Monday, 21 September 2009

Saboteur's tools - nails and knowledge

A fascinating Saboteur's Field Manual has been declassified by the US Military. As well as the usual nails and home-made explosives, surprisingly it presents sophisticated methods of disrupting organisational knowledge. A kind of knowledge management, in reverse. Knowledge mis-management?

For example:
"A second type of simple sabotage requires no destructive tools whatsoever and produces physical damage, if any, by highly indirect means. It is based on universal opportunities to make faulty decisions, to adopt an uncooperative attitude, and to induce others to follow suit. Making a faulty decision may be simply a matter of placing tools in one spot instead of another".
Sounds familiar? For tools, read documents.

How about: "More important ... would be to create a situation in which the citizen-saboteur acquires a sense of responsibility and begins to educate others in simple sabotage".

And my favourites in relation to Knowledge Mis-Management:
  • "When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instructions.
  • To lower morale... be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers.
  • Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done".
Remember this was 1944. Those damn office saboteurs have been perfecting their technique for 65 years.

Finally, I couldn't resist this one:
"Cry and sob hysterically at every occasion, especially when confronted by government clerks".

I am indebted to Jenny Ambrozek for pointing me to Don Burke of the CIA who referenced the Handbook in his talk to The Tap Collective

Friday, 18 September 2009

IDeA's innovative ideas

I was a guest at the IDeA 'Community of Practice' facilitators' conference in London today. This organisation, which supports knowledge sharing and improvement across the 367 UK Local Government Authorities, has achieved some remarkable results since I last looked at it a couple of years ago. An example is the really interesting way of recording the conference. They start simply with the agenda and embedded presentations (in this case hosted on Slideshare) in a Wiki page. They then add content to it contemporaneously during the event. This includes specific quotes, notes, links, bookmarks, a twitter feed, vox pop video snippets and audio clips. It does take a lot of dedicated effort, for example several people using Flip videos, someone dedicated to updating the page and a red hot broadband connection. In effect it appears as a narrative and would replace an Event Workspace/ site or a set of PowerPoint slides. IDeA have some very ambitious plans to utilise 'social technologies' to create a knowledge hub over the next year or so. If their success with online communities of practice (they have about 800) is anything to go by, they will be way ahead of most other public sector organisations and dare I say it, many private sector too.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Great TV ratings, but a disservice to the wisdom of crowds

Like many, I was enthralled to see Derren Brown attempt to predict the National Lottery numbers last week 'live on TV'. The 'how it was done' follow-up however, looked to me like the very worst kind of pseudo-science. I've always been a fan of Brown, and admired his honesty in admitting misdirection and manipulation. By persuading an open-mouthed audience that it was done with 'automatic writing' and 'The Wisdom of Crowds', he lost all credibility in my eyes. The wisdom of just 24 people, all sitting in the same room?
This article from a member of the British Psychological Society neatly captures the essence of crowdsourcing 'The group must be independent and diverse, with members having unique insights into the problem at hand'. The article perfectly sums up why this was a missed opportunity to explore to a proven and useful phenomenon.
As it happens, the KIN Members' Winter Workshop on 2nd December will include an examination of Prediction Markets. This takes Surowiecki's principle examined in his book the Wisdom of Crowds and applies it to a commercial context. With the help of Jed Christiansen, we will look at several case-studies that have successfully been undertaken. Snake oil will not be available.