I went back to our Japanese swordfighting (Battodo) classfor middle and high school kids on Tuesday, for the first time thisyear. I really enjoy helping to teach that class since kids do goofyfunny things. This time around, we practiced rolling on the floor andit was quite the sight. Our o-sensei(instructor) is a long-time Jujitsu teacher as well--actually he knowsat least 4 different martial arts. He wanted to show the kids some verybasic rolls, throws and disarms. These can be very dangerous if done imporperly or carelessly.
You may or may not be surprised that most people don't know how to rollon the floor in a safe or coordinated manner. As we grow older, this isprobably one of the last things we do on a normal day but it's one thatcan be really helpful on rare occassions (e.g., taking a dive off abike, or even just tripping). In any case, it can be fun and even alittle exercise.
You'd think kids would have an easier time doing this. Almost. We hadabout 20 of them of various sizes from half my height to those over sixfeet (who'd have just as much trouble as I did originally), all rollingdown the mats on the floor getting woozy and running into each otherfrom time to time.
First they learn the basic roll from a squatting position, then from astand-drop-down-to-a-squat, and then just from a stand. Eventually, itbecomes one flowing motion. After they learn know how to roll, we canshow them some basic ways to throw people. After that, some sworddisarming and throwing techniques.
Rather than roll head-over-feet (gymnastics style), the idea they firstlearn is from squatting with one knee down (say your right knee down,left up), putting your arms in a diagonal line (left elbow pointing upabove the raised knee, the other pointing down), and then rolling overyour (left) shoulder. This is much safer that head over feet, sincerather than landing on your neck, you land on the meaty tricep,shoulder and back muscles.
I could make a business-philosophical quip about "learning to roll withthe flow properly and stay on track", but I think just actually rollingaround is fun. :)
Community and social computing
Ive just started reading Tom Davenport's new book Thinking for a Living, a great book on the issues surrounding knowledge workers.
If you havent heard of this term, you may not realize that you are (in the IT industry) very likely a knowledge worker yourself. This kind of work is a difficult to quantify, and even describe, but essentially involves all those jobs where people spend the majority of their time thinking of solutions for a living (doctors, lawyers, managers, programmers, etc.) rather than building many unit pieces of the same thing (e.g., manufacturing, production or labor-intensive work). This may still be an unfair description.
In fact, even the book indicates that the term has been measured in many different ways. In the US, the Labor statistics report is not categorized this way, so analysis by different academics point to there being anywhere from 30 million to over 100 million knowledge workers in the US alone (thats from 10-30% of the population).
The book makes for a fascinating read. For me, it provides valuable context to understand how developers worldwide do or think of their work. For example, Davenport indicates that there are some common attributes for knowledge workers, no matter their job:
It is these last two points where I find good relevance to my own job. Im probably a typical knowledge worker; in fact, my current job can be categorized as heavy knowledge work, but also some production work.
For the production work-side, I am responsible for getting more people blogging, discussing, debating, and interacting on technical topics on our site through our various community areas. Loosely, that translates to getting more instances of blogs, forums, wikis, and other such tools, started and running. I certainly have help from many others to get this going.
On the knowledge work-side, I work on our community strategy and direction, and lead our large community project currently in development in dW. This means I work with our infrastructure and development teams to describe the technical idea and debate solutions. I work with our research team and do research myself on different Web 2.0 and community activities around the Web. I work with our design, user experience and information architecture teams to consider how to present, organize, and direct this information. I work with our content teams to consider how to use or how to get others to use our community system, generate content, and participate in activities. I work with our management to present, consider and strategize what we should be doing in all these areas. Finally, I work with other teams and people outside dW, in IBM and beyond, to discuss many of these areas in relation to Web 2.0 and community. Believe me, that's a lot of phone calls and knowledge exchange.
To summarize: I suck information in and spew (hopefully useful) knowledge out across many different personas (people and groups).
The notion that there are bits of information about us all over the Web has been a nagging feeling for many although theyre not quite sure how to deal with it. A few react to it with pride. Some people consider it as a minor issue with a reaction of needing to be careful but not in panic. Others more wary are who the insurance and financial companies are trying to target with new service offerings.
Kathy, our marketing leader, recently showed me a site that uses a combination of two Web 2.0 technologies, search and user identities, and it brought up not just a surprising collection of info but also a small shock and that old nagging feeling.
If you go to Zoominfo, youll find a whole new way to feed either your ego or paranoia, or even both. You can type in the name of any person or organization and it will search the Net for all the info it can where your name is published, most likely areas that do not require registration.
I came across only a handful of results mapping back to my name at previous jobs (LinuxWorld, RTD System & Networking, etc.), and automatically builds a new online profile about me. I could then register as a member and create a more detailed profile by editing it. In some ways, it builds on what LinkedIn is missing, that is, auto-filling in my information rather than entering it by hand.
Thats probably not as surprising as the other linkages it finds. For example, it does a lateral search of other people who have worked at these organizations to find my peers and coworkers. Youll probably be surprised who you remember and who you dont. It probably doesnt find info which requires you to enter an account and password but I have not explored this fully yet.
The core idea in this model is to build an online profile that can be reused. In Web 2.0 terms, you can then probably use this profile in other applications, sites, etc. in ways the dreamers, innovators, and entrepreneurs will figure out.
I dont know how the tool is implemented but my guess is that it involves one or more of the large search engines to perform the searching. This application focuses on conducting multiple sequential relevant searches and consolidating it under a common presentation, backed by registration and other tools.
This is an example of a federated identity but not in the sense of user-account identities and single-sign-on applications. It is federation around online information centered on your own real world identity, or at least your name.
Continuing my thread on knowledge workers, and how to get them to share their knowledge...
Davenport indicates that knowledge workers value their knowledge skills, but often do not share it easily.
The former part indicates that knowledge workers are proud of the ideas and knowledge they produce, and of the fact that they were able to come up with it. They see value in them. Therefore, one idea to increase productivity of knowledge workers is to give visibility or accolade to their ideas.
Unfortunately, the latter part is oh so true: if a knowledge worker does not feel secure in their environment or community, they are unlikely to share it, especially if it means that by sharing that knowledge, they may even be helping someone else take over their job.
Im an optimist in this area, and with the rise of open source and a more open worldwide environment (especially in our industry), we may be able to trust others enough to break down this barrier.
Take a look at this earlier post on a sort of universal meme about communities. This suggests that to get towards innovative ideas, you need to progress your community of people from the earliest stages of first getting them to interact to create a level of understanding and familiarity between the people in the organization. With a level of understanding you then have a platform that allows people to build trust between the community-members, and with that trust, some can explore and experiment on ideas and thereby develop a greater entrepreneurial spirit. Finally, once you get that level of mentality, you can finally succeed in innovation through your community.
Obviously, with Davenports statement, the sharing of knowledge lies in the very first few stages. If you cant get people to trust each other--even in a contained environment--you wont get knowledge sharing in action.
If you have a strongly-connected employee base, you have developed that level of trust or at least a level of understanding amongst the people in your organization. You still need to encourage others to experiment, as in our Think Fridays in IBM. For a small organization it is easier to distribute new ideas, but to achieve knowledge sharing of those ideas in anything beyond a few hundred people, you really need to consider a common tool to collect, rank, sort and share all those ideas.
That kind of tool is exactly what we have in IBM right now in the form of our ThinkPlace tool and system. The IBM Innovation team offers this tool whereby any of the 300,000+ people in IBM could share their ideas; these ideas are then sorted or ranked by popularity (by software and also by hand). Not only does this do great justice to enabling knowledge workers in our organization but it is also leading a lot of our own innovation, not just for new product ideas, but also for company-internal improvement.
In its simplest form, it is a sort of open discussion group with many threads that anyone can start up around their idea. This is more than a 21st century version of the old "Suggestions Box" found in many companies yesteryear which was a closed box only viewed and analyzed and action taken on by management.
Thinkplace is a more open process whereby your peers can look over the ideas and weigh in on its merits, rather than someone in management dealing out commandments. In fact, it is also a way for employees in other divisions to mine this idea database for things that might relate to their work. The managers from the Innovation team, in this respect do exactly as their titles suggest: they manage the flow of this output in useful channels to find the best ideas.
We have ThinkPlace in operation already, but now consider the next step towards integrating community.
As I mentioned in a previous post, you can use your blog to implement free-thinking time (e.g., Think Fridays in IBM), since many bloggers use this tool to share their ideas and knowledge. This certainly provides a useful business case to retaining and supporting knowledge workers.
Now consider how to export some of those ideas from your own blog into a community tool like ThinkPlace. Each blog post which is specifically is an idea should probably be tagged and then "pushed" (through software preferrably, or via manual copy) to the ideas database.
The reason to do this is because blogs are part of the new Web 2.0 mentality of a model of participation. In other words, people who are bloggers are starting to embrace a more open and willing stance on sharing their knowledge.
An experienced blogger is used to the idea of posting to their blog on a regular basis. All we are talking about here is categorizing particular posts and make it easier to export that into a public space like the ThinkPlace tool. This reduces the tool-usage time to transfer knowledge into a tool where that can be considered by a wider audience. In fact, for bloggers thats also a good thing: more exposure to your ideas on your blog, and possibly even showing some real outcome of your ideas.
Thus, the knowledge workers can create their ideas and contribute for a mass audience to consider and analyze; the organization behind that audience can create an idea pool that is self-defining and self-directed to produce new innovations; and both the members and the organization can benefit from discovering and implementing these innovations.
For the knowledge worker, this suggests not only building a regular practice for participating in communities but also offers a reward mechanism in seeing some of their ideas appreciated and maybe even implemented by the overall organization.
So, unless you think you dont really need innovation out of your organization, this suggests a useful business case for different kinds of community tools, for the growth of the organization as well as the happiness of your knowledge workers. And, oh by the way, in doing this, youve just created a knowledge sharing and capturing process.
I came across two interested reads in the last two days well worth thetime. The first is the cover story on Newsweek magazine ("Putting the 'We' in Web") titled The New Wisdom of the Web. Ittalks about the new trend on the Web towards user-generated content asa way to drive more interaction on the Web, and to let your users leadand drive your communities.
The other interesting article is in BusinessWeek (requires registration) Innovation: The View from the Top,which is an interview with our own CEO, Sam Palmisano, on a recentsurvey about where the areas for innovation lie. Sam talks aboutbusiness-model innovation as the source to look for to gain acompetitive edge. In comparison in this day and age, many competitorscan catch up on product-level innovation.
On the last two points that Davenport made in his book: to get commitment from a knowledge worker, it is important give freedom to experiment and work on ideas rather than to always dictate or direct them to work on specific things. Also, just as it is difficult to describe the job, it is also often hard to describe the knowledge output; for that matter, knowledge workers may not even seemto be in their best interest to share their knowledge.
The concern is that if you do not provide the correct supportive environment for your knowledge worker, they are quite likely to move to another organization that does (i.e., jump ship to a potential competitor who does offer the right environment).
This has direct relevance to a number of activities in IBM. For one, we now have Think Fridays. Basically, Fridays of every week should be freed up so that you have some peace of mind to consider, experiment, or talk about new ideas. Each person should apply that to their job as they see fit. I hear that 3M has something similar in that engineers should put aside 15% of their time to this kind of free-thinking.
For me, this tends to free up my regular weekday packed with phone calls with different groups, and sit back and think of the issues and changes to our project, or new ideas that have emerged. Others in our division use this time to experiment with new technology. C.J. and Peter on our team have even extended this to Think Friday-Build Saturday-Test Sunday, which I agree is certainly going beyond the call of duty, and very applaudable.
Now, consider Think Fridays on a different level across all IBMers. In particular, think of what people do in blogs and different community areas: discuss, digest, or produce new ideas. In fact, if youre an avid bloggers, you probably have Think-Mondays, Think-Tuesdays, etc., but in less than a full days time. Thus by blogging, as a knowledge worker, you are very likely and effectively using that free-thinking time.
So my advice to bloggers in IBM (and even beyond): Consider using a portion of your Friday to blog, because by blogging you are in effect implementing the spirit of Think Fridays.
Obviously, not all the ideas that you have are something you would want to discuss on a public blog. In that light, for IBMers we have an global intranet system called BlogCentral, which is a safe environment to discuss ideas with other IBMers. This quickly points to the necessity of having a blog system not just for an external audience but also one for a company-internal audience. Therefore, for knowledge workers within an organization, it is important to have an organization-wide blogging platform.
So for those looking for a business case for why you need a blogging system inside an organization, this is one good example. Blogs allow an expression of Think Fridays (or your organizations equivalent) which many companies think is an important aspect of encouraging, supporting and keeping happy their knowledge workers. I would generalize that to any number of other community tools, not just blogs.
Bob's got a good and amusing idea on how open standards can become more pervasive... especially in the dress code segment.
Now I have to hunt down a high-school photo. I actually have verylittle photos of myself for an entire decade (I think there are aboutless than a dozen photos of me during the nineties...) High-schoolpredates that obviously but most of it got scrapbooked by my wifesomewhere... so I need to hunt one down and post it here.
Sad but true: I once found a photo of myself going on an overseas triparound 1989 and could identify everyone in the photo except for thisskinny guy with a mustache at the end... after staring at it for 5minutes I realized that it had to have been... me;I'm still only 90% sure about that. Wow! things change.
Michelle Conlin's Businessweek article You are what you post,talks about the troubles of growing up in the Net generation. With theadvent of search engines being so "efficient" that it can find any kindof information that is associated with your name, people are startingto find that others including their bosses, potential employers, orclients can find out all kinds of information from your past. Anythingthat you might post online can show up including embarrassing orprivate facts about yourself, even things others might saw about you,whether true or not. How can you possibly know what is harmful to yourcharacter or can be misunderstood by others, tomorrow or even ten yearsfrom now?
This is causing fear and panic amongst individuals, companies and PRagencies worldwide. The idea that you image is always at risk on thenet. In fact, the rule of thumb is usually to always assume that "ifyou post it, they will find it." To some that means, "don't use theInternet". However, the right reaction is not to stick your head in thesand and assume that it will simply go away. It is to be proactive.
Michelle actually points out an important fact that is missed by many:there are two "yous", the physical real-world you, and the online imageof you (or what others learn about you from info online). Because yourphysical person is always with you (duh!) it's usually possible to knowwhat's happening around it. However, it usually not possible to knoweverything going on around the online you. The Businessweek articlepoints to five ways to manage your online doppelganger, which aredefinitely helpful hints.
My thought on this line however, is that companies and people may eventually realize that the online you isjust as important as person to maintain. The best way to do this is tohave an online tool to keep track of that you and what happens. What'smore, it becomes the basis of how others can communicate with theonline you. It's not only nice to have that tool but imperative, if youwant to have a proactive say around what the "online you" really does.Otherwise, you are at risk of leaving it in the hands of what anyoneelse may say about you.
In terms of philosophy (in the classical Greek sense), this is mind-bending in terms of what that persona is becoming: all that is online you is what others see around you. You don't have strict control of it, but you can contribute to it.
Aside from a tool, the other idea this points to is that it's unlikelya single individual will be able to know what the best ways ofpresenting themselves is. It's a brand new online world, and most ofthe social rules are still being figured out. The best way is to havesomeone who watches and understands the behavior across the net toprovide advice on how to use the tools according to the properfunction, and more so, in the most effective manner. In the physicalworld, these people are often called image consultants, PR agencies,etc., although that's really the extreme end of a business that isgeared specifically to your own needs.
Another way to look at this is in terms of getting people to understandor even share your views. If you're interesting enough, you might evengain a fan club of your own (the goal of many bloggers). Yourreputation helps build an implicit or even an explicit community aroundwhat you are or what you're doing. I, for one, don't believe anyone cantruly force others to agree with them wholeheartedly; therefore toconvince others on your view, you need to be persuasive and use theright tools and right means of persuasion. Thus, you should take a lookat this from the perspective of how to develop this community aroundyou.
The root of all this is your reputation online and how others see it.Take charge of your online reputation because, whether you like it ornot, it has or eventually will have a direct impact on your future.
In summary, the online you is already being "created" on the Web bywhat you and what others post about you online. You should considertaking an active part of owning and operating this "online you", andhandle this from the perspective of trying to build a community aroundyou.
Good news for social computing: people are finally believing in you.
Forrester Research has published a 24-page report on Social Computing tying innovation to this topic. (This is a paid report)
Even within our own IBM Global Innovation Outlook 2.0, innovation through social computing is one of the top subjects.
The general feeling has gone beyond "there's something important there" to "how can we make use of that"?
Cyberspace, The Virtual World, The Matrix, Mainframe, ENCOM, etc. Now The Living Web.
For being part of a generation that has grown up with online games,books, stories and movies about virtual worlds and moving at the "speedof the Net", it seems like it is taking quite a bit of time to get tothe idea of having such a world in common use (and hopefully not adystopic vision like that in The Matrix). I get the feeling we arelooking so far ahead that we are not focusing on taking the stepsinvolved in getting there.
Most of the mainstream media (books & movies) still focus on the 3Dworld, because obviously it's cool to imagine an alternate reality thatyou can actually move around. Even games tend toward that directionbecause it is the environment that can more easily excite people. Theyall talk about having a persona that moves and interacts with thisworld and the other personas in it. In fact, in the Matrix, the worldis so real, it is the "real world" as we know it; it's only when youunderstand the actual world of the Matrix behind it that you can dointeresting things like defying gravity.
The truth is probably a little depressing. Most of the virtual worldthat we know as the Web is 2D; in fact, by just a guesstimate, I'd sayover 98% of all the info we have online is in text. I also think for along time to come, the virtual world will still be overwhelminglytext-based for decades to come. To get to that futuristic vision asportrayed in the media, a lot of work behind the scenes still needs tohappen.
Ten steps (not in order) to get to virtual worlds:
Don't get me wrong: in limited areas, most of these properties alreadyexist. In particualr I'm talking about online games and MMORPGs.However, they are limited in the sense that they create a separatefictitious world that you have to apply your context to. In otherwords, yes, it's make believe, which is also why it is fun. Also theyare limited in the sense they exist almost entirely within their owndomain. You don't see characters moving outside a game like Everquestand moving onto World of Warcraft; or even any reason or correlation todo so.
In terms of people and businesses however, the information is real (notartifically created to role-play) and pervasive across wherever you go.The good news is that some of these items are already starting tohappen, as you can see per what Newsweek describes as The Living Web.What's more, these personas are a limited thing. My belief is thatpeople in general do not want to have to maintain multiple personas,for the same reason, people do not really want to have to keep track ofmultiple email accounts.
So there you have it. There's much work to do in the middle to get to pervasive virtual worlds.