The power of the cross-boundary network

December 6, 2007

I attended a really great day long “Technical Information Exchange” at the MITRE corporation yesterday. The topic was knowledge management; speakers included MITRE staff who are working on KM, introducing Web 2.0 tools internally, a number of government speakers. (More on these in another post.)

The invited keynote speaker represented the nonprofit sector. Brook Manville is EVP at United Way, where he directs the Center for Community Leadership I first met (and last saw) Brook (via my colleague Andy Snider at one of Andy’s Advanced Thinkers conclaves) in 2003, just as he was starting at the United Way. The task ahead at that time was to guide the transformation of the United Way from a fund-raising organization to a community-based network of local hubs. That transformation is still in progress.

Brook’s talk for this day was to set forth his view of the “next generation of KM.” His take is that the first generation focused on organizational effectiveness:

  • Leveraging assets
  • Managing what’s known, and
  • Developing disciplined system practices.

The current generation is working up its S-curve of discovery, development, and integration toward the power of cross-boundary networks. The forces behind this discontinuous change include the introduction of Web 2.0 technologies, global competition, etc. In this generation, we need to manage the boundaries, ecosystems of networks, the democratic engagement of people at all levels in the organization, and to enable the management of the “knowable.” (I liked that).

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