KMRC Conference Blog: Snowden

April 1, 2009

I suppose I should complete the conference blog and report on the closing keynote speaker namely yours truly. If you want to see the slides then you can find them here. I am afraid the usual podcast is not available as my digital tape recorder has not been found, and had a lower priority than the passport during the hiatus which almost resulted in my not making the event. I always enjoy coming at the end, and I was working and modifying the slides as I listened to the other speakers. This can result from time to time in a degree of mischief and a few vendor presentations trotting out US corporate product slide sets induced a predictable result as can be seen in slide three! Given the absence of a podcast I will briefly summarise what I said, slide by slide:

  1. Opening slide, thanking the other speakers and the hosts. Noting that the speakers have a view of Causeway Bay, while the audience have to put up with the speakers!
  2. Here is had done some quick screen shots of the blogs I had been running, and the blog awaiting posting on Leif’s presentation. My goal here was to emphasis the speed of feedback and the importance of publishing to build networks that in turn allow you to listen. For me this is one of the critical aspects of social computing and the interconnectivity that characterises the world we live in. In order to have networks who can help you, you first of all have to say interesting things so that people listen to you. Status and position offer little entry here and will not maintain you; if you cease to be interesting your network vanishes. I also made the strong point that we should not be seduced by technology; its a tool and should be treated as such. I finished with a phrase I first used over a decade ago: Technology is a tool and like all tools it should fit your hand when you pick it up, you shouldn’t have to bio-re-engineer your hand to fit the tool.
  3. That was a good lead in to slide 3 which I had put together around half an hour before. There are several models in KM which I think have done a lot of harm and I listed them. Whatever Nonaka’s intention he created a archetypal western (ironic that) categorisation model that resulted in everyone wanting to make tacit knowledge explicit, the balanced score card is a recipe for astute political game players and don’t even talk to me about Wisdom Management. Suitably warmed up I went for the manufacturing model of re-use in too many large consultancy firms, aimed a side swipe at all the two by two matrices before ending up with the dangers of following what you understand worked for other organisations in very different context.
  4. Then the basketball video, always good to find an audience that hadn’t seen it and it had the usual effect of making people realise that the assumptions behind traditional research methods, consultancy interview techniques and the like are based on some very flawed ideas about human cognition.
  5. Thence to by seven rules or principles of KM, which I elaborated in this post some time ago
  6. Now all of those rules (and my earlier criticisms) are to my mind common sense, so not it was time to elaborate on the science of common sense namely complex adaptive systems theory. I gave a basic introduction based on the relationship between systems and agents: system constrains agents its ordered, agents unconstrained its chaotic and when the system and the agents co-evolve then its a complex system. For any complex system there are basics to management and all three (fine granularity objects, distributed cognition & disintermediation)have to be in play, you are at high risk if you compromise in any way.
  7. It was now time to look at one of these namely finely granulated objects.
  8. To do this I took my “everything is fragmented” slide that first saw light of day at KM World over a year ago and talked about the need to hit the sweetspot: enough fragmentation to allow re-use, no such much as to render the material incoherent.
  9. From there is was natural leap to social computing and I made this personal by describing my own workspace. I did this by taking snapshots of what was open on my macbook just before I stood up to speak. Tweetdeck, Yammer, Wikipedia, Skype, Ecto and Shrook (I should really have added in the Cognitive Edge Ning as well. Its always good to explain this stuff by showing something, and the real point is that a modern environment is not a single supplier, its a multitude of changing suppliers.
  10. Now some theory again, natural numbers and the london taxi drivers who take several years to acquire the knowledge. Then a brief overview of my thinking on crews which I need to blog again in the future.
  11. One of the three down we are now onto distributed cognition which is best explained by …
  12. … the magic roundabout in Swindon
  13. The aerial photograph always scares people, but its a great example of distributed cognition…
  14. … and the centralised alternative is even more scary when you think about it
  15. Into the home straight now with the third condition namely disintermediation
  16. I illustrated this with a landscape map from SenseMaker™, showing the need for an executive or any decision making to have access to an abstract representation of the total field of interest, form which they can arrow down to specific data.
  17. Overrunning now, but the audience is OK and the Chair is making no signs I should stop, so I explain how we signify data for mass capture of self-indexed material and …
  18. … illustrated it with an impact monitoring example from Liverpool Museums ..
  19. … and some of the triad monitoring for leadership from another project.
  20. Finally an hour later to the conclusion. My favourite quote from Seneca which I use to admonish the audience to stop wasting time of three plans and instead manage the evolutionary potential of the present.

All over and we went to the panel. All the speakers in general agreement but there again after a decade of knowledge management the failures are fairly well known and the principles of success understood. The problem is the failure approach is the more conventional one. More Helen of Troy moments (the face that launched a thousand ships, or a thousand failed KM initiatives).

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About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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