Web 2.0 interactivity matrix

April 27, 2008

Nice diagram on this post over at Visionary Marketing that plots various types of Web 2.0 social software on a pair of axes of interactivity and e-commerce. 

I particularly like the vertical line of blogs through forums and online discussions to wikis, increasing interactivity all the way through that line – and also that fully fledged e-commerce sites have little interactivity.

When I was working for the National Office for the Information Economy, we focused much of the work on e-commerce and building B2B partnerships between organisations in sectors to improve productivity.  This linked with clustering from an industry development viewpoint.  What was often missed here though was the link to customers and the democratisation of the value chain.  There is far more of this happening now with customers and clients being included directly in product design or concepts.  We started to do some work way back then on e-democracy as a method to incorporate online citizen feedback into policy development but it was all too hard back then. 

Zeldin on Conversation

April 21, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I read Theodore Zeldin’s book on Conversation with my curiosity piqued by the David Gurteen Knowledge Cafe.  Zeldin describes conversation as a meeting of minds, of a dialogue between two people.  Conversations require opening ourselves to strangers, broadening our curiosity and he highlights the importance of courage.  At a recent conference that I helped organise, one of the keynotes requested the senior managers in attendance to go away and have just one courageous conversation in the next 24 hours. 

Zeldin particularly values conversations which are meetings on the borderline of what I understand and what I don’t, with people who are different from myself.  On the other hand, he considers conversation with yourself as full of risk – because you have to decide how much to enhance your ideas with imagination.  Lucky I have a good imagination otherwise it would be a very boring conversation!

One quote leaped out at me though from page 88: “Conversation needs pauses, thoughts need time to make love”.  I guess that argues against wham bam thank you ma’am type conversations and argues for the sensual and protracted conversations.  It is the pauses that often allows one to collect their thoughts, encourages the introverted to come forward and deepens the thread.  So is conversation then a meeting of minds like sex is a meeting of bodies?  Does this accord in some way with Patrick’s inclination towards Touch KM – with perhaps just a modicum less intimacy?  Or could it be that I have been simply too long away from home and my wife and that the conversation with myself is getting carried away by my imagination? 

Now in speaking to a very learned gentleman (RH) on this, Zeldin’s book is just commonsense.  Of course I agree!  But it often serves to be reminded of that.  It’s just like managing people is just commonsense but a shame that too many managers leave their commonsense at home.

Wisdom Management and Wisdom Leadership

April 16, 2008

actKM has had a recent discussion on the topic of wisdom management.  Patrick and Matt have blogged on the topic and I thought I would put in my 2 cents worth.  I mentioned in my note on actKM that a futures report by the UK Chartered Management Institute envisaged a probable future where technologies for capturing wisdom and wisdom management will emerge.  They stated that knowledge and wisdom management will be key to organisational success. And even more – wisdom will become a valuable resource so organisations will want to access the societal, cultural and organisational memory via practices such as organisational rituals, gatherings and accounts of long-term employees. This tacit knowledge can be accessed via storytelling, anecdotes and case studies. Organisations must increasingly use products and solutions that facilitate wisdom.

The above sounds a bit like some of the later developments in knowledge management to me.  But let’s explore what wisdom management could be.  If the purpose of KM is about improved decision making and innovation, what would wisdom management be about?  Is there a different purpose?  Joe and Serena in their actKM posts seem to think that WM would be more about reducing errors in decision models or making great decisions.  I tend to disagree but more on that later.

There seemed to be general agreement  on actKM not to link the two words wisdom and management together (although I would not mind working in a Wisdom Management Department to be able to say I work in WMD – but then perhaps wisdom management might be a weapon of mass destruction in its own right).  On this track, I have had discussions with others that KM is not about the management of knowledge but the nurturing of an environment where knowledge can be created, shared and where K can flourish (ecosystem model).  So similarly, wisdom management could be the development of an environment where wisdom can be shared and nurtured?

Now all this leads on to the juicy topic of what is this wisdom thing anyway.  And what makes a person wise rather than just knowledgeable?  Wisdom involves ethics, sincerity and cutting through the crap.  Wisdom has more to do with advice, mentoring and life-long learning.  What passes as wisdom for one person is knowledge for another, and is just plain common-sense for another person.  Wisdom is different to consilience (the coming together of knowledge from different domains).

I agreed with Patrick that wisdom tends to be experiential and individual and is difficult to scale.  It has a lot to do with learning and with leadership.  It takes time and is entirely dependent on the journey of the recipient of the wisdom. 

This journey aspect is particularly important.  The Getting of Wisdom is not so much about the destination (as making better decisions) but the journey of getting there – it is more about one’s own lived story and how that unfolds over time and the role of wisdom through mentors and an innate curiosity.

Wisdom and wisdom management may not clarify things in the first instance.  It may be that you need to develop and change your values / beliefs in order to be at a level to receive that wisdom.  Wisdom could be what you look back in hindsight as major transformative learning points in your life.  It could be the spark that confused you and that you had to undertake learning to bridge that paradox and ambiguity.  In this sense case then, true wisdom would be relatively rare whereas knowledge is relatively common (and I don’t mean common sense!).  Wisdom may also involve being reminded of what we have forgotten. 

For many, wisdom has a sense of the spiritual about it as it is personal, to do with lifelong journeys and transformation.  It’s not just head stuff.  It requires courage and curiosity to listen to wisdom.  And sometimes, there may not be anything there anyway (the concept of zen). 

Well, that’s my take on wisdom and wisdom management/leadership  anyway!  I can’t see it taking off anytime soon but you never know with the baby boomers and cultural creatives and downshifters with time and money on their hands, that there might be something in it.  But once it is commoditised, the magic may be lost!

Mobile phone radiation, cancer and embedded electronics

April 14, 2008

Sometimes you see a couple of reports that are diametrically opposed to one another that have significant implications for our future.

One the one hand, there was a report quoting one of Australia’s top neurosurgeons who said that heavy use of mobile phones could double the risk of brain cancer and that immediate and decisive steps need to be taken.

But on the same page at the time, there was a link in the latest technological coverage of an interview with Martin Cooper, the inventor of mobile phones, who dreams of embedded wireless devices that can be powered by your body and help diagnose and cure illness. 

Now is there a link here?  Isn’t there a potential of radiation poisoning if we embed radiation-emitting devices in our bodies.  Personally, I have a concern over the amount of radiation that we are experiencing, particularly from mobile communications devices (note embedded devices like pacemakers are a different story).  Possibly some form of low radiation device that links with a more powerful device that you wear around your ankle might be better.  Just a note of caution to limit the use of these things – particularly for children.    

Information and Knowledge Compared (Snowden)

April 8, 2008

Been a very popular discussion on actKM over the past few days on that hoary chestnut of a topic – the differences between information and knowledge, and whether the IM department in an organisation should have carriage over knowledge management.

Earlier this evening (my time here in Dubai), Dave wrote a great post explaining his views of the differences and I thought I would record them here (as I am terrible at trying to find things later in the emails).  It articulated far better than I could many of my views on the matter.

Lets address the question of knowledge and information afresh, taking your latest will elaborate working below.

Firstly let me make it clear that it is not an either/or between a position (i) they are mutually exclusive concepts and (ii) they are a superset/subset one of the other.  Some knowledge can be partially represented as information (and reused as such), some cannot.  As you know I dislike the DIKW model as it implies a hierarchy, and a KI model would be equally bad.   So let me assert a different position.

1 – I am happy with the general concept that information is a form of structured data which is intended to inform in a communication process of some type.  This may be pull-push, direct, indirect etc.

2 – I see no utility in statements that information is knowledge that leads to action and the like – all basic variants of DIKW.

3 – I do see utility in understanding the different between what it means to manage knowledge and what it means to manage information.  I normally do that with a metaphor of the difference between using a london taxi (knowledge) and a map (information) to get around London.    The map is data which has been structured to inform and if I share sufficient context with the map maker then it informs me and I can take action on it.   I can also get a taxi where not only has the taxi driver internalised the map, but lots of other things as well.  There is for example evidence of significant changes in the Hippocampus in London Taxi Drivers as a result of the two plus years of training they go through.   Compete with a taxi driver (as a map user with a hire car) and you will loose.  The map may get you there, but the assumption of shared context can be dangerous.  I once used a map in New York and almost got mugged for exactly that reason.   Its like the point on french cuisine – you may have the recipe but that is just a starting point it is not complete of itself.

4 – knowledge enables me to interpret information.  If I acquire knowledge of management accounting then a chart of accounts informs me, if I have no such knowledge then it is data.  Knowledge management this has, as one of its primary tasks the creation of sufficient shared knowledge to enable the use of information.

5 – a large body of knowledge requires more than information in the form of recipes, it may take years of experience (often of tolerated failure) for the brain to acquire sufficient patterns to make sense of the world.  It may require the muscular and other sensory systems to adapt and evolve.   I can give you a book on how to plaster a wall and the right tools but you will make a mess of the job (I know this have conducted some controlled experiments with people who advocated your position in the past).

So overall this is a complex issue.  Knowledge and Information work in different ways and with each other.  Two who options you pose are both wrong.

Now if you drop down to a near signal approach (which I think Joe is doing as well but not in the sense of Shannon that is a difference between you) then the concept of information becomes meaningless outside the context of biology.  Yes all cells exchange information but at this level all things are in effect information processors of various types.   The reason the language is used differently in management and social systems is that information is a useful concept, considered as data taken through a process of abstraction to the point of codification.  So I think if you take that position then your approach is vulnerable to a reductio ad absurdum counter argument.

Overall the information and knowledge are different but overlapping concepts that need to be distinguished.  The management of knowledge is a function of all aspects of an organisation.  The management of structured and codified information is the responsibility of the IT or IM department.  By linking the two in the way you have suggested you encourage the view that knowledge can be codified information which as I said before is not only wrong but downright dangerous.

Dave Snowden
Founder & Chief Scientific Officer
Cognitive Edge Pte Ltd

Now blogging at


Of Serendipity and Synchronicity

April 7, 2008

At lunch the other day, David Rymer was relating his favourite serendipity stories.  And boy does he have a few.  He has been collecting them for years.  He defined serendipity as those events that are somewhat unusual but that are noticed and in that noticing, provide some value to the observer.  In contrast, synchronicity is the meaningful coincidence between two seemingly separate events – some form of meaningful relationship between causally unconnected events.  I noted that it is often through serendipity, we can find synchronicity. 

We talked about innovation and the role that people in organisations need to play of looking for the unexpected, those anomalies that fall outside the norm, and to try and ascertain the meaning behind that difference.  It goes against the notion of seeking equilibrium or getting things back to the average.  We also talked about scientific research into anomalies – rather than the general thrust of science which is often towards testing hypotheses and discounting the aberrant findings

My view is that synchronicity can often be an end-state of strong emotional and energetic connections between people (and certain objects).  It goes above and beyond the old concept of sympathies which sought to explain connections between unrelated events before mechanistic science came along and discovered the basis of those connections; the cause of those connections.  And now, holistic approaches and quantum physics are trying to help us explain the synchronicity between seemingly unrelated events.  Perhaps as our knowledge of this area deepens, we may not just go “that was weird” when we observe synchronicity but relish it, enjoy the experience and actively look forward to the next surprise!

Gurteen Knowledge Cafe in Dubai

April 5, 2008

Went along to the Gurteen Knowledge Cafe last night here in Dubai, hosted by Five Dimensions, at the Hotel Grosvenor.  David ran a similar process to that at actKM last year (I could not see much difference in the slides at all but when you’re on a good thing….). 

The interesting thing (as with any of these workshops) is the level of engagement and conversation with the people, especially across different cultures.  David mentioned a Cafe that he ran recently in Asia where the participants refused to move between tables and others where engaging them in conversation was like pulling teeth.  I was particularly interested to see what it would be like in an Arab country where conversation is very natural and meetings always start with social chitchat. 

The conversations at the table were quite standard with people wanting to say their piece and engaging well in dialogue.  But the whole group conversation at the end seemed more like a series of monologues with people wanting to state their piece rather than continuing on a theme that someone else said.  There was not much dialogue, debate or true conversation.  Someone who knows the local culture stated that this was because the local environment is competitive and it is important to make your point rather than stay silent. 

Two other items were interesting.  One was the importance of job security for people which meant they felt they needed recognition for their work and their ideas.  This means that people tend to be quite loyal to the organisation, sometimes a good thing but not when it restricts idea generation and establishment.  The other was the high value placed on western knowledge with locals importing expertise from western countries – not bad if you are an expat consultant!

What’s that got to do with the price of petrol?

April 1, 2008

Andrew W asked me the other day about what it is like to live in Dubai as a futurist.  I’ll answer that question in another post but it’s interesting to see the local petrol prices.  In Australia, they are nearing AUD 1.50 per litre in comparison to the equivalent prices internationally of around AUD1.85 in France, AUD 1.95 in the UK and a measly 95 cents / litre in the US (I spent some time researching and doing currency conversions!).  This is about on par with a few years back when we took a round the world trip and noticed that petrol prices in the states were about 2/3 of those in Australia and in Europe it was about a third more or twice that of the Yankees.

But all of this pales in comparison to the UAE.  Over here, petrol prices are about 45 cents a litre.  When I first started driving in 1981, petrol was 34 cents a litre!  Last weekend, it cost me about $17 (51 dirhams) to fill up the Yaris with 8 gallons or about 36 litres of fuel. 

Now this means that there is no real desire for people to think sustainably when they purchase a vehicle over here.  I have not seen one Prius although I have seen lots of Hummers, SUVs and 4WDs.  There is no local tax on fuel and very few shipping costs.  For the locals, they could say that it is their resource and they want to maximise the economic benefits from their use of it.  But given the relative wealth of the locals, it does breed a culture of not caring about the sustainability issues associated with personal resource use.  And there is hardly any public transport here – a few buses and the commissioning of a new rail line tracking the main road.