Competition in Communities, Enterprise 2.0 Papers, KM Dissertation Project, Book Reviews by Graham Durant-Law

02-Jan-08 Archive of Weekly KM Blog by Stan Garfield

KM Question of the Week

Q: What ways exist (tools, techniques, methods, approaches) to help CoPs (communities of practice) deal with competition and ego among members? How can members harness the good aspects of competition, and mitigate the damage it can do to the learning environment?

A: I haven’t seen this as a problem in most communities, but if it arises, here are my suggestions:

  1. Define and communicate clear expectations for community members so that they will all know the expected behavior.
  2. Ensure that the community leaders watch for undesirable behavior, and then take appropriate action, including:
  3. Counseling members privately on how to better collaborate in the community.
  4. Posting or providing comments which moderate and reduce competition.
  5. If these fail, removing community members who are divisive or antagonizing.
  6. Rely on the community members to police themselves by appropriately replying to or ignoring overly competitive members.

Another tactic is to invite people who think they know everything to formally present their views to the community in a conference call or meeting. This will either engage them in a useful and possibly humbling exchange of ideas, or get them to back off when they realize that their ideas will be directly scrutinized and addressed.

KM Blog of the Week

McGee’s Musings by Jim McGee

A dozen papers you should read in the world of Enterprise 2.0

Design space for individual knowledge work

1. “As We May Think” — Vannevar Bush. Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker” in 1959. Bush set the framework for a knowledge worker’s day in 1945.

2. “Structured procrastination” — John Perry. A somewhat different, but nonetheless useful take on how to best leverage a multi-tasking, multi-demand world.

3. “You and Your Research” — Richard Hamming. Underlying strategies for how to set and follow a strategy for tackling worthwhile and rewarding problems. Although focused on research, the advice is readily applicable to all kinds of knowledge work.

4. “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” — Doug Engelbart. Engelbart set an agenda for the use of technology for knowledge work that drove much of the conceptual innovation in software for the last several decades.

5. “Personal Dynamic Media” — Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg. Along with Engelbart’s paper, Kay and Goldberg’s imagines much of the personal computing revolution and how we might best make use of technology in doing knowledge work.

Strategic and Organizational Design Principles

6. “The nature of the firm” — Coase. Coase ultimately own a Nobel prize in economics for this work, which examines the conditions that differentiate between activities best organized by markets vs. those best organized by organizations.

7. “The Cluetrain Manifesto” — Searls, Weinberger, Locke, Levine. The first, and still best, thinking about the ways that the internet affects markets and marketing

8. “End to end arguments in system design” (PDF file) — Saltzer, Reed, & Clark. These guys were key designers of the underlying protocols that drive the internet. This paper lays out the reasons why centralized command and control is a bad idea in networks; regardless of how appealing it tends to be to the powers-that-be.

9. “Rise of the stupid network — Isenberg. From a former phone industry software engineer, this paper provides an interesting examination of the interaction between technology change and organizational/strategic inertia.

10. “The Long Tail” — Anderson. The article that led to the book. Both offer insight into the opportunities to design products and services that take advantage of how the net offers alternatives to mass markets.

11. “Places to intervene in a system” — Meadows. The changes we need to make to take full advantage of the opportunities that technology presents us depend on thinking and operating at a systems level. This is the best short overview of the leverage points that can be found and used to make this level of change happen.

12. “Wicked problems and social complexity” — Conklin. As a counterbalance to Meadows, Conklin enriches the discussion of systems change by laying out the notion of “wicked problems.” These are the kinds of problems whose solutions arise from the interaction between competing interest groups and change the definition of the problem as they are implemented.

KM Link of the Week

Knowledge Management Dissertation Project by Greg Allen

This wiki and blog serve as communication, organization, and knowledge management tools to bolster the processes of developing my dissertation that focuses on KM and organizational change. The goal is to complete my Ph.D. in Applied Management and Knowledge Management from Walden University.

Possible ideas and research needs:

  • How does a KM system change the organizational culture?
  • Shifting power paradigms and knowledge sharing
  • Mandated change / organizational buy-in
  • Grassroots KM systems / organizational buy-in
  • What are the essential factors for successful KM system within the organization?

KM Book of the Week

Book Reviews by Graham Durant-Law

  1. Brokerage and Closure by Ronald Burt. It’s no secret that I am a fan of Professor Ronald Burt’s work. His book “Structural Holes: the Social Structure of Competition”, is a seminal publication. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for “Brokerage and Closure”, although I would still give it four stars. Read in sequence and in conjunction with each other they offer the knowledge management practitioner and network analyst some useful insights.
  2. Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another by Doctor Philip Ball, who is a physicist by education and a science writer for Nature. I read it because of my interest in networks and complexity, and this book promised some insights. It was an entertaining read, but was hard going in a lot of places. Despite this the book was well written and flowed naturally.
  3. Exploratory Social Network Analysis with Pajek by Wouter de Nooy, Andrej Mrvar, and Vladimir Batagelj. Pajek means spider in Slovenian. Pajek is also a software program for the analysis and visualisation of very large networks; networks with thousands if not millions of vertices. It is a program I use occasionally, however I prefer UCINET and NetMiner 3, because I find these programs to be easier to use.
  4. Net Work: A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Networks at Work and in the World by Patti Anklam, who is a recognized practitioner in network analysis circles. The central theme is we work through informal and formal networks, which may be tangible or intangible, but all have value. Her primary assumption is that all networks can be mapped. These maps serve to describe the network and provide a diagnosis of the health of the mapped entity, albeit the map is a snapshot in time. Patti’s premise is if the network can be mapped and described then the network can be managed and weaved — a premise I largely agree with, and which is an underlying assumption in my research.
  5. Weak Links: Stabilizers of Complex Systems from Proteins to Social Networks by Peter Csermely, who is a Professor of Biochemistry at the Semmelweis University of Budapest. The central theme is weak links are the determinants of system stability and diversity. Csermely defines a link “as ‘weak’, when its addition or removal does not change the mean value of a target measure at a statistically discernible way”.
  6. Structural Holes: the Social Structure of Competition by Ronald Burt. This is a seminal publication and a must read for anyone interested in network theory. The book has an academic flavor but is well written, with many easy to understand examples. Burt’s central thesis is that structural holes in business networks are very important. A structural hole is a gap between two individuals. When the two are connected through a third individual important advantages accrue for the third individual, who may employ a tertius strategy.

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Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager

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