CoP Terminology, Greg Reid, Search Patterns, Philadelphia KM Group, MAKE Nominations, Black Swan

01-Apr-08 Archive of Weekly KM Blog by Stan Garfield

KM Question of the Week

Q: I’m looking for ideas to change the terminology “Communities of Practice” to something else which would satisfy our Engineering environment better. Some of the leaders in Engineering have a problem with the term, thinking it might be a little too soft.

A: “Communities of Practice” is a more universal term than most others, with a well-understood definition, so it makes sense to use it. But if you need another term, here are 25 alternatives:

  1. Advisory Board
  2. Alliance
  3. Association or Professional Association
  4. Birds of a Feather
  5. Bulletin Board
  6. Club
  7. Circle or Competency Circle
  8. Coalition
  9. Committee or Steering Committee
  10. Consortium
  11. Council
  12. Federation
  13. Fellowship
  14. Forum
  15. Group or Affinity Group or Discussion Group or Working Group
  16. Guild
  17. League
  18. List Serve
  19. Network or Professional Network or Social Network
  20. Order
  21. Organization or Professional Organization
  22. Profession
  23. Society or Professional Society
  24. Task Force
  25. Team

In Community of practice synonyms Mark Schenk wrote “communities of practice are often named something else, normally to adopt a title more suitable for the organizational context” and offered this list of 15:

  1. Networks of Excellence (CRS Australia)
  2. Centers of Excellence (various)
  3. Knowledge Networks (ASIC)
  4. Networks of Expertise
  5. Special Interest Groups (various)
  6. Domain Teams (Jacobs Sverdrup Australia)
  7. Professional Forum (US Army CompanyCommand)
  8. Networks (BHP Billiton, Shell Oil US)
  9. Taskforce (e.g., NSW Health Greater Metropolitan Clinical Taskforce that started as a temporary structure and has now become relatively permanent)
  10. Thematic Groups (World Bank)
  11. Tech Clubs (DaimlerChrysler)
  12. Best Practice Replication Networks (Ford)
  13. Community of Interest Network (COIN) (Cap Gemini Ernst and Young)
  14. Practice Forums (legal firm)
  15. Practice Areas (CSIRO)

KM Thought Leader of the Week

I posed the following question to many KM thought leaders and will be featuring their answers in this section. “If you were invited to give a keynote speech on knowledge management, what words of wisdom or lessons learned would you impart?” Answers from Shawn Callahan and Arthur Shelley appeared previously.

This week’s answer is from Greg Reid, President and CEO of InFuture LLC. He has many years of consulting and project management experience in information, content and knowledge management.

“After being CKO of Ernst & Young, running Accenture’s KM external consulting group for about 5 years, and now running my own successful KM consulting business, here is what I’d say.

  • Knowledge (or content) is based on the role that the individual plays in an organization; Customer Service Rep, Manager, Employee, etc. all have different knowledge requirements. It is the job of the KM experts to specifically define this knowledge or content, get it to that person as they play that role, and capture it from that person as they play that role so that it can be reused. We all play multiple roles in an organization; it is the KM leaders’ job to figure out how to get that knowledge to that person as they play their various roles. It’s ALL ABOUT THE ROLE THE PERSON PLAYS.
  • To the above, the value of KM is not derived from the ‘goodness’ of sharing; it is derived from specifically understanding the impact of knowledge, content and information to the intended role. If the value can’t be financially quantified, then it isn’t real, and someone else will get the budget!
  • Content management and knowledge management are simply opposite sides of the same coin. One cannot exist with out the other.
  • Knowledge management includes over 40 technologies, capabilities, approaches and functionalities. A group or organization may only need 5–7 of these be successful. Save resources by not implementing the unnecessary 35.
  • KM is not fuzzy, wishy-washy or touchy-feely. It requires the same diligence and discipline in the design and implementation phases as any other major corporate program, such as CRM and ERP. There is more work than talk in implementing KM.
  • Being a KM leader requires years of experience. Don’t put someone in charge of KM because they are eclectic or they don’t fit anywhere else in the organization.
  • Define, in detail, the KM program without using the following words: Knowledge, sharing, implicit, explicit, spiral, etc. If your mother or father can understand the definition of what you’re trying to accomplish, then you’ve been successful in defining it.
  • Your KM budget: 25% technology; 30% content and knowledge gathering and codification; 20% process definition and set-up; 25% change management.
  • KM consultants are a dime a dozen. Experienced KM consultants who have actually led multiple KM implementations successfully are very, very rare. Know the difference before you hire them. One talks the talk; the other walks the walk, and talks a whole lot less on your billable hour! And don’t hire someone because they took a 5-day class blessing them as ‘KM Certified’ — would you choose your surgeon in this manner?”

KM Blog of the Week

Search Patterns by Peter Morville

I’m working on a new book (Search Patterns: Design for Discovery) about the future of search, and I’ve created a seed collection of patterns and examples to support my research.

  • Best Bets 7 sets
  • Faceted Navigation 16 sets
  • Behavior & Design 3 sets
  • Auto-Suggest 5 sets
  • Clustering 3 sets
  • Structured Results 1 set
  • Pagination 2 sets
  • Advanced Search 2 sets
  • Site Search (Small) 1 set
  • Site Search (Large) 2 sets
  • E-Commerce 2 sets
  • Web Search 4 sets
  • Social Search 3 sets
  • Enterprise 1 set
  • Libraries 3 sets
  • Vertical Search 3 sets
  • Media Search 11 sets
  • Personal 2 sets
  • Local Search 2 sets
  • Mobile Search 3 sets
  • Spime Search 4 sets

Beautiful patterns by Lou Rosenfeld

Peter’s hit another home run with his collection of search patterns. Incredibly useful; all right there on Flickr. Very handy; enjoy!

KM Link of the Week

The Knowledge Management Group of Philadelphia April Meeting

  • Date: April 9, 2008
  • Topic: Applying KM System Ownership Across a Medical Affairs Department
  • Presenter: Paul E. Brock, Director, KM, Medical Affairs, Centocor, Inc.
  • Location: DeVry, Chesterbrook
  • Time: Networking 7:45am-8:15, Session, 8:15am-9:45am

2008 Global MAKE Nominations

KM Book of the Week

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I recently finished reading this book which coins such terms as Platonicity, Extremistan, Mediocristan, Ludic Fallacy, Mandelbrotian, and Fractal Randomness. I have long been fascinated by randomness, and my final maxim in 36 Useful Maxims for knowledge sharing, leadership, and personal growth is “Pundits are usually wrong.” I enjoyed the book and agreed with most of Taleb’s ideas.

Larry Prusak sent me the book, and his review begins with “We were asked to state what has most surprised each of us over our working lives. My answer, after some reflection, was Nobody Knows Anything.” For knowledge managers, this sentiment may appear ironic, but it is similar to my observation about pundits. Many people think they know more than they do.


A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.

Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities. We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”

For years, Taleb has studied how we fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, while large events continue to surprise us and shape our world. Now, in this revelatory book, Taleb explains everything we know about what we don’t know. He offers surprisingly simple tricks for dealing with black swans and benefiting from them.

Elegant, startling, and universal in its applications The Black Swan will change the way you look at the world. Taleb is a vastly entertaining writer, with wit, irreverence, and unusual stories to tell. He has a polymathic command of subjects ranging from cognitive science to business to probability theory. The Black Swan is a landmark book–itself a black swan.

The Black Swan has received both very positive and very negative reviews. Here are three examples from the world of knowledge management.

  • Larry Prusak: Dr. Taleb has a Ph.D. in math, and has had much success as a trader, mainly in currencies. He is a true original. I have never read a book quite like this one, and neither have you. Not even his first volume, Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, has quite the panache and bite of this volume. It is full of odd and interesting things, all informed by Taleb’s passionate dislike of most business executives, almost all economists, and many other prognosticators.
  • Mark Schenk: Taleb describes three ailments the human mind suffers when it comes into contact with history (he calls them the ‘triplet of opacity’): The Illusion of Understanding, Retrospective Distortion, Overvaluation of Factual Information.
  • Dave Snowden: Fooled by Randomness was a timely book, well written and useful, but then we got Black Swan which again has good examples but over generalizes its theory.

Interview with Taleb: Straight From the Black Swan’s Mouth by Stephen J. Dubner

Written by

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

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