This is the 62nd article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Ross Dawson is globally recognized as a leading futurist, keynote speaker, strategy advisor, author, and entrepreneur. He is Chairman of Advanced Human Technologies Group based in Bondi, New South Wales, Australia. I read Ross’s blog when I started blogging in 2006, and commented on his blog in 2007. His writing on Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, and social networks impressed me. I met Ross at KM Australia in Sydney in 2010. He interviewed me in October, 2020 on his Virtual Excellence show.


Ross is Founding Chairman of the Advanced Human Technologies Group of companies, which includes professional services and publishing units, futures consultancy Future Exploration Network, executive network The Insight Exchange, and strategy collective intelligence startup Fraxios (currently in stealth mode).

He is author of four books including Living Networks, which The New York Times credits with predicting the social networking revolution, the bestseller Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships, now out in its second edition, Implementing Enterprise 2.0, and most recently Getting Results From Crowds, and has published over 100 articles in publications worldwide.

Ross has expertise in future thinking and long-term strategy, entrepreneurship, scenario planning, network economy, future of business, future of work and education, future of organizations, future of media, future of marketing and PR, future of retail, future of healthcare, future of government, financial services, professional services, corporate innovation, parallel entrepreneurship, crowdsourcing, and social media.


  • Macquarie University — Postgraduate Certificate, Applied Finance
  • University of Bristol — B.Sc., Physics



KM Articles

  1. We are fast learning how to create “enhanced serendipity”
  2. How I used social networking software to create enhanced serendipity
  3. Social networks and engineering serendipity in the workplace
  4. Creating enhanced serendipity
  1. Set information objectives.
  2. Select your information sources.
  3. Set time aside for reading.
  4. Filter aggressively.
  5. Be open to useful information.
  6. People are your best resource.
  7. Develop your reading and note-taking skills.
  8. Sleep on it!

Articles by Others

  1. Filtering (separating signal from noise, based on some criteria)
  2. Validation (ensuring that information is reliable, current or supported by research)
  3. Synthesis (describing patterns, trends or flows in large amounts of information)
  4. Presentation (making information understandable through visualization or logical presentation)
  5. Customization (describing information in context)
  1. He starts by quoting Norman and Ramirez, who said 17 years ago: “the essence of strategy is to `link together the only resources that matter in today’s economy: knowledge and relationships.’” They are right. Linking knowledge and relationships is even more critical today than it was then.
  2. Here’s how Ross Dawson describes the situation within today’s organization: An organization cannot function with only commoditized supplier relationships or strong partnerships — both are required depending on the function and situation. However the danger is that the shift to commoditized, price-based relationships takes away from the energy put into relationships based on trust and deep mutual knowledge. Today more than ever, those who are better at developing rich knowledge-based relationships have an enormous advantage over their competitors, not least in being able to innovate more effectively.
  1. Where did all the money go? — Ross Dawson writes about “Wealth Adaption Syndrome” — i.e. you were a master of the universe 18 months ago and now you are down to your last million. Or simply that the value of your house (or your super/pension) is worth less. You are feeling poorer.
  2. Ross Dawson laments the level of blogging in Australia
  • Putting people at the center: social staff directories by Alex Manchester — In the research report, How to use social media to solve critical communication issues, futurist Ross Dawson outlines seven key trends for the future of internal communication, one of which highlights the value of people-oriented information systems:
  1. ‘In the future, the promise of social search will finally bear fruit with, for once, enterprise technology moving ahead of consumer technology. Rich profiling of users, what they’re working on, what they’re searching for, and what they’re finding useful in their tasks will drive highly contextual and relevant results, including selective context-based pushes of information.’
  2. Dawson has substantial credence on this topic. As author of the book, The Living Networks published in 2001, he predicted the rise of online social networks as critical web and business services and tools.

Knowledge Management In Its Model T Era: An expert on a somewhat disgraced technology looks at its potential by Optimize Magazine

The Knowledge Management Cluster is a network of experts on the much maligned topic of knowledge management. On September 27, at a meeting in San Francisco, Ross Dawson, CEO of consulting firm Advanced Human Technologies, was scheduled to speak on the subject of “Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships: Leadership In Professional Services.” Optimize spoke to him beforehand.

Although KM may not be highly regarded, Dawson, who splits his time between San Francisco and Sydney, still defends it, citing its importance in supporting the connected economy and social network analysis and noting the value of more-recent technologies such as XML and Web services in achieving it.

Q: Is knowledge management defunct?

A: Not quite, but close. KM emerged in the mid-1990s, with the idea that knowledge is our most valuable resource and that we need to make it more productive. Then the term was taken over by the technology vendors that shaped the whole hype cycle. The problem with KM — besides its being an unwieldy term — is that there’s no intrinsic value in managing knowledge. The term itself isn’t outcome- or business-oriented.

I’ve really tried to extricate myself from it. I believe there are five ways of looking at the issues unearthed by KM: social networks, collaboration, data relevance, workflow, and knowledge-based relationships. These are all outcome-oriented, and executives understand them. To me, it doesn’t make sense to keep bundling these items as KM. It’s a term that has lost its usefulness.

Q: What do you mean by social networks?

A: That looks at the relationships between entities, not just people. The security agencies of the world are using network approaches to find the relationships between people and places and entities. This is where technology is being applied to homeland security.

Q: What about business intelligence? Doesn’t that fit into KM?

A: I look at BI as analysis of large amounts of data — data mining, as it were. That’s the real power of computers. They can work with large data sets and pick out some patterns. I agree that there are some limits to the insights, but computers are increasingly getting better at pattern recognition.

Pattern recognition is an interesting domain. This is one place where humans reign supreme, because we can recognize patterns across a whole array of information sources. When you move into large amounts of data, as opposed to many sources, that’s where computers get the edge and where BI is working better.

To bring those two thoughts together, there are also BI tools using large data sets that help you identify relationships that are not initially visible. That’s useful not only for fraud detection but also for customer prospecting.

Q: Can you provide an example?

A: In financial services, you can use BI tools to determine, based on someone’s purchase patterns, if that person is a prospect for wealth management offers.

Q: It seems as if one of the challenges here is the inevitable collision between companies that want to collect information and consumers who want to keep it private.

A: Privacy really is one of the driving dimensions in the future of business and society. All other things being equal, people prefer that their information not be made available. But commercial organizations must do something to demonstrate that there’s value in giving up some privacy. Look at Amazon: If you accept cookies, you get recommendations in return. People are generally open to this, and you don’t need to offer much before they’re willing to give up information about themselves. Given that demonstrated willingness to give up information for a very small reward, more information is likely to become available about people.

Q: That actually brings up an interesting point about technology — it seems that there’s so much more that can be done with technology in terms of collecting valid and valuable information. Would you agree that we’re really in the Model T era of what’s possible?

A: Absolutely. The ability to recognize patterns is advancing at a rapid pace. In terms of applying that to business intelligence, one issue is the ability to acquire the data, given what we’ve discussed about privacy. You not only have to ensure access to information but you also have to be sure that that it’s clean and that it’s captured properly and appropriately. v

One example today is behavioral analysis. What patterns do people follow when they walk down supermarket aisles? Giving the diminishing cost of data storage and the increasing availability of computer power, there are far, far richer things that can be done.

Q: So what we’re saying is that knowledge management — whatever you decide to call it — isn’t really dead; it’s in its infancy.

A: That’s why I include workflow in my list of important aspects of knowledge management. Think about the idea of taking different data sets and integrating them, such as a Google map showing gas stations and a query for finding them. This goes back to the network analysis idea, in which you take different data sets and bring them together for a new use that’s more meaningful.

Q: You also include professional services; in fact, you wrote a book called Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships, The Future of Professional Services (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000). How does that relate?

A: Professional services is making up more and more of the economy. Besides lawyers, accountants, and consultants, it includes anybody in technology — hardware or software development, or coding. All these people have specialized knowledge, and they all have clients, whether they are external or internal.

Meanwhile, the drive of technology and science means we must become increasingly specialized, which, in turn, means that no professional can stand alone. Each one must work with other professionals to create something valuable. So how do they become aware of each other so they can collaborate? That’s a knowledge-based service — something customized by a combination of the knowledge of both the client and the professional.

Q: That sounds like IT.

A: That’s right, and it’s the future of professional services and the entire economy. The professional as knowledge specialist is always engaging in knowledge-based relationships that require knowledge management and collaboration.

Related Link: Modernizing Knowledge Management

As Quoted by Me

  • Living Networks, Chapter 6: Network Presence — As Ross Dawson says in Living Networks, “People’s knowledge can be embedded into documents, models, and software so that others can use it. People can be connected to others with relevant experience so that they can apply their knowledge to a specific issue. These two strategies, sometimes called connection and collection, are relevant to every business.”

Launching the Web 2.0 Framework

The intention of the Web 2.0 Framework is to provide a clear, concise view of the nature of Web 2.0, particularly for senior executives or other non-technical people who are trying to grasp the scope of Web 2.0, and the implications and opportunities for their organizations.

Web 2.0 Framework

Web 2.0 is founded on seven key Characteristics:

  1. Participation
  2. Standards
  3. Decentralization
  4. Openness
  5. Modularity
  6. User Control
  7. Identity

Web 2.0 is expressed in two key Domains:

  1. the Open web
  2. the Enterprise

The heart of Web 2.0 is how it converts Inputs:

  1. User Generated Content
  2. Opinions
  3. Applications

through a series of Mechanisms:

  1. Technologies
  2. Recombination
  3. Collaborative Filtering
  4. Structures
  5. Syndication

to Emergent Outcomes that are of value to the entire community.

Web 2.0 Definitions

As referred to in the Framework, we define the Web 2.0:

  1. Characteristics
  2. Domains
  3. Technologies

Ten definitions for Web 2.0 are provided, including the one I use to pull together the ideas in the Framework: “Distributed technologies built to integrate, that collectively transform mass participation into valuable emergent outcomes.”

Web 2.0 Landscape

62 prominent Web 2.0 companies and applications are mapped out across two major dimensions:

  1. Content Sharing to Recommendations/Filtering
  2. Web Application to Social Network

The four spaces that emerge at the junctions of these dimensions are:

  1. Widget/ component
  2. Rating/ tagging
  3. Aggregation/ Recombination
  4. Collaborative filtering

Collectively these cover the primary landscape of Web 2.0.


IKMS: Web 2.0 and the Future of Knowledge Management



  • KMWorld & Intranets 2002: A Financial Markets Perspective on Intellectual Capital
  • KMWorld & Intranets 2004 C205: Implementing Knowledge-Based Relationships — In our intensely connected global network economy, a dominant and increasing proportion of the value resides in “knowledge-based” relationships with clients, suppliers, and partners. In this highly stimulating session, Dawson provides practical tools and approaches for how to implement high-value relationships, maximize client lock-in, and gather and apply deep customer knowledge. He also draws on global leading practice to examine how best to manage suppliers, outsourcing, and alliance partners to support strategy and develop organizational knowledge, and how the use of collaborative technologies can open up compelling new opportunities by creating more value with clients and external partners.
  • KMWorld & Intranets 2007 C203: Successful Enterprise 2.0 and Social Media: Applying the Web 2.0 Framework in Organizations — This session provides deep insights into Enterprise 2.0, including specifically how valuable outcomes are created inside the enterprise from social media and other existing and new KM tools, and how this can best be supported. The framework provides practical insights for organizations wishing to implement social media and Enterprise 2.0 tools, and develop strategies for making these initiatives more valuable.
  1. PDF
  2. SlideShare




Table of Contents

Part 1: Evolving Networks

  • Chapter 1 The Networks Come Alive: What the Changing Flow of Information and Ideas Means For Business
  • Chapter 2 Emerging Technologies: How Standards and Integration Are Driving Business Strategy

Part 2: Evolving Organizations

  • Chapter 3 The New Organization: Leadership Across Blurring Boundaries
  • Chapter 4 Relationship Rules: Building Trust and Attention in the Tangled Web
  • Chapter 5 Distributed Innovation: Intellectual Property in a Collaborative World
  • Chapter 6 Network Presence: Harnessing the Flow of Marketing, Customer Feedback, and Knowledge

Part 3: Evolving Strategy

  • Chapter 7 The Flow Economy: Opportunities and Risks in the New Convergence
  • Chapter 8 Next Generation Content Distribution: Creating Value When Digital Products Flow Freely
  • Chapter 9 The Flow of Services: Reframing Digital and Professional Services
  • Chapter 10 Liberating Individuals: Network Strategy for Free Agents

Part 4: Future Networks

  • Chapter 11 Future Networks: The Evolution of Business



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Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

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