Making Knowledge Work

March 3, 2013

LIKE 43 – Coaching without the Why

Filed under: Communication, LIKE — virginiahenry @ 3:27 pm

It’s been my experience that only the most expert of practitioners can explain the basics of their discipline in simple terms.
Where those who are less-than-expert blather and quote theory at you, the expert converses with you, sharing their personal knowledge in accessible language.

Karen Drury  is an expert Executive Coach, and at last week’s LIKE she provided us with an impressive and accessible introduction to Coaching.

LISTENING

Karen started by getting us to listen to her explanation of four levels of listening we engage in:

Cosmetic Listening: Familiar territory for nearly all of us!  The kind of listening that engages your face and body (so the speakers feels you might be listening) while leaving the mind free to roam from shopping lists to planning the next hour or the next holiday.
Engaged Listening: During which you actually listen, but with maybe half an ear – whilst preparing what you’re going to say when the speaker draws breath.

Active Listening: These conversations progress quite slowly, because the listener is really listening and, when they speak, asks relevant questions – rather than making statements or offering unsolicited advice.

Deep Listening:  The intense level of focused listening that professional Coaches are capable of.  This deep level of listening entails noticing not just what is said but the way it is expressed, the accompanying non-verbal signals and the thoughts behind the words.
it’s skilled and difficult work, because the Coach is not simply a sounding-board, but a trusted guide – helping the person they’re coaching to investigate issues, examine options, decide on courses of action and find the resolution to act on those decisions.

So the questions asked by a Coach must be carefully chosen and worded.  Karen told us it was important to ask open questions (those which begin, for example, with ‘What’ or ‘How’), and very important to ask only one question at a time .  And, she explained, a Coach should avoid beginning a question with “Why…..?”.  “Why” questions are likely to throw those questioned onto the defensive – implying they should justify a decision or action.

wheel_of_life

 

REFLECTIONS AND INSIGHTS

Karen then got us to examine the balance in our Life Wheels (similar to this one) where the outer rim was 10 out of 10 and the inner scores decreased to zero in the centre.

When we’d all completed our wheels, Karen pointed out that it was as much an exercise in identifying how blessed one was, as it was in noting areas for attention.  And she was right – we all had a number of high-scoring spokes near our wheel rims.  But if we’d taken any of the wheels on the road, they’d have made juddering progress, as specific spokes, such as Self-image and Recreation/Fun, dipped toward the hub.

 

 

So we paired up and, using our new awareness of active/deep listening, discussed with each other what could be done about these neglected areas of our lives.

As Karen had predicted, being listened to in such a focused way was enough for some of us to diagnose the problem, examine optional actions and come to a resolution – while the listener barely uttered a word.

It’s amazing what you can get done in the hour before dinner.  Especially with the help of an empathic ear and an expert guide.

DSCN1461

Before we settled to dinner and further discussion Karen gave us lots of tips on free online resources to follow up on – but those notes are lost………I’m still working on the “organise your note-taking” resolution!  Just don’t ask me “why is it taking you so long?” – you might undermine my resolve :-)

October 28, 2012

LIKE 39 – Archiving the Web

Filed under: Archiving, Information Management, LIKE — virginiahenry @ 3:31 pm

In a professional landscape increasingly populated by vendor cheerleaders, one-trick product ponies and garrulous ‘gurus’, it’s refreshing to spend some time with LIKE professionals.

It was great to gather at our new home for dining and learning, the upstairs room of The Castle (just by Farringdon station), and explore the monumental task of creating a web archive.

The debate was timely – a recent Economist article drew attention to the danger of cultural amnesia as contemporary record, in the form of web content, disappears in cyberspace.

Dr Peter Webster is the British Library’s Engagement and Liaison Officer for the Web Archive.  LIKE’s new dinner venue has the great luxury of a projection screen, so Peter was able to show us slides of some of the sites his team are capturing for posterity.  These included the late Robin Cook’s website, and David Cameron’s 2005 election site.

He told us about the “lost web” – sites that become victim of the disorderly disappearance of organisations and campaigns, and the “orphaned web” – sites that have served their purpose, and are abandoned.  There was a nice example of a formerly lovingly-tended site dedicated to Charles Darwin’s house, not updated since 2006 because English Heritage had taken custody of the house and, in turn, its online representation.

Since 2004 the Web Archive team have fulfilled their brief, of archiving websites of cultural and scholarly importance from the UK domain, by capturing 11,000 sites (16 terrabytes worth).  They are collaborating with other libraries, archives and collectors to get the job done, but it’s still a daunting task.  Automated domain harvesting helps, and there are collections we can all agree future historians will be glad to have: the Credit Crunch, the Jubilee, the Olympics……..    However, at this stage, predicting the exponential growth of the archive, and how easy it will be to browse is challenging to say the least.

Some questions are very hard to answer: how do you decide what is published in the UK?  The URL doesn’t necessarily give you a clue.  How do you find the owners of content to verify copyright?   What are the full implications of the non-print Legal Deposit Regulations?

 As the discussion continued, I was very glad not to have Peter Webster’s job!  But I was delighted he’s doing it, and that he and other historians and archivists are on the case.  It would be horrendous if our collective neglect caused late 20th and early 21st Century culture to become a growing black historical hole.

I say collective neglect because Peter made it clear that the content our organisations are generating now will be of importance to historians in the future.  So his message, to all of us, was plan your digital archiving strategy.  And if you want to nominate a website for inclusion in the archive – do it.

August 13, 2012

REVIEW OF LIKE IDEAS 2012 – THE BUSINESS OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Filed under: Knowledge and Information Management, Knowledge Networking, LIKE, Social Media — virginiahenry @ 6:13 pm

The Aim

In the weeks running up to LIKE’s first Conference (on 29th June), we asked people we met “how do you judge a successful professional event?”  Of all the answers – from seasoned conference-goers to occasional event attendees – three signs of success featured most prominently:

  • If I’ve learned something worthwhile
  • If I’ve met and talked to interesting people
  • If the presentations have been relevant to my work and interests

Of course there were numerous other responses, including the quality of the freebies, the lavishness of the venue, the quantity and excellence of the food and refreshments….  But most people we spoke to were more interested in the content of the overall programme than the content of their glass or their  goodie bag.

As organisers of LIKE Ideas 2012 we found that reassuring, because our aim was to run a conference that fellow professionals would find both enjoyable and worthwhile.  When you ask people to invest some money and half a day of their time, you don’t want them to feel in any way short-changed.

The Event

We knew the focus of the conference – The Business of Social Media – was relevant and timely:  Increasingly we’re using social media tools and platforms to engage with our colleagues and clients, and we’re eager to learn from others’ experience about innovations and best practice.

And, in LIKE, we’re incredibly fortunate.  Not only do we have talented, imaginative members able to plan the conference programme (and design the logo, write the literature, scout for the venues, co-ordinate the team workload etc…) – we’ve also got an enviable network of knowledge to tap into:  half of the expert practitioners we asked to speak at the conference were already LIKE members (and since the conference, most of the others have joined!).

We were very fortunate, too, in the support we were given by our sponsors.  Many of them are also LIKE members, and they wanted to help us ensure the event was consistent with LIKE’s ethos – affordable, informative, relaxed and enjoyable.

When the day came, we believed we’d fulfilled our aim.  But we knew that confirmation could only come from the people who attended LIKE Ideas 2012.

The Attendees

48 of the 100 attendees completed feedback forms.  And we were delighted to discover that for more than half of them, this was their first LIKE event.

Interestingly, social media played an important role in alerting people to the conference – more than half had learned about it on Linked In or Twitter:

How Did You Hear About LIKE Ideas 2012?

 

And, as we’d hoped, the topic was a big draw:

What Most Attracted You To The Event?

 

Their Verdict

In spite of some on-the-day disasters, such as the main ladies toilets being out of action, the venue’s WiFi dying and the projector’s cooler fan providing unwelcomed sound effects  – the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

More than half of our respondents thought the venue was, overall, a good choice.  The refreshments were rated as good by most people too.  And, when asked their opinion of the speakers, the verdict was a universal thumbs up:

How Would You Rate The Speakers?

 

Great news for the team, who’d worked hard to select and brief a range of speakers they believed would deliver excellent sessions.  And the responses to the feedback form’s last question were equally heartening:

 How Would You Rate The Conference Overall?

 

We’re grateful to those who took the time to answer our post-conference questions – and come up with so many excellent suggestions for future LIKE events and conferences.

 LIKE is run by its members for its members.  So we will, of course, be following up on those suggestions and using them to inspire our future event and conference programme.

Thank you to everyone who sponsored, supported, presented at and attended our first LIKE Ideas Conference.

An especially BIG  thank you to Emma Steenson, Sarah Wolfenden, Emma Davidson, Nova Dobb, Lena Rowland, Nicola McGinty, Jennifer Smith and Ben Summers – for turning a LIKE Idea into a successful reality.

Oh – and the content of the conference bags and the wine glasses?  We did well with those too: quality quaff and much-coveted goodie bags!

June 5, 2012

LIKE Ideas Conference: The Business of Social Media

Filed under: Knowledge Networking, LIKE, Social Media — virginiahenry @ 2:53 pm

Did you know there’s an Institute for Social Media?  Well, some enterprising Australian Soc Med evangelists have started one.  And they point out  that “Social Media is not about platforms, paradigms, tools, or a contemporary stage of the ongoing development of the Internet. Social Media is a Movement!”

LIKE has been part of the movement for a few years.  Early in 2009 we set up our London Information & Knowledge Exchange group on Linked In and announced our first meet-ups. Thanks to social media – through word-of-web – we’ve run dozens of successful information exchange events, and have grown to a membership of nearly 900.   Each year we use web applications to survey our members, and tailor our events programme to match demand.

So when they asked for a conference, the obvious focus for the event was The Business of Social Media.  On the afternoon of 29th June a hundred or so professionals will gather in Clerkenwell’s Old Sessions House for sessions examining the practical, business-building uses of social media.  We’ll learn about ways to use social media for external engagement and to support research. We’ll hear first-hand experiences of making business social, and get some straight-talking legal advice on safeguarding reputation when using social media.  And we’ll explore the future of social media in business.

In the spirit of LIKE we’ll enjoy each others’ company (and continue to pick one another’s brains) over drinks and dinner after the conference.  Just like social media, LIKE is a movement – and the organisers, the conference speakers and sponsors, and those who’ll be attending are all part of that knowledge-sharing collective.

As are the writers contributing to our pre-conference Blog Carnival.  Follow the links to learn more from them:  Kathy Ennis   Suzanne Wheatley    Sarah Wolfenden  Karen McAuley

November 27, 2011

Pillars of Strength in the Workplace

Filed under: Information Literacy, Knowledge and Information Management, LIKE — virginiahenry @ 9:24 pm

I’ve been feeling very fortunate lately. My day job’s with an extraordinary organisation, where I witness my colleagues work daily wonders: helping others to help themselves and others.  Their willingness to share and build our collective knowledge makes my role a pleasure to fulfil.  And my involvement with LIKE  gives me the chance to learn from my brilliant Information Profession colleagues about  ways of working and thinking.

LIKE 31 on Thursday evening focused on Information Literacy. Dr Susie Andretta was in the Chair, and kicked the panel discussion off by   explaining that “Information Literate people are those who’ve learned how to learn”.  Then we heard from three LIKE members whose jobs include imparting literacy.

Adjoa Boateng
  illustrated information literacy issues facing students in higher education with a problem that was fresh in her mind: she’d prepared her talk and uploaded it to her dropbox, ready for the evening.  Unfortunately she’d neglected to download the PowerPoint application to her Samsung reader.  So although her presentation was ready to use, she couldn’t access it!  Her point was well made – the learning society we have now is hyper-complex, and you have to navigate many different mediums before reaching the information you require.  Students need to deal with many platforms and pathways –and  the Librarians who support them have a responsibility to assist with overcoming those hurdles as well as helping develop the critical skills students require to analyse the information they retrieve.

Spcialist databases,impentrable jargon and fast-changing technology are all barriers to information literacy.  So Adjoa feels her role must include the teaching of digital literacy as well as supporting students’ information requirements: going beyond the original seven pillars model for information literacy.

Adjoa also pointed out that information literacy is not free – the databases and eBooks her institution needs to acquire are expensive, and the decisions she (and people in similar roles) makes determine how information literate students will be.  And that’s a crucial ethical decision, as it directly impacts the quality of skills available to the professions those students move into.

Rachel Adams deals with some of those graduates.  She’s  worked in the legal information sector for five or more years.  Rachel said that, like many other businesses – such as accountancy firms and consultancies – law firms  trade off their knowledge.  Information literacy is, therefore, vital as it informs the quality “product” sold to clients.
A colleague told her that information literacy matters because it saves time, money and stress.  For example if fee-earners direct their research effectively: frame their research query well, know what resource to use and are able to interpret the result,  they work more cost-effectively.  Information overload is as common in law firms as anywhere else, so being able to understand the process of research and present results in a timely manner makes life better for everyone.

But how to sell information literacy to busy colleagues who don’t necessarily ‘get it’ ?  Rachel’s found he best way is to call it training in research skills, refresher sessions etc.  However, the training needs to be relevant – ‘just-in-time’, at the point of need.  Most of the firms she’s worked with focus only on induction sessions for trainees  at the beginning of their time with the organisation.  By the time they come to need the knowledge she’s imparted, they’ve almost certainly forgotten it.   So Rachel’s learned to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.  In October she was running three information literacy sessions a week.  The reason: in order to continue practicing as a solicitor, fee-earners need to record a certain amount of CPD each year.  Some of this can come from training on legal resources.  As the deadline loomed, lots of her lawyer colleagues phoned to book a session – and Rachel used the time with them to increase their information literacy.

Medical Librarians, Caroline De Brún  told us, have slightly different challenges to deal with. Health Information Literacy isn’t a common phrase in Medicine, they’ve tended to use the term “Evidence based Medicine” – meaning decisions should be based on best research evidence and clinical expertise.  Health Professionals need information literacy skills to fulfil this, but there are a number of barriers to this.  Time is one – GPs have few spare minutes between patient appointments to devote to research, and in emergency wards they have little opportunity to stop what they’re doing to search for information.  Resources are another barrier: Caroline is now based in a medical school library and has some great resources.  But she used to be a Librarian for GP services, and the variation in access and resources across the practices she visited was very wide: some had great tools and excellent internet access, others had dial-up.

Even if the resources are there, the skills may not be.  Some GPs don’t know what search terms to use,  or what databases to choose.  So then, as now in her new role, the solutions to these problems include outreach.  Caroline works with clinical teams to support their needs, giving them training and providing research skills when they need it.  She takes the teaching to their desktop and offers “ten minute” training sessions, adapting her approach to their needs and available resources.

As Susie widened the debate to include those who’d been listening it was clear that most LIKE members in the room, dealing with similar issues, were working hard to find practical ways to help colleagues improve their information literacy skills.  Some were daunted by the scale of the challenge, but  nobody was willing to “give in to Google”!

October 30, 2011

LIKE 30: Knowledge Transfer – making it work

Filed under: Knowledge Management, LIKE — Tags: — virginiahenry @ 3:55 pm

It’s often easier to talk about best practice than to just get on with it.  I’m sure lots of us have sat in after-action reviews or meetings where projects have been comprehensively analysed and “ways to do it better” have been skilfully identified.  Then everyone returns to their desks and carries on as before!  There are many reason it happens – change takes time, teamwork and, often, training.  Business as usual can dictate the pace of work (even if that work entails time-consuming activities such as trawling through over-loaded email inboxes to find important information).   Introducing new and more effective ways of working can prove to be ‘too much hassle’ – particularly if senior team-members consider themselves exempt from adopting new practices.

Maybe that’s why we’re more willing to invest external agents with the authority to make change or perform services that we could, if we chose, do for ourselves.

Gary Colet is the Facilitator for the Knowledge Retention and Transfer special interest group at the Knowledge and Innovation Network of Warwick University Business School.  He has a strong aversion to the term “Knowledge Management” preferring the description “Organisational Learning”.  It’s not difficult to see why he has a problem with the KM handle – it’s not exactly explanatory, and when practitioners (as they often are)  are called on to explain it, the descriptions of KM’s value and impact can vary widely.
So, organisational learning is what Gary facilitates.

The LIKE evening started with Gary calling on four volunteers to assist in illustrating how ‘knowledge’ rapidly degrades when passed along a human chain.  The first volunteer was told a story that contained a number of facts.  Their job was to relate the tale to the next volunteer, ensuring the facts were transmitted.  That volunteer then had to relate the story to the next person to enter the room and so on.  Surprisingly, one of the participants asked if she could take notes – Gary said that was the first time anyone had ever thought to do so (maybe not so surprising that a LIKE member should think so practically :-)).  His point was well illustrated though – facts evaporated in the telling, and the name of a publication morphed into another (the New Scientist became the New Statesman).

We moved on to analyse the shelf-life and value of various examples of knowledge/information transmitters:

  • Transactional information such as emails = low value, short life
  • Round-tables and seminars = high value, short life
  • Meeting minutes, FAQs, check lists =  low value, long life
  • Partner contracts, design rationales, projects decisions = high value, long life

Transient knowledge fits into the high value, short life category – and the high value makes this knowledge well worth eliciting.  Gary is often called in at times of change in organisations: when a round of redundancies is taking place, or when acquisitions and mergers are in progress.  He facilitates meetings or dinners during which the outgoing individual (always a key team member or senior leader) is encouraged to pass on their knowledge and experience.
Gary calls his approach to achieving this ‘O.P.E.C.’: Open, Probe, Examine, Close.  So his questions begin with “Tell me about your current role?”  or “Tell me about the project you’ve just completed?” – deliberately broad and open queries aimed at opening the dialogue in an unchallenging way.  With the discussion initiated, he moves on to the probing questions: “What were your particular successes in…..?”, “What were you trying to achieve in doing…..?,“What didn’t go so well in…..?”, etc: the kinds of enquiry aimed at garnering facts and details.  Then come the ‘examining’ queries: “Why didn’t it work so well?”, “Why did you choose that approach?”, “Who was your most useful contact?”.  These questions focus on clarifying details and encouraging the individual to make their implicit knowledge explicit.  Finally he asks the important closing questions – for example “If there were three main things you’d speak to your successor about, what would they be?”

As anyone who’s facilitated these exchanges can testify – the process is not easy or comfortable.  The last thing a person who is feeling bruised and cynical may want is to share their professional knowledge with the organisation that is discarding them!  So, as Gary pointed out, the approach you take is vitally important.  Even if the organisation believes they own, or have a right to, that person’s knowledge, the individual is likely to see things very differently.   These structured exchanges do, however, offer them something worthwhile: respect for their professionalism and the value of their know-how; acknowledgment of their contribution and importance to their soon-to-be former colleagues.  By making this respect and appreciation clear to the individual at the outset, exchanges which begin with hostility and suspicion can quickly become positive and rewarding experiences for both parties.

It may seem trite to say “do as you would be done by” – but it’s a fact that this sentiment underpins good practice in Organisational Learning (or KM, sorry Gary).  The moment you allow yourself to believe that time is too precious to invest in enabling individuals to exchange knowledge and information is the moment you step onto the wheel of organisational amnesia and recurrent mistakes from the past.

October 9, 2011

LIKE 29 – Connecting Information with Innovation

There was an enthusiastic response to our announcement that LIKE 29 would focus on the findings of a recent report by the specialist professional services company TFPL:  so enthusiastic that the evening was quickly over-subscribed.  The only way to satisfy demand was to run the event twice.

On both evenings the very lively discussions were skilfully led by John Davies , Head of Consulting at TFPL and co-author of the report.

The title “Connecting Information with Innovation” was chosen because responses to the survey forming the basis of the report showed organisations are increasingly linking information services with corporate purpose.  And the purpose of the report was to take a fresh snapshot of the Info Pro landscape.  (Back in 2006 the TFPL team had worked with Hazel Hall to produce “Who’s Managing Information?”)

Of ten thousand questionnaires, two hundred and twenty were returned.   35% of respondents worked in the public sector, 48% in the private sector, and the rest in education and the third sector.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most respondents classified themselves as senior managers.  But more interestingly only half worked in core info management service, while the other 50% said their services were dispersed across the organisation.

Most people reported little change from 2006 in Knowledge and Information (KIM) staffing levels.  But there was much evidence that organisations were reallocating responsibilities – for example with business information being moved into the remit of business intelligence. And there was   strong evidence that organisations were looking for increased value from their information services, with more accountability and pressure to contribute to the organisations’ strategic plan than there had been in 2006.

Many of the respondents could be classified as Librarians, Records Managers, Content Specialists, Information Services providers, Business Analysts…..  but such things as  information security, information governance, communications, competitive intelligence and digital preservation fell outside of their responsibilities.

John said there are approximately 30 million people in work in the UK.  And, based on work done in the US following Drucker, around 60-70% of us are classified as “knowledge workers”.  However, for every million knowledge workers, there are maybe one thousand with recognisable qualifications. And, it seemed, qualifications still matter to recruiting businesses.
So he wanted to know how LIKE people saw their profession – what distinctions they made, and who they thought were “KIM” professionals.

It was clear from the comments people made that we’re not doing a great job of explaining to each other what we do, or feeling particularly comfortable with the KIM umbrella term:

“Business Intelligence is all about coding”. “Business development people get my goad”. “Archivists, Records Managers and Librarians have a similar mindset, but KMs come at it from a very different angle”.  “Knowledge Managers don’t need a qualification but librarians do”. 

Some people were bemused (and amused) by the increasing pressure to ‘professionalise’: “ If someone sees themselves as a KIM professional, they pretty well are”.  “In  Government there’s a move for civil servants to be part of a profession – IT Professional, Lawyer, Statistician etc – so that’s led people like Immigration Officers  to say ‘well I use information a lot, so I’m a KIM professional’”. 

John told us recruitment specialists are having a hard time keeping up with the demands of employers.  Job specifications are getting broader, deeper, more demanding.  The old distinctions between the junior and more senior roles were being blurred as everyone is expected to demonstrate business acumen, project management ability and IT knowledge.

Five attributes that were key to recruitment, came out in the survey.  He described them as:  Visionary, perseverance, logical, pragmatic, collaborative.  He wanted to know what we thought of these, and which of them we’d prioritise.

Several people said they’d never heard two definitions of ‘Knowledge Management’ that were the same.  Others confirmed that the same went for ‘Information Management’.  So how would it be possible to attain definitive descriptions, or prioritise attributes?
One Consultant had stopped putting job titles on her CV entirely.  She found they confused her clients and didn’t add value – her skills and experience were more important.

Someone said most Information Managers are just Librarians by another name.  And a professional from the British Library said “I work in the biggest library in the country – not a single post at the British Library is called Librarian.  Titles are meaningless!  I’m a Reference Specialist – what does that mean?  Even within the reference team there are different interpretations of what a Reference Specialist does and is.”

This was one of the areas of consensus on both evenings.  Lots of people felt it was pointless to define terms when each organisation had its own definitions.  Every organisation has its own jargon – “So you read the job description and interpret – then you repeat their language when you fill in your application for a job.”

Someone said “we’re good at collaborating among ourselves, but maybe not so good at doing it within our wider businesses”.  And it was suggested that some Librarians see themselves as Librarians first, then employees of their specific business.

But of the five key attributes Collaboration, Vision and Pragmatism were seen as the most important.  So we proved to be pretty good at prioritising!

John told us that since 2006 training on the job had fallen by the wayside.  In-house training is increasingly in demand, while external courses are being cut.  LIKErs confirmed that they were being directed to develop or use in-house resources for training.  Some are making use of online courses.  And, of course, transferred knowledge inside the organisation is an important element of Knowledge Management, so there’s a case for looking inside for skill development.

On both evenings the discussion about training and development inevitably led back to the issue of professional qualification and its importance – both to the professional and the employer.  Although “Some people are professionals in the field without having professional qualifications”, it was agreed that these individuals usually have years of experience to support their ‘claim’.  For others, especially those just starting out, it was seen as essential to have a professional qualification “so you have credibility and can demonstrate that you know what you’re doing.” “It’s a badge of honour, showing you can do the job” Some people also saw professional qualifications as a means of gaining a broader understanding of their specialism than can be gained in an isolated role “it gives you a structured core skills base”.  But there was a rider to the importance placed on qualifications: “courses really do need to link up with reality”.    And qualifications alone wouldn’t cut it in modern business: “inside the organisation it’s your success stories and the reputation you’ve built up.”  “It all comes down to demonstrating you have the skills to do the job”. 

During our discussions we briefly revisited a question that comes up pretty regularly at LIKE meetings (and elsewhere) – the value of professional bodies.  It’s always an interesting debate.  The specialised roles (such as Law Librarian) need to have their own knowledge networks.  It makes sense doesn’t it?  But what doesn’t make sense to many KIM professionals is to have professional bodies that are out of tune with their members’ requirements and experiences.

John Davies was very complimentary about LIKE – he said it was invigorating and refreshing,   a model for how professional bodies could develop “rather than the ossified, committee-ridden groups I’ve been so familiar with over the years”.

If LIKE is any kind of model, that’s brilliant.  Our primary focus, though, is on providing LIKErs with what they tell us they want – open, inclusive discussions about issues relevant to them.

We seem to have done that with LIKE 29, and LIKE 30 should fit the bill too!  Gary Colet from Warwick Business School will be getting us thinking about how to make transferred knowledge stick.

 

 

 

August 10, 2011

Tardiness, tagging and things to come

Filed under: LIKE, Tagging — virginiahenry @ 4:14 pm

The year’s flying by, the ‘To Do’ list isn’t shrinking, and I’ve been meaning to write this entry for ages!…

Recently the LIKE ‘collective’ turned its attention to planning the autumn/winter season for the London Information & Knowledge Exchange. Looks like it’ll be exactly what we LIKE best – a programme of enjoyable and enlightening events.

We ended our official summer sessions on a high, with Martin Belam’s: “Information Architects: The Secret Librarians of the Internet”. Martin talked of the varied roles and experiences that led to his present job as Lead User Experience & Information Architect at Guardian News & Media, then he told us about how he does that job (read more about the talk’s content on his blog.   His hands-on, pragmatic approach to the role was inspiring. I guess you’d expect someone with “user experience” in their job title to be pretty focused on making the users’ experiences as fruitful and rewarding as possible, but expectations aren’t always fulfilled are they?  ‘Guerilla usability testing’ helps keep his information architecture on track, as does his empathy for colleagues’ requirements and deadlines.
What fascinated me most was how the Guardian’s content model relies for its success on tags.  Having recently spent a few months implementing an Oracle WebCenter platform with Balfour Beatty WorkPlace I’d been immersed in content tagging (tags being one of the more pleasing aspects of WebCenter – a bit like delicious, but not as pretty), and was interested to hear how they manage tags and use them to create content relationships and cross-promotion of content.  I love that the Guardian’s got a keyword guardian (tag manager, Peter Martin ).

In a recent survey of LIKE members, one question we neglected to ask was “what were your favourite sessions of the 2010/2011 season?”.  If we had, I think Martin’s would have been high on the lists: it prompted a number of blog posts, and a vow from me that I’ll try tag-based file management on my laptop (anyone out there used software such as Elyse, or have any alternative suggestions?)

Informal LIKE summer meet-ups continue through August then, at the end of September, we’re back at The Crown for what promises to be a brilliant start to the autumn/winter season: ‘Connecting Information with Innovation’.  John Davies will be exploring the findings and implications of TFPL’s recent survey of KIM roles and responsibilities. See you there perhaps?

April 29, 2011

Human Library – LIKE 24 being bookish!

Filed under: Knowledge Networking, LIKE — Tags: — virginiahenry @ 7:47 pm

One of the many things that make LIKE  events wonderful is that you can turn up after a long day at work feeling weary and a little out of sorts (at LIKE 23 I was ‘going down’ with the pneumonia that kept me in bed for the next fortnight!), or maybe a tad dubious about the issue up for debate (what the heck is Human Library, and why should I care?!) – and in no time at all, you’ll be having a fascinating, illuminating evening.  And you probably won’t want it to end.

In truth, if you’re going to spend a night learning about Human Libraries, there can’t be anyone better to do it with than Linda Constable

Linda’s been working with Human Libraries for five years, and she told us how the Human Library is a forum for making connections, communicating differences and challenging ideas.  These events are best held in comfortable environments, with quiet corners for books and readers to talk – and with a few ground rules agreed:  books and their readers need to maintain a relationship of respect, books can refuse to answer questions they don’t feel comfortable with, they should be’ returned’ in the same condition as they were when’ taken out’ and the period of the loan depends on how many borrowers are waiting their turn.
Human Libraries are often used as a means to help bridge cultural gaps – getting people talking and listening to those they wouldn’t normally come into contact with.

There are a nice couple of sentences on the Human Library website:  “One of the great features of the Human Library and taking out a book, is that there are no such things as stupid questions.  Books have been prepared and made themselves available, in order for you to be able to dig deep and find out what you always wanted to know about the book title.”

Not sure how prepared the LIKE books felt, but Linda made things easy for us by guiding us through the process of writing titles and descriptions on sheets of paper.  These enticing “covers” also acted as booking slips, so readers wishing to explore the subject could book a loan with the book.

There was an impressive range of topics including:
Comics for Adults, Online Gaming, Multicultural Britain, Gardening, Running a Marathon, English Non-conformism, a Guide to Hackney, a Rough Guide to Italy, Flamenco Dancing…..

Linda was adept at pairing readers with books and orchestrating the loans- which was great, as everyone else was so deep in conversation they seemed scarcely aware of time passing.  I got very involved in discussing Knowledge Management with a LIKE member who’d flown down from Edinburgh for the event, and by the time we were joined by another LIKEer, and were delving deeper into ways of making knowledge work, it was almost time for dinner – but it felt as though we’d only sat down to talk a few minutes earlier.

It was good to catch up with others over dinner, and hear about what they’d been “reading”.  And it was interesting to think about the applications of such a format in business environments.  An evening that had started with insights from someone who works a lot in communities – helping people to benefit from sharing their life’s experiences with strangers – ended with discussions about how useful Human Libraries could be as vehicles for business knowledge sharing.

April 25, 2011

Mobile Information. LIKE 23

Filed under: Communication, LIKE — Tags: , , — virginiahenry @ 3:46 pm

On the last evening of March Mark Needham – the far-sighted founder of Widget (UK) Ltd - presented us with information at the speed of LIKE ;-)

Just a few days before we welcomed the 500th person to join the London Information & Knowledge Exchange, it was especially appropriate that one of our newest expert members should give us a lightening review of the evolution of ‘pocket computers’.

Mark told us how a Starship hero in “The Mote in God’s Eye” had used a pocket computer in 1974, long before they were available to us in this tasty world.  By the 1980s you didn’t need so much imagination to see the future coming.  Mark was then working at Psion and their Organiser 1 . was a revolutionary device.  Its 2k of RAM and 8k or 16k memory cards may seem puny now but, Mark told us, the evolutionary line from Psion to Smartphone is clear.  And the great inventions – microprocessors, the worldwide web and wireless networks – that enable us all to carry pocket computers have been around for over two decades.

Mark compared the delay between the emergence of such innovations, and public uptake of them, to the time lapse between the invention of the internal combustion engine in the late 19th century and the mass production of the Model T Ford in the 1920s.  And, just as cars have remained basically recognisable for the past century, handheld computers are likely to undergo lots of minor improvements, but remain consistently familiar to us.  It may become common practice for us to use our phones for video calls and to make movies – but Mark’s iPhone will still carry the data he’s been transferring to each new device since he first saved it to his Organiser 30 years ago.

Henry Ford, with his vision of consumerism as the key to world peace, would probably have been delighted by the ubiquitous Smartphone and, maybe, even more chuffed that its development is so obviously being driven by user demand.

Andrew Swaine, another expert member of LIKE, runs knowledge sharing and internal communications at ARM 

Andrew explained the powerful influence Smartphone users were having on the evolution of his industry.  The focus used to be on how fast a computer was, now it’s all about power consumption: pocket computers need to run for an entire day (his Smartphone works for 10 hours, but his laptop battery lasts for 2 hours!).  And although battery technology isn’t progressing very fast, people are writing programmes taking into account not only how fast they are, but how much power they consume.

Speed of performance is high on Users list of must-haves too, so Andrew foresaw a pretty rapid evolution from multi-core (lots of phones are now dual core) to many-core.

And platforms are being consolidated – impatient users will demand a single working environment across all platforms.  Andrew hoped one day to be able to plug his iPhone into a docking station, as he currently does his laptop.

There’s lots of change happening in his industry, not least because it was taken rather by surprise at the big deal applications on phones became – in such a short time.  The web wasn’t really ready for it.  Andrew reckons that we’ll end up using web applications a lot more, to overcome carrier and storage issues, and improve user experience.

Users rule!  When, as is the case, the interactive experience is more important than the underlying hardware – anything that irritates a user is “officially” a bug (music to the ears of anyone who has worked with uncompromising, unempathic Developers :-))!   If you’ve lost data because you didn’t save a document, you are not a stupid user – the interface is wrong.  So on mobile phones and tablets, you don’t need to remember to save stuff.

Andrew said it wasn’t because there’s anything special about mobile:  it’s just that at this period of change in the industry it has been possible to change underlying assumptions about user behaviour quite rapidly.

After the inevitable comparisons of what mobile devices we all had on us (to my perverse delight – it’s not like I don’t know how desirable Apple stuff is – we HTC users seemed to outnumber the iPhoners, and lots of us had business Blackberries) we got down to a pre-dinner exercise. Groups around different tables were asked to identify the kinds of information different professionals need to access via their pocket computers, and the barriers to doing so.

Requirements included:

Office documents, contact details, schedules, spreadsheets etc, legal information, research papers, reference sites, Hansard (for MPs), news reports, business systems, audio and video, sites for the co-ordination of activities (in case of Aid Agencies), lesson plans and registers (in the case of Teachers)

And among the Constraints were:

Tiny screens, the need for the device to be as effective at ‘ input’ as it is at ‘consumption’ of data, lack of single sign-on, lack of  voice recognition, unreliable infrastructure, employer policies, information management issues such as document versioning control and lack of confidence in data security – eg of cloud hosting under US regulatory system.

Well, Ford cars may not be the most inspiring of analogies, but the Maserati brothers  started creating their steel symphonies just a couple of decades after Henry’s Model T first came out – and look where that’s led in a relatively short time!  It surely won’t be long before our pocket computers can do all the stuff we want and need them to do.  Probably rather stylishly.

Talking of innovative chaps, my wonderful husband has just ordered me a Kindle.  On the basis that “you’ve always got your nose in a book, might as well have a lightweight collection to carry around”.  Among my first downloads will be a chapter or two of Mark Needham’s new eBook “66 Famous Plots Updated with Modern Technology”   Apparently it all started with Bill Proud’s tweet from Anna Karenina……

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