We can and should make tacit knowledge explicit with collaboration technologies

Cross posted from scriptogr.am

KM Australia

Today, I’m part of a panel debate at KM Australia. I have 3-4 minutes to present my argument that we can and should make tacit knowledge explicit with collaboration technologies.

I’ll be using two images to explain my argument, both created by Dave Gray as part of his Connected Company series.

The problem of scale

The problem of scale

Think at the level of the street

Think at the level of the street

So, what’s the story behind picking these diagrams to make my argument?

More later…

Image credit: Dave Gray CC-BY


Shifting from IT to situated technology in healthcare

Tomorrow, there will be roughly 1000 preventable healthcare deaths in the US and Europe combined. And it’ll happen in modern hospitals staffed by some of the best and equipped with the latest…

…We have to stop thinking IT as in “information technology”, it’s not enough just to handle the information – like the [Electronic Health Record]. It’s the combined and seamless flow of patients, information and work that offers the only solution – and for that we need “flow technology”, in short healthcare needs FT. Information is merely a natural ingredient in the flows and not vice versa.

This is a real problem, but simply moving from transactional IT systems to what Sig calls “Flow Technology” is only part of the solution in healthcare. How information systems are situated into healthcare is critical – after all healthcare is about dealing with people, not sitting in front of computers.

We’ve seen examples in community services, such as the LIFE Programme in the UK where social workers were spending most of their time on paperwork. Research into emergency department design has also highlighted the importance of communication to dealing with violent and disruptive patients.

I’m with Sig that the right flow-based information systems can help, but never in isolation to the whole service design.

Laurence Lock Lee asks, is there something missing from the business analysts’ toolkit?

I did walk through our ‘bottom up’ method of stakeholder engagement using value network analysis techniques. My point wasn’t so much that we should abandon ‘Top Down’ analysis, but that we should be open to injecting some ‘bottom up’ analysis to ensure ourselves that we are getting a more holistic picture of the business.

I agree with Laurie – its top down and bottom up. Its also about design thinking and the techniques he talks about can add to building a better understanding of complex social contexts (organisational or otherwise) that we might otherwise over rely on intuition for in the design process.

Intranet Trends in Australia: 2012 is no time to stand still

I’ve never been much of a futurist, which you might find odd since I spend a lot of time talking about new fangled ideas like ‘social business’ and ‘government 2.0’. From my perspective, none of this is futuristic – it is happening right here, right now if you look around. Reflecting on this week’s Intranets2012 conference and Dion Hinchcliffe’s visit to Australia, I thought it might be worthwhile identifying some of the ideas and trends that I see impacting intranets right now and into the immediate future.

Cross posted from the Headshift Asia Pacific blog. I talk about three points in more detail: Social intranets, mobile and the role of design thinking.

Designing Workplaces like Cities


If the workplace is the micro environment, then is the city the macro?

Just bookmarking three great posts that look at the relationship between understanding the complexity of one type of social system – our urban environment – and social business design.

Also recommended, as an adjuct to these posts is the book, Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. Dave Gray provides a summary of a key point in his The Connected Company post:

we don’t try to control cities, but we can manage them well. And if we start to look at companies as complex systems instead of machines, we can start to design and manage them for productivity instead of continuously hovering on the edge of collapse.

Cities aren’t just complex and difficult to control. They are also more productive than their corporate counterparts. In fact, the rules governing city productivity stand in stark contrast to the ominous “3/2 rule” that applies to companies. As companies add people, productivity shrinks. But as cities add people, productivity actually grows.


Image credit: A Balloon View of London (1851), Bloomsbury BY-NC-SA

Misconceptions about social software and knowledge workers

In the early days of Enterprise 2.0 (mid-2000s) enterprise social software was good at toolkit-style functionality. Blogs and wikis gave people useful frameworks and reference materials for doing bespoke tasks. But there wasn’t much functionality for businesses that run a lot of routinized process.

These early tools appealed to high-end consultancies, law firms, PR agencies, and tech startups, which lean towards more bespoke activities. I suspect that’s where people first got the idea that enterprise social software was for “knowledge workers.”

But social software has changed, and changed fast. In the past year, business has started to embrace social software for more routinized processes as well.

Michael Idinopulos highlights an important misconception that enterprise social software is only useful for certain industries or white collar professionals. I agree also that associating these technologies tightly with the concept of the knowledge worker also adds confusion (for the record, I’ve never agreed that Enterprise 2.0 was the evolution of KM).

I’ve certainly come across a number of examples in my own work this year that break that traditional view of where and how we apply these technologies. But, I also think we have barely scratched the surface.

I draw encouragement from the non-profit sector where we can more easily see evidence of service (re)design and social innovation at work. Examples such as the LIFE Programme and Patchwork show there is potential for a much richer dynamic that can impact the fundamentals of how we use IT to support people inside critical or complex business processes when they are working at scale. In fact, this goes beyond Idinopulos’ call to integrate the common enterprise social software patterns of activity stream and wikis – the focus is really about humanising IT systems.

Just as they are emerging in the non-profit sector, there are opportunities for the profit making enterprise to do the same in their respective domains. But they will only get there if we address the underlying misconceptions about social software and narrowing the use case to supporting the classic, office-based knowledge worker.

How to show leadership with intranets? Continuous improvement and simple ideas


The other day I blogged about 3 Intranet Truths.

Looking at my first Intranet Truth (“No two intranets are the same. If they are, you are doing something wrong – stop benchmarking and start leading”) its worth reflecting on the first two themes from Step Two Design’s Intranet Innovations 2011 awards:

  • A culture of continuous improvement; and
  • Innovations that are based on very simple ideas

One of the examples they share that embodies these themes is computer animation house, Framestore:

The intranet team created a tool to project manage the visual effects they produce for movies such as the Harry Potter series. Built in-house and displaying data from a third party system, the company’s artists can access tabbed views of complex data about every scene and shot.

Framestore’s success isn’t based on nice to have features or “best practices” blindly copied from others, but by designing an intranet solution specifically for their users. If you want to replicate their success, show leadership by focusing on learning from their method not their design.

You will also see this same mindset in the way Headshift | Dachis Group approaches our projects, including examples such as Reynolds Porter Chamberlain.