Starting 2010 with a Bias for Action

It’s the New Year, and there’s no time like the present to embrace all the things we spent 2009 talking about. Trouble is, there was lots of talk in 2009. Talk full of buzz words. Some claim that we’ve begun talking in circles. Maybe so. But in the process, we’ve laid an important foundation.

Look at it like this:

Meaningful, sustainable change starts with an informed conversation. Together, it’s easier to frame the future, to find the best path forward.

In 2009, via blogs and chats, we began to frame that future.

In many ways, 2009 had to happen. It’s not entirely clear how, but we survived it. We realigned our cost structures, built our networks, and learned how to interact using social media.

Now, with scarcely time for a breath, the hard work begins anew. Let’s start 2010 with a clear mindset. Here are four key themes, resolutions to guide our collaboration efforts:

  1. Bias for action. The key step in breaking the talk cycle.
  2. Bias for engagement. Moving away from the Web 1.0 broadcast model of communicating, toward a more valuable 1:1 exchange that builds relationships.
  3. Bias for learning and discovery. I’ve posted on the need for a learning culture, not only increased higher priority for education, but renewed focus on critical thinking and semantic clarity. If we succeed, the prize is a knowledge renaissance.
  4. Bias for change. None of the above will matter if we continue to cling to the past. Our risk-averse cultures are often biased to resist change. To move forward, we need to embrace it.

What does action-oriented collaboration look like? Here are some case studies in virtual community that seek to use engagement and discovery to drive new solutions:

  1. Look for some immediate changes at #smchat. Building on insights from 2009, we’re brainstorming how we can drive even more value for members. Thought leadership and emergent insight have been the core of our value stream. How can we leverage that?
  2. We’re at an inflection point for exciting things w/ #ecosys, our pilot project on public engagement to drive social innovation.
  3. Take a look at what’s happening at govloop. Over 20,000 voices from across government are self-organizing. Ideas are everywhere.

Let me know if you know of others.

2010 will be a time of culture change and new paradigms. We don’t have much choice. So strap in and hold on. We’ve got some work to do.

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A Landscape for Discovery

Learning and innovation have a common thread.  In simple terms, their mission is to expand what we know. We begin at familiar places, we move to areas of uncertainty, to explore .. then, with luck and a fair wind, we return a little better informed.

Let’s call this mission one of discovery.

Seeking knowledge is a core human aspiration, a measure of what makes our species unique. Unfortunately its a path from which many have drifted. The more rigorous aspects of critical thinking and complex problem solving are now often left to experts, those among the shrinking ranks of science and corporate R&D. As I’ve written about a knowledge renaissance in other posts, I’ve come to the conclusion that  more people need to be able to engage on harder problems. And we need better ways to frame the gaps.

Take a look at this picture:


In the lower left hand corner we start with ‘what we know’.  As we move out, we launch our journey of discovery. Do we have a direction? That depends on our situation and objectives. Perhaps we launch multiple journeys in succession. Or we explore in parallel. Or maybe we just wander around, afraid to venture far from familiar territory.

In every case, the journey back is when we extract value. We apply what we’ve learned. We adapt, adding to our knowledge base, giving each successive journey a head start.

This model was developed by Mary Nations of Nations Alliance here in Raleigh, with input from Holladay and Cheesebrow at HSDI. I find it particularly fascinating because of its potential for broad application. Think of how we might reframe education reform; paradigms for innovation and complex systems; a reinforced foundation for knowledge management (KM); a fresh look at the learning organization.

At a minimum, I think we’ve established some context .. a canvas on which to chart our journeys of discovery. Look across this landscape and into the future. What do you see?

KM Evolution: Prusak & Snowden Video

Thanks to Helen Nicol for surfacing a good video interview about the transition of KM from management fad to an integral part of Social Computing (aka Social Media). 

Posted with the original title “Is KM Dead?” the interview examines aspects where ‘KM as fad’ has expired but that many of its practices and core practitioners live on.  The video interview is a year old (July 2008, interviewer: Patrick Lambe)  but still timely –

Snowden is particularly insightful re: forces at work moving from highly structured, pre-codified taxonomies to the more ‘organic aspects of knowledge that model human interaction.’  KM has long struggled as a practice area, for many reasons outlined in the interview, but also for a key reason outlined in my earlier wiki post: fundamentally, the culture for collaboration has been lacking. Where that culture has been updated or transformed, KM will have the opportunity to add value.

I agree with Prusak & Snowden, the core KM concepts remain important, and are showing up frequently (even moreso, one year later) in interactions where collaboration and business problems require it.

Yes, the fad days are over.  KM promises were sometimes oversold by vendors and consultants alike. 

But KM practices are NOT dead, as the space is transforming to something broader and more dynamic. It will serve processes that are more integral to collaborative practices in a knowledge economy, what Snowden calls ‘a flex period of social and natural science’ or ‘renaissance’.

I call it ‘collaborative innovation’ – a new social media practice that we brainstorm often at #smchat.

In a fundamental way, KM advances processes and concepts that are intended to facilitate  communities of practice.  In our knowledge economy, demands for innovation and collaboration are pushing these requirements to the top.  As long as KM practioners are flexible, that is, able to operate in a dynamic mode and willing to new learn technologies, there will be a place for KM at the table. Social media is a powerful force, and KM may not get center stage.  But there are important engagement synergies in SM and KM that we can’t afford to neglect.

As always, would love to get your thoughts.