rewriting the history of the War of 1812 to reflect what actually happened, an opportunistic (because of the Napoleonic wars) American invasion of Canada that was rebuffed by a rag-tag army of First Nations (ie., 'Indians') and militia volunteers, isn't just a case of rebranding.
The exchange between Mark and Stephen is a wonderful example of a new form of online learning: the email interview. Aside from baiting the U.S. right (Stephen would fit right in here in the People's Republic of Berkeley), Stephen makes some great observations -- and you must read them in his own words to grok the message.
Another gem is Daniel Schneider's Conception and implementation of rich pedagogical scenarios through collaborative portal sites, although as the title alone tips you off, this one's quite academic in tone. I have yet to make it through all 40 pages but the topic is intriguing:
It is very important to respect a principle of “harmony”, to find an equilibrium of different
pedagogical strategies and tactics and not (and we insist on this) to be tempted by
over-scripting. In our philosophy, a teacher should think of himself primarily as a “landscaper” who uses ICT to build places where learners can “sculpt” according to some rule and with as much help as appropriate. Because of their modular architecture, a well trained teacher can configure portals and its “tools” according to his own needs. He can also hunt down new modules. He can re-purpose tools, e.g. he could use quizzes which are normally used for assessment as discussion openers. He can also suggest to the increasing number of technical support people that can be found in the school system to develop new tools. Since this technology is focused on “orchestration” and not content delivery, we believe that it will spread in the nearer future with almost the same ease as web pages did, but it will bring new functionalities. Teachers should have control over their environment and they can share their experience within teacher portals using the same technology and both fit the C3MS philosophy.
[C3MS = Community, Content and Collaboration Management Systems]
Finally, C3MS may be a chance to promote the open and sharing “Internet
Spirit” to education, which is threatened by the philosophy of the closed so-called “educational platforms”, e-learning systems or whatever are called today’s main stream systems sold without as much success as they claim to the educational system. According to
our initial experience, and despite many difficulties - like administrative hurdles, the time
it takes to accommodate new pedagogical strategies, the disputable ergonomics of some
software that we will have to overcome - teachers who engaged themselves “love it” and
their students too.
(via EdTech Post)
The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview by Clay Shirky.
The simple answer is this: The Semantic Web is a machine for creating syllogisms. A syllogism is a form of logic, first described by Aristotle, where "...certain things being stated, something other than what is stated follows of necessity from their being so." [Organon]
The canonical syllogism is:
with the third statement derived from the previous two.
The Semantic Web specifies ways of exposing these kinds of assertions on the Web, so that third parties can combine them to discover things that are true but not specified directly. This is the promise of the Semantic Web -- it will improve all the areas of your life where you currently use syllogisms.
Which is to say, almost nowhere.
To which I say, damn, damn, damn. I drank the KoolAde when Tim Berners-Lee wrote about the Semantic Web in Scientific American. This was supposed to solve problems, not compound them.
The people working on the Semantic Web greatly overestimate the value of deductive reasoning (a persistent theme in Artificial Intelligence projects generally.) The great popularizer of this error was Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes stories have done more damage to people's understanding of human intelligence than anyone other than Rene Descartes. Doyle has convinced generations of readers that what seriously smart people do when they think is to arrive at inevitable conclusions by linking antecedent facts. As Holmes famously put it "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
This sentiment is attractive precisely because it describes a world simpler than our own. In the real world, we are usually operating with partial, inconclusive or context-sensitive information. When we have to make a decision based on this information, we guess, extrapolate, intuit, we do what we did last time, we do what we think our friends would do or what Jesus or Joan Jett would have done, we do all of those things and more, but we almost never use actual deductive logic.
Shirky is great. Consider:
...After 50 years of work, the performance of machines designed to think about the world the way humans do has remained, to put it politely, sub-optimal. The Semantic Web sets out to address this by reversing the problem. Since it's hard to make machines think about the world, the new goal is to describe the world in ways that are easy for machines to think about.
There is a list of technologies that are actually political philosophy masquerading as code, a list that includes Xanadu, Freenet, and now the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web's philosophical argument -- the world should make more sense than it does -- is hard to argue with. The Semantic Web, with its neat ontologies and its syllogistic logic, is a nice vision. However, like many visions that project future benefits but ignore present costs, it requires too much coordination and too much energy to effect in the real world, where deductive logic is less effective and shared worldview is harder to create than we often want to admit.
Much of the proposed value of the Semantic Web is coming, but it is not coming because of the Semantic Web. The amount of meta-data we generate is increasing dramatically, and it is being exposed for consumption by machines as well as, or instead of, people. But it is being designed a bit at a time, out of self-interest and without regard for global ontology. It is also being adopted piecemeal, and it will bring with it with all the incompatibilities and complexities that implies. There are significant disadvantages to this process relative to the shining vision of the Semantic Web, but the big advantage of this bottom-up design and adoption is that it is actually working now.
Bravo! Check his home page for more.
Wednesday night is the inaugural meeting of the Institute for Social Network Analysis in the Economy at PARC in Palo Alto.
Naturally, I'll be there. SNA is at the core of informal and collaborative learning, two areas I'm focusing on.
We live in a world of networks, from networks of suppliers, to networks of computers; from networks of trading partners to networks of anti-globalization activists our connected world is linked like never before. Each instant more links are made through the Internet, cell phones, travel, trade pacts, markets and countless other ways. These networks can provide us with vital information and tremendous opportunities or they can become closed and stifle growth.
How do we know what the networks are? How do we know how they behave and interact with each other? When is a network a healthy beneficial one and when is it stifling and destructive? As networks have grown more complex, the tools job of analyzing them has grown more complex,. ISNAE exists to study these networks and use the knowledge to make a difference.
Mark Granovetter will be speaking Wednesday evening. Is that name familiar? Perhaps you read Linked. Mark is the fellow who discovered the strength of weak ties, e.g. you're more likely to find a job through a friend of a friend than through the friend itself. That's what this is all about:
>Special Insider Tip: They've sold out on dinners. Eat beforehand, and you're still welcome to join us. Your price: $20.
For more information, or to join ISNAE, contact: Don Steiny
([email protected]) or 831.471.1671.
The Future of Knowledge: Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks
by Verna Allee
"Why are you reading something called The Future of Knoweldge?" asked my wife. "You are supposed to be on vacation, remember?" I replied that I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and indeed I was.
Verna's concepts around knowledge and the way I think about learning are completely in sync, but Verna has pushed the envelope further than I have, expanding the arena to include sustaining the earth.
These are my notes. Most are direct quotes from the book although a few of my own thoughts are scrambled in, and sometimes I've shortened or rearranged the original. I encourage you to buy the book; at $20, it's cheap.
"There is really only one management question: What do we need to pay attention to in order to be successful?" Similarly, there is only one individual question: What do I need to pay attention to in order to be successful?
Awareness of how we create our shared social reality is the most important aspect of business life we will need to learn for a successful future. (So say Nonaka, Senge, Varela, de Geus, and others)
|Early industrial||Industrial Age||Knowledge Era|
|Management focus||Plan, organize, control||Vision, values, empowerment||Emergence, integrity, relationships|
|Social structure||Individual tasks||Work & project teams||Communities|
|Strategic resource||Raw materials||Financial capital||Knowledge & intangibles|
|Worldview||Descartes, Newton, mechanical||Ford, Taylor, efficient, engineering||Complexity, systems theory, living systems.|
When something is truly complex, all the parts work together in such a way that the whole cannot be divided without losing its integrity--and the parts also lose their integrity when separated from the whole. When you cut a cow in half you don't get two cows. You get a mess.
Every conversation is an experiment in knowledge creation/testing ideas, trying out words and concepts, continuously creating and re-creating our experience of life itself. As people move beyond routine processes into more complex challenges, they rely heavily on their colleagues and friends as thinking partners.
Verna's value mapping process:
With too much structure organizations can't move. With too little, they disintegrate or fly apart. Companies that have learned to keep that edge--that fine balance between tight and loose?are at their most alive, creative, and adaptable. Systems adapt best if they are only partly connected.
A business school professor once instructed me, tongue in cheek, that "Everything comes in three's." Usually, this holds true. The first columns below are Verna's. I added Bloom and my shorthand for Bloom.
|Operational||eLearning, newsfeeds, search||technology||Immediate||Hands||Psycho-motor|
|Tactical||Community, stories, collaboration||knowledge||Soon||Head||Cognitive|
|Strategic||Scenarios, system maps, dialog||value||Future||Heart||Affective|
Check out Verna's site. And you thought "bookkeeping" was the only word with three double-letters in a row, didn't you? www.vern aa ll ee .com
Most large companies distribute deadly-dull in-house newsletters. Deloitte Consulting is an exception. Their in-house newsletter, Cappuccino, is informative, witty, and fun to read. Here's a self-serving excerpt.
|Social Software: Get Affiliated|
If you wake up in the middle of the night thinking that your company code and employee number aren't helping you, it's because they weren't supposed to. But the rise of online communities based on self-affiliation may be putting technology on your side. Knowledge management and corporate learning may never be the same. So rest easy. Your editor gets affiliated with some experts to bring you the real story.
Social Software: Get Affiliated
by Jon Warshawsky
Hi, what's your company code?
Want to understand the emerging world of social software? Step one: forget everything you know about "business areas," "company codes" and all of those System-defined clusters of people designed by System engineers for the benefit of the System.
Forget top down. Think bottom up. While you may be part of sales organization 60 and training district 12, that turns out to have not much to do with how you learn or affiliate.
"Social software is based on supporting the desire of individuals to affiliate, their desire to be pulled into groups to achieve their personal goals," Stowe Boyd wrote in a recent article (Darwin magazine, May 2003). "Contrast that with the groupware approach to things where people are placed into groups defined organizationally or functionally."
When it comes to knowledge management and learning, "we may be witnessing the death throes of the command and control organization," according to Berkeley, California-based author and researcher Jay Cross. "The pendulum seems to be swinging from an institutional, top-down model to an individual, or bottom-up, model," he said.
While the technology is nothing spectacular, social software is one of the catalysts of the change. For those interested in how companies learn and share their smarts, it has begun already.
What is social software?
You've already determined that everyone who's proficient with software is a socially inept recluse who spends Friday nights at Frye's or Circuit City playing with fourth generation PDAs and cell phone cameras, so how did these words come together? While your conclusion has lost currency in the past decade - even arch-geek Bill Gates is married, and he's lost billions in the past few years - it's a fair question. The focus is on how software is used.
The cc: line in email, according to Boyd, could be considered the lowest form of using software for social networking. By definition, you've created a small community of recipients who are part of the communication stream. This is a basic level of affiliation. Significant? Consider whether you read the cc: line in email messages you received. Odds are that you do. While we tend to cc: more people than we ought to, this is a conscious decision to define a group of people for whom the topic is relevant.
Boyd defines social software more broadly as the sum of these categories:
None of these are startling or expensive technical achievements, but they connect and enroll users remarkably well. In many cases, it is easier to keep in communication with relevant business or other special interest contacts in these virtual communities than it is in real life.
The potential effect on learning and knowledge management is huge. If you accept that CD-ROMs and classrooms are poor substitutes for mentoring and real-time advice, social software starts to look more impressive. It's a way to gather all of the "go-to" people in one place, and to contact them fast. It's your network.
Learning, according to Cross, can be defined as optimizing the performance of your social network. You want to find information faster and cut out the less useful, or underperforming parts of your network. Social software makes this happen.
"Reputation has to factor into it," he added. The eBay model for feedback may be relevant beyond the online auction business.
A new attitude, or lack thereof
The technical bits of social software have been around for years, although new functions have made it more satisfactory for the average Web user. But the grim business climate of the past few years may have removed some of the obstacles to the bottom-up community-building process.
According to Cross, much of the "cowboy" attitude of the technology world has waned in the past few years. A happy side effect is that tech people may be more likely to value these communities now that they're not so keen on being millionaires next week through their own startup.