Pound of Obscure

Been giving some thought to the concept of knowledge and knowing in the context of organizations and knowledge management. These two paragraphs come from separate trains of thought, but are related so I decided to post them here together. Definitely needs a bit more reflection and development. What do you think?


The terms “tacit” and “explicit” are typically used when referring to different types of knowledge (in the context of knowledge management efforts). It seems to me that “unconscious” and “conscious” might be more appropriate / accurate? In that explicit knowledge is that of which you are consciously aware of while tacit knowledge is that which lies “below the surface” and which you use without having to be aware you are using it. Need to cross reference this with what I’ve been learning about Liminal Thinking….

On the subject of “knowers”, could the organization itself be considered a “knower”? Not the sum total of the knowledge that resides in its members or files, but a knowing that emerges from the connections and interactions of that knowledge. If so, how would that change how we approach KM?

On knowledge and (organizations as) knowers

Aside
Pound of Obscure

A month or so ago I came across the word “tranche” in an article (or story or something). I consider myself well read with a decent sized vocabulary, but don’t recall ever having seen that particular word before that article. (Yes, I had to look it up.)

Since then I’ve seen or heard the word used once or twice a week in varying contexts. Wondering how I missed it all those years, and why it has suddenly started showing up everywhere.

Is it just me?

New word (for me) – Tranche

Aside
Pound of Obscure

In the loop (the boss’s version)

When the context of “keep me in the loop” is between manager and managed, things might be a little different. After all, the whole purpose of a staff is to make sure that a boss has the information, knowledge, and insight she needs without being burdened with having to figure it out for herself. In a world of information flow built around the distribution of atoms, it made sense that the staff made the decisions on what the boss should see, based (of course) on what the boss said she wanted to see.

When information flow is based on bits, when working out loud is (can be) the norm, when the boss can see what she wants to see when she wants to see it instead of waiting for a meeting or the email with the monstrously huge PowerPoint file, she can keep herself in the loop.

Working out loud goes both ways; it is just as important for managers and leaders to understand how to work out loud as it is for their employees.

 

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Ounce of Perception

In the loop

“Keep me in the loop.”

This all too common expression is – or should be – the bane of anyone trying to implement, or just use, a community approach of working out loud for collaboration and communication. What it really means is…

I want to know what’s going on with your project, but I don’t care enough to actually spend my own time keeping up with what’s going, so please take time out of your own busy schedule and figure out what information I need to know and then make sure you get it to me. I may or may not bother to read it once you’ve sent it to me.

The next time someone asks you to “keep me in the loop”, let them know where the conversation is happening and offer to grant them access. If they don’t take you up on it, then they don’t really care. If they do take you up on it, they may never join in. But they might, and their participation will be that much more valuable because they are there intentionally, not accidentally.

This goes both ways. Next time someone talks to you about a project that you are interested in, don’t ask them to keep you in the loop. Instead, ask them, “How can I join the conversation?”

 

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Pound of Obscure

From Euan Semple:

Normality is overrated. In fact it is dangerous. It erodes our ability to be our true selves as individuals, can cause unhappiness in those who through no fault of their own are “not normal”, and gives us the tribal excuse to behave appallingly to our fellow man.

As a somewhat un-normal person myself, and parent of two quite unique sons, I’ve seen this “cause unhappiness” all too often through the years. Most often it is unintentional, but there are times when the “tribal excuse to behave appallingly” is relished and the unhappiness is quite intentionally caused.

An example came across my Facebook feed today from a friend who posted about some issues with trolls on a site intended for autistic children:

A troll tried to get on [site] today. We asked why. He said: “I found out about a server with only autistic kids, its a trolls [sic] dream.”

:-(

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Ounce of Perception

Meetings in the age of working out loud

Working out loud is typically looked at from the point of view of the person doing the work out loud, with tips and ideas on how to work out loud more effectively. But it is also important for those who are “consuming” this out loud work to understand the process and how they can leverage it in their own work. No one has more to gain, and probably more to learn, from working out loud than the managers of those doing the work. Consider, for example, meetings.

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Meetings, in general, assume that the process of work is hidden and that the only thing that matters are the results or, in many cases, the current state of the work. So managers will call meetings, or even worse schedule recurring meetings on a regular basis. These meetings are often set for an hour, because that is the default in Outlook and generally the time blocks by which conference rooms are scheduled.

What other factors do you take into account when you plan / schedule a meeting? Some items might include:

  • Agenda

Actually, if you don’t count the availability of a conference room, the only real consideration in the scheduling of most meetings is the agenda, even though it is more likely than not that the agenda is more an outline or a “let’s go around the room so everyone can fill everyone else in on what they have been working on”.  The “this is what we’re going to talk about” gets a lot of attention, the “what do we want to achieve” gets a bit less, and the “how does this contribute to our work” gets barely any attention at all.

When, of course, the most important aspect of meetings, the easiest to measure, and the most overlooked – dare I say ignored – is the bottom line. The value of the meeting. (Not just the cost, but the return you get on paying that cost.)

From the book ReWork:

When you think about it, the true cost of meetings is staggering. Let’s say you’re going to schedule a meeting that lasts one hour, and you invite ten people to attend. That’s actually a ten-hour meeting, not a one-hour meeting. Your trading ten hours of productivity for one hour of meeting time. And it’s probably more like fifteen hours, because there are mental switching costs that come with stopping what you’re doing, going somewhere else to meet, and then resuming what you were doing beforehand.

Which doesn’t take into account the productivity loss for the time required to prepare for the meeting, type up and distribute notes, etc….

When it is possible to work out loud, however, the work is not (need not be) hidden and the current state of work, along with all of the context that goes with it, is readily available to all who may need to see it. Including managers. But this requires a change in how managers approach management, and how they interact with the people who report to them.

Instead of asking to be “kept in the loop” through individual emails or by scheduling meetings, it becomes incumbent on the manager to ensure that their employees are working out loud and that they, the manager, keep themselves in the loop.

Thinking in bits isn’t just about changing the way we design forms to collect information or using fancy techniques to push customized content to our users. It also has far reaching implications and potential in how we design our work and the organizations in which we perform that work.

 

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