Archives for posts with tag: Knowledge Management

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The next Albert Einstein has been born already.

He made a leap of thought that no one could have predicted. The leap took years of work, hours of discussions and collaboration, thousands of miles of travel. When he started the journey, he had no idea he was getting ready for a new idea of such magnitude.

The relativity theory was not deductible simply from the observations he’d made. Einstein’s work changed the world because it raced through the twentieth-century network of scientists, and then of writers, and then throughout the networks we call culture and history.

We can expect that the next Einstein is more likely to be a data wonk than an absent-minded professor. New software will correlate unrelated data sets and develop insights, theories and open new worlds to us. These program will make us rethink our thinking. The next Einstein will make sense of data that a program has uncomprehendingly flagged as interestingly anomalous.

The next Einstein is like to do her work in the public space, on the connected Web. Rather than waiting to publish final results, she will post early results and perhaps a speculative hypothesis. As word spreads, a web of links and connections will grow around her. Some nodes will turn into hubs, some hosted by amateurs others by professionals, scientists, businesspeople or scholars. We know, however, that many of the nodes and the threads that connect them will disagree, will argue, will go down a dead end, will be wrong, childish and selfish, will be a waste of the links that connects them. Still, we will be able to follow how an idea spreads and the effect it has as the competent and the nutty take it up, make it their own and pass it on.

This is not just a change of tools. The nature of the knowledge that the next Einstein uncovers will be different from that produced by Albert Einstein almost 100 years ago. Our new knowledge does not consist of a careful set of works that have passed through a series of narrow gates. We once believed that knowledge was scarce, when in fact our shelves were just small. Our new knowledge is not even a set of works: it’s an infrastructure of connection. We now travel through abundance as knowingly as we can, always within a context and from a point of view, always connected with others, always with the amount of care we judge is required. Knowledge is now a network with the characteristics of the Web.

We can argue all day if the new knowledge will bring us closer to the truth. We can’t argue that networked knowledge brings us closer to the truth about knowledge.

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So, you’re the brightest agency in the world. You work with the best clients. You sit in meetings and get the client exited about all these new projects. The client sign off on the strategy and the final work is not what you had in mind and visualized for the client.

Why?

People love to get excited about new projects and innovative ideas. But when it comes to the execution, things start to look rather risky and the revert back to the generic ways of doing things.

When you can feel that excitement in the room, you need to capture that feeling and keep it alive. You need to keep the momentum. The more momentum you keep, the more real the project becomes. And the more likely to be what you envisioned when you got your clients excited.

Keep the initiative.

Next time you feel that excitement in the room, get an agreement from everybody to make something. It could be a research project, a brainstorming session, a workshop – anything that keeps people engaged and connect with the initial excitement. Make sure to keep everybody active or you’ll have the doubts creeping in, the fizzling will begin and you end up with something mediocre and safe.

Agencies are idea factories. They’re nicer and cleaner and less noisy, they’re still factories. Keep the engine running and churn out ideas that go beyond a vision and cheap talk.

Make things.

Or, in other words: Always ship.

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Image: Courtesy of dropular

Cheap encounters

Not everything was better years ago but some things were better defined. Clarity has become a rarity. A good example: relationships. Decades ago it was clearly defined. A relationship was between two people who liked or loved each other. Even without engagement ring or marriage contract, a relationship was nothing vague. A relationship was a well-defined thing with clear rules and a precise goal: improving the relationship over time. Before you started a relationship, there were declarations. We defined our expectations and were ready to hear the same from the counterpart. Besides these defined relationships, we had cheap encounters: We had something but no real ties that held us together, many exit doors in close vicinity. Nobody wanted to define expectations. More booty call, less duty call. That’s what we called a cheap encounter.

We’ve become used to this. Today we call it network.

Everyone does it with everybody. And it starts earlier than we think. Do brands really have a deep connection with their customers? Why do brands address me with my first name as if we just had a beer together? Do we know each other? Why do brands think it’s better to become my buddy than treating me with respect as a paying customer?

Sure, when you ask those questions you sound like an old fart. Nobody talks about basic politeness and a healthy distance. A healthy distance that would help us identify forced and real intimacy much easier. All these networks nobody claims to be able to live without, support the idea of social promiscuity. That leads to many cheap encounters but rarely to real relationships.

Global Relationship Economy

The word “Network” transformed into an empty word in the last few years. Scientists, database modelers and engineers defined network precisely. And enterprises started to understand that inflexible, hierarchical organizations that see themselves as a walled garden have problems adjusting to a new world of complex and collaborative work structures. Old enterprises were successful because they had everything under control. New enterprises are successful because they know who to work with others to solve a problem.

The last few years made clear that new enterprises got it right: Energy, IT, Research and Innovation: You can’t survive without  cooperation, collaboration and co-creation. The walls of the walled garden came tumbling down. The old control economy will be replaced with the new relationship economy. Are we ready for that?

Looking for friends

Let’s pose the question differently: Are we engaging enough? Are we open to a cooperative working environment? Are we ready for relationships?

Actually, the word ‘Network’ is for most people a throw-away word, mostly used to avoid the answers to above questions. The Web made everything so easy. So much interactivity, so many opportunities, often too many opportunities.

Are we looking for friends on Social Networks?

I know the phone numbers of my friends, know where they live and have a beer with them once in a while. I don’t need a friend confirmation before contacting them. Those relationships are transparent, in almost every way.

I know the strengths and weaknesses of my friends, their likes and dislikes, their destination. I invest trust in and have respect for them. Sure, it’s a pretty big risk. I’m more interested in them as a holistic person, less in one of their characteristics. Human beings are more than the sum of ‘likes’ and favorites. And I know I can have in-depth discussions with them, advancing our relationship. These relationships don’t need to be dissected by my preferences and categories. There’s one rule in life: If it’s not for real, there will be a form you need to fill out. 500 million people have done so on Facebook to present themselves to the world. The results (just like government forms): Nothing. Or almost nothing. Instead of a blooming relationship economy, we now have a new form of social bureaucracy. Voluntary. And very 2.0.

Quid pro quo

To be very clear: Not all relationships on Social Networks are equal. And, let’s please stay away from relationship therapy, talking about relationships until there’s nothing to talk about. Social engineers work on their relationships until they deal with a complete wreck. That’s based on the crazy idea one can plan human relationships, direct them, construct them – until they conform with their view of the world. Leaving relationships to the arsenal of manipulation.

Cooperation and collaboration despises manipulation because they always ask: What can you offer me? What can I offer you? How can we create something together we wouldn’t be able to do alone? Cooperation is an evolutionary principle. We band together and 1+1 turns into 3. Nothing new or revolutionary here. Romans used the phrase “quid pro quo” to express this sentiment. A relationship is not a self-service kiosk.

A relationship is not a present. A relationship is a business. A deal. Quid pro quo.

Oh, I’m sure many readers will shake their head in disgust. At least, I hope so. Maybe they start to question the value of 14,453 global friends while there’s no time to meet a real person for lunch. Do we create peace, improve justice and new technologies with our network friends? Or are we just trying to avoid the real work? We could act, do and work together. Instead, we’re developing a fetish. That’s easier. And meaningless.

Quickies and Wikis

That doesn’t mean networks and wikis are useless because that world is is maturing. We see two separate network trends: the Facebook world and the Wiki world. On one hand you have cheap encounters (quickies), on the other hand constructive cooperation. Here self-indulgence, there collaboration.

The Wiki world works together because they extract value. Many enterprises use these tools because they experience the benefit of working together, not against each other. This is not the old team where everybody hid behind the other person. The Wiki world goes beyond that thinking: Innovative projects happen because the old control model ended in the trash. The other department/division/company is not an enemy, they are partners.

Quid pro quo. The network matures.

It might be also a sign of our recessionary times. When people prosper, they focus on themselves and don’t see any benefit in working with others. It’s easier to complain, criticize and bitch about others. Cooperation in this world feels like capitulation. A defeat. We can beat them by merging or owning them. But working WITH them? Please.

Cooperation/Co-Creation and Collaboration has increased in the last few years. It might be the tough times or just the plain insight that enterprises don’t have to do everything themselves. They can become better companies and more competitive when working with others. In the old days, enterprises were forced to collaborate. Now they want to.

Explanations

Collaboration as a basic element of economic activity has been researched by academia for a long time – game theory as an example. Home Cooperativus is far superior to Homo Oeconomicus. Cooperation and collaboration grows up and becomes just a normal part of the business routine. A good sign. But as long as we talk about networks with this quasi religious undertone, we still have a lot to figure out. Homo Cooperativus is not a new form of humankind, a new us. We’re still driven by our own motivations and desires. We just know that we have to cooperate and collaborate to achieve those. The old term ‘relationship’ is filled with moral implications, always implying there are no selfish motivations. That’s why we read so much crap about the new way of working together, Office 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, co-creation. Nobody wants to be honest and admit the one reason for the advent of collaboration: It benefits us.

Until a few years ago, cooperation meant attacking each other (Call it Mergers & Acquisitions.) Those translated in conquering market shares, not developing new markets. A successful merger was one where the winner eliminated the last traces of the losers corporate culture. Often not motivated by a sense of business. Motivated by legacy emotions.

That doesn’t work anymore. Structures are too complex. Employees too confident. Markets too saturated. Forced marriages were replaced with marriages of reason. We should be happy about that.

That forces all parties to adjust to various corporate cultures. They have to negotiate, find a consensus and then decide: What is the value for each of the stakeholders? How much of my identity do I have to give up to succeed? Answering questions like that lead to clearer rules, clearer rights and duties. If you want to have a relationship, you have to declare your self. Clear and explicit.

Results

Enterprises are trying to break through the walls and silos, expanding the definition of relationships. Collaborative efforts become the norm of corporate culture. The groundswell has just begun, forcing enterprises to rethink everything. I’ve worked in the agency world for almost 20 years, often more involved in a client culture than my employers culture. More often than not, feeling more loyalty towards my work than my boss. Good relationships center around content. Not form factors.

Still, many people have problems sharing their knowledge. One of the skills we learned in the corporate world was to hide our expertise and knowledge from competitors and internal divisions. That’s was a key to survival. We all know those little organizational piranhas. Ready to digest any little piece of knowledge and spreading it around the organization, poisoning the culture. Didn’t we get punished for collaboration, being too open for cooperation? And how often do terms like “Team” and “Group” equal “Buddy System” and “Organized Nothingness”?

That’s the trick: Eliminate organizational piranhas, the buddy system, the “relationships” that kill an enterprise. These little games have to stopped before they start. Fact: If your organization lacks cooperation because of internal parasites, your business will suffer. That’s a leadership problem. Maybe the most important leadership challenge for years to come.

So easy and so hard. Cheap encounters sold as relationships are still running the network. As relationships, these encounters are nothing better than a fling between teenagers. We’re still far off from transforming these connections into 1+1=3 relationships. That’s the only result that counts.

A relationship between adults.


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There are no simple solutions to complex problems. In an enterprise, problems are interdependent; their solutions should be, too. Interdependent problems are systems of problems and their solutions must form a system. A system of solutions is a plan and all plans are complicated, almost never simple.

The reason why most management cure-alls and quick fixes fail is their neglect of the whole system and just focusing on one part of the system. These fixes part the whole system, treating it as an aggregation of independent parts. These manipulations typically fail because the performance of a system is not the equal to the sum of the performances of its essential parts taken separately, but the products of their interactions. For that reason, improvement of the essential parts of a system taken separately often does not improve and may reduce the performance of the whole. Another common deficiency is the failure of some quick fixes to take into account a social system’s developmental responsibilities to its stakeholders and the larger systems of which it is a part.

Let’s have a closer look at some of these fixes.

Downsizing

Downsizing fails more often than it succeeds. Within a short period of time after is implementation, costs tend to rise and serious morale problems usually emerge. Since many enterprise focus on shareholder value, the enthusiastic response of stock analysts often convinces the C-suite that they have made the right decision. I would argue, downsizing treats symptoms not the disease, thereby attacking effects, not causes. How come enterprises can lay off more than 10,000 employees and never realized in the months before the actual event that they employed more people than they need?

Enterprises are social organizations that are responsible for creating productive employment. Downsizing is a clear failure of living up to that promise. The principal source of excess personnel are bureaucratic monopolies within the firm. There are no economic indicators of the performance of bureaucratic monopolies. Neither the value of of their outputs nor their costs are generally known. Because their importance is judged by the size of their monopolies, they tend to grow as much as the subsidizer will allow. When it becomes apparent that a company is not as effective financially and competitively as it should be and is overemploying, downsizing is usually the first way out. But once it takes place, the bureaucratic monopolies continue to make work out of fear and grow as much as the system permits. And the vicious cycle continues.

And internal market economy is the most effective way is the most effective way of preventing or eliminating internal bureaucracies. An internal unit that has to compete against external resources must stay lean; it must eliminate or minimize excess personnel if it is to keep costs down to compete effectively.

Total Quality Management/Six Sigma

“Quality” as applied to products or services has come to be accepted as meaning “meeting or exceeding the expectations of customers.” “Total” quality should apply to all those who are affected by what an organization does: all its stakeholders. The objective of any system needs to focus on a quality organization, not only on quality products and services.

Enterprises can gain huge competitive advantages by focusing more on quality of work life and less on quality of products or services. Most employees/stakeholders regard Total Quality Management and Six Sigma as another path to exploit them, squeezing more out of them. On the other hand, when organizations strive to to improve the quality of work life, stakeholders will find new and innovative ways showing their appreciation. Quantity and quality of output will improve, even more when they are partners in quality improvement programs. Implementing quality improvement programs should be done from the bottom up, not directed by executives. It empowers all stakeholders and provides a feeling of ownership.

The biggest problem with Total Quality Management and Six Sigma is the failure to distinguish between efficiency and effectiveness. Meaning, it does not incorporate ethical or aesthetic evaluations of the products and services whose quality it attempts to improve .

Last but not least, continuous improvement involves relatively small incremental changes made close together in time. This precludes creative quantum leaps. Creative acts produce discontinuities, qualitative changes. Creative but discontinuous improvements are usually worth much more than a string of small but continuous improvements. More often than not, creativity is often discouraged in organizations because it so frequently is destabilizing and disruptive. Creative discontinuities are required to take the lead; continuous improvement is at best a way of getting closer to the leader. One cannot pass a leader by imitation.

In our next installment, we’ll talk about leadership and how to transform it.

Previous installations can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10.

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Image: Courtesy of waxinandmilkin

For the sake of scaling, enterprises tend to create internal service divisions that are bureaucratic and monopolistic: Accounting, Procurement, R&D, Human Resources are usually run as subsidized monopolies. The pool that pays for their services is covered by an overhead charge imposed on the units served.

In general, subsidized monopolies are generally insensitive and unresponsive to the users of their services, but they are sensitive and responsive to those who subsidize them. Subsidizers are often not users of the service, hence less aware of the services’ deficiencies from the users’ point of view. In addition, bureaucracies try to ensure their survival by becoming as large as possible; they operate on the (not unreasonable) assumption that the larger they are, the more important they are and the more difficult they are to eliminate.

Centrally controlled corporations stimulate the increases in costs of internally provided products and services because the supplying units do not need to compare their costs and prices with those of external suppliers. How can you value a subsidized internal unit? It’s impossible. In a market controlled enterprise, users, not subsidizers, evaluate suppliers and express their evaluation in a way that counts – by their purchases.

As organizations of any kind become larger and more complex, the ability of centralized controllers to know all they need to know to manage their organizations effectively diminishes. Thats’s why an enterprise based on market economy works better in large systems: it disperses economic control among many enterprises that must compete with others in order to survive. And survival requires meeting or exceeding the expectations of customers and consumers.

Market Enterprise

A few requirements are important for an internal market economy to work within an enterprise:

  • Every unit within the enterprise has to be either a profit center or a cost center that is part of a profit center that is responsible for the cost center’s performance. Profit Centers are not always expected profitable but they have to be accountable.
  • Profit Centers have the freedom to buy any service or product they want from whatever source they want, and to sell their outputs to whomever they want at whatever price they want or are are willing to accept.
  • A corporate unit that reduces the value of the corporation shouldn’t be part of it no matter how profitable it is when looked at separately. For that reason, the enterprise has the ability to intervene in a unit’s purchases and sales bot only when it benefits an organization as a whole.
  • If there any executive reasons to buy services from internal resources even though outside suppliers are cheaper, the executive can force the unit to buy from within but has to pay the difference out of his own unit’s budget. This means that a selling unit will never have to sell its output at a price lower than it wants to and can.
  • A manager doesn’t tell his or her subordinate units what to buy and sell unless a negative effect on other parts of the corporation or the corporation as a whole can be perceived.
  • The executive units receives income from two sources: a) it charges for the operating and investment capital it supplies to subordinate units b) it imposes a tax on the profitability of each unit.
  • Each profit center can accumulate profit up to a certain level that all stakeholders agreed on. Profits in excess of the specified amount will be passed up to the corporate level for its use.

Why a market enterprise?

Every enterprise unit operating within an internal market economy becomes a profit center. Therefore, for each unit the same success metrics can be applied. It allows managers to hone their skills better since they have a lot of autonomy and it gives each stakeholder an opportunity shine. Managers will be more concerned to get all the information they need to run a profitable unit and offering that information to other units to improve interactions.

The biggest challenge in implementing this system is the tendency of managers to withhold information. They fail to see that empowering all stakeholders might decrease their stranglehold on information and power but, at the same time, empowers all stakeholders to run a much more profitable organization. And an organization everybody is invested in. It is often recommended to remove managers that are more concerned with their own power base and not the overall health of the organization.

These managers often form connections with units that are unable to compete effectively or are no longer needed in the enterprise. While dealing with these challenges, the enterprise should never forget that without converting to a market enterprise, the whole organization might become extinct.

In the next installment, we will talk about organizational structures.

Previous installations can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7, Part 8.

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Image Courtesy of Fubiz

I like people who forget about safe bets and stick their heads out, risking to have their heads chopped off. I like people who take risks. And I like people who go against the grain.

And, that’s why I like Joseph Jaffe. I especially like to spar with him (We had a few of those exchanges.), hoping I could find more reasons reading his new book “Flip the funnel – How to use existing customers to gain new ones.

Jaffe’s premise is that companies should reverse their marketing tactics and focus their efforts on customer retention by having the highest quality customer experience. (Reminded me of the Zeus Jones vision of Marketing as a Service.) By focusing on current customers and delighting them with superior service, companies can activate happy customers to become evangelists for the brand. Customer Service, often outsourced and seen as a necessary but unloved cost center, should be at the table with R&D, Marketing and Sales when strategic decisions are being made.

These are not revolutionary thoughts for many of us but rebellious ideas for the majority of companies who are still considering their customer service as a cost center and hide behind the walls of phone trees aka customer avoidance centers. The book appeals less to people knee-deep into the evolving world of Social Marketing but it should be read by anyone starting to understand that we live in a new marketing reality with changed rules.

A few additional thoughts:

– Yes, we all love Zappos. But, we don’t need to hear about them anymore. Using Zappos as the banner child for customer service has been done by too many people too many times.

– Some of the examples (Motrin, United, Obama, etc.) are tired and don’t really need to be repeated over and over again. However, Jaffe provides new case studies that I wasn’t aware of.

– Best Buy: I don’t get the hype about Twelpforce and all these great initiatives that Best Buy is developing and implementing. My problem with all this is that Best Buy offers a horrendous store experience. I just purchased a Mac and the associate asked me at least 10 times if I didn’t want to sign up for their numerous extended warranties. I’m not the only one feeling bullied and Best Buy seems to push their employees extremely hard to make a certain quota. And the results of this bullying are even apparent in Jaffe’s book: While he writes pages lauding Best Buy’s social effort, on page 239 he shares a chart from Forrester Research ranking Customer Experience for major companies. All the tweeting and blogging of Best Buy didn’t make any difference; They are still ranked in the bottom quantile or better: the hall of shame.

Social Marketing doesn’t pack a punch when it’s just used to market to people, when it’s basically masking severe organizational problems.

Social Marketing can pack a Tyson punch when it’s used to transform companies. By focusing on effectiveness of your workforce and less on efficiency. By focusing more on human interactions and less on technology. By making stakeholder value a priority, not shareholder value.

This has to be the focus of our industry in the years to come. It’s interesting to follow the evolution of Jaffe’s thinking: From post-mass media to Conversational Marketing and now the focus on Customer Service. I wonder if the next book will be about Human Business Design? Oh wait, that’s my book.

My point: Everybody involved in Social Media understands that the challenge all of us are facing are institutionalized processes and structures. We experience these challenges each and every day when evangelizing new ways to communicate within and outside of your brand. That’s why people talk about E2.0 and Social Business Design. Jaffe’s book is a good start and should be considered by anyone interested in transforming companies.

However, all of us need to dig much, much deeper. If you thought convincing companies to tweet or blog was hard, don’t bother trying to transform a business. The former is a tiny sandhill, the latter a Mount Everest. Let’s start climbing.

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No, Twitter didn’t announce their new ad platform. Yes, Foursquare and Gowalla had a breakout conference with more people checking in everywhere, annoying their friends and loved ones left behind. No, there was no new Twitter. And, yes, the future for digital technologies and Social Media is still very bright. But it’s time to shake up conferences like SXSW.

While some talks were insightful (Clay Shirky and Jaron Lanier come to mind), most panels didn’t rise above the mediocrity of typical Interactive conferences: Many unprepared panelists, content didn’t match advertised topics and, most importantly, too much talk about “joining the conversation”, “transparency”, “authenticity” and other tired buzzwords.

I went to SXSW and all I got was a Social Media 101 for beginners?

While the networking opportunities continue to be tremendous, all of us need to up the content game. We need to talk more about ROI, adoption of new technologies and Knowledge Management. We need to talk frankly about failures and successes and share them through case studies. Isn’t it ironic that everybody praises failures but nobody wants to share their failures so all of us can learn from them? And, most importantly, we need  to let people outside of the industry in. We need more input and insights from sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, small businesses, Fortune 10 corporations and (insert your idea here).

In short, we need to leave the technology and Social Media echo chamber and let some fresh air in. The air at SXSW 200 felt stale and sometimes almost pungent with Social Media celebrity self-importance fueled by breathless fanboys and the always present booze cloud above us all. This post is not directed at the organizers of SXSW 2010. They did a fantastic job by delivering a flawless conference. A small point of criticism: Maybe less crowdsourcing panels (fueling the echo chamber), more crowdsourcing topics, themes and objectives of participants.

No, this is a wake-up call to all of us: Let’s open the echo chamber and let’s learn from and with others. The sessions from wecanendthis.com were a good start: Getting people from all walks of life together to end hunger in America. That was a good start. But while we thought, discussed and collaborated about solving a serious problem, the majority of visitors were busy checking in at various parties. While they thought they were busy checking in, they were busy checking out.

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Image courtesy of 24 Media

Since corporations were formed, businesses always relied on analytical decision-making. Large corporations were able to create their own ecosystem, shaping their world at will. In this world, being smart was enough. But these walled garden are gone. And the world outside doesn’t follow the rules the corporations used to force on us. This created a severe alienation between people and companies/institution. And leaves many corporations craving for the old world order and fearing the future.

There’s nothing to fear. Actually, there’s a lot to look forward to. To an era where emotional skills will be paired with analytical skills. New MBAs already learn to focus more on “self-awareness and the capacity for introspection and empathy.” I would argue, empathy will be the key differentiator for successful institutions. And lack thereof their downfall.

Empathy will provide you with insightful knowledge of the world outside of your walled garden. Spock never was able to get the full ‘human experience’, just like many managers who are trapped by their own analytical skills. Empathy allows you to experience the world and analyze data outside of your own life experience. It helps you to develop innovative strategic and tactical opportunities. That’s what real Enterprise 2.0 is about: focusing on the strengths of the right brain, understanding patterns, argue holistically and interpret emotions. When we have all the analytical technologies and skills as a foundation and layer right-brain capabilities on top of it to deliver real value. Suddenly things make sense. Empathy helps us to transform enterprises by our new-found ability to see the big picture and take collaboration to a new level.

Empathy and collaboration are fellow partners. Both are closely linked because they require to focus less on self and more on the outside. People who have the ability to see world through someone else’s eyes are much more likely to share information with others. They understand how their work is linked to that of other people, understand the necessity to overcome of silos. Too many E2.0 experts base their opinion of collaboration on technologies and the obvious benefits for organizations.

Real collaboration is not reactive. Real collaboration is pro-active. Focusing on the needs of others before they can express them.

Not “I just got this information request, I should answer.” Instead, “I should share this information because it might benefit XY and her project.”

Not “A customer complains, I need to resolve this situation.” Instead, “My customer needs are changing and I have to change my products/services to accommodate them.”

We have to understand collaboration becomes more effective when it’s based on human interaction and relationships. When we have a comfort level with another person, see them as a human, not a resource, collaboration is an organic outcome. Technologies help us to organize and calibrate the collaboration efforts. Empathy helps us build trusting relationships and deliver ROI in the value chain. Empathy is critical for E2.0 organization to harvest the benefits of collaboration and co-creation.

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Image and T-Shirt by Origin68

Orson Welles’s first film was Citizen Kane. It’s still considered one of the most famous and highly-rated films, partly because he deployed innovative cinematic and narrative techniques. In an interview in 1969 with Huw Wheldon, Welles explained where he got the confidence to make this new kind of film:

Welles: Ignorance, ignorance, sheer ignorance – you know there’s no confidence to equal it. It’s only when you know something about a profession, I think, that you’re timid or careful.

Wheldon: How did this ignorance show itself?

Welles: I though you do anything with a camera, you know, that the eye could do and the imagination could do and if you come up from the bottom in the film business you’re taught all the things that the cameraman doesn’t want to attempt for fear he will be criticized for having failed. And in this case I had a cameraman who didn’t care if he was criticized if he failed and I didn’t know there were things you couldn’t do, so anything I could think up in my dreams I attempted to photograph.

Wheldon: You got away with enormous technical advance, didn’t you?

Welles: Simply by not knowing that they were impossible, or theoretically impossible.

Embracing ignorance allowed Welles to challenge the boundaries of existing knowledge and develop innovative techniques still utilized in today’s film-making.

While organizations are racing to embrace Knowledge Management and deploy systems to benefit from it, enterprises that engage in creative and innovative activity need to consider ignorance as a virtue. Accumulating and managing knowledge can become a dangerous trap when it just reinforces biases and don’t drive organizations into new ways of thinking and approaching challenges.

Knowledge Management has to find the perfect balance between deploying existential information, eliminating knowledge that has run its course and embracing ignorance in the pursuit of creativity and innovation.

There’s a reason why companies are looking for fresh blood all the time: They need to get new ideas and new assumptions into the system in order to continue to be a living organisms. Too often, new ideas and new brains are being streamlined quickly to ensure the system doesn’t break and everybody can continue on their merry way.

Enterprises need to develop systems embracing ignorance as a corporate virtue and integrating Ignorance Management into their Knowledge Management system. Human knowledge is limited, human ignorance has no boundaries. Strategic Ignorance Management will transform your business and turn your workforce from order-taking drones to creative contributors.

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Frankly, I have problems coping with the constant information overload. I’m pretty sure that most of us have the same problem. Not only in 2009; this has been a primal, human problem. I’m convinced that this feeling of being overloaded, swamped, barely making it is the real engine behind human progress. But only if we approach this challenge in a constructive way.

Since human beings started to communicate, the speed and enormity of societal changes have caused people to bitch and moan. The oldest known example is Plato in his “Pheadros”-Dialogue. He’s complaining about the invention of letters, claiming they will eliminate the necessity to memorize things. And this was 2,400 years ago.

At the core of this discussion is cultural pessimism: Old men decked out in Snuggies sitting in front of a fireplace, agreeing that things used to be better. Well, not everything is bad now, at least I can enjoy my HD but all this busy stuff and social garbage is just a waste of time.

This common rejection of cultural changes is understandable. Highly educated people believed for the longest time that we are able to control society around us. Besides some natural disasters, we have pretty much tamed nature and conquered its forces. However, we fight a constant battle against an institution we created centuries ago: Civilization. We still have a spear in our hand to fight dragons. It’s just a Dragons 99.0 fight against spears 101.0.

In 2009, we feel that our spear is not the right weapon against the dragon anymore. I would argue, the belief of being able to control your social environment was always an illusion. Propped up by executives, politicians and corporations. And the loss of control is felt more dramatically in C-level suites because their power has diminished dramatically.

One hint that control was always an illusion is the silly image that world knowledge is increasing at an unprecedented pace. There are stories that the world’s knowledge captured in books could reach the moon. Nice image, but we always had too much information to cope with. The library of Alexandria, the original Google, consisted of 500,000 papyrus scrolls. If you assume a length of 20 feet per scroll, the length of all scrolls would total 1,900 miles. Assuming a reading speed of 1 feet of scroll per 2 minutes and reading time of 12 hours daily, it would take one person around 75 years to read everything.

Sure, the mountain of information has dramatically increased since Alexandria – its insurmountability was always a fact. That’s why we invented filter mechanisms. Until the end of the 20th century, this function was performed by the editors of mass media: A hierarchical structure making decisions in a non-transparent way to determine what the public should be interested in. Basically, editors decided how we should experience reality. A very powerful position, indeed. The editorial department as the gatekeeper has been challenged in the 21st century. Most people will say it’s a technological challenge. I would argue it’s a social challenge.

Different rules apply to the virtual space of the digital realm. A few moments ago, editors decided what should be important us. Now, the web services play to the wisdom of crowds and let people decide what they are really interested in. The editorial edict of relevance is being supplemented  by the crowdsourced edict of “Do I find this interesting?” A new filter is challenging the power base of editorial departments. By utilizing the ancient tool of recommendations, the crowd decides what should be spread and what is not interesting enough to share. All Social Networks are based on the concept of “Look, I found/created something interesting.”

This doesn’t mean editorial departments will disappear. Professional journalism is more important than ever, even though all publishing companies face the monetization challenge. It’s just a fact that journalists aren’t the only game in town anymore, their competition is anybody with a camera and/or laptop.

The editorial department faces off against the crowd, not a machine. It’s a misconception to believe that Google’s algorithm decides what we should experience and read. Google understood from the beginning that algorithms alone won’t determine relevancy. Each and every individual has to make that determination – good technology helps us with that task. Google dominates the digital world because they were always the best in mimicking the way the human mind works. The holy grail of relevance is linking sites through human action. Google even fights a brave fight against automated machine relevance. Whole divisions are trying to ensure that human relevancy (defined by links created by humans) always trumps machine relevancy.

The Internet has conquered the consciousness of the young generation. And in different ways than we ever imagined when we started our digital journey. I would argue that the consequences of the digital revolution are much more severe and revolutionary, as if Print, Telephone and TV were invented at the same time. I’ve heard teenagers ask their parents how human beings joined the Internet. Can you better describe the intimate relationship young adults have to the digital reality? The virtual world can’t be separated from our carbon existence. This is so profound that people change the way they live, work and love. Yes, even love can be rooted in digital. Ask the millions of people who fell in love and grieved for Princess Diana (without ever meeting her) if they were deeply affected by an almost virtual person.

The predictable stories about the demise of our culture and consequences for our society completely dismisses the rise of written information, caused by the advent of digital and social technologies. Sure, some of them are grammatically challenged and need solid spell checks. But, think back 20 years: How many students wrote anything outside of their school and homework? Maybe a diary page. Nothing more. Compare this to the flood of written content just from the Millenials alone. A step in the right direction.

What remains is the nagging feeling that the machine is starting to control us. So, let’s step down from a throne of arrogance and level with the older generation. Fact is, the digital world is still too complicated and complex. The younger generation might not feel that way because their socialization process occurred during the advent of digital technologies. Technological progress is only a positive force for society when the majority feels positive about it. And this is mostly a question of coping with overload. The older people are the more pronounced is their fear not to be relevant anymore. We need to deal with this through support systems and the power of empathy.

This overload and fear of not being relevant anymore plays out each and every day in offices, cubicles and homes throughout the world. Staring at the screen, anxiety sets in and the fear that the digital life might pass you by. We need to explain to non-native digital nomads why we put weird images on our Social Network pages while we expect that our future employers don’t sniff around our private networks to find incriminating content. Would a respectable corporation ever sift through the garbage of a prospective employee even though the garbage container is easily accessible for anyone? We should explain that multi-tasking is just a symptom of the scattering media landscape – the generation before us left the TV for hours while reading books and newspapers. Let’s explain to them the difference of publishing your own data and institutional regulations as the difference between being ‘locking myself in the bathroom’ and ‘being locked in the bathroom’. It’s about freedom of choice, we control our own data.

Let’s invite them to participate in the digital lifestyle. What an amazing opportunity: It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, ugly or beautiful, if you want to talk about Canadian glaciers or Serbian poetry of the 17th century. Showcase the steep advances or society made with the digital revolution – how lonely was a 16-year old gay person living in a rural village 20 years ago? What an amazing change and opportunity to be able to connect with like-minded people, escaping the frightening thought to be different.

Businesses need to implement systems to play to the strengths of the young and the weaknesses of the old. Just adding another technology layer to the mix will increase the divide. Instead, we need to implement systems that enhance the real-time experience of digital natives and help filter out the noise for the older generation to connect with signals.

And, as always, we still need to pay a price for all these positive developments: Media elites are not that elite anymore. Transparency and speed crushed their belief in being able to control the environment. Their greatest problem with the young generation is that they don’t belong to it anymore.