Friday, 28 August 2009

Instant knowledge capture

My first video camera, bought when my son was a baby, was a miracle of engineering in its day, but its analogue tapes consigned to the recycling bin a while ago.

We all know that things are most memorable if you can capture a spontaneous moment. For knowledge capture, a photo is a good reminder, but you can't beat video for context and nuance. I've played around a bit with the video facility on my phone, but it is a real pain to set up, the controls are unusable and quality lousy. I've just ordered one of the new Flip Mino soild-state video gadgets. Incredibly, these 2GB miniscule devices have now come down in price to under £95! For only slightly more you can get 4GB HD version, though this is unnecessary for the quick video grabs I'm going to use it for. With these things the size of a box of matches, controls as simple as pressing a red button, and uploading consisting of not much more than pushing the flip-out USB into your PC, knowledge capture just got easier.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

I've read this really good article ....

OK, so by now you will have got the message that I'm a big fan of sharing useful and interesting stuff I find on the internet. I've started a Diigo Group for KIN members to which I and a few others now regularly share bookmarked websites

Seated man reading a bookImage by National Media Museum via Flickr

. (See Kin Tags and Bookmarks)
But I've been in a bit of a dilemma when it comes to whether or not to Bookmark individual Blog posts. I bookmark Blogs which I read (regularly or occasionally) which I think would be of interest to KIN members. But should I bookmark individual Blog Posts? By their very nature, many (but not all) individual blog articles can be somewhat ephemeral and transitory in nature. So if I am using the Diigo group to see what has been shared on a specific topic (using tags), would I want to see a bunch of short, ageing blog posts which may or may not still be relevant. Well, it's a judgement call. There will be some Blog posts which are so good that they 'deserve' to be bookmarked and I will do so. But what about those posts where I think, 'that was good - other KIN members might also like to read that' but which I don't feel warrant bookmarking?
For posts such as these, I've decided to make use of a feature of Google Reader (my RSS reader of choice) which allows you to easily share blog posts that you find. I've set up a page in the KIN memberspace called Phil's recommended reading with three sections: a) Blog posts of interest to ET SIG members, which is a subset of b)all Blog posts I share and (for good measure) c) all my Diigo bookmarks (whether shared to the KIN Diigo group or not).

So are there any other KIN members who would like to share the blog posts they find with everyone else but are not sure how? Reply to this post and we'll try to find a way to get you started.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

'House MD' as a Knowledge Manager

I came late to the party, but now I am a confirmed fan of 'House'. For those of you who are not familiar, 'House' is an American television medical drama. The show's central character is Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), an unconventional medical genius who heads a team of diagnosticians at the fictional Princeton‑Plainsboro Teaching Hospital (PPTH) in New Jersey. The character has similarities to Sherlock Holmes: both are forensic geniuses, musicians, drug users, aloof, and largely friendless. But that's not (necessarily) why I wanted to draw the comparison between House and Knowledge Managers.

For those who aren’t familiar with the character of Dr. Gregory House, he is the cantankerous diagnostician of the eponymous television medical drama. He limps along with a cane and pops Vicoden as if they were Skittles. Each episode features a baffling medical case that endangers the life of the patient. House’s staff wrestle with the problem, proposing and rejecting diagnoses until House, having heard enough, insults them, correctly identifies the malady, prescribes a treatment, and saves the patient’s life.

So what has House to do with KM. Well there are two basic tenets I was introduced to when I was learning about KM that it appears to me are at the heart of each programme.

'None of us are as smart as all of us'. Despite House being 'a genius' and tending to believe that he is always right, the fundamental process at the heart of the series is 'differential diagnosis' involving all members of the team including House where they participate in essentially brainstorming all the possible causes of the malady affecting a patient. Bouncing ideas around the team is seen as fundamental to the diagnosis. In one episode House was seen to reject a possible recruit to his team because he thought too much like House himself and House recognised that the value of the process was having a variety of thought processes (avoiding groupthink)

Learn Before, During and After
Like all good physicians, the characters in House rely on taking a patient history and reading their charts - learning before. As each episode unfolds, they uncover new symptoms and reconvene as a team to review their differential diagnosis before moving on. Learning during.
Where they appear to fall down (or maybe it just doesn't make good television) is on the 'Learning After'. I've yet to see them get together at the end of an episode and say, 'ok, what did we learn. How can we do better next time'. There was even one episode where it was made plain that House had not been updating his patients charts because that was not as interesting to him as moving on to the next case. (Sound familiar?)

So if I were so bold as to offer a suggestion to the script writers it would be that perhaps they should consider having House's team conduct an After Action Review once in a while.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Why is it not like Google

Recently, one of our members posted the following on our KIN-only discussion forum. With his kind permission, I am re-posting it here.

Google Appliance as shown at RSA Expo 2008 in ...Image via Wikipedia

Here's one for a Friday afternoon. I was having a drink with some friends the other day and one was asking me why can't enterprise search be like Google. I started rattling off a bunch of reasons and thought that perhaps I ought to capture these thoughts so other's asking the question (and I am sure there are some) could see the answers. When I wrote them down, it seemed like a bunch of excuses so I have tried to add some learning points so that anyone reading it might feel a little more informed how to do things better.

I don't suppose that this is uncommon in our organisations and thought that together we might be able to contribute more/better points and then have them available to all.

So, here is my starter for 10 (well a bit more, I have already had a few comments and some is prompted from similar articles - of couse found through Google ).

Of course, what I would really like to be talking about is findability, no one wants to search, just find - that is a whole other debate.


1. Search Engine Optimisation
Many millions, if not billions of pounds are spent by marketing departments ensuring that their service or product appears in the first few results. In the enterprise, the attitude of publishers is that once they have 'put it on the intranet' the job is done. There is little thought on how the user might then find that information that has probably had quite a lot of effort spent in creating it. If only a fraction of the effort spent on the creation was put to the task of ensuring the content was findable (through many, many routes, not simply search) then the intranet would work better.
Learning point: Publish the rules by which the search engine works (link to go here). Encourage people to 'game' the results. Teach them that the value is in people using their content, not simply creating it. There is perhaps also a role for social or enterprise bookmarking tools - although not strictly search, these tools provide users with another means of finding material, in a way that isn't dependent on content publishers. As I sometimes say when delivering our portal maintenance courses, "don't put up with being a putter upperer" make sure you are given the opprotunity to ensure your site and content does the job not simply exists.

2. Advertising.
In all the years that I have been involved in enterprise search no-one has offered me even a penny to ensure that their content is top of the search results list :-(. Compare that to the millions/billions spent on advertising with Google. Remember that the advertised results are not just the ones on the Right Hand side, in many cases the first few 'normal' results are also there through advertising.
Learning Point: Consider how you can put in place a process (and promote it) to enable people to have 'best bets' so that their important content is very explicitly linked to prominent results.

3. Enterprise search is based around document silos and a number of fairly independent web sites.
Google has got to the lead in the internet search engine space partly due to its patented PageRank algorithm. This algorithm uses the fact the web sites link to other web sites and those that are the most useful have most links to them. Google is effectively harnessing the power of us, the users, and our intellect to determine the best links. Although this is a little simplified it is mainly true and does not reflect the typical intranet in an enterprise.
Learning point: ????Perhaps some things are just different.

4. THE one or ANY one?
In many cases when looking for content in Google the user just needs a web site for their holiday, DVD, opinion etc. In the intranet it is one single specific instance of a thing that they have in mind and nothing else will do.
Learning point: ?????Again, perhaps some things are just different

5. Missing Content.
Once our intranet search got past the stage of people feedback little niggles about features, the single largest reason for people clicking the 'Dissatisfied - help us improve' link was for content that did not exist. Even the best search engine in the world cannot create links to content that is not there.
Learning Point: After all else, a real person with a very good knowledge of the organisation is best placed to put the requester in touch with the likely sources of information. In this regard an enterprise is in a much better place to react than 'the whole world'. Again, there may be a place here for some of the more "Web 2.0" tools, allowing users to find not just content but also individuals with relevant expertise, or communities with related interests - as always this would require both good tools and a significant change in behaviours!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Members, Beehives and Bookmarks

It's always nice to catch up with ex-KIN members. Not long ago I had lunch with Nick O'Doherty who some of you may remember. Along with another ex PwC employee he has set up a consultancy business

They "...offer services to companies looking to make use of tools such as wikis and blogs, and websites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc. Collectively we call this Social Computing. We believe there are huge benefits to be gained for companies who are using this technology and we want to assist those who would like to engage and who feel that they are being left behind."

Like any self-respecting internet consultancy business, they have a blog, they're on LinkedIn - they're even on Twitter (FWIW!). But the other thing that really interested me was that they also share their bookmarks using Delicious.

Since the subject areas of interest to them are of interest to me also, I have added the RSS feed of their Blog and their Delicious bookmarks to my feedreader. If you also have an interest in these topics, you might want to do the same. But you can be assured that anything they bookmark that I think is relevant to KIN members I will also bookmark using Diigo and they will appear in the KIN memberspace, here and relevant blog posts will appear here.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Cash for knowledge

I had the privilege this week to talk to a number of the leading executive search firms (research, not looking for a job, you understand). All have been hit hard by the recession and, unsurprisingly, there have been mergers and radical cutbacks. This sector is completely dependent on knowledge networks. Personal relationships, particularly at the top end (CEO and board level placements) are critical. It was interesting to hear that remuneration policy for the top people in this sector, whilst predominantly performance related, still has a very large element for tenure; 'the longer you stay with us the more we will pay you'. Whilst many organisations have moved, largely or wholly, to linking reward to performance, for organisations that fish in small, specialised pools, knowledge retention by £$€ still works.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

More uses for Diigo

Regular readers and some KIN members will know that I have been promoting the use of Social Bookmarking. The tool I have been promoting for use by KIN members is Diigo. This video shows some of the wider uses of Diigo beyond simple bookmarking.