Originally published October 17, 2019

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This is the 49th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Lilia Efimova works at the intersection of social media, the changing workplace, knowledge, and learning. She is passionate about technology and understanding how people work. Lilia is Russian, lives in the Netherlands, and likes the “between two countries” dimension of her life for the rich perspective it provides.

Lilia has been blogging since 2002 on finding flow, growing ideas, crossing boundaries, creating spaces, and the bigger picture behind all that. She excels at asking questions, recognizing patterns, initiating change, facilitating learning, spanning boundaries, and translating between research and practice. Her specialties include the social web, collaborative technologies, communities of practice, research, knowledge mapping, information management, workshop facilitation, change management, and expertise location.

Background

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Experience

  • Unschooling facilitator: Facilitating learning outside of educational organizations.
  • Author: The closest metaphor to what I do in my weblog is “thinking in public.” Of course, it’s more than that — for me blogging is engaging into conversations with others, building relations, doing research and, sometimes, even changing the world. There are a couple of things related to blogging I’m especially proud of being part of the team organizing the BlogWalk series before unconferences went mainstream, winning the “best research-based weblog” award in 2004, and defending blogging as an integral part of the research approach in my PhD work.
  1. My blog is my learning diary — a place that helps me think aloud, to start conversations with others, and to reflect. Mathemagenic means “giving birth to learning,” so I think this name fits well.
  2. I write about the things I care about and this space changes together with me. In the beginning it was very much about my work interests — knowledge sharing, learning in all shapes and forms, communities. Then a lot on my PhD research, focusing on blogging practices in knowledge-intensive environments. For a few years I wrote mainly about learning, networking, and other practices around unschooling our three kids. Now that the kids are older, I have more space for other work and writing.
  • Researcher at Novay (formerly known as Telematica Instituut), 2001–2011 — Applied research at the intersection of social media, the changing workplace, knowledge, and learning as a researcher and project manager. Themes and topics:
  1. Social media
  2. Personal productivity in knowledge-intensive environments
  3. Communities and networks
  4. Making sense of digital traces
  5. Managing what you can’t control (like knowledge workers or informal learning)
  6. KM/HR/(e-)learning integration
  7. Boundary crossing

Education

  • Utrecht University: PhD, Social Sciences, 2009
  • University of Twente: MSc, Educational and Training Systems Design, 1999 — Graduated Cum Laude. Specializations: human resources development, e-learning.
  • Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics (MESI): Diploma of Higher Education, Mathematical models in economics, 1997 — Graduated with Honor. Final thesis included modeling (system dynamics) of the Russian higher education system.

Profiles

Content

Publications

  1. Blogging for knowledge workers: personal networking (Bloggen for kenniswerkers: het nieuwe netwerking). Informatie Professional, February 2010, pp.22–25. [English version in this blog, .pdf (both articles)]
  2. Blogging for knowledge workers: incubating ideas (Bloggen for kenniswerkers: weblog als buitenboordbrein). Informatie Professional, January 2010, pp. 18–21. [English version in this blog, , .pdf (both articles)]
  3. Weblog as a personal thinking space. HT’09: Proceedings of the twentieth ACM conference on hypertext and hypermedia, June 2009. New York: ACM. doi:10.1145/1557914.1557963 [.pdf]
  4. PhD dissertation, 2009: Passion at work: blogging practices of knowledge workers
  5. Blending blogging into an academic text. Paper presented at the workshop “IN THE GAME: Ethnographic relationships, mediation and knowledge”, Internet Research 9.0, Copenhagen, Denmark, 15–18 October 2008. [blogpost]
  6. Review Article: Bloggers and ‘producers’: New Media and Society, 10(3), 529–535. doi:10.1177/1461444808089418
  7. Weblog-mediated relationship: a co-constructed narrative. In S.Holland (Ed.), Remote relationships in a small world (pp. 137–154) with Ben Lassoued, A. Peter Lang Publishing. [.html]
  8. Getting value from employee weblogs: A knowledge management approach. In H. Jezzard (Ed.), Applying Web 2.0: Innovation, Impact and Implementation, proceedings of Online Information 2007, 43. London. [slides]
  9. Crossing boundaries: A case study of employee blogging, with Grudin, J. In Proceedings of the 40th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (p. 86). IEEE Computer Society. doi:10.1109/HICSS.2007.159 [.pdf]
  10. Understanding weblog communities through digital traces: a framework, a tool and an example, with Anjewierden, A. In R. Meersman, Z. Tari, & P. Herrero (Eds.), On the Move to Meaningful Internet Systems 2006: OTM 2006 Workshops. Lecture Notes in Computer Science (pp. 279–289). Berlin / Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag. [.html]
  11. Two papers, me in between. Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture, 6(4). [.html]
  12. Finding ‘the life between buildings’: An approach for defining a weblog community, with Hendrick, S. & Anjewierden, A. Paper presented at Internet Research 6.0: Internet Generations. Chicago, Illinois. [.pdf]
  13. Detecting knowledge flows in weblogs, with Anjewierden, A., de Hoog, R., & Brussee, R. In F. Dau, M.-L. Mugnier, & G. Stumme (Eds.), Common Semantics for Sharing Knowledge: Contributions to ICCS 2005 13th International Conference on Conceptual Structures (pp. 1–12). Kassel, Germany: Kassel University Press. [.pdf]
  14. Beyond personal webpublishing: An exploratory study of conversational blogging practices, with de Moor, A. In Proceedings of the 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS’05) (p. 107). IEEE Computer Society. doi:10.1109/HICSS.2005.118 [.pdf]
  15. Finding in-house knowledge: patterns and implications, with Swaak, J., Kempen, M., & Graner, M. In K.Tochterman & H. Maurer (Eds.), Proceedings of I-KNOW 2004, June 30-July 2, Graz, Austria (pp. 27–34). Graz: Know-Center Austria. [blogpost, .pdf]
  16. Legitimised theft: distributed apprenticeship in weblog networks, with Fiedler, S., Verwijs, C., & Boyd, A. In K. Tochterman & H. Maurer (Eds.), Proceedings of I-KNOW 2004 (pp. 494–502). Graz: Know-Center Austria. [blogpost, .pdf]
  17. Shared conceptualizations in weblogs, with Anjewierden, A., Brussee, R. In T.N.Burg (Ed.), BlogTalks 2.0: The European Conference on Weblogs (pp. 110–138). Norderstedt: Books on Demand GmbH. [blogpost, .pdf]
  18. Discovering the iceberg of knowledge work: A weblog case. In Proceedings of The Fifth European Conference on Organisational Knowledge, Learning and Capabilities (OKLC 2004), April 2–3, 2004. [blogpost, .pdf]
  19. Learning webs: Learning in weblog networks, with Fiedler, S. In P. Kommers, P. Isaias, & M. B. Nunes (Eds.), Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference Web Based Communities 2004, 24–26 March 2004, Lisbon, Portugal (pp. 490–494). IADIS Press [.pdf]
  20. Converging knowledge management, training and e-learning: scenarios to make it work, with Swaak, J. Journal of Universal Computer Science, 9(6), 571–578. [blogpost, .pdf]
  21. Blogs: the stickiness factor. In T.N.Burg (Ed.), BlogTalks (pp. 109–125). Vienna, Austria: Donau-Universität Krems. [book]

Articles

1. Microsoft and the art of blogging. Inside Knowledge, 10(4), 24–27, 2006, with Jonathan Grudin

There are several thousand employee blogs at Microsoft. An in-depth study of bloggers in the company highlights the issues that arise when a personal medium is applied to work goals.

Case study: Microsoft

Microsoft is one of the best known and most profitable companies in the world and certainly needs no introduction. Yet despite its size it remains a far from staid and conservative organization. Indeed, staff are encouraged to embrace new technologies — as well develop them.

It therefore recognized the potential of corporate blogging early on. Not just in terms of positive public relations (PR) but as a way of communicating with particular groups of customers, providing valuable information to them, while generating equally valuable feedback, too. Blogs can also be used internally to communicate activities, project progress and more across an enterprise — especially one as geographically diverse as Microsoft.

Weblogs written by staff can become valuable knowledge management assets, too, providing ways for staff at different levels to speak in a human voice within or outside the organization; to find previously undocumented expertise; and, to help create unexpected connections between people and ideas.

On the one hand, these benefits can spur an organisation to support blogging by either encouraging staff to get writing or by setting boundaries — in the form of corporate policies — to minimize the risks involved. For example, by setting the appropriate editorial processes to ensure that staff bloggers never embarrass their employers.

However, for staff, this creates a form of creative tension: the personal nature of the activity of authoring a weblog, even when clearly work-related, often feels as if it is outside the corporate sphere. Its nature means that companies have no straightforward way to mandate the content, timing or manner of blogging, while staff often feel that it is regarded as an alternative to work. To successfully exploit weblogs, a business must therefore understand the personal interests and concerns of bloggers and create an appropriate environment.

In this case study we share the results of our research into weblogs at Microsoft. In late 2005 we spent two months attending meetings, reading documents, e-mail discussions and weblogs. We interviewed 38 employees, including bloggers, those responsible for the blogging infrastructure, managers and executives and people in legal and PR charged with considering the impact of employee weblogs.

In this article, we will focus on the issues that arise when a personal medium is applied to work goals.

Weblogs at Microsoft

At the time of our study, the company supported several external servers with more than 2,000 employee weblogs, blog services open to those participating in company community initiatives and the MSN Spaces consumer-blogging platform. For the company, external customer-oriented weblogs were regarded as the principal value of the medium. An internal server with approximately 800 weblogs was maintained by volunteers.

On top of that, an internal survey also indicated that more than 7,000 employees (10 per cent of all staff) had active weblogs — so only a fraction of staff blogging was recorded and run on corporate servers. This is not surprising: employees are not obliged to use official company servers for their weblogs, or even to identify themselves within them.

Although guidelines for weblog practice had occasionally been circulated, people stressed that they were just guidelines. Repeatedly we were told that “the policy is that there is no policy” or that “the policy is ‘be smart,’” whatever that meant. Two corporate lawyers we interviewed noted pointedly that all policies covering the disclosure of proprietary or sensitive information applied also to this medium.

Work-related uses of weblogs

Communicating directly with others inside and outside the organization

People who design and develop a product have unique knowledge, but are separated from customers and users by intermediaries in sales, marketing and field support, and by the time it takes for a product to reach the market. Writing formal articles for publication on the company website does not appeal to many employees, because of the required reviewing and revision and the lack of visibility or feedback. In contrast, a weblog is an easy way to provide information, share tips and engage in direct interaction with peers or consumers of one’s work. One respondent noted, “We were trying to ship something and [in my role] I have no external exposure to people… so [starting a weblog] was partly to talk about it with outsiders.” Another respondent received permission to publish internal frequently asked question (FAQ) materials in his weblog to benefit external readers.

Bloggers found it gratifying to inform or help others, to learn about the reception of their work in the ‘real world,’ and to become visible as a domain expert. Company encouragement to interact with customers and engage with communities provided a supportive atmosphere and eliminated potential barriers, but did not directly induce blogging. As one person put it, “Blogging doesn’t come out of fear, it’s about passion.”

Documenting and organizing work

Some employees used a weblog both to communicate with others and to document and organise ideas, describing it as a personal archive enhanced by feedback from readers. “Either I could have written that down it as an internal note and just kept that or now it’s out there on internet, so I can find it more easily and also get hints from folks.” Several internal weblogs, including one by a team, were used to document and share work in progress with others inside the company. Since internal weblogs are indexed for intranet searches, bloggers felt good being able ‘to add to that index.’

Some bloggers who did not list documentation as a major motivation did mention re-using old blog entries to draft more formal documents or to provide a link for answering FAQs. Several indicated that they could avoid ‘spamming’ others with experiences and ideas by placing them in an easily accessible weblog post.

Showing the human side of the company

As employees of a company that can seem impersonal to those outside, many described blogging as a way to show a human face, to demonstrate that people in the organization care and are passionate about their work. “I’m tired of being called evil,” said one. Bloggers could recount stories behind products to help people understand why particular choices were made. They shared details of daily routines to give outsiders a sense of their work context. Bloggers felt a history of objectively sharing useful information enabled them to react with greater credibility in crises.

Weblogs can also change the company’s image in the eyes of potential employees. Three informants consciously crafted weblogs for recruiting and provided examples of their impact. Their weblogs told everyday work stories for different roles in the company, provided insight into selection or promotion procedures and shared tips and tricks. Other people reported new hires who applied to a group after reading a member’s weblog.

Finding and being found

In employee weblogs, ideas that were previously unarticulated or hidden in personal archives become visible, interlinked, and searchable. Collectively, this produces a wealth of information about products, practices, tips and tricks. Many respondents reported time saved by blogging: re-using entries, quickly helping others or learning, getting answers to questions, receiving feedback on ideas, finding people inside or outside the company with similar interests or needs.

A few bloggers mentioned that posting to their external weblog helped them connect serendipitously to a person or relevant information inside the organization. One noted that an idea posted to a weblog resulted in a prototype developed in another part of the organization. He wrote, “I’ve never met Lee or had any agreements with anyone that he would do this. Nor would I ever have been able to send mail to the right group of interested people that might be able to spend the time building a prototype. I simply blogged my idea, the idea found the right people, and we’ve made a bunch of progress that will help ensure the right feature is delivered to our users.”

A weblog also gives visibility to its author, whose expertise can be exposed beyond his nearest circle of colleagues. Our informants told us about invitations to publish articles or speak at events as a result of blogging. Several reported that their job responsibilities evolved as their interests were exposed: “[After reading my weblog my manager said] if you are so externally focused, you can be our community lead… now I’m a community lead… I enjoy it.” Some bloggers noted that being recognized as an expert gave them greater confidence in their career prospects.

Externally-visible blogging provides publicity that a role and position would not normally entail. Some bloggers acquired more negotiating power or security as people realized that making them uncomfortable or dismissing them could have repercussions with customers or partners. Blogging externally was also seen as a way of helping to accelerate internal change: suggestions made in public may get more attention than those delivered internally. Also, customer feedback can confirm ideas, giving a proposal more validity.

Of course, these power shifts can lead to tension, so visibility can be a mixed blessing. Some bloggers dislike the limelight and experience or worry about tensions within their teams when readers credit them for a team effort: “You are not trying to expose yourself or to be a star.” Also, becoming a contact point for customers raises expectations for blog coverage and the blogger becomes a focal point for questions and suggestions. Bloggers with large audiences complained of e-mail overload and discussed preventive measures. Some felt they were doing other people’s jobs on top of their own.

Making choices

Blogging is still an area of experimentation at Microsoft and it is generally up to a given individual to decide if, when, why and how to blog. We identified several choices facing a prospective blogger.

Starting a weblog

Most people we spoke with began on their own initiative, with little prior discussion. “I asked only my direct manager and it was on purpose: I knew if I would ring my manager’s manager or manager of my manager’s manager it would become impossible.”

Many bloggers cited experimentation, examples set by colleagues or pressure from others as reasons for starting a weblog.

Almost everyone mentioned a work-related rationale for blogging. Personal reasons for starting to blog were central in the case of strictly personal weblogs — “it proved to be a good communication tool with my friends” — and also appear in weblogs that include work-related content. With the latter, personal motivations accompanied work-related goals; “I like the conversations that come out of blogging: it’s challenging.”

Where to blog? We expected to find that the main decision when starting a weblog would be whether to blog internally or externally. However, more fine-grained choices and a broad variety of guiding criteria emerged, usually influenced by the goals for blogging, such as:

  • Access and visibility

Who should be able to access the content? How easy will it be to find? Internal weblogs are good for sharing non-public information, but have less exposure than an external weblog. Weblogs on official Microsoft servers are easily found by someone seeking Microsoft news; blogs on other external servers can be lost amid the many millions of other bloggers;

  • Affiliation with the company

The choice of server can be influenced by a desire to have or avoid an explicit company affiliation. For some, their connection to Microsoft is a matter of credibility or pride; for others it adversely affects their image, leading them to be judged as Microsoft employees rather than for their expertise;

  • Freedom and control over technology or content

Company-supported servers are an easy way to start blogging, but a self-hosted server (internal or external) can provide flexibility in configuring a weblog to fit one’s preferences. Self-hosted or third-party platforms also raise fewer questions over the nature or ownership of the content.

What (not) to blog about?

With no formal policy, the lack of explicit rules creates a risk: each blogger is ultimately responsible for ‘being smart.’

Most weblogs we examined contain a disclaimer indicating that the content reflected the personal views of the author and should not be attributed to the company. But when an author openly associates with the company, the fine line between the personal and the corporate is blurred.

Even weblogs primarily or exclusively focused on work are likely to have a personal touch, presenting information in an informal style and from an individual perspective. Many employees add personal comments to work-related notes or publish entries about hobbies, events in their private lives or opinions on non-work matters — suggesting that their readers ‘come to read the person, not the blog.’

Attitudes differ toward the propriety or desirability of mixing personal and work content. Some bloggers have two weblogs, one for work and one for personal content. Others share no private information online. Others see no problem with mixing work and private issues in a weblog that identifies their affiliation and often stress the role of personal information in providing context for work-related posts.

Many struggle to identify what can be blogged about work, finding a grey area between the clearly confidential and the clearly publishable. In one group, bloggers praised clear communication from their management that identified ‘three topics you are not supposed to blog about’. This provided clear boundaries while not curtailing the freedom to blog.

For most it takes time, trial-and-error experimentation and reflection on internal and external feedback to find a balance of sometimes conflicting interests. Some respondents started conservatively, but grew less so over time, while others described specific incidents (such as misinterpreted posts amplified by media reports) that helped them to learn where to set boundaries. In this respect the relationship with the immediate manager was critical in getting the blessing to start — or continue — a weblog, negotiating acceptable uses, or seeking support in cases of unexpected negative effects of a post.

Blogging as part of a job

Given the time demands and work-related implications, how was blogging integrated into the day job for which a person was responsible?

For a few, blogging eventually became an official part of their job. Indeed, in one case 15 hours per week was formally devoted to blogging. However, in most instances it is less dramatic. Some bloggers justified spending some work hours reading or writing weblogs by showing the impact on other responsibilities.

Others did not make blogging a formal objective, but raised it during annual performance appraisals as an extra work-related activity: “It’s not explicitly part of my objectives, it’s a means to an end,” said one. A few bloggers strove for a complete separation of job responsibilities and blogging, even for primarily work-related blogs, to maximize their flexibility and freedom in posting.

Content ownership

Despite the disclaimers, staff blogging about work, especially those using official servers, conceded that the company ultimately owned the content. This is consistent with the contracts governing the company’s intellectual property rights, usually interpreted as applying to hardware, software and branding, but technically covering writing as well.

However, not everyone agreed that all weblog content should be company property, but no one recounted a case where an ownership dispute had arisen, although their expressions of concern revealed uncertainty about the matter.

For many, blogging involves personal initiative, investment and time, and could have long-term value in creating and maintaining an online reputation or as a record of thoughts and experiences. This played a role in the discussions about content ownership. Many would concede the right and need for the company to have access to the content of blogs closely related to specific products, yet want to ensure their own access should they leave the company: “If they said they would delete it, I’d be thinking why am I blogging here [on company server] and not externally?” Some took the extreme position of wanting sole ownership of their words and hosted their blogs externally, blogged on their own time, or both.

Between passion and business

For an employee, a weblog can provide a space to demonstrate their passion for their work, to document and organize ideas and work practices, and to find and engage others inside and outside the organization. For an employer, a weblog can accelerate information flow, increase productivity, improve the company’s reputation and customer engagement — but can also create greater dependence on personalities, less control over the corporate face to the outside world and challenges to the established corporate hierarchy.

For an employee to blog about work requires the juggling a number of concerns. Blogs have potential benefits and implications for one’s job, so it’s tempting to make them part of existing working practice. Yet, it is personal initiative, interests and time investments that make a blog interesting for readers and often yield unexpected, positive effects. An attempt to squeeze those into job descriptions or formal rules could drain the vitality and utility from them.

Employers and employees who take up blogging should anticipate a degree of ambiguity. If pushed to specify limits up front, an organization could be too restrictive and lose the benefits. At the same time, it may be good for bloggers to constantly consider limits and consequences — personal judgment and responsibility are inescapable elements of employee blogging.

Where encouraged, employee weblogs will change how work is organized and how authority is distributed by fostering direct communication across organizational boundaries — from employee to customer — and across group boundaries within organizations. The policy of ‘be smart’ is telling; it becomes more important to have employees who are broadly informed.

2. Knowledge worker paradox. Knowledge Board, 30 October 2003

In his recent CIO column Thomas Davenport writes:

When it comes to knowledge workers, we pretty much hire smart people and leave them alone. No quality measurements, no Six Sigma, no re-engineering. We haven’t formally examined the flow of work, we have no benchmarks, and there is no accountability for the cost and time these activities consume. As a result, we have little sense of whether they could do better (Davenport, 2003).

I read these words and I can’t agree more. Many knowledge management researchers and practitioners talk about “improving knowledge worker productivity,” “embedding knowledge work into daily practices,” and the importance of answering “what’s in it for me?” questions, but there is still not much known about what and how knowledge workers do.

My impression is that most of KM focus is on specific methods or technologies to support knowledge flows in a company, as well as supportive organizational factors or communities of practice as an environment for knowledge creation and sharing. We say that knowledge worker productivity is important, but we don’t even have a good definition of what knowledge work is. It’s a paradox for me.

I would like to share with you my explanations of this paradox and to find out what do you think about it.

I suspect that the lack of focus on the issue of “the individual knowledge worker” comes as a result of the specific characteristics of the work they do. Knowledge work is discretionary and invisible, thus difficult to identify and difficult to control.

Knowledge worker as investor

Knowledge workers are best described as investors (Stewart, 1998; Davenport, 1999; Kelloway & Barling, 2000): they make choices of when and how much of their knowledge and energy to invest in a company that doesn’t have much direct control over these investments. Taking this standpoint leads to defining knowledge work as discretionary behavior, as a system of activities that knowledge workers opt to do, and managing knowledge work as establishing conditions that increase the likelihood of making the “right” choices:

As such knowledge work is understood to comprise the creation of knowledge, the application of knowledge, the transmission of knowledge, and the acquisition of knowledge. Each of the activities is seen as discretionary behavior. Employees are likely to engage in knowledge work to the extent that they have the (a) ability, (b) motivation, and © opportunity to do so. The task of managing knowledge work is focused on establishing these conditions. Organizational characteristics such as transformational leadership, job design, social interaction and organizational culture are identified as potential predictors of ability, motivation and opportunity (Kelloway et al., 2000: 287).

Similar frameworks of factors and conditions that empower and guide knowledge work are being developed by other authors as well (e.g. Kessels & Keursten, 2002; Schütt P., 2003). However, they only propose ways to explain or predict how KM interventions are influencing knowledge work, but do not provide a good definition of knowledge work or any good way to evaluate how these interventions have influenced knowledge worker performance.

Iceberg of knowledge work

There is a striking similarity between studies on different aspects of knowledge work: unlike physical work, it is mostly invisible. The “iceberg” metaphor is used in studies of informal and incidental learning to describe the 20/80 ratio between learning in formal settings (e.g. taking courses) and learning informally that most people do not even consider as learning (Center for Workforce Development, 1998). We also hardly take into account the time we spend building and maintaining our personal networks (Nardi, Whittaker, & Schwarz, 2003) that are vital for sharing knowledge (Cross, Parker, Prusak, & Borgatti, 2001). In most of the cases one can observe only products of knowledge work — reports, designs, decisions made — but not the process of creating them (Drucker, 1999; McGee, 2002). Much of the work of finding, interpreting and connecting relevant pieces of information, negotiating meanings and eliciting knowledge in conversations with others, creating new ideas and using them to come up with a final product, happens in the head of a knowledge worker or as part of communication or doing work.

The invisible nature of knowledge work makes it difficult to recognise and to measure. Next to it outcomes of knowledge work are often unique and quality is the essence of output rather than a minimum restraint (Drucker, 1999), thus establishing benchmarks even more challenging task.

Why is there lack of focus on knowledge worker?

I believe that the difficulties of measuring knowledge work and the lack of control over it explain the lack of attention to the individual knowledge worker: interventions supporting specific knowledge activities of many employees are more visible, easier to measure and to manage. These interventions often bring valuable results, but many of them do not fit the work practices of knowledge workers and are perceived as an overhead instead of being an integral part of work (Davenport & Glaser, 2002).

This is how I explain the knowledge worker paradox: organizations focus on things they can control and can measure; thus knowledge work is left to knowledge workers. However, I may be wrong, so I wonder:

  • Am I right that we don’t know much about knowledge work?
  • Do you agree with my explanations or there are other ways to explain it?
  • What could be done to understand knowledge workers and to help them becoming more productive?

References

  1. Center for Workforce Development (1998). The teaching firm where productive work and learning converge: Report on research findings and implications. Newton: Education Development Center.
  2. Cross, R., Parker, A., Prusak, L., & Borgatti, S. P. (2001). Knowing what we know: Supporting knowledge creation and sharing in social networks. Organizational Dynamics, 30, 100–120.
  3. Davenport, T. H. (1999). Human capital: What it is and why people invest it. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  4. Davenport, T. H. (2003). A measurable proposal. CIO Magazine, June 2003. (See also another column about knowledge worker struggle with technology).
  5. Davenport, T. H. & Glaser, G. (2002). Just-in-time delivery comes to knowledge management. Harvard Business Review, 80, 107–111.
  6. Drucker, P. (1999). Knowledge-worker productivity: The biggest challenge. California Management Review, 41, 79–94.
  7. Kelloway, E. K. & Barling, J. (2000). Knowledge work as organizational behavior. International Journal of Management Reviews, 2, 287–304.
  8. Kessels, J. W. M., & Keursten, P. (2002). Knowledge productivity in organization: Towards a framework for research and practice. Paper presented during the workshop “Converging knowledge management, training and e-learning”, Telematica Instituut, 7 October 2002.
  9. McGee, J. (2002). Knowledge work as craft work
  10. Nardi, B., Whittaker, S., & Schwarz, H. (2003). A networker’s work is never done: Joint work in intentional networks
  11. Schütt P. (2003). The post-Nonaka Knowledge Management. Journal of Universal Computer Science, 9, 451–462.
  12. Stewart, T. A. (1998). A new way to think about employees. Fortune, 169–170.

3. Blog networking study: interviews

  1. Brett Miller (I’m not lost, I’m wondering)
  2. Dave Snowden (Cognitive Edge)
  3. Euan Semple (The Obvious?)
  4. Gabriela Avram (Coniecto)
  5. Luis Suarez (Elsua)
  6. Martin Roell (Das E-business Weblog)
  7. Monica Andre (B2OB)
  8. Nancy White (Full Circle Associates)
  9. Shawn Callahan (Anecdote)
  10. Ton Zijlstra (Ton’s Interdependent Thoughts)

Articles by Others

  1. Jonathan Vernon
  2. David Gurteen
  3. Harold Jarche
  4. Jack Vinson
  5. Luis Suarez
  6. Dave Snowden
  7. David Weinberger
  8. Nancy White

As Quoted by Me

  1. Interview with Nancy White
  2. Personal KM Q&A: PKM is a mix of activities contributing to personal effectiveness in a knowledge-intensive environment. It’s not only about creating, sharing, acquiring and applying knowledge, but about supportive activities as well. Effective knowledge development is enabled by trust and shared understanding between people involved. For an individual this means a need to establish and maintain personal network, to keep track of contacts and conversations, and to make choices which communities to join. However, developing knowledge also requires filtering vast amounts of information, making sense of it, connecting different bits and pieces to come up with new ideas. In this process physical and digital artifacts play an important role, so knowledge workers are faced with a need for personal information management to organize their paper and digital archives, e-mails or bookmark collections.
  3. Knowledge work framework (PKM + tasks): Conversations are in the middle of the framework. The lower sector represents the domain of relations. The top sector represents the domain of developing ideas.

Community Posts in the Association of Knowledgework

1. Online Communities: Conversation Overload — Lilia Efimova [+++Jerry Ash]

STAR Series with Jenny Ambrozek & Joe Cothrel

From: Lilia Efimova

Subject: Conversation overload

+Jerry Ash: Reorganizing AOK

Attempts to follow this discussion provoked some blogging on “conversation overload,” which I thought worth sharing as another way to look on different tools to support communities.

The rest is from Conversation overload

We are going through rounds of discussions with colleagues on information overload, which is going to be one of our research topics for 2005. Those discussions provoke some associative thinking — on conversation overload (I’d define conversation overload as a stress of not being able to participate in conversations one wants to participate).

Another trigger for this thinking is a discussion at AOK mailing list on online communities. It’s very timely (just finished a paper on weblog communities), very interesting and very frustrating at the same time.

The frustration comes from the fact that I’m not able to participate in the discussion… I guess there are several reasons for that. First, there is a usual bad luck — all interesting AOK discussions happen when I’m heavily offline. But there are other reasons as well:

  1. It’s “high traffic” + “deep thought” discussion, so you need to spend a good effort to get into it, to follow different turns and arguments before you can jump in and comment.
  2. The discussion is organized in a way that’s difficult to digest with tools I have at my disposal:
  • there is no threading as all posts are moderated, so I can’t use Gmail’s great thread display to focus on most interesting threads
  • there is no RSS feed (at least I couldn’t find it), so I can’t use news aggregator to treat messages as posts
  • it’s not public, so I can’t bookmark interesting messages to come back to them later

It’s maybe my personal problem (am I so addicted to blogging that I’m not able to follow mailing lists anymore? :), but it makes me wonder why I’m less stressed in a case of weblog conversations.

This is what I suspect:

  1. Weblog conversations are easier to “jump into” in a middle — as each weblog post has to be meaningful on itself (see also Jill on good hypertext), bloggers make more effort summarizing earlier arguments or at least linking to them. In case of a mailing list without threading you have to read all messages to get into the context of conversation).
  2. Weblog conversations are “relaxed”: of course, timely response may be important, but you know that nothing awful happens if you react a couple of months later. In a case of a mailing list reacting in a couple of months can easily turn your message into “off topic,” as conversation moves to new areas and context is lost.
  3. Parts of weblog conversations are easier to “wave” into your own thinking. It could be a “personal KM researcher” bias, but I could hardly do without connecting discussions I have with others with my own thinking (re: conversations with others vs. conversations with self). I participate in a discussion not only for an altruistic reason of helping others and not only for the fun of “creative abrasion”, but also to learn myself and to develop my own ideas further. This could often mean that I also need a way to organize messages in a discussion (“collective” artifacts) in my own way to make them my personal as well (e.g., by selecting and reorganizing them in my own way with as bookmarks).

***

I don’t want to hurt any feelings (AOK discussions are the best you could find online), but I wonder why I’m feeling so stressed? Is it due to my personal preferences or is there something more objective?

[+Jerry Ash: Feelings intact; frustration mounting. Jack Vinson has been periodically raising the same issues with me for the 3+ years I’ve been hosting the STAR Series Dialogues using free listservs. Now, Lilia, your critique comes at an important moment in the life of AOK.

In conjunction with a working partnership with KM Magazine/ARK Group (which is to be complete around the first of the new year), we are in the process of rebranding and transferring management of the AOK Website and member services to that domain. The website, the process of member applications and approval and connection to the listserv are complex, interconnected and currently accomplished manually (by me). We have been discussing ways to improve those processes as KM/ARK assumes the responsibility. For instance, if financially possible, members could soon be able to access and edit their own membership data and preferences. Since we are also talking seriously about all alternatives to Yahoo including, your critique is especially welcome and will be very helpful to Oliver Griffiths, the web designer working on this project. I am forwarding your post to him, although he has recently joined our list to get a feel for the forum.

My biggest issue (outside of affordability) has always been the choice between email and online networking. The former is push, the latter pull, and it has been my experience that optional online networks rarely get the action enjoyed by in-your-face email. Online depends on networkers to … well … network. People mean to, but they don’t unless they are constantly reminded.

With Yahoo, our members actually have the choice of following and participating online at the Yahoo site after jumping through hoops), through Daily Digests or by receiving Individual Emails as they are approved. The vast majority of our members choose email over online-only and I automatically set their preferences on Daily Digest assuming they don’t want a flood of email each day during STAR Series Dialogues. It is interesting to me that at least 80 percent of our members choose to receive emails. It is also interesting that the most involved contributors to discussions prefer to receive individual emails or they do it online. The lurkers (learners, I think) predominately depend on emails to keep their attention going.

Nevertheless, the email option has serious problems with its asynchronous flow and time-limited exchange. What I dream of is a system that would provide the best of both worlds — the threaded, time unlimited nature of an online network plus the in-your-mailbox push of email. The technology exists, of course. We could have a system where the full posts show up online and individual email notices or digests provide subject lines and the first 30 words of each post with a hyperlink to the rest of the message. But, we are concerned that even KM/ARK will not be able to invest in this technology right away. However, I’m betting this: When KM/ARK takes over the management functions of AOK, the burden will speed up the decision!

Sorry to interrupt the group’s focus on a higher plane. However, I needed to share this with you all and Lilia touched my button. If any of you want to share your knowledge on these issues with Oliver Griffiths, let me know and I will connect you to Oliver for a consult! Thanks Lilia.

Thanks to all for your patience with AOK’s weaknesses. Your persistence will eventually make a difference!

2. Online Communities: Social Social Spaces Create Blog Communities — Lilia Efimova

STAR Series with Jenny Ambrozek & Joe Cothrel

From: Lilia Efimova

Subject: Blog communities

Thanks for bringing the topic of weblog communities into the discussion (and pointing to our work too :)

Since we just finished to write a paper on the topic (In search for a virtual settlement: An exploration of weblog community boundaries) it’s not that easy to be succinct, but I’ll try…

  1. Many people do not believe that weblog communities exist: at the end how a bunch of highly personal web sites could be a community? I guess I wouldn’t believe as well if I wouldn’t experience it — a process of relations forming via weblogs, bringing people closer over time, resulting in a dense network with shared interests, complex conversations, events and joint actions in real life.
  2. The closest metaphor I found so far is social activities “between buildings” in cities — in cafes, squares, sidewalks… We use it heavily in the paper: “An individual weblog is not likely to represent a community, while shared social spaces seem to emerge between weblogs, like in a city where life between buildings accounts for many social activities of its inhabitants. As in cities, blogger communal spaces are not evenly distributed: some neighborhoods are full of social activities and conversations, while others look like a random collocation of houses where inhabitants have nothing in common. Blogger communal spaces may have visible boundaries, but more often indicators of a community are subtle and is difficult for a non-member to distinguish. Just as a local garden is not likely to have a sign indicating that there is a chess-player community that inhabits it every Sunday, blog communities do not delineate obvious community boundaries.” (related references are at In search for a virtual settlement: An exploration of weblog community boundaries).
  3. Weblog communities are strange as they seem to not need a shared space to emerge: in a strange way personal relations turn into loosely coupled networks of people, some network areas get denser and at a certain moment it dense enough to support development of shared understanding and identity, turning into a community.
  4. Backchanelling — reading weblogs of others, emails, IM, f2f. Denham, Nancy and Jack are right — those play an important role and not easily visible “in weblogs” (in the paper we suggest some indicators of a community that could be observed in weblogs). I’m not sure that use emails or IM next to blogging are important for a community to emerge, but if used they are definitely an indication that community (or at least strong communication ties) is likely to be there.
  5. Why I think weblog communities are interesting?
  • There is no shared space
  • Boundaries are fluid (see also my coauthor, Stephanie Hendrick, on it)
  • Emergence (how do they emerge? can we facilitate it better as good urban design makes sidewalks and squares social?)

Finally, on “virtual”: I don’t mind talking about “virtual” or, better, “online” communities as it helps to stress that there is a technology-mediated component there, but at the end relations, trust and sense of belonging are very real… It’s just more difficult to go for a beer together :)

3. IPKM: PKM — Personal Effectiveness? — Lilia Efimova

STAR Series with David Gurteen

From: Lilia Efimova, member of scientific staff, Telematica Instituut, Netherlands

Subject: PKM: personal effectiveness in a knowledge-intensive environment?

For me there are two sides of the PKM discussion:

  1. understanding what do we mean by PKM and
  2. finding out a better label for it. I’d like to touch both of them.

1. For me, like for Jerry, the value of PKM discussion is in bringing attention to knowledge work, to the role of the individual in KM. This does not mean neglecting community and conversations, just stressing that there is a personal side next to social.

I do not have a good definition yet (hope to have at the end of my PhD research :), but to give it a try:

Personal KM is about being aware of conversations you engage in (both actively and by being exposed to as a lurker), relations that enable them, and ideas that you take from and bring into these conversations.

I tried to visualize it as a model, thinking of PKM as an intersection of three spaces: me, others and ideas.

2. I do not know a good label for it. David linked to some of my attempts to find it: the latest one is “personal effectiveness in a knowledge-intensive environment,” but I’m still not happy with it.

May be it’s worth to invite AOK readers for a brainstorming: conversations help finding words to address ideas that we are trying to articulate :)

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