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Thriving in the Virtual Workplace

One of my most popular learning programs is a series of four webinars entitled, “Thriving in the Virtual Workplace.” It actually started out as a three day training program for OPM and, over the past few years, has since gone many iterations and updates resulting in four 90-minutes webinars:

  • Creating a Remote Work Culture sets the foundation for the program by helping individuals and teams establish “Rules of Engagement” to work better remotely.
  • Making Remote Work looks specifically at what research says about working remotely and gives you insights into your work habits and how you can be more productive in a remote environment.
  • Building the Virtual Team focuses on how to use technology to maintain collaboration, camaraderie, and productivity as more teammates work remotely more often.
  • Virtual Team Management closes the circle on “Rules of Engagement” and introduces Results Based Management.

As the program evolved over the years, I’ve incorporated lots of research and other great resources, but was much too lax on building a single resources page for it. So this post is to rectify that. What follows is an assuredly incomplete and rather scattershot list of some of the resources that went into the design of the program, organized by which webinar they most closely track to:
Creating a Remote Work Culture

Making Remote Work

Building the Virtual Team

Virtual Team Management

Well, there is the (spotty) list thus far. I will update this post as I discover (or remember) other resources. If you have any suggestions for things that should be added to the list, please leave me a comment!

Posted in: Adapting, Business, Internet

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HowMyDoin? – The Future of Feedback

Do you really know how you are doing?
How to you gather honest feedback on a regular basis to be sure you are getting better that the things that matter to you?
Those are the answers that we are trying to answer, with the new web application we are developing, HowMyDoin:

I have the great pleasure of be one of the co-founders of HowMyDoin. All three of the founders work in organizational development and performance improvement. We all wanted to find something better than standard 360-degree reviews to help people get feedback. We cam together to create a better, simpler, and continuous solution.
HowMyDoin solves the most challenging aspects of giving and receiving feedback. It’s free, flexible, and it allows for continuous, real-time feedback. You can customize HowMyDoin to get the specific feedback that is most valuable to you. And you own all your results—you can take your feedback with you throughout your life. Every free HowMyDoin account includes a standard “good person” survey and any one of the topical surveys (such as “Manager” or “Writer”) from our catalog. And for the people giving feedback, HowMyDoin makes it quick and convenient to give constructive feedback from any PC or mobile device.
HowMyDoin is currently under development. And to help raise funds to get version 1.0 built, we have a KickStarter campaign underway. Please click the logo below to go to our Kickstarter page and support us any way you can:
We greatly appreciate any support you can throw our way! As we continue to develop the application and prepare to launch the beta version, I be sure to post all the latest info.

Posted in: Adapting, Business, Internet

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An Inmagic Chat About Knowledge Ecosystems

Inmagic PrestoA week or so ago, I was invited to chat with the folks at Inmagic about the current and future state of knowledge management and its relationship to social media.  They recorded the conversation for a podcast. I will leave it to their fine prose to explain the call (only adding that I was a biologist once – B.S in Biology from Purdue University – and I still don’t like the sound of my own voice ;o).
After you listen to the podcast, I would love to hear your thoughts on the conversation and whether you have encountered any resistance to social media from knowledge management practitioners.

Posted in: Adapting, Business, Internet, Learning

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Word Cloud Analysis of Obama’s Inaugural Speech

Marshall Kirkpatrick has put together a very interesting page that does a word cloud analysis of the inaugural speeches of Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, and others. It is great food for thought to consider the different goals of the speakers and the issues at the time.

Obama\'s Inaugural Speech Word Cloud Analysis

You might also want to check out ReadWriteWeb’s 7 Online Things To Do To Help Obama Restore America blog post.

Posted in: Adapting, Society

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Perry Belcher’s Seven Secrets of Social Media

(Thanks to Mike Fruchter‘s post on Louis Gray’s blog for pointing out this video)
Perry Belcher provides a very entertaining video on the etiquette of social media.  Though he styles it toward individuals, the ideas are just as applicable to organizations and brands.  Watch the whole video, but here is his list of seven secrets:

  1. Be remarkable
  2. Be fun
  3. Be helpful
  4. Be supportive
  5. Be controversial
  6. Be resourceful
  7. Don’t be an asshole (i.e, don’t be a flogger)

If you like that one, you might also want to watch his How to Make Money with Social Media.  It does not go into any monetization details, but it expands the etiquette nicely into a pattern of good marketing behavior on the social Web.

Posted in: Adapting, Business, Internet, Society

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Change Management Beta Testers Wanted

Stages of ChangeAnyone out there in organizations that are going through a bit of change these days? Oh – right. Anyone out there not dealing with change?
For those of you managing a team going through change, or just coping with change yourself, I invite you to try out our new, free online Progressing Through Change application. It will be especially interesting for all of you in the organizational development field. It focuses on the human impact of change and provides strategies to help yourself (or your team members) progress successfully through changes at work.
The application has you complete a brief questionnaire and then shows you how you seem to be progressing through the four stages of change (Denial, Opposition, Exploration, Engagement). It provides information on each of the four stages and strategies for progressing through that stage. You are also encouraged to create a personal “elevator speech” about your role in the change and to draft questions to ask your manager about the change.
For the next week or so, the application includes a “feedback” box at the bottom of the page. I would greatly appreciate you taking the time to put it through it paces and tell us what you think.
Thanks!

Posted in: Adapting, Business

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KM vs. Social Media: Beware the Warmongers

In a stark example of ageist bigotry parading as insight, Venkatesh Rao is trying to instigate a war that does not, and need not, exist.  He believes that knowledge management (KM) advocates and social media (SM) advocates are at odds with each other.  His divisive post imagines a war between KM and SM.  Evidently, after encountering resistance to his polarized view of SM, he authored the dense tirade as a call to a war that does not exist.  His post brings to mind William Randolph Hearst’s quote, “You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.” (Although that is history and Rao dismisses the importance of such institutional knowledge.  He’s doomed to repeat a great deal of history, I suppose.)
I see no reason why we should respond to Rao’s call to war.  His evidence in support of war are little more than petulant responses to people’s inevitable resistance to change.  He supports his opinions with fallacy in an attempt to create generational conflict.  My personal favorite: “…RSS and Mash-ups are culturally Gen X ideas…” I wonder how Dave Winer, the primary inventor/advocate of RSS, would feel about that statement since he falls solidly in the Boomer generation that Rao seems to disdain.  Statements like “The Boomers don’t really get or like engineering and organizational complexity,” beg a cultural flame-war.  But I will resist.  Instead, let me make a case for KM and SM peace.
A few bad apples don’t spoil the whole bunch. All change champions encounter resistance – sad fact of the human condition.  And many entrenched incumbents can be especially resistant to the status quo.  But we paint with too broad a brush if we let a handful of stubborn dinosaurs define an entire group of people.  I have been in KM for over a decade and have been active in SM since the term was coined.  And amongst the advocates of both, I see many more examples of integration than I do of segregation.
Social media actualizes the idealism of KM. In the workshops I deliver on Enterprise 2.0, I often refer to it as “KM 1.53”  This alludes to the fact that the goals of E2.0 are nearly identical to the goals of KM.  E2.0 (SM in the workplace) delivers the platforms and tools necessary to reach the KM ideals we have sought for years.  While the inherent ungoverned disorder of social media seems radical to some KM administrators, most KM advocates welcome these tools in their quest to free information and improve performance.
Most KM practitioners recognize the value of SM.  I have presented keynotes and workshops on SM at KM Australia and KM Asia.  At both, I have found many more eager adopters than resistant dinosaurs.  Based on my experience, most KM practitioners are excited about SM tools and platforms and are looking for ways to incorporate them into the current KM strategies as soon as possible.  As for the less structured aspect of SM, the response to my “Abandon Your Content Management System – KM in the age of GooTube” presentation at KM Australia was very positive.
Rao ended his post with his prediction of how the war will end.  Please read it yourself, but I would summarize it as: the old resistant people will die and the young righteous people will prevail.  I will close with my prediction of how the peace will continue:  Our technology and society will continue to evolve; people will continue to be resistant to (but finally adapt to) change; youth will continue to disdain their elders until they become tempered by wisdom; and the opportunities to learn and prosper will continue to grow for those wise enough to do so.

Posted in: Adapting, Business, Learning

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From Knowledge Management to Knowledge Ecosystem

This post is based on the keynote I delivered at Knowledge Management Australia this summer (I know – but better late than never).  I entitled the talk “Abandon Your Content Management: KM in the Age of GooTube”. When I developed it I was under the questionable influence of two books: Clay Sirky’s Here Comes Everybody and David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous.  But here I want to share the main premise of the talk: that we should focus less on managing our information and focus more on capturing it and then making it discoverable.
(A note before we begin.  I will be using the terms “information management” and “content management” in place of what many people would refer to as “knowledge management.”  I define knowledge as “information in action” – and that action can only take place in the human mind.  Since I’m not fond of the idea of mind management, I believe “information” is actually what we are managing, not knowledge.)
Most traditional information management or content management systems and programs follow a highly centralized model:

Traditional CMS Model

Think about those three verbs: Gather, Organize, Publish.  Those are the verbs of centralization and governance.  It implies one system (or group) is responsible for information management.  And often the majority of the resources within that system are devoted to “Organize” – organizing (and controlling) the information in the system.  In an age when search makes unorganized information easily discoverable, this is probably a waste of resources.
The focus on organizing grew out of natural human reaction to trying to understand an increasingly complex environment.  There was so much information available that we had to develop ways of organizing it in order to cope.  Over time, this resulted in what David Weinberger refers to as the “three orders of order”:

The three orders of order

  1. Organizing the objects themselves based on shared traits. This does have some basis in logic and is exemplified by placing flora and fauna into related Kingdom, Phylum, Class, etc. or in organizing a department store into clothing items, kitchen items, electronic items, etc.  But even this has its limitations.  Does an under-kitchen-counter TV go in the kitchen department or the electronic department?  This order of order is based on organizing the physical objects themselves.
  2. Organizing “pointers” that represent the actual objects based on some arbitrary system. This order of order evolved to address the sheer volume of objects that needed to be discoverable.  We could create new smaller objects that “point” to the real object and then organize those “meta-objects”.  The arbitrary way these meta-objects were organized (think alphabetization or the Dewey Decimal system) often removed any “natural relations” they might have.  And again, their use and discoverability were limited by the fact that they were still physical objects.
  3. Digitizing the objects (or meta-objects) allows us to return to the “natural state of chaos”. This new order of order reconsiders the reason we organized objects in light of our new digital world. The core driver of our past organization was to make objects easily (and hopefully logically) discoverable.  But in the digitized world, we can discover without the need for organization.  Search is the key that unlocks the chaos of information.  So, Weinberger’s (arguable) proposal is this: In a digital world power by full search, we no longer need to order (organize) our information to be able to find and use it.

If Weinberger is correct and we can return to chaos comfortably, it brings us to a more natural state of knowledge capture and discovery.  To illustrate this, let’s first consider a (grossly simplified) picture of an ecosystem:

Ecosystem cycle graphic

Within ecosystems, resources (food, energy) are circulated within the environment from producers to consumers and then (again, grossly simplified) back around to producers again.  If we apply this ecosystems model to our old information management model, we will see “Organize” drop out entirely, “Gather” become “Capture” and “Publish” become “Discover.”

Think about these new verbs, Capture and Discover.  These are not centrally controlled and they abhor governance.  Given an open system, anyone can capture information as they create it (or discover it) and then everyone can discover all that has been captured (via search – as well as links, recommendations, etc.).  And if the ecosystem (i.e., information management system) is designed properly, every act of discovery is automatically an act of capture that returns value to the ecosystem.  Let’s consider the ideal application of the two verbs in more detail:
Capture. All the content (information) in our knowledge ecosystem is generated by people (people who need people – sorry…).  We should design our work applications and procedures to capture everything that people produce as they work.  There should be no separation between the tools of production and the tools of information capture.  And, of course, those tools should have discovery built into them.  Imagine if every time information of value to the ecosystem was generated – whether in a spreadsheet, database, e-mail, conference call, IM or Tweet – it was immediately captured, indexed and discoverable through search, cross-linking, and extensions.  People working in that that ecosystem would thrive.
Discover. First and foremost, our information ecosystem must have comprehensive search.  In addition, it should incorporate every tool or process for improving discoverability such as tagging, syndication, linking, the “database of intentions“, and recommendations.  Moreover the system must recognize that the information is being captured and discovered by people (people who need people – damn! sorry…).  As we move from the information age into the connected age and the importance of social networks increases, the system must support the socialization of information.  Our ideas and information are satellites orbiting us just as the people in our social graph do.  The ecosystem must recognize that information and the people who created or discovered it should be inseparable.  We gain far greater value from social information than orphan information.
So how does one go about building a knowledge ecosystem? What are the basic requirements of a system to support the continuous cycle of capture and discover? That’s what the buzzword d’jour, “Enterprise 2.0” (aka “Knowledge Management 1.53”) is all about.  By applying the social ideals and platforms sweeping the Web to the enterprise, we can approach (carefully) a knowledge ecosystem.  One of the best (though techno-centric) models to capture the elements needed within a knowledge ecosystem is the FLATNESSES checklist created by Dion Hinchcliffe (based on the original SLATES checklist created by Andrew McAfee):

Hinchcliffe's FLATNESSES checklist

I encourage you to review it and the other “Enterprise 2.0” information out there.  Applying those ideas can help you begin to shift from knowledge management to knowledge ecosystem.

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Is Guttenberg Making Us Stoopid? – What Books are Doing to Our Minds & Spirit

(England, July 2, 1508) – In the latest edition of the Ye Atlantic Monthly, Nicholas of Carr despairs over the toll that books and reading are taking upon the minds and spirit of man.  A noted jongleur and philosopher, Nicholas attests that he and many members of the jongleur guild are losing their ability to sing epic poems from memory.  He plainly believes books are the cause.  “It is as if these instruments are agents of Lucifer trying to steal away God’s gift of memory”, he laments in the article.  And the danger may be more than the loss of the jongleur gift.  While it seems ludicrous, Nicholas foresees a future in which even peasants have learned to read books.  People from every class would lose the ability to remember even the simplest parable or psalm as they rely on the insidious books to remember it for them.  While admitting that relying on books would provide him more epics and ideas to share with his audience, Nicholas worries that doing so will weaken his mind and spirit.  “To rely on the crutch of a book when I sing a poem cheats my audience and demoralizes me,” declares Nicholas of Carr.
OK, unless you are an Atlantic Monthly reader, you are probably thinking that this is a very strange way to start a post.  If you would like to better understand my lame attempt at parody, please read this:


Is Google Making us Stupid?

Nicholas Carr’s love/hate relationship with technology have given us very interesting food for thought such as Does IT Matter?, The Amorality of Web 2.0, and his recent, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google.  All his works are thought provoking and often challenge ideological extremism and divisiveness that tends to echo rampantly in the blogosphere.

I will leave the critical diatribe to others (see Jay Cross’s petulance).  This is a blog on learning and performance improvement.  So, in that regard, let me share the ideas that struck me as I read the article:
Acquired ADD – Carr laments how he and colleagues can’t read lengthy articles any longer.  They have been conditioned by the Web (so he contends) to do drive-by reading (my term d’art), only gathering the information they need and then moving on.  Yea, so?  Let’s face it, we are moving into an attention economy.  My time is valuable, I need to get what I need to perform and move on quickly if I want to remain competitive.  And when I do compete well enough to win some leisure time, I will still “scuba dive in the sea of words” (Carr’s reference to deeply reading a whole book).  But that book better be engaging (which is rare in non-fiction) or I’ll quickly find another book that is.  Does this mean we are worse readers, or just demanding better quality reading?
It’s the Economy Stupid – Like it or not, we all have to compete in this dynamic economy.  That means using the best tools available to innovate, solve problems, and out produce your competitors.  Carr shares that pathologist Bruce Friedman’s feels his thinking has taken on a “staccato” quality – “scanning short passages of text from many sources online.”  So?  If the only downside is you can’t plod through War and Peace any longer and the upside is you perform more efficiently, I’m OK with that.
The Brain : Mind Barrier – Carr’s most dark and insidious concern throughout the article is that we are flirting with a future where machines have surpassed the human brain.  He even claims that the Google gang stated that “we’d be better off” if are brains were replaced by an artificial intelligence (I’m guessing they stated “supplemented” instead of “replaced”).  Indeed, Carr closes with his fears of a 2001: A Space Odyssey world where “people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine.”  Well, that makes for a nice, spooky movie, but it is fiction.  To make that leap, we would have to agree that the brain and the mind are one.  We would have to have concluded that self-awareness, reasoning, cognizance, and intelligence are all just a by-product of an efficiently wired brain.  I don’t believe that conclusion is already settled and universal.  The Web may become an ancillary brain for us, but it can never replace the human mind.
Maslow's Needs PyramidMaslow on Google – If we drop the economic argument (after all the market may not always know what is best for us) of performance improvement, how does Carr’s claim impact us as individuals?  Will our collective inability to finish lengthy tomes upset our personal success?  If it does turn out that a “staccato intellect” results in me better meeting my needs, it is well worth it.  To contemplate this, let’s revisit Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as influenced by the Web:

  • Physiological Needs (Breathing, Drinking, Eating, Excretion) – Other than the fact that the eventual demise of newspapers and magazines will alter my excretion behaviors, I do not believe the Web impacts us at this level.
  • Safety Needs (Personal Security, Financial Security, Health and Well-Being) – Even if the Web has given me ADD, it has provided me with a host of tools and information to find a better home, clothing, invest more wisely, and learn how to take better care of my health.
  • Social Needs (Friendship, Family, Sex) – Others could argue finer points, but overall I would say the Web has proven to be a wonderful platform to help meet these needs.  It helps us find and stay in touch with friends, find spouses and communicate with the families we create with them, and find opportunities to have sex (with others or alone ;).
  • Esteem Needs (Self-Esteem, Confidence, Achievement, Respect for/of Others) – Now on this need, the Web’s influence becomes arguable.  The Web, like any tool or communication platform, can be used for good and bad.  Via the Web I can build great esteem, or have my esteem destroyed by others.  I’m going to call this one a draw now, but as we grow into the new mores of radical transparency and attention trust, the good will soon outweigh the bad.
  • Self-Actualization Needs (Morality, Creativity, Spontaneity, Problem Solving) – And finally, we reach the level most directly addressed by Carr’s concerns.  This is our need to become the best we are capable of becoming.  Learning, creating, reading, curiosity are all the traits that Carr worries the Web might be undermining.  Again, I will argue that the good outweighs the bad.  Through “drive-by learning” I can still gather more ideas that feed my morality, creativity, and problem solving abilities.  Inevitably, I will still be forced to more deeply contemplate those ideas as I weave them into my world view.  And often the Web (or people on the Web) will be what challenges me to contemplate them more deeply.

Learning 2.0 – And finally onto what this blog is supposed to be considering: How do people learn differently in this new, Web-driven era?  Carr’s article included many examples of how new technologies (such as the mechanical clock) have literally changed the way we think and behave.  Carr’s basic concern is the Web has ruined our ability to read deeply which (he references to the work of Maryanne Wolf) will ruin are ability to think deeply.  (Which begs the question: Can illiterate people think deeply?)  There is certainly no research to support that assertion, yet.  But there is no doubt that the Web is changing the way we work and learn.  So, the important question for us in learning is: How does our pedagogy have to change to support this new way of working and learning?  Even if this new era of acquired ADD does not alter our brain function or our ability for higher-level thought, it is a death knell for lengthy (boring) learning – whether it be in a classroom or online.  We need to move from structured learning programs to flexible, nimble chunks of instruction along the lines of what used to be called “electronic performance support systems” (and is now just called “Google”).  This does not mean the extinction of complex learning programs, but those programs’ design and delivery need to radically change.  They must rely on more self-directed, mentor-monitored learning that is tightly integrated with daily job performance to meet the learning and development objectives.
So ends my Nicholas Carr inspired prattle.  If you made it this far, I congratulate you!  Your Web-induced ADD is not as advanced as Bruce Friedman’s, who is quoted in Carr’s article:

“I can’t read War and Peace anymore.  I’ve lost the ability to do that.  Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb.  I skim it.”

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