Knowledge Management Renaissance

Knowledge Management (KM) was a really hot topic back in the mid to late 90’s. By the early 00’s it had all but disappeared from the spotlight; but it was far from dead. With the recent growth of new media and the Enterprise 2.0 movement KM is seeing a growth like it has never seen before.

If you’re interested in the KM Renaissance, here’s a few good blogs to start with:
Weekly Knowledge Management Blog by Stan Garfield

Reflections of a Knowledge Manager
Leveraging Organizational Knowledge

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The Formula for Innovation

I got this formula from a presentation that Professor Roy Glen gave on Fostering Innovation.

(VxTxI)/S= Innovation

The amount of Variety times the number of Trials times the search Intensity, divided by the Selection process equals successful Innovation.

Variety refers to the source of the *raw product* that you start the innovation process with. This could be actual product or inspiration from different industries, or people from different departments or even companies. The more varied the better. Weeding out the ones that don’t fit is easier than adding something you didn’t start with.

The amount of trials and combinations that you preform are just as important as the variety of raw product used. This is where people are applying the principles of agile development. I also blogged previously about “Fail Cheap, Fail Often.” This is a hard stage to control. Many people will want to run with the first combination that looks viable, instead of trying other combinations for a better solution. Others will want to try every conceivable combination holding up progress on the project.

Search Intensity was a little confusing for me at first. Probably because I immediately started thinking about algorithms and search results. Intensity will drive the group to find the best solution and force them to reach out beyond the organization’s comfort level. This is why so many companies (especially in tech) try to hire “risk taking entrepreneurs.” To me Intensity translates into Passion.

Selection is where the right management becomes crucial. Someone has to have the experience/authority/intuition to say “try again” or “good enough”.  At IDEO this is where they say the *grown ups* have to make a decision. During the initial phase of innovation diverging is crucial; constantly looking for more Variety and preforming more Trials. It is a very Intense process, emotions run high and conflicts are good; to a point. Someone has to reign in the chaos eventually. At this phase, the wrong type of manager can destroy the entire process.

Innovation requires divergence, openness and creativity. These are not things that come naturally to businesses. Businesses typically build wealth and success on repeatable scalable processes, convergence and consensus.

Business leaders need to learn to adapt. They need to be comfortable with change and ambiguity. Roy used a quote I want to end with, I’m sorry I can’t remember who he was quoting. If any of you know leave me a comment.

“When your business is stuck, let chaos reign and then rein chaos in.”

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Inclusive vs Exclusive Marketing

I’ve written before about what I think is wrong with Marketing. Often times when people are talking about New Media Marketing vs Traditional Marketing, what people are usually talking about Inclusive vs Exclusive.

  • Advertising is exclusive
  • Blogging in inclusive
  • Mall Intercept surveys are exclusive
  • Online forums are inclusive

But really it’s more about the approach than the medium.

  • A blog that doesn’t allow comments is exclusive
  • Doing a press release about a customer is inclusive
  • Posting your TV ad on YouTube is exclusive
  • Running an unsolicited customer made commercial on prime time is inclusive

The *act* of Marketing puts an artificial barrier between you and your customer. You are saying “I don’t have time to engage with you, look at the pretty picture instead.”

Consumers today want to engage, not with the brand, but with the people inside the company. The user wants to define what the brand is, not be told what their user experience should be.

Don’t Market to your customer. Include your customer in the business process. This includes feedback, product development, even business operations. Listen, watch, engage and communicate.

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The Music Industry is Ripe for Disruption

I’ve picked on journalism enough in this blog that I thought I would spread the love to another dino-media; the music industry and their distribution model (and specifically the RIAA).

The tricky thing about music distribution services is gaining the install base. You have to develop a network and gain enough users, which is expensive. Or you can go the disruptive route like pandora, and Napster (pre Metallica destruction), which is difficult to monetize because the RIAA is made up of medieval land barons.

I think the time is right for someone to cut the legs out from under all of them. Introduce a service that makes it irrelevant for indie bands to get a label. Get enough good content and you don’t have to play their game. I know there are several services that try and do this, Pod Show and their Pod Safe Music Network is the closest to accomplishing this (there’s a reason most of these bands aren’t signed). Honestly, MySpace is in the best situation to do this but they are owned by people who have a vested interest in the medieval land baron model.

You need to have access to both a network for distribution and a network of content. Most companies focus on building the distribution network. This is what Satellite Radio, iTunes, Slacker and all of the new startups are doing. This is why the RIAA holds the reigns. They control the network of content.

Podshow has been using podcasters as their distribution network and are building their own network of content. It still remains to be seen if they will be able to branch out beyond podcasting, which I think they will need to do in order to be successful.

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The Importance of Information Aggregation

How are we expected to keep up with the speed at which information is coming at us?

  • Do you binge, like a tourist at a Vegas buffet?
  • Or do you purge and limit yourself like a super model?

Most people take one of two routes:

  • Binge until they burnout and then purge. Then like the info junkies they are, binge, purge repeat.
  • Be the super model and therefore out of the loop. No one likes to be “that guy” who has no idea what’s going on.

Stowe Boyd has a great post addressing this conundrum.

I think that you have to prioritize your information. Fill it with the most pressing information first. This would include stuff relating to family, work and areas of interest. Then let the other stuff fill in the gaps. I think that it’s important not to consciously “block” information. You never know what could become important. The distinction though is that if it’s not important now, it could become important.

If you have aggregated all of the “non-important” information and let it fill in the rare “free time” it will be there when it is important.

I think another important point to make is that some people are better than others as aggregating information. Those people are very valuable in your organization. To quote a good friend of mine, these are the coal miner’s canaries. Because they have been filtering all of this information they have a good sense of what the dangers and opportunities there are. They may not always know why or have immediate facts, but because they have, at least on some level, processed the information it’s there to trigger those alarms at the right moments.

As Stowe points out,

“We need to unfocus, to rely more on the network or tribe to surface things of importance, and remain open to new opportunities: these are potentially more important than the work on the desk. Don’t sharpen the knife too much.”

I believe the ability to filter and aggregate content is an ever increasingly important skill for business leaders. How can you make the right strategic decisions if you don’t have the right information?  You just can’t do it all yourself.

BTW, have you ever heard a Gen Y (arguably the most social generation we have ever seen) complain about too much information? I haven’t.

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Fighting Writers Block the Google Way

So I’ve been a little light in my blog posting lately. This is my last week of school for two months and I can’t wait for the break. In addition to that I have been busy with events and posts related to

So in homage to my lack of posts I am writing about a trick I have used to overcome writers block. This method is especially useful if you are having a difficult time coming up with topics to blog about.

First go to Google’s Keyword Tool. This is a part of Google Adwords. The tool is set up to provide a way to determine keywords you may want to use in an advertising campaign. I’m going to show you an alternative use (aka a hack).

There are two tabs that appear: Keyword Variations (this is the default). This section is used to suggest other keywords related to the keyword you already have in mind. The second tab is Site-Related Keywords, this is the one we want.

In the field where you are prompted to enter a URL cut and paste your favorite blog site here. Click the box for ” Include other pages on my site linked from this URL.” This will also pull data from sites that the blog links to, most blogs have a lot of links, that’s why I suggest using a blog.

In the last drop down menu select “keyword search volume.”

Choose data to display:

The search results will display keyword suggestions related to keywords found on the site entered (including the linked to sites).

More importantly it will display the search volume trends for those keywords. This will allow you to create a list of blog topics that are highly SEO relevant and if the topics are trending up or down. If your main optimized term is dropping off the search trend it might be time to optimize for a different but related term. This can usually be done by using a variation of the same word. In the last search I did, “blogs” ranked higher in search trends than did “blog.”

You can then choose keywords that you could blog about and export them into a text file or Excell file. Once you have this file you can use it as inspiration for blog topics that are highly SEO relevant.

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How to Implement New Media inside Your Company

These tips are for all of my friends working inside of large companies, wanting to take advantage of new media but are not sure where to start. Here are some steps I recommend. This advice is meant for deployment *inside* your company. I find it a much easier sell to your higher ups on deploying new media internally than it is to launch external efforts. Once you’ve demonstrated the power of new media it becomes much easier to extend those efforts beyond the firewall.

1) Start Small

- I can’t over state this one enough. People get easily excited about the possibilities of what they can do with new media (instead of what they should do) and start making grandiose plans of turning their corporate website into the next MySpace. Start with one internal forum or wiki in one department, or find a few other managers that may want to collaborate on a blog. Check around, people might already be doing this (start with IT they are notorious for hogging the coolest toys for themselves). This could be as simple as going to and setting up a password protected blog.

2) Start with internal champions

- In order to create buy-in, you need support and you need help continuing the content during the lulls (which there will be). You want the influential connectors in your company to contribute. These are the “go to guys/gals” that know how to get things done. The problem is that they are usually the busiest. The good news is that they are also the ones who like getting recognition for helping out on cool new initiatives.

3) Grow it organically (using fertilizer)

- Don’t pass down a mandate. Don’t implement a new policy. You only want those people participating who want to participate (but you want them to want to participate). ***Warning the following suggestion may seem underhanded*** If you have an internal blog and someone not participating shares a great story or experience with you, invite them to write it up and share it on the blog. If that doesn’t work, interview them and post the interview on the blog. Then go back to those internal champions and have them comment on it, sparking additional conversation. You won’t have to do this too often before people are participating on their own.

4) Education

- New media tools can seem intimidating at first. There is a steep but incredibly small learning curve. Constantly provide ongoing training on how to use the tools. Have a monthly luncheon where people are invited to get together and talk about what’s working and what could be improved, how the tools work, tips, tricks, etc. It can also be good to circulate tutorials, both written and video. If you have access to web conferencing technology the video is probably the easiest to do.

5) Provide encouragement

- Reward those that are participating. Quote someones blog in a meeting, give all of those that are participating a Moleskine to keep their ideas in. Sometimes this means sending out encouraging emails during the lulls. This is important because after the initial excitement of launch there will come a point where the initiative will face stagnation. Its important to continue to nag encourage people to keep participating.

6) Ask for forgiveness not permission

- Supposing that you have an old crusty conservative boss who may not quite understand the technology, this may be the only way to go. If you can demonstrate how effective new media can be with little or no cost then there becomes nothing to apologize for. If you follow the first 5 steps you can most likely generate enough momentum that your company will have no choice but to get on board.

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