Monday, June 16, 2008

Knowledge Management at the core

Even though I couldn't get into a breakfast meeting this morning (the km breakfast sold out weeks ago) I did squeeze into the KM at the core presentation by Dave Snowden. The topics presented were great and turned much of what I knew about KM on its head, as well as put things into much better focus. I'm going to have to do much more research before I can really discuss many of the concepts discussed and verify how useful they could be but here I hope to display some of the notes that I took. Dave presented ideas so simply that it almost seemed too easy.

First Dave spoke about not using the usual KM terms of tacit vs explicit knowledge. He said that what we can write down is a very small part of what we know. Instead we can look at ways to improve and influence outcomes and decision making through managing "attractors" that are positive and disrupting the negative attractors. His stories were all great metaphors that allowed easy comprehension of some of these very complex topics and often brought about a 180 degree shift in how one can think about management techniques. Incidentally, the entire presentation should be viewable as a podcast at although I don't see it yet.Here's my photo of the event, so you can see what it looked like.

Many companies are trying an ordered approach to knowledge management when really they should be using something that fits into their environment which is probably more complex or chaotic.

Some other topics for more more discussion later:

  • No company has ever been successful following the best practices of another company, ie. just because all successful ceo's play golf doesn't mean your company will be successful if you play golf
  • Analogies of ordered systems to traffic lights vs the apparently more effective design of an intuitive roundabout
  • using "good practices" in situations where there are multiple answers, as using "best practices" only works in ordered systems where there is only one way of doing things
  • improving weak signal detection (using common techniques only autistics and people that aren't paying attention spot a gorilla) ... really
  • practice "ritualized dissent"
  • depending the the environment different km techniques may work, best practices, good practices, emergent, novel
  • taxonomy is similar to taxidermy
  • moving from fail-safe to safe-fail
  • predictive markets are not the "wisdom of crowds"
  • there are no deep structures in knowledge, we redefine the same words each time we use them
  • and a nice little trick - in order to test a liar, get them to tell their story backwards.

First Day at the Special Library Assocation 2008 Convention

I started the day rather upset about some basic things. Being that I am here to learn more about knowledge management I was upset that the personal planner on the sla website is basically a useless tool. It has great potential to be used to plan, integrate with other applications, and even let planners know of who is going to be attending what. I'm not sure how many of these concepts were intended to be implemented but I am pretty sure that none of them worked. The news was that on the day before the convention the site was down during a critical printing time. I can't verify that as I was apparently doing other things. The thing that I have noticed was that the comma separated values export to allow importing into outlook doesn't work, as it only record a file with a big error message. I had no intention of printing my schedule and instead wanted to keep everything digital, however the personal planner didn't allow that. It ended up being a schedule that I had no access to at the time of the event, and had to do everything over manually. I feel that intended or not it was a subset of what could be a successful knowledge management system, and yet was a complete failure as a useful tool.

Further frustrations occurred when getting to the event and registering. Although I got into Seattle on Saturday I waited until Sunday afternoon, when some events were fully starting, to come by the convention center and check in. After getting my handy gray recycled bag and some other stuff I was sent on my way. But where could I go? The expo booths were not yet open. The first lunch meeting sponsored by ebsco was debatable on whether or not I could attend. The info booth gave me some fancy ribbons but not much of a clue. And the already mentioned personal planner was so much digital useless trash. I ended up confused and lacking direction. It wasn't until the first timers event started that I had something to do.

The first timers meeting was pretty well run, with a good bingo game to get things started and lots of interesting people to meet. I met past presidents, people very involved with web 2.0 technologies and second life, and other students. The food and refreshments were popcorn, nuts, and other indigestables, along with some wonderfully lip staining fruit punch that made me look like I was enjoying otter pops. After all the extroverted networking though I was ready for a nap.

Returning for the awards ceremony and interview with Vint Cerf I was feeling refreshed and ready for some good quality experiences. It was great to see some people that I met at the first timers event receiving awards. The rest of it was a sometimes interesting but far too long of an event of clapping for people I've never heard or seen. I was overjoyed when the interview finally started.

The discussion with Vint Cert was uplifting and invigorating. Many things brought up were so inspirational that I really felt like it gave me a purpose in taking part in the progression of this information revolution. Some of the most interesting things discussed involved intellectual property owners of obsolete software allowing others to use their created files lest they become so much digital trash. He mentioned the fear of standing on a large pile of useless files that nobody could open, and postulated on these ideas to prevent such a hell. He also ballyhooed the idea that information is power and quoted the much more relevant "sharing information is power." This is an axiom for us to live by. Finally, I keenly listened to his descriptions of solar powered internet cafes that used satellites to provide internet access in remote areas. There is a great reason that Vint is such a visionary and internet evangelist.

Finally I made it over to the Microsoft event, which I originally had no plan to attend, but I'm glad I did.When I first got there it was ridiculously packed, but after some crowd mingling I found some excellent food and an even greater view. I met some great people, professional law librarians and other students from around the country. I even went into a tirade about copyright issues and the wonderfulness that is flickr with a law librarian. It was such a great time.