The Gurteen Knowledge Website

A very nice site, good information. GURTEEN – View: Knowledge-Log

I’ve subscribed to his e-mail newsletter for quite a while now, always some good info.


Workspaces work

From Ray Ozzie, creator of Lotus Notes and Groove, comes this article, with extra references, on the death of e-mail. Some key points:

Anyone who is doing a critical business process online that involves substantial dialog between individuals should NOT be using email at this point in history, and many no longer are.

Think about the rate of increase of “noise” in email over the past two years, which is a very short time. Think about where we’ll be in as short as five years. Can you imagine?

If you have work to do with others, online, try workspaces. There are many different types – from Groove if you like client-based mobility, to SharePoint if you like using Websites.

Ozzie definitely has a vested interest in everyone using Groove, but as you can see from the last quote he also believes in other solutions: whatever works for you.

The thought that hit me the most was the comments about noise in e-mail. The problem today isn’t too much information, as many complain. Rather, the problem is too much noise.

“The problem with abundance”

From Globetechnology:

What do traffic jams, obesity and spam have in common?

They are all problems caused by abundance in a world more attuned to scarcity. By achieving the goal of abundance, technology renders the natural checks and balances of scarcity obsolete…. {snip}

Any technology which creates abundance poses problems for any process which existed to benefit from scarcity.

Obvious ideas once they are laid out in front of you, but not necessarily obvious ahead of time. Think “long-term effects” from “short-term actions”.

Muscle memory (or, “It’s just like riding a bike…”)

This is kind of a follow up to my last post. I played a round of golf today, a company sponsored event. I haven’t played golf in over two years, and never really played that much. Imagine my surprise when it came back to me pretty easily.

Made me think of the saying, “It’s just like riding a bike, you never forget how” (or something like that). Which got me thinking to the whole idea of explicit knowledge, lessons learned, and best practices. I realized, which I’m sure we all have at one point or another (or several), that you really can’t know how to do something unless you learned how to do it yourself.

Of course, this brings up another old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Yes, you can read books, examine case studies, and otherwise look at how others have done something. Until you’ve held the club in your hands, though, and swung at (and missed, or topped, or sliced, or…) the ball yourself, you don’t really know anything about it. As you practice more, and do the same thing over and over, making tiny improvements here and there, your body remembers.

The neurons, the muscles, the breathing, the posture. It becomes second nature. And once you’ve learned, you NEVER forget. Sure, it may take a while for your body to fully remember (it took mine about 13 holes), but it will remember.

It’s the same with an organization, assuming you have the appropriate “infrastructure”, i.e., sub-conscious (knowledge management).

Knowledge management as the sub-conscious of an organization

Another article from Vol 40, No. 4 of the IBM Systems Journal, a special edition dedicated to Knowledge Management: Where did knowledge management come from? by Larry Prusak. As the title suggests, Prusak discusses the history of knowledge management as a field, and how it got to where it is today.

As important, he discusses the future of KM, where it is going. Though he says a lot of good things, I believe the most important view of the future of KM is summed up in this statement from the article:

Knowledge management seems likely to follow one of two future paths. The better one is the direction taken by the quality movement. Its key ideas became so deeply embedded in practices and organizational routines that they became more-or-less invisible.

Some commentators have assumed that the absence of quality from center stage in management discussion suggests its failure; in fact, the opposite is true. People do not talk about it much because it is a given, an integral element of organizational effectiveness.

Knowledge management may similarly be so thoroughly adopted—so much a natural part of how people organize work—that it eventually becomes invisible.

The challenge, it seems, is how to get KM to be such an integral part of operations.

What is your company’s type?

Just as there are different temperament types for people, it seems reasonable to think that there are different “temperament” types for organizations. Understanding the temperament of the organization you are in – or the organization you are consulting for – can go a long way in helping you do what is best for the organization.

Of course, this leads to the question of how do you determine the temperament of an organization? I did a quick Google search on “Organizational Temperament Type” and I got a lot of results for individual temperament types in the context of organizational behavior, but nothing on the “type” of organizations. Maybe I just used a bad search term.

Is there a questionaire out there that could be applied to an organization? How would you apply it, since you can’t really ask the organization questions. Observation, maybe, where you answer the question for them? Or would you maybe ask different people from different parts of the organization specific questions and then pull them together? Would you use the same 16 types? Or would it be a subset of these? Or would it be completely different?

I’ll continue to search for more on that, but if anyone has thoughts on this or knows of something that has already been done, I’d love to hear about it.

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