Search Questions, Issues in Selling, Knowledge Strategy, Web Conferencing Tools, The Necessary Revolution

01-Jul-08 Archive of Weekly KM Blog by Stan Garfield

KM Question of the Week

Q: Are there ways that you’d recommend a relatively non-techie person can learn about search? We are dealing with the following issues:

  • How to affordably provide the highest quality search ability for an internal network?
  1. We currently have access to Microsoft Search. Are there other technical solutions we should consider?
  2. Are there similar organizations that have best or promising practices in this area?
  • What’s the best way to develop and test keywords/synonyms used by a search engine?
  • Could/should we try to develop the following:
  1. “What do users ultimately buy/go to after viewing this item?” (a la Amazon)
  2. Search Assist (see Yahoo)
  3. Enterprise search to integrate social networking content
  4. Recommender system
  5. Reputation system
  6. Personalized search options — Ways for users to build on previous searches (see Amazon’s Recent Search feature)
  • Data cleaning:
  1. Are there affordable options in addition to Yahoo’s Search Assist and Google for catching misspellings that can negatively impact search results and user satisfaction?
  2. We’re struggling with the need to clean our data as we encourage staff to share their work. With limited staff capacity and time, are there sustainable ways to address this issue?
  • Do we need to consider mobile device search? If so, how does this change the search function and design?

A: I suggest the following:

KM Thought Leader of the Week

I was asked by APQC, “If you were invited to give a keynote speech on knowledge management, what words of wisdom or lessons learned would you impart?”

I posed this same question to many KM thought leaders. This week continues a series called “Selling KM: Lessons from Experience” based on the answer from Richard Cross. This is Part 2, with additional parts to follow in subsequent weeks.

Part 2: Issues in selling: research advice when selling KM

It’s better to seek than it is to give

Given that buyers go through a cycle and it is critical to locate the phase in which they are in this cycle, what else may be helpful in KM sales efforts? In selling, behavioral research suggests that:

  • Customers place higher value on what they conclude than on what they are told
  • Customers place a higher value on what they request than on what is offered freely
  • Just because you are right does not mean your valid conclusions will be implemented (this is particularly the case in large corporations)

We are not persuaded by listening to the opinions of others. Presentation of ideas does not change opinions. Giving information has a low impact on other people and rarely succeeds in the long term. It’s much more effective to let people talk themselves into acceptance.

Connect to Inside Energizers

In selling KM with its collaborative goals of knowledge sharing, idealism is essential. At the same time it’s important to bear in mind that even in the Knowledge Age, organizations are not, as a rule, Shangri-Las of social harmony. There are apparatchiks following fashionable fads and the company line with gusto, people out to make a mark, those who hold grudges, and some (mainly KM but occasionally TQM or Six Sigma) who want to be heroic and visionary.

There is one influential group when selling to a major organization. These are the target-oriented and ambitious. With an average tenure of two years in their role, this latter group simply wants to make an impact, force the pace and move on, rather than stabilize change. Short-term in approach, they can be your best allies and sponsors in selling a KM initiative — or your worst nightmare. What counts for this group is not history or what others have done. It’s what you’re doing for them today, and can do for them tomorrow.

Rob Cross, in his work on social networks, has written widely about “how work really gets done in organizations.” In trying to sell and influence KM and other related change, his research on mapping energy levels in social networks is relevant. His work concluded that position in the energy network is four times the predictor of performance as compared to expertise, use of informational networks and/or use of impersonal sources such as databases. These energizers win out with customers and the internal labor market where the ability to motivate others is as important, or more important, than knowing the answer!

As Rob Cross put it “energy has a dark side as well…we all know people who can drain the life out of a group” as soon as they enter a room. De-energizers are disastrous to all associated with a KM effort. For whatever reason, a case of “can’t change” won’t change; they see roadblocks everywhere, and every conversation derails KM and other initiatives.

In selling KM we are only as good as ourselves and connections — our weakest link.

Focus on the dissatisfied and powerful

Linked to the research on energizers, a useful distinction can be made between the receptive, dissatisfied, and powerful. It’s distracting and deceptive to spend too much time with the receptive (easy to say in retrospect), and encountering the receptive can feel like an organizational episode of Groundhog Day.

The objective should be to address the locus of dissatisfaction, as this has more value in terms of creating and stimulating the desire for change. These are the people who are hurting most. If you only associate with the receptive, your ideas get lost in translation.

The essence of selling KM then becomes to build on the experiences of the dissatisfied, and help them elaborate on pain points, ultimately to build a case for change, and then to access and develop a relationship with the powerful (those who can approve, prevent or influence action). Sometimes (particularly in the area of strategic change) it is not possible or desirable to access decision makers who are located all over the world. An inside energizer can intervene on your behalf, with great credibility. By contrast, a de-energizer ‘on your side’ can be counter-productive.

As Mark Pontin, one of the great sales trainers, used to brutally say, “If you don’t have a relationship with the person at the top, you have no influence in an organization.”

Next Week: Face to Face Selling

KM Blog of the Week

Is Your Knowledge Management Strategic? by Mary Abraham

KM Processes: with respect to knowledge, the methods an organization uses to

  • create
  • harvest and refine
  • store and retrieve
  • distribute and share
  • apply and leverage

KM Enablers:

  • organizational factors (e.g., structure and culture)
  • technology

KM Drivers:

  • mission and business strategy
  • the firm’s intellectual resources

Managing the gap between what a company needs to know to execute its strategy and what it actually knows is the most strategic role of KM. If you’re serious about developing a Knowledge Strategy, you will have to do the following analysis:

  • Assess knowledge gaps
  • Assess your knowledge resources
  • Assess your learning cycles

KM Link of the Week

Note: the following information is from 2008. For more current information, see Virtual Meeting Rooms, Web/Video/Audio Conferencing, and Telepresence.

From Stephan Dohrn in KM4Dev

Which Web-Conferencing Solution Is Right for Your Company? by Robert Poe

Selecting the right hosted or premises system for online meetings involves complex choices.

The Web-Conferencing Leaders

  • Cisco — WebEx Meeting Center; Unified MeetingPlace
  • IBM — Lotus Sametime Unyte; Sametime
  • Citrix — GoToMeeting
  • Microsoft — Live Meeting; Office Communications Server
  • Adobe — Acrobat Connect Professional

Others suggested in comments

  • Elluminate Live!
  • Great America Networks
  • GizmoVideo
  • ReadyTalk

KM Book of the Week

The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals And Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World by Peter Senge, Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Laur, and Sara Schley

Imagine a world in which the excess energy from one business would be used to heat another. Where buildings need less and less energy around the world, and where “regenerative” commercial buildings — ones that create more energy than they use — are being designed. A world in which environmentally sound products and processes would be more cost-effective than wasteful ones. A world in which corporations such as Costco, Nike, BP, and countless others are forming partnerships with environmental and social justice organizations to ensure better stewardship of the earth and better livelihoods in the developing world. Now, stop imagining — that world is already emerging.

A revolution is underway in today’s organizations. As Peter Senge and his co-authors reveal in The Necessary Revolution, companies around the world are boldly leading the change from dead-end “business as usual” tactics to transformative strategies that are essential for creating a flourishing, sustainable world. There is a long way to go, but the era of denial has ended. Today’s most innovative leaders are recognizing that for the sake of our companies and our world, we must implement revolutionary — not just incremental — changes in the way we live and work.

Brimming with inspiring stories from individuals and organizations tackling social and environmental problems around the globe, The Necessary Revolution reveals how ordinary people at every level are transforming their businesses and communities. By working collaboratively across boundaries, they are exploring and putting into place unprecedented solutions that move beyond just being “less bad” to creating pathways that will enable us to flourish in an increasingly interdependent world. Among the stories in these pages are the evolution of Sweden’s “Green Zone,” Alcoa’s water use reduction goals, GE’s ecoimagination initiative, and Seventh Generation’s decision to shift some of their advertising to youth-led social change programs.

At its heart, The Necessary Revolution contains a wealth of strategies that individuals and organizations can use — specific tools and ways of thinking — to help us build the confidence and competence to respond effectively to the greatest challenge of our time. It is an essential guidebook for all of us who recognize the need to act and work together — now — to create a sustainable world, both for ourselves and for the generations to follow.

Table of Contents

Part I Endings, New Beginnings

1 A Future Awaiting Our Choices 3

2 How We Got into This Predicament 14

3 Life Beyond the Bubble 33

4 New Thinking. New Choices 42

Part II The Future Is Now

5 Never Doubt What One Person and a Small Group of Co-Conspirators Can Do 57

6 Aligning an Industry 68

7 Unconventional Allies: Coke and WWF Partner for Sustainable Water 77

Part III Getting Started

8 Risks and Opportunities: The Business Rationale for Sustainability 101

9 Positioning for the Future and the Present 119

10 Getting People Engaged 140

11 Building Your Case for Change 157

Part IV Seeing Systems

12 The Tragedy and Opportunity of the Commons 168

13 Spaceship Earth 179

14 Seeing Our Choices 196

Part V Collaborating Across Boundaries

15 The Imperative to Collaborate 227

16 Convening: “Get the System in the Room” 234

17 Seeing Reality Through Others’ Eyes 250

18 Building Shared Commitment 267

Part VI From Problem Solving to Creating

19 Innovation Inspired by Living Systems 285

20 Unleashing Everyday Magic 292

21 You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers 302

22 From Low-Hanging Fruit to New Strategic Possibilities 310

23 It’s Not What the Vision Is, It’s What the Vision Does 324

24 Redesigning for the Future 334

Part VII The Future

25 The Future of the Corporation 348

26 The Future of Enterprise Variety 356

27 The Future of Leadership 364

28 The Future of Our Relations 374

29 The Future of Us 378

Appendix 382

BusinessWeek: Peter Senge’s Necessary Revolution

Peter Senge, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and founder of the Society for Organizational Learning, is perhaps best known for his 1990 best-selling book, The Fifth Discipline, which introduced the idea of the “learning organization.” Now, Senge has a new work that promises to be as influential as the first. In The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World (Doubleday, 2008), Senge and his co-authors grapple with the daunting environmental problems we face, and highlight innovative steps taken by individuals and corporations, often in partnership with global organizations such as Oxfam, toward a more sustainable world.

It may seem surprising that an expert in management and organizational change is focusing on sustainability, but there is a strong connection to Senge’s work. In his earlier book, he laid out an approach to management that combines systems thinking, collaboration, and team learning. As he describes it, a learning organization is one in which “people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.” Such organizations tend to be more flexible, adaptive, and productive — critical qualities in a time of rapid change.

In The Necessary Revolution, Senge applies the same thinking to a system bigger and more complex than the organization: global society. The book is a call to arms, an argument to business leaders that they must rethink their approach to the environment or, as one executive told Senge, “we won’t have businesses worth being in in 20 years.” But the authors don’t linger on the problems, focusing instead on the stories and insights of successful innovators, on creative solutions, and on practical approaches to meeting these challenges.