Knowledge Management

A KM curriculum

I have previously discussed my problem-solving pattern based around 3 interlocking (and nested) cycles of knowledge processing, information processing, and business processing. All parts of of these cycles are valid targets for KM interventions to improve overall organisational performance.

Where I think many KM articles or broader educational programs go wrong is presenting a case study without explaining what the actual "KM" bit is.

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Blameless portmortems

For organisations committed to continually improving, self-reflection is critical. I particularly liked Etsy's description of how they conduct blameless portmortems when something goes wrong:

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6 dimensions of optimisation

Pinched with gratitude from Bob Lewis and stored here for future reference:

[To improve] organizational effectiveness, [rank these six dimensions] in order of importance for each business function targeted for attention:

  • Fixed cost – the cost of turning the lights on before any work gets done
  • Incremental cost – the cost of processing one more item
  • Cycle time – how much time elapses processing one item from start to finish
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Everything old is new again: the 7 models of selling things

Over at Club Troppo, Ken Parish tentatively flagged the question of micropayments for access to online information (and specifically, news) and promptly got shot down for his troubles.
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However, he did make me consider that the nature of most successful online business models are not some "brand new sales model". Rather, they lean on the oldest principles of commerce in existence.

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Knowledge enables purposeful action

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!

Back in March, Seth Godin wrote a post which really resonated with me. The key quote:

We always make [decisions] based on what we know and believe. That's a tautology, based on the definition ... a decision is the path you take based on what you know and believe, right?

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All organisations are pathological

David Griffiths wrote a provocative article about how predator-prey relationships enable the rich biodiversity of complex ecosystems, and the need for predators in organisations.

I would argue that organisations differ from ecosystems in the important respect that most people have the ability to leave whenever they wish. (The word "most" is significant here, as will be shown.)

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Bah humbug

So, a couple of days ago I asked Google to delete my Google+ account and Google Profile. I got sick of Google assuming that any "friends" I had in my circle should be integrated with my Picasa Web Albums and other Google properties. I feel ... less encumbered now, it's a nice feeling. (Aside: I will give Google kudos for making this process (a) possible and (b) not painful.)

I've logged into Facebook only once or twice in the past 6 months, and that was just because I didn't have another contact mechanism for some friends of mine.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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Our expertise in complex systems analysis, combined with a deep understanding of technology and modern, agile management and leadership techniques makes knowquestion uniquely positioned to find strategic solutions to your tough problems. Contact us today.