Better emails

Ironically, this HBR post about writing emails that people want to read rambles a bit. But there's some gems in here:

  • Keep it short.
  • Delete unnecessary content such as old message threads.
  • No long paragraphs (my rule of thumb is 6 lines max on a typical screen).
  • No fancy formatting, EXCEPT to
  • Emphasize the important bits!
  • Use pull-quotes (ie put a copy of the important bit in the body of your reply).
  • Less is more.

Why KM needs technology

It's become fashionable to bash the technologists who provide KM solutions as charlatans and snake oil salesmen lately (probably I've been guilty of this in the past myself).

But Buckman Labs and others that deployed technology-heavy solutions have perhaps been unfairly maligned. After all, they did see real and measurable benefits; the problems (as always) have come when people see technology as an KM solution that can be brought in and deployed rather than something that has to organically develop to support organisational processes.

Maximizing cognitive potential

First, go and read this article by Andrea Kuszewski (quite long, but well worth it – I'll wait):
You can increase your intelligence: 5 ways to maximize your cognitive potential

Great article, huh? For those who didn't have time to go and read it, here's the condensed version:

1. Fluid intelligence is trainable.
2. The more you train, the more you gain.
3. Anyone can increase their cognitive ability, no matter what your starting point is.
4. The effect can be gained by training on tasks that don’t resemble the test questions.

We can do this by applying five principles:

1. Seek Novelty
2. Challenge Yourself
3. Think Creatively
4. Do Things The Hard Way
5. Network

Lessons from palliative care in communicating honestly

Sometimes I stumble across ideas that are so useful and simple that I wonder why they aren't globally known. The SPIKES protocol taught to medical students as an effective and compassionate way to break bad news falls into this category:

S: set up the interview
P: assess the patient's perception
I: obtain the patient's invitation
K: provide the knowledge
E: address the patient's emotions
S: establish a treatment strategy

Twitter and revolutions

Jay Rosen has noted the current explosion in popularity of a subgenre of stories he calls "Twitter Can't Topple Dictators". Read the whole thing; it's a really insightful analysis of why this kind of press article is a cop out.

However, it was two sentences near the end that really caught my attention:

Factors are not causes. It is a mystery why uprisings occur when they do.

The four types of regulation

Regulation is a fact of life in any civilization. But despite all our grumbles of "red tape", regulations are often necessary to make our systems work better. It's worth examining the four types of regulation that exist and the advantages and disadvantages of each:

The limits of economies of scale

If you are interested in systems thinking but don't read the Vanguard Newsletter penned by John Seddon, you should really start.

Vanguard is a UK-based consultancy that teaches companies how to switch from command and control structures to taking a systems approach to management. Recently I came across a nice summary of one of the key concepts expounded -- the need to aim for efficiency of flow rather than efficiency of scale:

Intervening in a complex system

One of the most critical tasks of a knowledge manager is the ability to effectively intervene in the functioning of complex systems. Because deterministic cause and effect of interventions is not possible in a complex environment, the basic model established by Dave Snowden and others is termed safe-fail experimentation.

To effectively perform such interventions, when dealing with complex systems there are a number of questions we need to ask such as:

The problem solving pattern

With the eruption of another holy war on actKM, this time on the need to focus on networks rather than content, I can't help but feel that people are missing the point.

All of these things are important, but the primary focus always needs to be on how effectively the organisation is solving its primary problem, ie why it exists. I've previously discussed my model for a problem solving pattern:

Types of organisational work

Organisational work can be broadly classed into four categories:

  • Process – work that needs to be completed in a defined manner to ensure consistency and repeatability, eg call centers, surveying, project management reporting.
  • Practice – work that requires people to use their judgement to determine the appropriate method of completing a particular task.
  • Discovery – innovative work that extends the range of available solutions within a field through invention or research.
  • Management – oversight and ongoing improvements of organisational work undertaken

Each type of work requires a different approach to staff retention: