Things I’d Like to Blog About…

One of the wonders (and frustrations) of being in the blogosphere is that you come across all sorts of things that you enjoy, make you think, and that you’d like to share… but time often ensures that you can’t do them justice, so they get lost in your treasure chest of still-born blogs and things you really have to get round to reading in depth when you can. Here are a few of the recent ones likely to fall to that fate, starting with this delightfully funny map of the electromagnetic spectrum from Randall Munroe.

I’ve blogged Atul Gawande’s new book Better a couple of times in the last week or so. This and his earlier book Complications are not ostensibly about KM, but in my view shoud be required reading for all knowledge managers, because they are both brilliant reminders of the human and social dimensions of KM, recounting grapic and concrete examples of knowledge acquisition and use in situations where the outcomes really matter. Now thanks to Clive we have a video podcast of this week’s lecture by Gawande at Imperial College London. Required viewing!

The New Yorker recently published a piece on Gordon Bell (thanks Bill), retired Microsoft engineer who has been digitising all aspects of his life since 1998. The project, sponsored by Microsoft, raises all sorts of issues around memory (the stuff you use to prompt recall of specific events tends to suppress memory of adjacent events), navigation of content, and sensemaking. And of course, long term preservation of digital archives across different content standards and platforms, not to mention the navigation and metadata continuity. Kim Sbarcea also blogs about generational shifts around sense of privacy and digital biographies on the web.

David Wilcox reports on a spat between consultants Demos and the city council of Glasgow, around the use of empty jargon and vapid fluffy bunny speech (both sides accusing the other). More interesting to me is the use of storytelling in “mainstream” consulting in the report that is under debate, “The Dreaming City”.

Meanwhile Dave Snowden is fuming over smart people who just don’t get it around the distinctions between organisational storytelling and using narrative techniques as a sensemaking approach…. in narrative techniques, the patterns emerge from the story-givers themselves. The expert “interpreters” approach of “we know what this all means” holds little value. At some point, we need to have a proper discussion about the value of the consultant’s role in such projects, as Dave points out, new techniques and approaches might be adopted, but old paradigms of behaviour are difficult to uproot.

Nancy White has been blogging with renewed inspiration since her participation in the CP2 meeting in Portugal. She’s been reflecting via screencast on the strategic impact of knowledge sharing, using some ideas from the chaps at Anecdote around strategic knowledge initiatives. I find this reflection, the framework she’s discussing, her questions and the discussion around it fascinating, but I need to process it a bit more in my own head – I’m wondering how far there is a risk of creating menu-driven approaches to KM in contrast to more emergent approaches... I suspect the key is in how the strategy building process is handled. It’s definitely a topic I want to come back to. But the blog of the week for me was her very rich analogy of “dancing with fire”:

“Perhaps our resistance or worries about community may come from the fact that communities are like dancing with fire. There is something exciting and beautiful about them. When we have sufficient practice, we can dance with fire. When we don’t we get burned.”

It seems to me this relates very strongly to my recent post about the importance of experience in KM implementation teams – it is exactly this which makes the difference between getting burned and being able to create something beautiful. I’m sure fire dancers get burned plenty of times while gaining experience: as Dave Snowden pointed out recently, “Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement”. Another reason why you need gumption to do KM!

There have been some great podcasts and screencasts around using Web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise. Lots of people have linked to the “plain English” podcasts on RSS and Wikis from social web design company Commoncraft and they are well worth it. Ditto for the screencast from Scott Gavin visualising what an Enterprise 2.0 environment works like. It’s a tad too idealised for my taste, but it is a very effective way of helping newbies visualise in really concrete terms what Web 2.0 might mean for the enterprise. I plan to use it with KM teams in client organisations.

Anecdote also pointed me this week to Ross Dawson’s well-thought through and visualised framework for thinking about Web 2.0.

We’ve made a series of videos, some serious and some humourous on KM topics. Up till now they have been variously hosted on YouTube and and have only been viewable online (over 8,000 views so far). Now we have them all hosted on, which allows you to download the mp4 files (will play in Quicktime and on iPods) via this feed page and this feed page (10 podcasts per page). You can also subscribe to these and future videos via iTunes (you know you want to).

David Gurteen has also provided a video feeds page where you can view his growing collection of KM video clips. David says you can subscribe in iTunes and download the videos in mp4 format, but I couldn’t immediately see how.

There now… out of time, and the treasure trove barely touched.

3 Comments so far

Nancy White

Hey Patrick, I love the beautiful pictures in this blog post. They provided a lovely breath of fresh air amidst the text.

I too, am struggling with the challenge of menu-driven KM. What I’m working on right now is more on the specific area of knowledge sharing (which is just as slippery IMHO) and how to create some “handles” for folks who are new to the idea or who come from very linear and proscribed cultures. In other words, in places where the practice is to say “tell me exactly what you want me to do and I will do it.”

So it is a profound practice shift to say “here are some ideas and methods. Let’s play with them and see how they change our practices for sharing knowledge and information.”

So I’m trying to find handles, affordances and maybe, just maybe SAMPLE recipes to get a comfort level. But then the key is to move away from them quickly. Does that make sense? Any ideas?

I guess we are talking about practice and culture change more then KM or KS itself. grin

Posted on June 07, 2007 at 09:08 PM | Comment permalink

Patrick Lambe

Hi Nancy, good to have you drop by! I have too much respect for the work that you and Shawn and Mark do, to think that you’d be tempted into a purely menu driven approach to KM or KS. My main worry is that it might be easy for less experienced folks to drop into this approach if it is not framed appropriately.

I’ve been thinking about Anecdote’s proposed “Three Journeys” approach,

which I like, and which we mirror in some respects in our work. However, I wonder if the way to approach this productively (to get the richness out of the options presented, but not fall into an empty “pick list” trap) is via an earlier journey that we might call a “discovery” or “self discovery” journey.

During a knowledge strategy exercise of about 3 months, we typically spend about half the time taking a series of perspectives on the organization designed to give their management a fresh view of themselves as a knowledge organization. For example using anecdote circles and developing archetypes to characterize their knowledge sharing culture; knowledge mapping to look at typical knowledge use, gaps and sharing opportunities across the organization; maybe social network analysis to look at communication and collaboration flows across the organization; and we have been using most significant change where an organization has been doing KM for some time and wants to take stock of progress and figure out where to go next.

So when they come to their strategy exercise, they have already reached a level of informed awareness of themselves as a knowledge organization, and the “menu” or “recipes” they are presented with should now start to hold some significance. What do you think?

Posted on June 08, 2007 at 12:08 PM | Comment permalink

Patrick Lambe

David Gurteen’s KM videos can be subscribed to via iTunes by using this link (thanks David):


Posted on June 14, 2007 at 10:04 AM | Comment permalink

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