davebriggs + km   22

Social Ecology: Evolution or Revolution? Part 2.
This is second post on the topic of emergent social ecology, which embraces social media, social networks, communities of practice, enterprise collaboration technologies, social business, social learning, collaboration, cooperation and sharing. A wide brief, but with a common thread: the liberation and empowerment of people to take responsibility for their own personal and professional development.

In my previous post (Part 1) I identified a number of key challenges and opportunities for anyone who wants to survive and thrive in this emergent social ecosystem:

Social media is generating enormous amounts of unorganised content: how to make sense of that.
Social networks enable a wider range of connections: how to find people and develop relationships.
New forms of collaboration are made possible by social media and networks: how to organise and manage.
There are a bewildering variety of methods and tools: how to choose and learn to use.
The new ways of making sense, connecting, collaborating, and using technology throw up the need for new skills: what are the new roles and the new skills?
The emphasis on open access and sharing changes where value may reside: so what are the new business models?
Social capital is becoming increasingly important in establishing trust and credibility in the virtual world: how do we increase or measure our social capital?

I want to explore some of these points in more detail, and specifically how social/collaborative technologies are creating new roles, new skills and new opportunities for personal and professional development.  I will state categorically that I’m not a social media “expert”, and will challenge anyone who labels themselves thus. The social ecology is far too volatile, technically complex and populated by people and organisations with vested opinions and hidden agendas for anyone to fully comprehend the various dynamics. However, I have a lifetime’s experience dealing with people and information, and that most important of human assets – curiosity.  Having some understanding of the environment I belong to gives me perspective on how to work smarter, and what skills I need to survive.  After all, isn’t that what life’s really all about?

To survive and thrive in this century demands a new spectrum of literacies. These include:

knowing how to manage and protect one’s online identity
recognizing the importance of reputation and how to grow (personal) social capital
proficient in creating, organising, repurposing and sharing content
capable and adept at using social learning networks for continual personal and professional development

It goes without saying that technology underpins all of these literacies. It is difficult to imagine how today’s knowledge workers could function without access to and familiarity with technology.

In this Part 2 piece I wanted to look at some of the social ecology trends, and specifically:

collaborative platforms (or the technology that underpins social networks),
email (because it is still the biggest consumer of time)
personal knowledge management (the human algorithm)
the growing importance of the community manager and the digital curator

Technology Trends
Collaboration platforms and social network facilities are becoming increasingly sophisticated and we can now match the people we are connected to (our social graph) with the work we do or the topics we are interested in (our interest graph). Previously we’ve had to seek out and make these connections ourselves, but (and for example) the combination of Google Plus Circles and Google Plus Communities gives us the capability to discover new and relevant connections, i.e. we can now link our social graph with our interest graph. And as we know from experience, once users become familiar with features and capabilities that get deployed in the Web 2.0 world, they eventually emerge in Enterprise 2.0 technologies (i.e. business environments).  Hence we can expect to see a ‘social’ element being introduced to corporate Intranets that offers more than just blogging or micro-blogging capabilities. We can expect to see automatic connections being made using profile and activity data, i.e. between people, interests, expertise, activities, topics and places.  Capabilities that perhaps many of us take for granted with Google Plus or LinkedIn’s suggestions and recommendations, but yet to fully emerge within the corporate environment. Something that might undermine the traditional hierarchical and silo’d organisational structures? Let’s hope so!

A report by Atlantic Monthly claimed that workers waste up to 50% of their time managing unwanted communications, finding the right people to help them and searching for information to do their job. (Image source: Harold Jarche).

According to the same report, workers spend 28 per cent of their time, reading, writing or responding to email, and another 19 per cent tracking down information to complete their tasks. Communicating and collaborating internally accounts for another 14 per cent of the average working week, with only 39 per cent of the time remaining to accomplish role-specific tasks.

However, I’ve never really understood this growing clamour for the end of email, and get tired of reading the latest predictions about its demise. Did we decide the telephone served no useful purpose once we had social media? No, because it is still a relevant form of communication. How it is used has probably changed over the years, but it is still with us because it’s ubiquitous, easy to use and relatively secure.  I think that companies such as Atos – which has a stated mission to eliminate all corporate email communication within 2 years – and senior managers who ban use of email on certain days, are misguided. They are addressing symptoms of email misuse, and not the underlying causes.  Email has been with us for over 30 years, and I’m predicting it will still be with us for the next 30 years – and more. Like the telephone (or mobile phone), email is ubiquitous, simple to use and a relatively secure method of communication. A telephone number and an email address are the two lowest common denominators in today’s connected world, and that’s not going to change in the short or medium term.

What will change is the move to publish-subscribe communication, where control of the information flow will be managed by the recipient, not the sender.  Having something useful and relevant to say will become far more important than who you send it to.  Email will become the primary means by which we authenticate ourselves and subscribe to the networks and channels through which we want to receive information. And we’ll have better tools for aggregating and filtering this information torrent.

Personal Knowledge Management
It’s been said many times before, but worth repeating – technology alone will not create a collaborative and learning organisation, and neither will it give us the knowledge or skills to make sense of an increasingly complex and volatile environment.  This requires human effort and application. Something that Brian Solis has called the “human algorithm”. To quote Brian Solis:

“The human algorithm is part understanding and part communication. The ability to communicate and apply insights internally and externally is the key to unlocking opportunities to earn relevance. Beyond research, beyond intelligence, the human algorithm is a function of extracting insights with intention, humanizing trends ad possibilities and working with strategists to improve and innovate everything from processes to products to overall experiences.”

One application of the human algorithm is in social media listening and sense-making. In addition to tracking simple data signals such as conversations, sentiment, narration and service inquiries, data can present insights into preferences, trends, areas for innovation or refinement, R&D, co-creation, etc. Even though sophisticated tools can help track data points that can lead to these insights, it still takes a human touch to surface them and in turn advocate findings within the organisation. It’s the difference between insights, actionable insights, and executed insights.

How do we gain the skills needed to hone and improve our human algorithms? We give  time and effort to Personal Knowledge Management (PKM).  And what is “PKM”?

PKM: A set of processes, individually constructed, to help each of us make sense of our world & work more effectively. Keeping track of digital information flows and separating the signal from the noise.

Harold Jarche has been a long-term proponent of Personal Knowledge Management and over eight years has developed the “Seek: Sense: Share” model, described thus:

PKM, or learning in networks, is a continuous process of seeking, sensing, and sharing.

Seeking is finding things out and keeping up to date. Building a network of colleagues is helpful in this regard. It not only allows us to “pull” information, but also have it “pushed” to us by trusted sources.
Sensing is how we personalize information and use it. Sensing includes reflection and putting into practice what we have learned. Often it requires experimentation, as we learn best by doing.
Sharing includes exchanging resources, ideas, and experiences with our networks as well as collaborating with our colleagues.

Two specific roles that have been honed on PKM skills and the ‘seek-sense-share’ methodology are The Community Manager and the Digital Curator.  In some cases this may be one and the same role, since the functions are quite similar.

Community Management
Community Managers have become a core part of engaging with customers on social channels. The role has developed from the Facilitator or Moderator role that is well established within online Communities of Practice (CoP).  In either case, the key responsibilities are very similar:

Training and educating users (or customers)
Encouraging and guiding conversations
… [more]
Knowledge_Management  PKM  social_web  ecology  KM  personal_KM  Social_Media  from google
february 2013 by davebriggs
The ultimate Knowledge Management recipe?
I grew up in Devon, (south west England), surrounded by fields and sheep. A beautiful area, but sadly too remote to be a practical base for a much-traveled management consultant!

One of the things about sheep is that you can see where they’ve been on the hillsides.  Their propensity for following each other leads to paths being worn away over the generations of sheep – becoming, quite literally, the path of least resistance.

We can identify similar patterns in our organisations.  We can discover who the go-to people are, and we can reveal how they interact with their colleagues, how technical advice flows, how requests for help are requited and where ideas are incubated.  That’s basis of organisational network analysis, which can be an excellent tool for determining the focus of a KM strategy or Community of Practice plan.

Of course, if you’re a sheep, and your landscape is unchanging, then a well-worn path is a good thing.

In most cases though, parts of our business landscape are changing.  Yesterday’s hill is tomorrow’s valley. However, it’s easy for sheep-like behaviour to persist, because the tracks are entrenched.

Contrast the behaviour of sheep with the waggle dance of the honey bee.   There’s an excellent 7-minute documentary about this on YouTube, but here’s a quick summary:

When a bee identifies a source of pollen, it returns to the hive and performs a ‘dance’ in the presence of the other bees.  The dance follows a figure-of-eight pattern and includes a pronounced waggle.  The direction of the waggle relates to the location of the pollen source – a precise angle in relation to the sun (even when cloudy) in relation to the hive; the duration of the waggle indicates the distance to the source.  It’s an amazing piece of design, and the documentary explains it very well.

In contrast to the sheep, the sources of pollen are short-lived – perhaps just a few days, for a few hours of the day.
This action of discovery-broadcast-sign posting reminds me of the way in which organisations are using micro-broadcast tools like Yammer.  I was privileged to get some insights into the way Deloitte (UK) are using it recently, and was impressed by the buzz(!) of discovery and sharing which it had generated.

So reflecting on the sheep and the bees,  I’m left with a belief that:

i) we need to understand the sheep paths on our organisations.  They may be positive and worthy of reinforcement, or they may be historical patterns of a “ghost” organisation, rather than a current picture of where the optimum knowledge flows should be.

ii) we also need to encourage the bee-haviour (sorry!) and enjoy the discovery of resources  - and subsequently the discovery of shared interests, expertise, passions and ultimately informal networks.

So perhaps the ultimate knowledge-sharing dish is roast lamb glazed in honey?
Behaviours  Communties_of_Practice  KM  Knowledge_Management  Knowledge_Sharing  Metaphor  Organizational_learning  from google
october 2012 by davebriggs
The ART Of Collaboration (Collaborative Behaviours)
I was recently asked to present at the Knowledge and Innovation Network (KIN) summer workshop on the topic of “Collaborative Behaviours”. The slides I used have been posted to Slideshare and embedded at the end of this blog post. This post is a summary of the key points I made during my session.

“Knowledge can only be volunteered, it can’t be conscripted”. A quote from the redoubtable Dave Snowden. But is the same true for collaboration? If people are given the right tools and the right environment, will they spontaneously collaborate and share knowledge? Why do some people find it difficult to share and collaborate? Would incentives and rewards make a difference?

What is “collaboration”?
According to dictionary definitions, collaboration means:

The act of working with another or others on a joint project
Something created by working jointly with another or others
The act of cooperating as a traitor, especially with an enemy occupying one’s own country.

I think we can discount point 3 from this discussion, but it is worth testing all three of these definitions with the behaviours described later in this blog post to determine whether there are consistent characteristics that can be applied to all three.

For the purpose of having one single, all-embracing definition, I prefer to use the following:

Collaboration is when individuals or groups work together, combining their strengths and negating weaknesses to accomplish a set of goals.

I think the important point about this definition is that the outcomes are more likely to be amplified when working together as opposed to individually.

Types of Collaboration
It might help our comprehension about what we mean by “collaboration” by looking at various collaborative models.

Peer to Peer Production
Not to be confused with P2P file sharing, such as BitTorrent. P2P production is defined as “any coordinated, (chiefly) internet-based effort whereby volunteers contribute project components, and there exists some process to combine them to produce a unified intellectual work”. Source: Wikipedia.

The process is one-step, meaning the user accesses some or part of an original file from a P2P community website, modifies or enhances the file in some way, and then submits the modified file back into the community.

Probably the best-known examples of peer-to-peer production networks are the Apache Foundation Network and the Linux network (8000 developers from 800 countries). Other collaborative networks include ccMixter, a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons where you can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music and Remix The Video, and Scratch, for creating interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art for sharing on the web.

As part of my research for this presentation I attended a lecture at City University London, given by Dr Stephen Clulow, who described the motivators for peer-to-peer collaboration as:

Relatedness (knowing what you are doing is appreciated by others).

I’ll come back to motivators later in this post.

The Digital Workplace
Collaboration in the workplace is now high on the priority list of many organisations seeking to leverage social technologies to free-up knowledge and provide opportunities for co-creation, co-production and innovation.

I particularly liked this diagram and explanation from Jane McConnell at Net Strategy (reproduced below):

Source: http://netjmc.com/digital-workplace/digital-workplace-in-brief-5-fundamentals

The managed dimension includes business applications and validated, authoritative, reference content. It is primarily internal but extends partially into the client-partner sphere for inter-enterprise projects and processes.
The structured collaborative dimension involves teamwork on projects with specific goals, deliverables and timelines. It overlaps with both social collaboration and the managed dimension.
The social collaborative dimension is self-organizing. It includes social networking, micro blogging, community building and other social features such as user-generated content. This dimension stretches the furthest into the public world and is deliberately drawn off the chart because it is the biggest unknown today and triggers the most apprehension in management.

David Gauntlet has defined the motivators for collaboration in the digital workplace in his book “Making Is Connecting” as:

To feel an active participation
A wish to be recognised.

I’ll come back to motivators later in this post.

Barriers to collaboration
Understanding the barriers and obstacles is the first step to identifying potential solutions. Individuals acting alone may not be empowered to make the desired changes, but if there is a real desire to collaborate and share knowledge, most if not all of these obstacles can be overcome or circumvented.

In no particular order:

Knowledge is power

Knowledge and information hoarders exist in every organisation. However, their knowledge is likely to be one-dimensional and limited to their own small network. This can’t compare to the wealth of knowledge in social networks. A case of “none of us is smarter than all of us”.

Fear of change

There is no doubting that we live in far more uncertain times, where change and complexity is all around us. Holding back change is a bit like King Canute – with same outcome!

Can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Some people will never change. Accept it and move on.

Command and control

We don’t collaborate because there’s a real or perceived hierarchy in the workplace. Over the years, the leadership has developed a culture that appears to value one person or group over another.


What’s in it for me? It’s reasonable to seek value in what you do; otherwise you’ll consider your actions as being a waste of time.

Lack of time

The research report “Why Businesses Don’t Collaborate” cites the management of email and attending meetings as the biggest consumers of staff time. These points probably deserve more time and space than I’m giving them here, but the underlying issues here are (a) deciding what is important and (b) having some control of, or input to, meeting agendas.

Lack of support from the top

Bottom-up initiatives will fail to take hold unless there is some support from senior managers and directors. Collaboration initiatives need to be aligned with business or service goals.

Sceptical middle management

What I call the “marzipan layer”. You may have support from the top (the icing), and bottom-up encouragement (the cake). But middle management is more likely to understand the detailed processes that provide the foundations for how the organisation operates. They will be potentially risk-averse, since any change may have unpredictable consequences, and for which they may be accountable.

No tools/poor tools/too many tools

To be effective, collaboration has to be made simple. Intuitive tools accelerate user acceptance and can maximise the outcomes. However, tools need to be relevant and optimised to the task(s) to be completed. Too many choices result in cognitive dissonance (confusion on what to use for each task). No tools – no comment!

Inadequate education/support strategies

Collaboration needs to be recognised as a key workplace skill, and included in personal learning & development plans.  It’s not something that can be taught in a pedagogical sense, but can be encouraged through coaching and mentoring.

Information overload

Usually associated with management of email. Not the best environment for collaboration, or finding what is relevant from the torrent that hits your email inbox each day. Requires discipline on what is shared – does everyone need to know this snippet of information?


Once assigned a task or objective by a manager, most knowledge workers will just want to get on with it, with a degree of autonomy on how they go about it.  Some managers or supervisors feel the need to oversee every small detail, which discourages initiative and dis-incentivises the worker.


It happens when bosses tell people they want everyone to collaborate. But at the same time, they assign tasks, targets and goals to various individuals and teams. Agendas that vary greatly and can range from complementary to conflicting.

Too-Rigid job descriptions

Tightly written and prescriptive job descriptions will that create real or perceived boundaries that inhibit initiatives and taking on new responsibilities.


Collaboration is always going to be difficult if the parties cannot make themselves understood.


Not every culture is open and transparent. Need to be aware of rules and protocols that define collaboration with other cultures.


The layout of your workplace can help or hurt collaboration. The greater the distance between colleagues, the greater the chance of flawed communication.

Not just over-reliance on e-mail when face-to-face conversation is needed, but genuine “out of sight, out of mind” lapses that keep smart people out of the brainstorming, decision making or socialising that leads to positive outcomes.

Fear of rejection

You have something to contribute, but previous experience leads you to believe that your opinion is not valued. Typically seen in hierarchical networks.

Legal, Compliance, Security

It’s not always possible, or even desirable to have open and transparent discussion. Closed groups or communities can be used in some circumstances, but we have to accept that sometimes wider collaboration is not possible.

Digital Divide

Hopefully less of an issue than it used to be, but there is no doubt that anyone not able to connect to the Internet is likely to be at a disadvantage for knowledge and information sharing.

Incentives and Rewards
Speaking personally, incentives and rewards have never made any difference to me in terms of making me want to collaborate more than I do at present. But there is … [more]
collaboration  Knowledge_Management  Social_Enterprise  behaviors  behaviours  kinwbs  KM  personal_KM  from google
july 2012 by davebriggs
Ten ways to create a knowledge ecology
Nice list from Euan Semple on how to make your organisation one that values knowledge and learning.
km  knowledgemanagement  talent  learning 
june 2011 by davebriggs
Who Should be Your Chief Collaboration Officer?
Whose in charge of getting people to talk to each other in your organisation?
collaboration  community  km  entgov  enterprise2.0 
october 2010 by davebriggs
"MindQuilt is an enterprise knowledge management platform with intelligent question and answer matchmaking and gaming achievement dynamics."
km  knowledgemanagement  enterprise2.0  collaboration 
september 2010 by davebriggs
Anonymity, trust and openness on the social intranet
"In some organisations, the cloak of anonymity could help to establish the first part of that trust relationship, and reassure colleagues that leaders are, in fact, really listening; once it exists, it’s easier to step out of the shadows with a greater degree of trust and openness."
anonymous  anonymity  intranet  km 
september 2010 by davebriggs
And The Long Sought Replacement For Email Is . . . | Forrester Blogs
"Enterprise 2.0 enthusiasts (count me in) have argued for several years that Email’s manifest deficiencies could and would be overcome with open, social, and dynamic 2.0-based communication and collaboration tools. However, there’s also long been the recognition that Email – or rather, Email users – would not go down without a fight."
email  enterprise2.0  entgov  im  km  communication 
may 2010 by davebriggs
What is eSpace? | NHS CFH eSpace
"eSpace is a community based online collaboration tool dedicated to improving healthcare and wellness by sharing knowledge and experiences of technology enabled change." via @dominiccampbell
network  health  community  communityofpractice  km  technology  nhs 
march 2010 by davebriggs
Microsoft’s No-Win IE6 Browser Mess
"But who really cares about browser market share other than the vendors and web developers?"
microsoft  internetexplorer  browser  vendor  forrester  im  km  informationmanagement  knowledgemanagement  ie6  ie 
march 2010 by davebriggs
Knowledge Hub – part 1
Steve Dale blogs about the local government knowledge hub.
uk  km  khub  learningpool  localgovernment  localgovweb  knowledgemanagement 
september 2009 by davebriggs
About my Final IT Project « Fiona’s Final IT Project
"I am currently completing a final project module for an MSc in Business Information Systems Management at Middlesex University in order to further develop a very keen interest in Information Systems. I have created this blog in order to journal my progress and research findings from first-cut proposal to final draft. I hope you can join me on my journey."
km  information  fionahinda  bcs 
january 2009 by davebriggs
Instant mash: empowering communities through the web
"From virtual worlds, to CoPs and 'mash-ups' – Kent County Council is using all of these to promote knowledge management."
ideaperf  web2.0  idea  localgovernment  communities  km  localgovuk  report  secondlife  kent 
january 2009 by davebriggs
Rendering Knowledge
"...I updated my original three rules of knowledge management to seven principles which I share below"
principles  participation  knowledge  km  collaboration 
october 2008 by davebriggs
kstoolkit » KS Methods
Nancy White's list of knowledge management tools. Great resources, and part of an excellent wiki
km  knowledge+management  wiki  resource  tools 
march 2008 by davebriggs
Knowledge management
Great article from CIO Insight on knowledge management and how it can be done successfully. Thanks to Lee Hopkins for the link.
km  knowledge  management 
november 2007 by davebriggs

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