On agreeing to a vocabulary

Here is what we joke about conferences, everybody (audience, speakers, and event managers) starts with ‘a need to agree‘ on something early morning. This could range from “innovation is critical to success of business/India”, “gamification is revolutionizing business process”, “stories are the next strategy” or something like that. By end of day after speakers speaking, audience listening and event managers buzzing, the host notes that ‘all have agreed‘ on what we began with as a need, marking the successful close of the conference.

What happens in between is forcing a choice between competing sets of vocabulary, and each trying to push the other out. Even within one vocabulary, speakers/participants lean towards a specific sub set.

Here is where the conflict lies, and below examples as I noticed in a recent conference.

1. Visibility versus viability, while who ever is on stage successfully runs a viable business or used to, everyone else is simply looking to be more visible, like a 70 word intro before a 15 word question to speakers, or other plugs.

2. Cost versus price, this one is common even while the discussion is about pricing, most participants confuse it with their costs, and unable to rephrase / appreciate a concept for price. I think this is a genuine psychological inertia that is exhibited.

3. Revenue versus capitalization, most speakers agree that while the real deal for any valuation should actually be the revenues, most tech ventures are traded for capitalization. And who decides this price, the banker / investor / startup / someone else. In any case the switch to the higher number (usually capitalization) is towards resolving the first conflict of visibility versus viability.

4. Sales versus marketing, even if a session is about writing an advertorial or sponsored tweet, most confuse it with sales, this chunking of ‘sales and marketing’ is a way to avoid any responsibility in it, “…see I am techie…, the other guy in my team does all that”

5. Problem versus opportunity, not much of a conflict in this one, but still this comes to play when you are inside an already running business, best resources are staffed in the largest / most profitable current account fixing issues to keep the customer and not the most promising opportunity of acquiring a new (possibly less painful) customer. (the ‘strategic account’ conversation for another day)

Point I am trying to make is simple, to choose a field means adopting its vocabulary and its conflicts, and with changing fashions/fads if your vocabulary does not evolve as well, you are outdated even before you started.


Notes on Knowledge Continuity

I was part of a content creation for the bspin conference recently held at Bangalore on Knowledge Continuity. These notes of mine which were part of the first version which got morphed into totally something else when we finished. I felt there were some key points here that may interest Knowledge Managers. So here it goes…

Knowledge Continuity 3 D

Business continuity (for target vectors like performance, functionality, availability, ability to change, etc in IT Services) is provisioned by Knowledge continuity.

Knowledge Continuity cuts across 3 dimensions

1. People Interface/Relationships

· Such as between roles that work only in few phases (tester, BA, Architect) or between vendor and business user

2. Time

· Such as tenure in domain/account/technology

3. Content

· Such as standard operating procedures and heuristics of how experts handle crisis and how it is traded or exchanged

Common reasons that lead to loss of continuity include

1. Forgetting

2. Attrition

3. Too much or too little governance/processes

KM Strategy

Knowledge management as a strategy for achieving continuity intervenes by each of these dimensions

1. Interface: Building newer relationships across diverse groups

· Participative culture builds relationships and sustains rituals

· Diverse (not in bred) relations are formed as part of social network stimulation

2. Time: Bridging gap between expert and novice

· High Cost Experienced Resource versus Profitability equation

· Concept mapping and expertise transfer as methods to reduce time to become expert in the knowledge domain

3. Content: Sustained Knowledge creation socially

· Wiki as a preferred tool, how peer review helps in increasing quality of wikis, differences between closed and open wikis

· Structured Story Listening methods and AARs (after action reviews)

Success Determinants

Success of such KM strategy will be determined by the following

1. Culture prevalent in the enterprise, specifically drivers that create habits

2. Information and Communications Technology and its social utility value (the bargain)

3. People Policies


Conference Blog wikiwars

Attended only the first day of wikiwars CPOV (Critical Point of View) conducted by  Centre for Internet and Society at Bangalore.

Geert Lovink and Nishant

playing key role in the arrangements and proceedings.

Geert spoke of the Role and Purpose of research in getting understanding of networks and critics in the new media(including formation and running of complex sites like wikipedia that was discussed primarily. Critics could be cynical but can still develop new concepts.

The sponsor is an outsider to wikimedia foundation, and has an intention to move research on wikipedia outside of WMF. The feeling I got was like, having 2 parties compete in a constituency (say Congress and BJP) while there are also these independent candidates who compete for the same seat. Restating the purpose is broaden the wikipedia content, architecture and politics.

Anne Goldberg and Rut Jesus gave a twist to Open space technology in creating art, and art was about wikipedia this time around, and it was nice to see it evolve.

Shunling Chen made a nice analogy of wikipedia with Oxford English Dictionary and Richard Trench with a key question of “who decides who is eligible to speak up or edit in a network”. 2 models of common-collaborative versus proprietary-centralized networks with different types of actors was brought forward. Actors now include non-human utilities running on wikipedia systems.  This session was nicely followed by Stuart Geiger’s “Wisdom of bots” and on taking the middle ground between wisdom of crowds and strong societal structure with weak norms. Shocking stuff on bots (like anti vandal, helper, twinke, huggle etc)  becoming more active editors and some sort of 1984 is hierarchy getting formed even with the bots. Polanyi’s speed bump concept was interesting.

Beatriz Martins gave a perspective on remediation as methodological key. Built a picture on starting from

Antiquity where the media took a fluid form, with anonymous existence of narratives, on which no one can claim ownership

Medieval times where it became a little bit more interactive, with commentaries coming in and the authority being collective and proprietorship being common

Modern times as a culture of reason (Kantish) where individual owns.

Key point was made on free circulation of discourse and on gestation of new forms of control.

Dipti Kulkarni’s linguistic view point was totally fresh, which in my mind has made clear on key differences in the language of a wiki and a blog. Defining context of a communication along physical, temporal, dialogue, language, technology enablement, relationship and purpose facets. Interesting to note key points on lack of deictic words, high lexical density, assertive only speech acts, lack of hedge words, and on suppression of ideational interpersonal and textual elements.  Again by excluding speech acts of declarative, interogative, exclamative I felt actually we are losing out on the richness of language  and expression in the new media wikis.

Mark Graham showed disparities and unevenness in development of wikipedia on direction, geo and politics.

Openness as a problem solved by creation of new structures and rules was discussed by Linda. Was further followed by Nathaniel Tkacz on open politics and brought Popper with him.

Erstwhile CC Advisory board member Heather Ford talked about WMF adopting Creative Commons. Interesting classification on how we can regulate by law, market, norms and architecture. CC was put forward as a fashion statement but ineffective way to share as it is still created by lawyers.

Overall rich discussions and really great diversity, but direction was unclear.