Key Snowden

Dave Snowden has come up with a lot of complex and interesting ideas over the years, but often mixed up in a way that makes it difficult to tease out the individual strands.

However, a recent blog post is an excellent summary of his current state of thinking and is well worth a read. But from this and by chasing down the relevant originating blog posts, here is a summary:

The benefits of KM are:

Risk, uncertainty and confidence

I read the following today:

[Risk, traditionally formulated, is a quantifiable metric, while] uncertainty is risk that is immeasurable, not possible to calculate. [However, both] risk and uncertainty are about expectations ...

If we cannot frame sufficient expectations, we have no basis on which to act ... Uncertainty is fundamentally based on information, because our ability to calculate risk is a function of the information available ... The centrality of expectations to action ... is why law and economics analysis by people such as Richard Posner has been so fruitful; law is all about creating pattern and structure to frame expectations ... the two key insights of C20th economics—transaction costs matter and information and action are not separable.

Just because something cannot be calculated does not mean we will not frame expectations to cover that uncertainty: it just means that such expectations cover more than is directly inferable from such information as we have ... “confidence” ... is, to a large degree, how what cannot be calculated is being framed in a given time period ...

The wider the range of uncertainty ... the more unstable confidence is likely to be ... If confidence is how we frame uncertainty ... then it is a central obligation of a [regulator like a central] bank to narrow such uncertainty, to [publish] a clear [framework] for ... agents to frame their actions.
  — On the stupidity of (some) Central Banks:

The idea of uncertainty (or how many "unknown unknowns" there are) is a concept that is well understood by KM people. Fundamentally we accept complexity theory and the notion of root unpredictability as key to the understanding of modern organisations.

However, the use of "confidence" to describe how uncertainty is treated is novel (to me at least). And it's a powerful visual and tool.

Jurgen Appelo: Complexity Thinking Presentation

Jurgen Appelo has put together a ripper presentation titled "Complexity Thinking or Systems Thinking++?" which does a really neat job of synthesising current and past thinking into a modern and accessible take:

Are you Shane Battier?

An insightful quote from Richard Vines on ActKM:

I think formal KM roles in organisations remain – essentially – very fragile at the present time. And, if these roles have any substantiveness[,] inevitably the agendas are highly contested. It can take years to [gain influence through organisational acceptance of the role of KM] ...

What makes organisations tick?

1. Organisations are formed when many people voluntarily submit themselves to common arrangements on an ongoing or fixed-period basis.

2. There is a duality of individuals working together ("workers") and the gestalt entity created as a result ("the organisation").

3. There are seven key motivators for workers:
(a) GREATER GOOD – having a positive impact on society
(b) SERVICE – benefiting their organisation's customers
(c) INSTITUTION – ensuring the standing and longevity of the organisation itself
(d) RESOURCES – increasing the funds available to the organisation

Defining the difference between IM and KM

UPDATE Nov 2015: If you are interested in an ongoing conversation about Knowledge Management and how to apply it, please check out our newly launched online magazine RealKM!

Also known as: the debate that just won't die. Nick Milton writes:

If, as many people claim, Knowledge Management is "getting the right information to the right people at the right time" then what on earth do they think Information Management is?

A new creed for journalism

The term "creed" refers to a statement of belief, perhaps most famously known as the Apostles Creed which laid out the key articles of faith of Christianity in the early Church.

Respecting expertise; or, scientists are not politicians (and vice versa)

The epic comments war triggered by Rafe over at Club Troppo is emblematic of the tragic state of the current climate change debate.

Thought of the Day: unintentional communities

Remember that whenever you send an email to more than one person, you are creating a community.
  —Ron Ashkenas

Resilience vs Robustness

An Oak that grew on the bank of a river was uprooted by a severe gale of wind, and thrown across the stream. It fell among some Reeds growing by the water, and said to them, "How is it that you, who are so frail and slender, have managed to weather the storm, whereas I, with all my strength, have been torn up by the roots and hurled into the river?"

"You were stubborn," came the reply, "and fought against the storm, which proved stronger than you: but we bow and yield to every breeze, and thus the gale passed harmlessly over our heads."

-- Aesop, The Oak and the Reeds

A couple of years ago I posted a summary argument about why KM is important. It holds up surprisingly well despite the evolution in my thinking about the topic.

In that posting I quite deliberately avoided the use of 'tacit' and 'explicit' knowledge because I don't see the distinction as relevant, strategically at least. Instead, I focused on the idea of adaptability and resilience which shifts the KM discussion towards a risk- and opportunity-based framework.