Metaphor (Photo credit: bgblogging)

When you mix and match many metaphors (as a network of analogies) sense making becomes difficult and overall point is lost in words. Within innovation circles, there are several popular metaphors that I am listing below, so next time when you talk about innovation can you try to stick to just one metaphor, and tell a better story. I am sure there are other metaphors like body parts, war that are used for innovation as well

Engine / Automobile

driving the innovation program, the steering committees, several moving parts, our well oiled innovation engine, an innovation dashboard, to accelerate the speed of innovation, a road map, to bulldoze your way with new ideas, the road ahead, a dead-end, a revolution, to create a movement, as a source of power, …

Ecosystem / Biology

Life cycle of innovation, ideas on life support, reproducing what worked elsewhere, second generation ideas, a father/godfather in the organization, heartbeat/blood/culture of, seed resources, flowing/developing/growing/nurturing/parenting ideas to innovation, our diversity, a dead idea, breathing new life, …

Betting / Gaming

the odds are against us, to bet on a future, as the outcome is random/not deterministic, to win/lose, win-win, a risk capital, to make a contrarian call, probably worth trying, evenly placed, to scoot/fold up, has a hand in it, raise the bar/bet…

Investing / Markets

Demand/Supply of ideas, not enough buyers, be overpriced, investment into innovation, our exit option/ entry barrier, size of market, the business model, to venture, derived from…

Judiciary / Legal

Judging by the looks, liable to, a willful action, intent to innovate, owned/leased/licensed ideas, comply to the terms of investment/agreement…

Innovation Metaphors

books, cognoise

KM KAP kaput

Heavily influenced by my current reading of Diffusion of Innovations by E Rogers. I was reflecting on how KM fails to diffuse. From a diffusion perspective I have experience in hitting a few successful S curves and some not so successful ones or those that fizzled out before hitting a critical mass of adopters.

The KAP framework as Rogers notes may not be really scientific and may prove nothing from a data/theoretical standpoint. But it has application on the field. KAP is a simple framework used to evaluate

  • Knowledge (K) : whether potential users have means to get knowledge on KM systems, processes and develop the minimal skills to use them
  • Attitude (A) : whether there exists a favorable attitude toward the new KM systems, processes among the intended users
  • Practice / Adoption (P) : whether KM adoption / practice happens with new users over a period

KAP gap is real in organizations specifically in adopting new processes that are not mandated including KM in most cases. May be a small walk across the building can bring to surface existing gaps.

WIth no KAP, KM is kaput…


Important but Tough to Measure

Yes we have heard some large board rooms loudly claiming “if we cant measure, we cant manage”. There are things that are inherently tough to measure but does not mean they are not important. Can the same board rooms claim “innovation”, “engagement”, “integrity”, “knowledge management”, “social media” are not important for their business, just because they cannot measure?

So the issue not about whether we can measure or not, but only broadening the nature of measures that will make sense for each one of them, not a number, not an index, not a ratio, may be yes to a collection of stories, how about a perception map, even fitness landscapes.

Look wide sometimes, not deep always to manage.


100000 Man years of Experience Lost | Retiral Effect on SBI

Most PSUs (public sector units) in India report to market how much they provision for gratuity every year.

And gratuity is a simple calculation, viz. Gratuity = 15 / 26 X Number of years of experience X Base salary

With this we can calculate

Number of Man years (experience) lost for the year = ( Gratuity provision X 26 / 15 ) / average base salary

I did this for one of the largest PSUs of India namely State bank of India and here is what I got

Number of employees = 222933

Total Staff Cost = 14480 Cr

Provision for Gratuity = 1565 Cr

Provision for Pension = 2473 Cr

Average Salary = 0.0468 Cr (4.68 lakhs) (this number includes both base salary and other perquisites/bonuses)

Number of Man years (experience) lost for the year (min estimate) = ( 1565 X 26 / 15 ) /0.0468) = 57962 man years

Even if you consider double this average salary as Base salary this accounts for 26000 man years (experience) loss per year.

That is a significant level of experience to lose every year and seeing that provisions have increased by almost 40 times this issue will only get much worse going forward

That is one of the grandest problems of KM I have ever encountered

UPDATED: doubled average salary at retirement as it was more realistic



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


Being Open

This is an often touched thread in my field of work; the thread of transparency in organizations.

When we deploy closed systems people ask questions around

How can I make this system open to a large number of people so knowledge sharing/discussion can happen?

When we deploy open systems people ask questions around

How can I make this system closed to a limited number of people so we can have our relevant (read private) conversations?

The platform/system will depend on the current popularity and someplace where they have no presence usually. Features, need for user functionality discussions tend to take back seat while we finish conclusively on the open/closed argument (mostly never happens in a single sitting mind you, as people want to bounce ideas internally “closed”).

Just because I CAN be more open does not mean I will be open. Why do people tend to have this warped reasoning when it comes to open information has always intrigued me, here are some

1. Fear of being misunderstood by a large number of unknown people

This fear is real, I have tried convincing people to write about a specific viewpoint that they so clearly articulate in 1 on 1 meetings, but they never had the courage to put it down on paper. This could also be a problem of language (in articulation and being unambiguous)

2. Fear of hijack of a personal idea by anyone of the large number of unknown people

If I am about to mobilize resources on an idea, I have to convey the idea as clearly as possible and if I am in a leverage mode I will have to leave room for idea building, trimming, refinement or even a change in direction. If I am that possessive about the private idea, I will cut a cd, open a bank locker and put it in, possibly throw the key in deep sea. No need to discuss further and selection of platform does not arise.

3. Hesitation to deal with the plausibly large amount of feedback that can come

Let us get real, any open information system is rampant with lurkers, 1 in 100 comment and take conversations further. This is a one reason why non-text entry user actions like “like”, “RT”, “Share” have come up.

If someone had to say something meaningful on a thread, I am all ears, I should probably bring him on board because he cared to respond.

4. Confidence/Arrogance that ideas from the select group is the best possible (both in time (best ever) and space (best on earth))

No need to discuss further and selection of platform does not arise here as well.

May be I am oversimplifying openness/transparency, what do you think? Think openly please.

books, cognoise

Transition Planning Applying Method Cards

I was meaning to write about this since last KM Asia when my boss got the KM method cards and the guidebook from Patrick Lambe . My KM day job is around IT Projects delivery and I am in a way limited by the tool set that is available for the projects’ disposal to do better things with Knowledge. So I shuffled the deck of method cards barring the tools.

My goal is to pick and choose what might make a decent set of methods and approaches for managing transitions that are so common. We routinely take over applications either from our customers or other vendors for maintenance and on going sustenance support. I set out to create a tool kit for practitioners to immediately use.

Here are the specific Method cards that came out

1. Cultural Archetypes: A representation of org culture and is very effective in making people speak about key issues without getting personal or talking apple pie motherhoods. As the card indicates Anecdote Circle is necessary for collection of a large body of narratives. Even an ethno would do here. You can find a detailed method for Archetype creation on Cognitive Edge. Works best when done on the floor or a large table rather than wall.

2. Story Listening: Obviously this makes perfect sense. I refer to Kurtz’s work that is fresh.

3. Story Telling: When you tell a good story you actually trigger patterns/emotions in the listener, that is buried deep. Template for stories or constantly looking for turnaround stories or just telling positive stories are all recipes but not close to the principles of narrative, which is best captured in this screen writing bible by McKee

4. Expertise Knowledge Audit Interview: X has 5 years more experience than Y, in any work performance of X is scales higher than Y. To bridge this gap we need to be able to articulate what X knows. Because experienced folks are expensive, and every large group with more experienced folks comes under the “measurement of efficiency” radar. The group may have to trim itself of these experts in an unplanned manner, so we need to manage this knowledge leak, and loss in a way that it provides continuity for the group as well as business continuity for customers. Here I feel Crandall, Klein et al work is best in the excellent handbook Working Minds.

5. Knowledge Audits and Maps: You may know lots of forms of knowledge maps, but most still lacks the dimension of knowledge flow. It is working for my context best as it renders itself nicely for operational reviews at group level and improves find and opens up opportunities for sharing and collaboration.

6. Anecdote Circles: Main reference for AC is on CE

Here are the specific Approach cards that came out

1. Expertise Transfer: The card included all sorts of methods and tools that covered a wide range of group facilitation, to personal learning methods, to representation. My picks for the context of a project in addition to above would be concept mapping, and Peer Assist

2. SME: This Approach I feel works best within a CoP. Most prominent issue I see here in organizations is there is no expectation/responsibility set for this on the SMEs.

All in all the cards provides a range of methods and approaches and what is likely to work in context and in conjunction.


KM and Job Titles

The problem with KM is it is too intangible to define and fit in an org structure.
For example you can say
1. KM’s job is to make people smarter
2. KM’s job is to enable more meaningful conversations across a company
3. KM’s job is to generate good connections from which good conversations/knowledge flow

Each of these can never be put into a job description nor can competency frameworks be designed for above. What in turn happens is we start to fit in with generic descriptions for K Managers, Consultants, Facilitators, Directors etc.

Question is even if you do away with the central structure the few thinkers left in the system would enable all above and more without ever knowing or calling it KM.
If you as a KM Practitioner disagree with the responsibility tell me why it cannot be KM responsibility and what other thing would be a responsibility under KM.

Thanks to enlightened tradition for sparking the thought


Context Switching

This is something K Manager job demands.
Making sense of a business demands in depth understanding of context. You do this once, twice, every day. And then increasing scope just means you have increased the number of contexts that you will cater to. That results in gradual loss of relevance to customers and lack of depth in adoption, now all your services are only lip services. Success then on is left to serendipity and that rare person to make sense of a what the “KM people” are saying.
Choice is simple to limit/not the contexts.


Business Relvance for KM

Can we get business relevance as the first step of creating a KM program?
Is the top management ready send a directive that the time needed for the company to get ready for a change in market scenario is way too much (say 1 year) and need a knowledge strategy to help make it quicker?
Strategy group (central function/think tank) decides based on their research, there are several knowledge needs (competence) that the organization lacks even to enter certain markets and geos. Can KM help the organization get there?
Our positioning in a market is too low in the value chain (body shopping / customer managed team augmentation) and the customer businesses are going down (say like point 1 or other super system reasons), as a vendor is there a systematic way to innovate and create new markets for your customer or grow the existing one or cut their costs or whatever that has a $ +. Is this any role of KM?
As the company operations are wide spread across multiple cultures, geos, technologies, markets is it still logical to believe that a centralized decision making function possibly remote will be able to take those decisions quickly and also the right ones?

When I say KM I am not referring “the central KM function” but rather the act of managing both the knowns and unknowns of the company.
Secondly I think it is time we move away from looking at KM as a cost center and all the associated measurements and rather head into making relevance to business and operations.