How can I join the conversation?

“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 social media approach to 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.

Of course, 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?”

Are you just acting, or do you really know what you are doing?

The Ultimate Matrix CollectionI love the Matrix movies. All three of them. (Four if you count Animatrix.) As someone interested in learning and knowledge management, I find the whole idea of being able to simply download knowledge and really, truly learn how to do something very cool. Need to know how to fly a helicopter off a roof and across the city? There’s an app for that.

Compare this to the process that the actors went through to be able to provide convincing performances of these skills.  The actors trained for several months in order to obtain a sufficient level of physical readiness, then learned some basic martial arts skills. Hong Kong director and fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping created the fight sequences, which the actors then learned.

From a knowledge management perspective, this is an excellent comparison of tacit vs. explicit knowledge.

The fight choreographers developed the fight scenes, then made the “knowledge” of the fight (in this case the choreography) explicit so the actors could “learn” the fight. But, and here is the important part, the actors did not learn “how to fight” but rather “how to perform the fight” for the film. They were acting on explicit knowledge, but it never really became “tacit.”

On the other hand, the stunt men portraying the bad guys obviously had the tacit knowledge of how to fight – you can see it in how they carry themselves and the weapons. For them, it was a matter of taking the new choreography and incorporating it into what they already knew.

From a learning perspective this shows the difference between what Carol Dweck refers to as performance goals and learning goals. Quoted in Dan Pink‘s new book Drive Dweck says, “Both goals are entirely normal and nearly universal, and both can fuel achievement.”

Inside the Matrix, the goals are learning goals. The characters need to actually learn the skills they need. For the actors, the goals were performance goals. Not what you’d call easy, but much easier than actually learning the martial arts and engaging in fights with other masters.

In your job, are you  an  “actor”, trying to provide a performance that follows the script and meets the approval of “the audience.” Or are you a master, continually learning and improving and getting done what needs to get done?

Some thoughts – and a mind map – on Army Knolwedge Management

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of my discharge (honorable, in case you’re wondering) from active duty as a US Army officer.  It was while serving in the Army, both on active duty and later in the Army Reserves, that I was first exposed to and practiced knowledge management so it seemed fitting that I mark the date with a reflection on Army Knowledge Management.

In the early days of Army Knowledge Management – or AKM – the focus was very technology focused, as evidenced in AKM Guidance Memoranda #1 (August 2001) and #2 (June 2002).  Then, as now, AKM was primarily the responsibility of the Army’s CIO.

In some ways, this reflected the “state of the art” at the time, where KM was the pitch phrase of all sorts of software vendors hawking the latest and greatest KM tools.  The main early focus was the capturing and conversion of “tacit” knowledge into “explicit” knowledge that could be stored in a vast “knowledge repository” that could be shared across the Army enterprise, and the consolidation of the technology infrastructure to support that repository.  In many ways a necessary evil; the downside was that it reinforced the idea that KM was solely the domain of IT.

Over the years the broader scope of KM has come to be realized, as can be seen in the most recent Army Knowledge Management Principles, published in August 2008. The principles are broken down into three main categories: People/Culture; Process; and Technology. For all you visual thinkers out there, and for myself, I’ve taken the principles, and the supporting Rationale and Implications, and put them into a mind map using Mind Manager.

akm_principles

Back when the paper was published, Jack Vinson posted some thoughts about the principles. Having seen the early tech focus of AKM, I share Jack’s appreciation of the Army’s stated goal for AKM:

Implementing these principles will create a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing in the Army where key information and knowledge is “pushed and pulled” within the global enterprise to meet mission objectives — an Army where good ideas are valued regardless of the source, knowledge sharing is recognized and rewarded and the knowledge base is accessible without technological or structural barriers.

Though it is safe to say that AKM is still very heavily IT centric, KM has steadily infiltrated further and further into the Army culture.  This can be seen in one of the latest offerings from the Army’s Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, the soon to begin Knowledge Management Qualification Course for KM sections:

The KM section supports the commander and staff in achieving situational awareness and situational understanding to enhance and speed decision making. The section does this by developing a plan that includes the “how-to” in displaying the common operational picture. That plan details the process on how a unit accesses and filters new information internally and externally, and provides a working KM system that can route content while keeping commanders and staff from being overwhelmed.

A long way indeed from knowledge repositories.

UPDATE:  For those of you who don’t have Mind Manager, here are two things to help you get the most out of the whole map:

1) a .gif image of the entire Mind Manager map;

akm-principles-complete

2) a public version of the map at Mind Meister;

If you update the Mind Meister map, I’d appreciate a quick note back so I can go back and check it out.

Cool phrase of the day: Effective Efficiency

In a post earlier today, Jack Vinson reflects on six years of his blog Knowledge Jolt.  Jack was one of the first bloggers I ever followed and was one of the reasons I first started blogging, also nearly six years ago in June 2003.

I’ve had a bit of a blogging-block of late (I blame Twitter), so I thought I’d take the occassion of the upcoming anniversary of my first blog post to revisit my earlier blogs and repost (with maybe a little editing) my favorites in the hopes that this may get the juices flowing again.  It is fitting that this first one, originally posted on 1 Dec 05, was inspired, in part, by Jack.

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Cool phrase of the day: Effective Efficiency

Effective efficiency from Frank Patrick’s Focused Performance Weblog[The Focused Performance Weblog is still up and running, but the article I originally linked to doesn’t seem to be there anymore.  Odd.  -gbm ]

Jack Vinson and Jim McGee presented a session at BlawgThink about how knowledge management and collaboration affect productivity and process, which I like to look at as effectiveness and efficiency. (Now you know why the phrase appeals to me so much.)

BlawgThink attendee Jeffrey Phillips has also written a bit about process, etc in several posts: Sometimes process doesn’t matter and Actively Unhelpful are two that have caught my eye in recent days.

In the old days of the Industrial Age the relationship between efficiency and effectiveness was, for the most part, a linear one: the more efficient you were, the more effective (productive) you were. [It would probably be more accurate to say, “..the more effective you could be.”  -gbm] Even in the information age there are some activities which are, in essence, information assembly lines in which this relationship holds.

True knowledge work (whatever that is), however, seems to me to have an inverse relationship between efficiency and effectiveness. In other words, the more efficient a process the less room there is for the “waste” that is necessary to support innovation.

I don’t believe this is a straight linear relationship, though, nor is it likely a purely exponential relationship. Somewhere along the line, there is a spike that shows the optimum amount of efficiency to achieve maximum effectiveness in a given knowledge activity. (Note that, unlike an assembly line situation where most situations are very similar, true knowledge activities are almost always unique.)

Of course, this all goes back to what exactly we mean by knowledge work. There, I think more than anywhere, the definition of “productivity” and “effectiveness” is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Network effects of KM blogs

I, along with several others, was interviewed last summer by Lilia Efimova concerning my experiences as a Knowledge Management blogger using the blog as a networking tool.  (The interview came about from my blog No Straight Lines, which started out as a KM blog).  You can see a summary of my interview here.

The short of it is that I didn’t start blogging with the purpose of networking with others in KM, but it was a (very) nice side effect.  I’ve met many people through blogging, KM and otherwise, that I never would have had the opportunity to get to know.