TON'S INTERDEPENDENT THOUGHTS
My current thoughts repository on the web
blog maintained by
Send me an e-mail
Search my blogosphere:
This blog has moved: please visit blog.zylstra.org to continue reading.
I don't know about you but the first thing I do when I visit a friends house I've never been in before is take a look at his or her bookshelves.
It gives me extra insight in interests, scope and depth of interests, and more often than not points me to interesting reads I had not discovered yet myself.
To create a bit of that feeling right here in my blog, I've added the titles that I'm reading at the moment. Adding all the hundreds of titles on my shelves would be to much, of course. So now you have some impression of what is keeping me thinking/entertained. And of course, thanks to Amazons associate program, if you decide to click on the book and go ahead and buy it for yourself, this will result in some discount on my next purchase with them.
Join a Tribe!
The historical development of western man went from hunter-gatherers, to nomads, to tribal farming villages, to industrial age towns, and now to cybernavigating city-dwellers. And this week I took a step back and joined a tribe. A tribe? Yup!
My anthropology teacher already told me that the steps in western man's history do not form an evolutionary path in the sense that all other peoples will follow the same pattern in their development. And then proceeded to give examples of people who took the same steps in a totally different order but still were growing strong. I probably proved him in point by joining this tribe.
I am talking about the Bloggers-Tribe over at Ryze, a networking community somewhat like Ecademy, but upon first experience with a more relaxed take. Andrea Janssen strengthened this impression by telling me that to her it was another layer to her social network, and not in as much a place to pick up business contacts. I think that's actually a good thing. From stronger social ties, business ties will follow where trust is already established. Ryze organises people around common interests and calls these groups Tribes.
Go have a look if you want, and join in. It already introduced me to bloggers as yet unknown to me, but with interesting things on their minds.
Knowledge Roles Rolling
The Knowledge Roles are rolling around the blogosphere, notes Andrea.
Thought?Horizon warns us not to take these roles as who we are, but as actions, what we do.
I agree totally. Like with Belbin's Teamroles I see several roles I feel very comfortable with, several that I don't feel comfortable with at all, and others I'm pretty neutral to. However, as Thought?Horizon points out, as a lone Knowledge Manager I might have to take on all 12 roles. I am not really sure I agree to that, but if it is true my job turns out to be a daunting task. ;)
My gutfeeling says it might be a way to give some structured view to my activities, as I am constantly switching between more strategic knowledge issues, and down to earth details of every day practitioning. This makes the question "What is it that you do" often hard to answer in one sentence. I do everything, and yet do nothing, is what it mostly boils down to. These roles might make my activities more recognizable, more tangible of sorts, to me and others.
The Seeds of Success
Dianne Ford of the Queen's School of Business in Kingstown, Canada, has written a very useful paper on Trust in KM. She addresses different aspects of trust, and directly links them to different knowledge processes in organisations. This paper might be very useful in translating what I have said earlier on the role of trust in organisations and km into practical approaches. It is also very worthwhile to check out the rest of the website of Queen's Business School's Centre for Knowledge-Based Enterprises.
In Fliegen von ferne, Andrea Janssen's weblog, David Skyrme is cited on the roles in KM he distinguishes. The different roles build on different strengths ands personality traits. Andrea posts it as a means for determining your career 'anchors'. It reminds me however of the Team Roles by Belbin. Thus David's roles in KM become not only a means of determining your personal position in the big picture, but also a way of determining what roles you need to get a certain KM task done. Sort of building your KM project team.
In my organisation I am the only KM officer. Being able to recognize suitable knowledge roles of my colleagues might be a way to build stronger and more succesfull KM-initiatives.
Trust, Organisations, and Philosophic Jargon
While preparing for an exam Tuesday afternoon, I started correlating the material under study, dealing with the task description and fields of operation for a 'philosopher of technology', with what I have said here earlier on trustflows in organisations.
First of all it seems not clear to everyone that organisational structures are able to convey messages, e.g. concerning trust. This is perhaps easier to understand from this perspective:
Every man made item, whether it be an artefact, or something uncorporeal like organisational structures, have been designed by human beings. This design process specifically embeds instructions and meanings into the artefact/structure. This is called scripting. You have to follow the script for the artefact to fulfull its function. However a well established fact is that humans think of uses for artefacts other than have been designed into them. Also humans recognize other scripts than have been embedded, they start following scripts that were not intended by design. Thus artefacts are no longer the extension of the designer, but become actors themselves. Lots of technology implementations fail because of not recognizing this effect. This means that structures in organisations cannot be seen as neutral contexts of operation for people, but should also be considered active participants within that system of meaning. This is what I mean when I say you have to search for the hidden messages organisational structures convey concerning trust.
Also you have to be aware that there are probably a number of different systems of meaning, or partial rationalities in place in your organisation. It would be a mistake to focus only on one of these partial rationalities and then define generic solutions. Also it will probably prove impossible to find one partial rationality that covers all the others that exist within your organisation. Yet this is precisely what general management often tries to do. It is from this starting point that I have worded the need for looking at boundaries between different parts of the organisation, the comparison of both formal and informal structures within the organisation, and social network analysis. It not only provides insight in all the different partial rationalities at play, but also narrows down the area where your proposed solution will have the effect you designed into it. This leads us to a management lesson often learned already: there are no absolute answers or generic solutions, there are no quick fixes, but there will be a whole mix of solutions that you have to apply to the precise spot it is designed to address.
How to Measure Trust in Your Organisation?
In recent months I have spend time regularly on trust and its implications for knowledge management. This has all been sparked by a article of John Moore on the value of trust. Only last week a whole new Trust Special Interest Group on KnowledgeBoard.com has been started, which John moderates, since the topic had become too large to be just a part of the Emotional Intelligence SIG. A must-go-see for all who are interested in trust.
Also I wrote an article on the role of trust in knowledge management myself, and among the people reacting to it, was Frank Kouwe, who is knowledge manager with Waterschap De Dommel, a semi-governmental institute for regional watermanagement. Last Friday we met and discussed how to go about getting a picture of trustflows in his organisation. A sort of temperature reading of trust.
As I work for a company that deals with developing questionnaires, e.g. for employee satisfaction measurement, it seemed likely to start from there. Normally these types of research address communicational and leadership issues in a company, topics which can also be viewed from a Trust point of view. Both leadership and communication probably have large trust components build into them.
We strongly suspected that trust is not something you can ask about directly. Either you won't get useable answers because the questions get too abstract, or people will give answers that seem desireable. So how to ask about trust in questionaires?
We came up with the following points:
Apart from asking questions, you can also try to conduct a survey to do social network analysis, one making an inventory of contacts people have, another doing the same for the people they trust the most. This would give you a picture of where personal relationships in your company are sparse, or where trusted people also form important nodes in the social network. These people could be important trust 'hubs' in your organisation. ("I trust John, because Peter trusts him, and I already trust Peter", where Peter is the trust 'hub')
A third approach to mapping trust could be looking at incongruency between formal and informal structures in your organisation, and also looking at what happens at boundaries between different parts of your organisation. What messages are organisational structures giving your people. For instance if you've put your support desk in the basement behind the boiler room, what are you telling your people about the amount of support they can trust on getting from you(r organisation)? Other structures to be examined in this sense are measurements and reward systems. Are they having side effects as trust-creating or trust-destroying messages to your people?
Using an idea from Chris Macrae, you could also try and map opposing interests and blockades between parts of the organisation. By charting what obligations and promises part of an organisations has to meet and keep, and then looking at where keeping one promise leads to breaking another promise, you'll probably find trust undermining structures in your organisation.
The above is the result of talking for an hour or so, and certainly needs more work to be useful. I'll keep you informed of how we will move forward from here.
What is the Mark of a Master?
Gareth published this list of tips on how to write texts properly, or at least increase the chance of it being written properly. An article that was referenced to a lot in the last days.
Last weekend in a Waterstone's in Salisbury I picked up a book on how to write philosophical texts, which is of interest as I am currently studying philosophy.
What is the use of these sort of guides, since well established writers often say they actually do not know how they write so well, or that it is because of their inspiration. Yesterday I talked to a colleague of mine about this, who is also composer. He brought the same question up, albeit in somewhat other words. "If anyone can read these guides and use the tools mentioned in them, how come not everyone is a writer or composer?" This to me translates into "What is the mark of a master?".
Two things came to mind trying to answer this question.
First a spark of originality. You need this in order to have a starting point for whatever it is you'll create. Many people don't get this far, maybe because they do not recognize it when it comes to them. How often have you had a thought that you tossed aside because noone else seemed to think about the same thing? Only to find out months later that your thought has become mainstream, and in fact was an original thought the first time. Are the creative people better at recognizing their original thoughts, or passionate enough to keep them, or don't they care that their thought does not seem to register with others at first?
Second is the invisibility of the tools in the final product. In well made artefacts, of whatever sort or form, there is usually no trace left by the tools that made them (unless by intention of the maker). Beautiful statues don't show the chipmarks made by hammer and chisel, finely crafted tapestries don't show the individual knots they're made of, well composed music does not make apparent the deliberate tricks to guide your ears in the right direction, or its underlying mathematical patterns.
So even if I have read a guide on writing, this might mean I still can't write well, because of the all too apparent use of tools in the texts I produce. It's the stuff where people don't plainly see or know how you did it, that they find clever. And for those who say they don't know how they create, it might just be that the tools have become invisible to them as well! Tools so completely incorporated into your own skills, that you don't recognize them as such any more. Thus the craftmanship becomes invisible in the master.
Would you agree to these two ingredients that mark the master? Or are there others you can come up with?
This is a very relevant question as it touches on the tacit/explicit divide in knowledge. The cleft between codified knowledge (~information) and the ability to put it to use well.
Rick Klau published an evaluation of his klog-experiment in his company, which makes a very interesting read.
Valuable lessons can be learned from this posting. He ran a pilot with 12 people from the 125 in the company for a month. Interesting are the comments on how blogs were used by these 12 people:
Also Rick addresses the apprehension of the pilot-participants:
He concludes with the lessons drawn from this pilot, lessons that have a familiar ring as they seem to coincide with lessons learned from many different general management situations, e.g. motivating your knowledge workers:
Reading Rick's evaluation makes me think about the feasability of such an experiment in my own company. I have been keeping this blog for three weeks now, and I have found it to be a somewhat addictive and most certainly worthwile activity. This is probably due to the fact that I had no inhibitions regarding "what to post", as I am used to jotting down comments and notes for private purposes. The blog puts that in the public domain.
And that to me is where the reward is: My personal notetaking has surprisingly become a way of establishing new relationships with people. Readers comments, referral linking etc, create a whole new network of people around me, and this I find hugely stimulating. An effect which Andrea Janssen also commented on when she said that [meeting other k-bloggers ...] "creates something of an European network". Other descriptions of rewards were given in the discussion on KnowledgeBoard.com that made me start my blogging experiment in the first place.
This leaves the question as to what rewards others in my company might want from blogging wide open. Something clearly to put some thoughts into, before expanding the blog-thing into our company. A first step probably is bringing my blog to the attention of my colleagues, and let them see what it is I do with it. Or better yet, I might set up an internal blog, where I give insight into my activities as knowledge manager. This because to too many colleagues this often still is somewhat obscure, and an issue I need to address anyway.
Alma Mater up in flames
This morning around 8 I logged on to work from home. While discussing (by phone) and jointly editing a file with a colleague, suddenly my connection to the office was lost. In the office, 30 minutes later (yes I live only 5 mins from work!), an internal e-mail made clear why: one of the buildings of Twente University stood ablaze. This building accidently not only houses my own faculty, philosophy of science, my girlfriends faculty, applied communicational sciences, but also the university's computercentre. Our offices are connected to the internet's backbone, you've guessed it, there. Fortunately there are no casualties.
(pictures taken from the make shift webpage of Twente University)
From a KM point of view this is also a disaster. Notes from PhD-students, primary sources of their research, all the paper-based material of the courses currently under development to fit the new Bachelor-Master structure of the faculty, all lost. All the digital stuff is still there, back-up procedures have certainly proven their worth today. But most of us deposit the real clues to our work and knowledge, especially of the work currently in progress, in the stacks of paper on our desks. So to most people who work and study in these buildings this must be a huge setback, and in some cases might even mean startig all over again on whatever research project was at hand.
It might take some time to get back on-line again from work. To those of you whom I have promised to send material on last weeks conference, I ask for patience, because it is all stored on my computer at the office.....and no connection to the outside world.
Three days very well spent
Yesterday saw me getting up as early as 06:00 to reach the Ally Pally in time at 09:10, for Karl Erik Sveiby's keynote speach. An journey that should not take more than little over an hour, can get quite challenging when there's a strike on. It wasn't too bad however, and I actually arrived too early.
Sveiby's speech really was worth getting up early, no doubt about that. Not that he told me many things that were totally new, but it is interesting to hear on which things he places emphasis in all the material he wrote. It triggered a lot of thoughts while I was listening. The people next to me must have thought that I was writing everything down verbatim, as I was scribbling away frantically, trying to get down as much of the associative thoughts and ideas that were going through my mind as possible. It was a pleasure to hear this "founding father" of KM speak.
I met up with Dominic Kelleher, to see how I could get involved in the work of the CEN Workshop that looks to describe enough of the field of KM for sme's new to KM to quickly find their way, and start applying km-initiatives.
David Gurteen introduced me to both Andrea Janssen, who writes the Fliegen von ferne-blog, and to Sam Marshall who writes Intellectual Capital Punishment. Meeting all these people, who's writings and contributions you saw passing your screen, putting faces to the names, really feels like discovering a map of a community that I suddenly happen to be part of. Quit nice really.
While I was just about to leave the convention, Angele Nobre (she leads the Quarere-sig on KnowledgdeBoard.com) came up to me and engaged me in what turned out to be a very interesting conversation, as she is already doing what I hope to do in my mastersthesis: building bridges between philosophy and managing businesses. Where for me until now this was just a sort of daydream based on the intuitive connections I saw between my work as a knowledge manager and my studies in philosophy of science, she has now put me firmly on the track of really thinking about this. Turning the no-strings-attached dreamy thinking into the real thing.
So all in all it would seem that have a lot of work cut out for me. The Knowledgeboard sigs, the CEN workshop, philosophy in relation to KM, all the nuggets of ideas to evaluate, the new contacts to follow up on, etc. But this certainly does not seem a daunting task. I am extremely satisfied with the results of my visit to London. Not only have I addressed all the things I set out to do, but I got much more than that too. Do they know yet where KM Europe 2003 will be?
An art-convention selling brushes and paint
Today was a motivating day. After struggling through the tube-system, with the Picadilly line out of service due to the fire-fighter strike, and taking the bus from Finsbury Park up to the venue, I met up again with the same lady I already talked to shortly yesterday. Then, as today, we just happened to walk from the busstop to the main entrance at the same pace, and started talking. It turned out we both knew Chris Macrae.
As we entered the convention floor we both commented on the fact that most of the exhibitors were promoting software. Already yesterday I had felt some unease at this, and today I put that unease into words. I feel like going to an art convention, and finding nothing but people trying to sell me brushes and paint. I am certainly not saying that these tools are useless, but they are not the key issue, and presenting them as a goal in themselves makes me feel uneasy.
Sally wasn't the only one I had pleasant conversations with. I also met up with Chris Macrae, who turns out to be what I would describe as a classic thinker. Closing his eyes when talking to you. I could see him struggling to get some sort of order in all the associations that are racing through his mind, and from which he has to choose and tell me about it. It's actually wonderful to see him in action.
John Moore I also met, over tea, and meeting him too added a lot of perspective that was created from the discussion we had via Knowledgeboard and e-mail. It was for these sort of conversations that I came to London, and I am grateful to those that were willing to engage in conversations.
I spent the afternoon at the KnowledgeBoard meeting where all the special interest groups presented themselves. Apart from kmei sig, I guess there are a few others I feel the need to get into. And all for different reasons. SME's for one, as I work for an SME myself. The ngo and the public services SIG, because this bears relevance to the majority of our clients. The upcoming trust SIG naturally, because that's what I'm passionate about. And then there's the Quarere sig, that aims at bringing together students and KM-practitioners, which appeals to me as I'm both a KM-professional as well as a student. Building bridges between academia and business is precisely the kind of thing I can get excited about. For the Quarere-sig I linked up with Angele Nobre from the Lisbon business school. It seems that Lilia already pointed me out to her last week, but the interest in this project is certainly coming from both sides.
All in all an exciting day, and plenty of stuff to think about. Lucky for me the return journey to Reading tonight took me more than 3 hours, which provided me with ample time to do just that.
My first impressions of KM in Europe 2002
Some quotes that sparked my attention (I’ll expand on it after my return)
Dr. Panagiotis Damaskopoulos of Insead talked about the causal links between knowledge and innovation.
His proposition is that the basic unity of the economy is no longer the company, but the network it resides in.
Organisational capital then is the (quality of) relationships within the company and the relationships with the outside world.
Another question he put forward is, what are we moving towards, a knowledge driven economy (already happening) or a knowledge based society. If the latter is the case, would a company then not be an unlikely place to be the focal point of knowledge processes?
Mr. Huub Rutten, who gave an online presentation on Monday on Knowledgeboard, also spoke during the workshop of Cezanne Software concerning the question how to motivate and retain knowledge workers.
From his background in linguistics he came up with the notion that listening is a form of speaking to yourself. As you hear the other speak you are actually attaching strings of what you hear to what you already know. This he uses for instance in developing comparative document searches to provide knowledge workers with ‘intelligent’ newsfeeds.
If I apply this picture to my notetaking, and I think it’s a correct picture as I always write down not only what I hear but also my associations, then it’s no wonder that my first impressions here, are what they are: They all connect to my earlier statements on the organisation as a cluster of relationships, whose quality is determined by the existence and extent of mutual trust.
Oh yeah, by the way: David Gurteen thought that I looked actually younger in reality than in the picture on the left hand side. Even though the picture was taken 4 years ago. Might be weightloss, might be because I feel happier now than then, or it might be just because I had a haircut last week. ;)
Managers don't realise they're rolemodels
In the latest issue of Management Team, a Dutch magazine, I found a short interview with Muel Kaptein, professor of management studies at the Erasmus University, and also consultant with KPMG. He recently wrote a book called "the sincere manager" in Dutch (The Balanced Company: A Theory of Corporate Integrity in English), in which he explores the importance of managers that lead by example.
He points out that most employees tend to copy the behaviour of their bosses, where ethics in the workplace is concerned. Therefore organisational change should target the managers first, as the employees will follow their lead. This in stead of handing out a set of new rules to your employees and simply expecting to follow them.
He also stresses the importance of explicitly formulated corporate ethics and values. His research shows 27% of employees does not honor agreements, because the boss doesn't either. The same goes for abuse of corporate facilities (25%), bullying (25%), damaging private activities (25%), internal fraud (23%), and leaking confidential information (21%).
The problem? Businesses see ethics as something instrumental, and not related to leadership, vision and commitment. However, if a company wants to steer behaviour they will have to acknowledge the enormous influence of the personal dimension.
Well, that leads us right back on track on what I've put forward regarding trust, and what Chris Macrae hammers on with transparancy at valuetrue.com
A course on Blogging?
Xi:blue offers a course on Essential Web Journaling, which seems to entail not much more than learning to install and use Userland's Radio. And that for about 500 euro's.
I don't know, I think I've learned more this last week by reading the Blogger FAQ, and looking how other blogs were made, than I could learn in these two days Xi:blue is offering. But hey, maybe it would make blogging look like a respectable activity to my boss?
KM Europe 2002, part II
Here's my rough schedule for the KM Europe 2002 convention, at "Ally Pally", or Alexandra Palace, London from Nov. 13th-15th:
Wednesday, November 13th
Thursday, November 14th
Friday, November 15th
Feel free to e-mail me if you would like to meet up, or give me a call at 0031-629018150.
I will be blogging my impressions daily from London, so if you're not attending in person, read my subjective account here.
Business' Prime Directive: Awareness and explicit choice?
Sometimes different observations lead to the same conclusion. Or maybe it's just that these observations are made because they fit an intuitive conclusion that was already brewing somewhere in the recesses of my mind, where there always seems to be a lot of brewing going on.
KM in Europe 2002
Starting a week from now on Wednesday Nov. 13th, the Knowledge Management in Europe 2002 Congress will take place in Alexandra Palace in London.
I will be attending for the full three days. To me it is primarily an opportunity to meet with the people I have been discussing KM with at KnowledgeBoard since last May. I like the way the European KM forum, through KnowledgeBoard and face to face meetings in e.g. workshops, creates a mix of both online and face to face platforms of interaction. All the ingredients of this mix work to enhance eachother.
For those of you who might be interested in meeting me in London next week, don't hesitate to drop a line to the e-mail address on the left. On Nov. 13th, 14th and 15th I'll be there.
Just moved in, and moving out again?
I started this blog only a day ago, and already I am thinking about moving. Not to quit blogging. As yet, the responses of others have been positive, and it is way too early to draw any conclusions on this experiment my blog is.
No, it's the service of blogger that's the point. Not that I think I have much ground to complain, as this is of course a free service I'm using. But what I really miss already is the possibility of readers giving comments. Today I found myself pasting an e-mail exchange into Blogger. E-mails that would have been comments if they could have been. So that's a drawback. Second I think servertimes are too high. So now I'm on the lookout for a new place to host my blog.
Thursday I'll have lunch with someone who has more experience with blogging, than me. Not that it is very difficult to match my experience :) But I trust her to be a good source of information.
I could host my blog myself, as serverspace would not be an issue, but that still leaves me with the choice of tools. As this is an experiment I'm not eager to spend money. But probably dishing out 40 euro's or something might buy me something halfway decent to give this experiment an actual chance of being a succes.
On the role of trust in knowledge management
My first Blog-entry
In recent weeks I have come across several blogs with professional aims. Now I'm trying my hand at blogging myself.
This even though I don't really know if this is added value for me or not.
During the last couple of days I discussed blogs with David Gurteen, Lilia Efimova and Sebastien Paquet, who all have their own blogs.
I asked them why they blog, and what it brings them. It turns out I have been blogging for years myself. Just not on the web!
In a post to knowledgeboard.com I describe how I've kept a diary for most of my life, have been taking notes during conversations and meetings for 14 years, and have been jotting down notes, phrases and singular thoughts. Now I will try and do the same on-line
My blog will focus mainly on Knowledge Management (KM), but don't feel surprised if other stuff comes up as well.
I have named my blog inTERdependent thoughts. Untill now my notetaking was purely a personal endeavour, to which others were not privy. These were independent thoughts. By publishing them here I entwine them with thoughts of others, and they thus become interdependent. The "ter" in italic marks the transition. The first interdependent thought in action is this blog. Thanks to the exchange with David and Lilia it has come into existence.
Who am I? Well, for starters have a look at my profile over on KnowledgeBoard.com.
Or simply take a look a the picture below, and wait for whatever will be published here in the future to form your own opinion.