Tuesday, June 22, 2004

On Blogging With the Boss’s Blessing 

I think we can say that corporate blogging is on its way when large corporations such as Microsoft jump in the bandwagon. This article describes how corporate blogging can be used to “humanize” a company and represents a powerful “guerrilla marketing tool”. It also mentions some issues a corporation implementing corporate blogging might face. Control is at stake here.

Friday, June 18, 2004

The Humanized Business 

Dave Pollard has published an interesting article, which I would sum up as: bringing down business to its roots, i.e. individuals with a dream. With his 10 steps to entrepreneurship, Dave suggest you to forget about what is usually referred to as scientific management to focus on what you want to achieve and to give it some serious thoughts. Those damned MBA graduates would probably argue that scientific management has proven its success in bringing profitability to companies during the last decades. Even though this statement is being increasingly criticized, I tend to agree with it (I am an MBA graduate after all…). But the point here is that if you ask entrepreneurs the main reasons that brought them to start a new business, they almost never answer that they wanted to become rich. Their motivations are most often: liberty, having no boss, social recognition, make a living out of their passion. Money is usually mentioned after that. It’s only gravy.

Knowing that, it does not make sense to manage a business having only in mind the maximization of profitability. A good business is a business that brings an entrepreneur what she really wants. So yes Dave is right on many points, business is more than making money. It’s a human experience and managers who try to reduce it to debits and credits are missing the most important part.

However, not all is wrong about scientific management. After all, one needs to eat while having a great time with his business. Sound financial management is still necessary to make the dream last a lifetime.

On « Whither the Semantic Web » 

People who are working in R&D are usually seen as being innovative by definition, as really being “thinking outside the box”. My feeling is that it’s not often the case. Innovation comes from redefining a conceptual framework, not from pushing an existing one further. Such a redefinition usually results from simple questions such as: why, for whom, when, how. I have seen a number of large-scale R&D projects where people forgot what was the purpose of their work, what was giving them some value. The outcomes of those projects were most of the time debatable.

Stephen’s discussion of current “semantic web” work reflects that problem well. Semantic web tools are useless until they are used. I do not pretend to know much about semantic web but I suggest researchers to honestly try to answer the 4 fundamental questions mentioned above. If answers are inexistent, complex or unclear, then the purpose of the semantic web has been lost. There is no way for semantic web efforts to be useful without a clear purpose. Let’s just make sure that they fulfill a “real” need for the society. Very basic I know, but necessary.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Adapt or Die to the Colliding Exponentials 

A good interview with Curt Carlson, CEO of SRI. It introduces, to me at least, the concept of Colliding Exponentials:

“Well, at SRI, we look for what we call "colliding exponentials," where, for example, computing runs into communications and creates the Internet. So we focus on the real important problems that result when that type of intersection happens, because usually, when it does happen, it changes the ecosystem. It breaks things apart and creates lots of new opportunities, both for technology and also for licensing and venture deals and basic research.”

Just to keep pushing the physics particles metaphor a bit, we can think that the collision of ideas and concepts acts as a chain reaction heating up our business ecosystem. It’s like heating up a gas. The speed of change can only increase as collisions become more frequent. Via Evelyn Rodriguez.

A Prescription For 'Work Effectiveness Improvement' 

Dave Pollard's review of Bill Jensen's Simplicity raises some important issues in today's business world.

As Dave notes, Jensen states that "...poor decision-making is the root cause of business error and ineffectiveness...". In my opinion, poor decision-making is more of a symptom. The real problem is that large organizations are not effective at managing uncertainty and change. Their static structure doesn't adapt easily to new business environments. Therefore, there's always a gap between the structure of the market and the structure of the organization. This is this gap that creates unnecessary complexity and poor decision-making.

Dave suggests that "Today's organization is more like a jazz combo than an army, and needs a very different kind of team facilitation and 'leadership'." Today's organization is actually like a jazz combo that needs to play classic, jazz, rock, R&B, rap and new age music during a one-night concert. The show would be better off if a number of musicians were called on stage for one or a few songs that they're good at playing and would then leaving. The large organization structure is just no longer the best model.

Being an advocate of professional training, I agree that individual workers need to become more independent and self-sufficient thinkers through training. However, I don't see how it would dramatically impact organizations in today's paradigm. KM is failing for exactly the same reason.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Employee Socializing 

This is an interesting article about the place of communication in KM. It introduces the notion of cost of collaboration:

“…collaboration has a cost, in the form of ever-more meetings and e-mails that serve to bog down employees rather than unleash them.”

“Instead of indiscriminately pursuing greater communication, managers would do well to figure out how to optimize the flow of information among their employees…”

Cross and Parker are renowned for their network analysis approach of collaboration. The main idea is that it’s not enough to encourage communication and collaboration. We need to understand how information (and knowledge) flows within and throughout an organization in order to influence it wisely.

CIO.com, Encourage Employee Socializing
Rob Cross and Andrew Parker

Monday, June 07, 2004

The Power and Responsibility of Individual Corporations 

Sometimes I really hope that I’m wrong, that corporations are here to stay, that individuals will keep working and thinking in the coziness of the traditional employer-employee relationship. That would comfort me a bit. I wouldn’t have to worry about all those people who will not be able to adapt to the fact that they, as workers, need to become internationally competitive in order to survive. I wouldn’t either have to worry that the new self-empowerment of individuals will likely create two social classes: the valued ones and the non-valued ones, those who adapted to the knowledge economy and those who didn’t. Unfortunately, I am convinced that traditional corporations will soon be history…

So yes I believe that the end of corporations as we know them is coming. On the long run, it might well be a good thing by allowing people to think and create more by themselves through strong links with their community. The empowerment of the individual through his/her community will allow people that have a lot to contribute to get paid according to their direct influence on the society. It corresponds to the distribution of profit in a vertical production chain composed of infinitesimal production units, individual contributions. To put it simply, if you contribute something valuable to the society, you get paid. Otherwise you don’t. The responsibility of an individual’s income is then totally attributed to him/her. Is everyone presently a contributor of “real” added value to the society? I suggest that you look around yourself in your workplace and make your own opinion. That is why I am worried.

I don’t think that we should be arguing about going there or not. If it’s meant to arise out of today’s world, then there’s not much we can do to stop it. According to me the most relevant question at this point is to determine how we can ready our society. Education is obviously part of the answer (probably in a renewed form). But other than making sure that people have the tools, how can we make sure that they have the mindset? I have no idea.

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