The Goldilocks Effect
We've watched the evolution of communications technology over the last 15 years, and have slowly been dragged into the world of mobile communications, smart phones, texting and SMS. The value is certainly
there, and we'd have a hard time running Knowledge Street without the help of Skype. But it's also made us faintly uncomfortable, with a nagging sense that something is being lost in the mix. MIT
professor Sherry Turkle has nailed this beautifully, in a recent New York Times article, and in a new book: Alone Together: Why We Expect
More from Technology and Less From Each Other.
She makes the point that our growing dependence on mobile connections is changing not just what we do, but the kind of people that we are. It may
seem empowering, since even when we're in a group meeting, we're still in control of where we focus our attention. We choose. But even though we feel constantly connected, we're actually keeping each
other at a distance. Not too close, not too far: the Goldilocks effect. We may think all these little snippets add up to something meaningful, but they really don't. When we ramp up the volume of digital
communications, we expect faster answers. So we ask simpler questions. We're dumbing down the richness of conversation, and the most troubling thing is that we're getting used to it.
We seem drawn to technologies that simulate companionship (think Siri) rather than to companionship itself. Seen from this
perspective, it feels like an episode of The Twilight Zone quality. Is it happening to you?
Knowledge Management Explained
If you wanted to catch up on what's new in Knowledge Management, you might check this recent article at KM World. It does a pretty good job wrapping up the last 20 or so years of KM thought in about 4,000 words. If you're new to KM, you might find it a fascinating summary. If you're a seasoned practitioner, it might leave you scratching your head and wondering why so little has changed. There's not much here that you wouldn't have found in a similar article written in 1995.
It covers the codification of explicit knowledge, and the connection of people as it relates to tacit knowledge. It touches on the development and promulgation of Lessons Learned databases,
expert locator systems and Communities of Practice. There's a suggested life cycle for KM programs, which begins with some enabling technology and stresses the importance of culture and human
interaction. It makes a persuasive case for KM, in fact, and only fails to address the question of why such a case still needs to be made. That is, why haven't more organizations gotten on board, when KM
makes such fundamental sense?
It closes with what may be a bit of good news, at least. By graphing the number of business articles that include management fads in their title, the author shows
that most enthusiasms peak rapidly, and fade away just as fast. Quality Circles, TQM and Business Process Reengineering have very similar graphs, but the graph for Knowledge Management is still trending
upward. Maybe it's here to stay.
What's So Funny About Innovation?
You might not think business innovators could learn much from stand-up comics, but that's the position taken by this piece at Method.com. (Method is a global design and branding firm with offices in San Francisco, New York and London.) It suggests that studying how comics work can offer valuable lessons for innovation.
A key starting point in both areas is to know your audience, but not let them make decisions for you. That is, you can't cede creative control to focus groups, and you can't ask the audience what
joke they want to hear next. Comics have to be a step ahead of the audience, but not so far ahead that they're confusing. (In one of the first Robin Williams HBO specials, a joke fell flat. After a beat
he said, "Oh no... I've gone too far, too fast, too early." Like throwing a switch, he had the audience back at his command. Comics also understand that data doesn't replace insight. Apple is a
much-admired innovator because it somehow knows what we want, before we know it ourselves.
The point is that both innovation and comedy involve loops of creation, feedback and experimentation.
Research can help improve understanding, but in the wrong hands it all but assures "the death of originality."
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
That's a pretty familiar old saw, but you may also recognize it as a slogan for Guinness draft stout (referring to the length of time it takes to pour a pint correctly). We're using it as the title for
this article in order to point you to an interesting paper on Knowledge Management at the company that produces that noble brew.
The Guinness Archive in Dublin holds thousands and thousands of paper files, advertising items and employee records dating back to the 1880s. Guinness was the largest employer in Dublin for over 100 years, and this archive provides a unique view of Irish history, particularly because so many social records were destroyed during the Irish Civil War.
The archive team is in the process of creating a digital index to the material, and a key focus has been on historic advertising in various media. Their goal is to make the most interesting
content available globally to Guinness marketing teams, as well as to economic and brewing historians, family researchers and anyone with an interest in the company and brand. Inside users can also
review information on intellectual property, usage rights management, process efficiency and best practices.
It's just further proof that "Guinness is good for you."
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