The art of making sense

July 24, 2017

How do we as humans, break barriers, trying to reach out to make sense? Human collaboration, always tax negotiations and mutual agreement, and a participatory approach. Codified knowledge, have since our first ancestors walked on the face of the Earth, been leaving traces, being means to store narratives to be shared as continuous learning within the community or tight knitted social network. We need to build trust and belonging.

When different members of different communities share information, using boundary objects, there are always a risk that information gets lost in translation, since we add different meaning to shared concepts. Sensemaking occur, when the narrative and shared concepts bridge the linguistic uncertainty.

In a workplace setting, it is a core necessity to share, mission, goals, processes, practices and values along with controlled vocabularies. Meaning deciphered into coded rules of utility and application. A organisation is a set of rules that bind a group of humans together into shared organising principles. To organise, things, tasks and people.

Hunters-gatherers societies where foraging and collecting was key, stay in contrast to the agricultural societies where governance, cultivation and domestication of resources are means for a sustainable society. The shift into the industrial era, focused on automation and resource management. Hence having processes efficient and smooth. In a modern society, organising will capture all of these previous notions of grouping, since we both need to be attentive and competitive to survive and be agile to quick shifts, and in the same time govern and cultivate the resources at hand. And lastly automate as much as possible.

Knowledge intensive work practices, as most professionals subscribe to today, use organising systems (often digital) to codify knowledge, in record keeping. Where a collection of resources have been organised according some design principles and intention. When shift happens, as our society today change in an ever faster pace, these legacy systems break when new interaction models and uses are needed.

We all like a well organised workplace setting, where all things are easy to find, tools and resources have their place and shared utility, and our shared practices to keep our workplace safe and useful, we keep it clean and tidy. As with the 5S principles. If we do not help out keeping our workplace in a good shape, we end up in a digital landfill.

Human messines, will alway persist, and given that fact we need to apply mechanics as automation and augmentation for all knowledge work, to decrease information overload, erroneous knowledge codification. Helpers, to connect the dots, adding meaning and semantics, translators. So that all content provision and uses within the organisation will be better concerted. That also implies using governance and rules applied, as data vacuum cleaners, keeping the workplace tidy and well organised. Help us make sense!

Me, talking about sensemaking in the digital workplace


Why Context Matters – Governance Everywhere

June 17, 2015

In the recently released book Digital Success or Digital Disaster, Mark Morrell describes in a very pragmatic manner Governance. Why it matters, and to what extent all these simple sense making guardrails sometimes get lost. Leading to a disaster, where it with some common sense could have become a success.

The book is really a good read, regardless if you have ambitions to become an Intranet Manager or you have other means or things to govern in the business. The foundation with a sustainable, enliven and culturally grounded Governance model should be of highest priority. Clueless is the word sometimes that rings a bell, when organisations, people and folks from leadership simply tries to change. Without setting the playground to how the new workplace will unfold. Who decides what, to what extent have the responsibilities been communicated, so that the members of staff act coherent and compliant? Mark explained in his talk at Intranätverk, the 7 principles that most of us should address!

In our everyday lives we change our behaviors to fit in with those around us, to co-exist. We do this instinctively when driving our cars, during meetings at work or deciding who will do the dishes at home.

The same holds true for the information systems we use at work. It is important that all users have the right training and skills so that we can rely upon the integrity, sustainability and usefulness of the system in question. This can only be achieved through a consistent set of information governance principles, standards and procedures aligned to business context, objectives and external dependencies.

We all know that medicines are more effective when we follow the doctor’s instructions about how and when to take them. And yet it is estimated that 50% of patients do not take their medicines as prescribed. The reasons are multifactorial and the same holds true for our compliance with standards and procedures relating to information systems at work. Very often employees feel constrained by controls that they perceive to be too restrictive. Digital Workplace straightjacket?

Therefore, it is important that the guidance provided to employees is easy to understand and follow, appropriate to the business context and clearly linked to company objectives. If, for whatever reason, employees do not comply with published standards and procedures, feedback loops need to be in place so that the guidance provided can be updated as appropriate. Most people at work tries to do their best, but if the tools and procedures don’t match their needs. They start to tinker, find shortcuts and leave the guardrails behind, and move into unmapped terrain. It is key that all things that make-up to what we call the Digital Workplace have resilience and a plastic behavior to support emerging uses from the members of staff.  And that the governance guardrails follow in the pathway of the users. Making sense!

The core principle is that Information is an Enterprise Asset

Context aware applications such as wristband health monitors are becoming part of our daily lives. This is in contrast to the overlapping data and information systems that make up our digital workplace which tend not to interact in any meaningful way.

The movement towards a sensor-driven Internet of Things such as smart cars and household appliances will be echoed in the digital workplace. This will require back-end systems to be fully compliant with information governance standards and procedures. Although the guidance provided should be easy to understand and follow not everyone will need to read them I order to rely upon the integrity, sustainability and usefulness of the system in question.

Cognitive computing is already with us and a number of companies are working on systems capable of ‘learning’. This is done through applications that capture our sometimes rational and sometimes irrational behaviors and as a result are flexible enough to adjust to our context.

Mark and I had a Governance Talk, to further discuss why it all matters:

Endurance in the intranet workplace

April 12, 2015

The intranet space have been around since mid 90’s, as a small world inside the corporate walls incarnation of Internet, based on the very same standards that built the web. The ambitions and inspiration to create value, leaned upon lessons learned from success stories on the Net. Hence after the first bottom-up techie wizard built instances of intranets, we saw the dawn of Enterprise Portals in the early 2000’s. The claims still persist after 15 years, trying to create true business value, and a useful and efficient workplace platform for knowledge workers.

Now companies are buying Intranet on-tap, cloud based, with grand hopes to overcome the gaps and perils from previous attempts. The terminology changes from intranet only, to cover the digital workplace. This makes sense in a world where most companies undergoes a fast pace into digitalisation of all service and goods, regardless of line-of-business. The digital workplace encompasses all communications tools (ICT) to do everyday work. Anywhere, on any device, anytime.


There is a new book on the core topic, “intranets that bring value” (Intranät som skapar värde) written of a group of friends and peers, and experts within the intranet professionals domain. It is the first book in years, in Swedish. Most other books on intranet focus on design solutions for a given technology. Whereas this book main contribution is within strategy, governance, content and information architecture, findability, metrics and measures, user engagement and adaptations. To be able to reach the sought after business values.

Workplace changes, take time, which is obvious given that we now have been working with intranets for 20 years, and still lack good precision in delivering a coherent, easy to use user experience. That connects the dots in the enterprise landscape, helping the users find information, data and peers to solve the tasks at hand in their everyday pursuit.

This book, gives very pragmatic and hands-on advice. And for all intranet professionals I think pragmatism and endurance are key skills, to survive in the stormy environment of constant change in technologies and business demands to the supporting platform.

Hope you enjoy the reading, and do not hesitate to give me feedback on the chapter I have written on organising principles to intranet. The printed version will be available in May. Don’t be square, order a copy now 😉

We are the People, lets work together….

September 19, 2014

Human nature has given us the great ability to work together and be adaptive to changes in our surrounding environment since the dawn of mankind. Nothing new to this set of capabilities. Also we have been able to form uses of our common tools, so that we together manage to change society.

Citizen Participation

The tools have, and will be the foundation for innovation, and each new tool kit raises new challenges. Where we see new practices emerge, and craftsmanship to master them. In most cases, we have been situated in co-located uses, to form groups. The effort to coordinate that group, using different means to reach the set goals. Have bearing in the way we as humans communicate. Usually with a combination of spoken language and body language. In some boundary object interactions where we don’t have a common lingo. Body language have been a simple way to bridge between different communities. The communication tools used when we can’t see or hear each other have emerged over the years.

Today, our work conditions differ quite, from previous generations dependencies on co-located collaborative work. Due to the immense use of digital communication tools, and shifting focus from bodywork, to knowledge work. We simply engage in endless conversations on all levels, to undertake our daily everyday practices together. Some of these conversations have become routines, where we codify, store and use the outcome. Codified knowledge have been one of the key elements to run a large organisation, since cuneiform. Other conversations are just social-glue, to connect us with peers in order to solve the issues at hand. The problem in all this, is that the focus is more on the tools and means, and less on why we communicate and the need to coordinate our efforts in a group of people.

Trilingual inscription of Xerxes, Van, 1973.JPG
Trilingual inscription of Xerxes, Van, 1973” by John Hill – I took this photo myself using a 300 mm lens with 2X extender on a Pentax camera. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The other issue, is to find other groups of individuals to form emerging networks. Where our social ties are not so tightly knitted. But where the small world group acts in cellular fashion. The organising of resources, as humans working in different groups. The sharing practices, professions, disciplines and processes, is what we commonly call an organisation. With clear boundaries. Hence there are two dimensions to collaboration: in-bound to make the team work together, regardless if they are co-located or not. And second the out-reaching theme, connecting to the ecology where the group work and outcome signals to other parties and herds of people.

Managing the tool-kit

In my daily work practice either as researcher or information strategist I mix these two modalities of collaboration seamlessly. And I juggle around and struggle with a pretty hefty and complex tapestry of digital communication tools, since each facet of group work and context have different agreed upon tools and organising principles of information and data. And topping this, I also chose prefered tools of my own liking, that might divert from the commonly stated platform. Using these means anywhere, anytime and on any device, as stated in most digital strategies I have written or come across.

When organisation fast forward into digitally enhanced collaboration (just separating this for now from traditional group work without digital means), the most common path is to buy what all others have in their garage. “My neighbor just bought a brand new Tesla Car, and he seems to be very happy with his rather expensive choice.” Or just go for what we already have parked inside our corporate walls. Sharepoint is such a simple choice to make. It is a very capable software suite of things, that promise to solve all collaboration themes out-of-the-box. Or any other software vendor’s suite in the same ballpark.

A collaboration framework

Michael Sampson, have in his writing (books, blogs and lectures), pinpointed seven pillars for collaboration:

  1. Shared access to team/group information and data
  2. Location independence
  3. Real-time authoring and editing
  4. Group/team aware calendaring
  5. Social engagement
  6. Group/team task management
  7. Collaboration auto-discovery

The first 6 pillars, rest upon the in-bound teamwork. How to make a tightly knit group of people coordinate, collaborate in a smooth manner, so that they are able to reach their targeted goal. The reason why they start to work together in the first place. Be it a project, organisational bound unit, or learning network as communities of practice.

In a group of people, regardless if they are co-located, distributed or a mix thereof, they share the same goals. Hopefully? The social ties are pretty strong, and in some spaces they know each other in and out. In others they have been pulled together for a specific task, and have to agree on the game rules to work together. In loosely coupled communities of practice or networks, the ties are more related to profession, discipline or shared interest. Hence they might not know each other at all, but still share a common ground why the meet-up and engage in online conversations. For each different facet of in-bound collaboration, there might be nuances to what capabilities they need to become fluent in the use of either digital platform. My fellow researchers have pulled together a very nice recipe book to what ingredients is needed for a sustainable digital habitat, so I do not intend to elaborate more on this here.

My ambition is to further develop some thinking and tinkering around the second theme (seventh pillar), the out-reaching collaboration.

Out-reaching collaboration – Serendipity!

The promise from all visionaries, evangelist within knowledge management. Have always been this Connected Enterprise state. Since T Davenport’s and  Larry Prusak’s book Working Knowledge from 1985.

Serendipity in life, sometimes connects dots between people. I happened to share a taxi to Milan’s airport for 2 hours with Larry Prusak 10 years ago. From a Knowledge Management research conference we both had attended and done talks at. And during this ride we both shared stories from the trenches, and connections to friends and peers. Building the social tapestry, that still unfolds. When I meet people with the same aspiration and passion for communities and networks of practice as myself.

In large organisations, it is difficult to know what is going on, on a daily basis across all places and contexts. And connecting teams and groups separated by organisational boundaries, profession, locations, processes or practices have been the promise and peril for knowledge management. Early on the focus was set on codified knowledge, as record keeping. But the more control put into the stew to get people to codify what they were up to, the less things were then added to the shared spaces. This was simply, because this extra task, diverted them from their everyday work practices. Still 20 years further down the road, this shared view of our tools and technologies persists.

The question then is: What design imperative can we build upon, so that connecting people and serendipity happens, without a steep threshold of manual work of codification?

Some consultancy firms have a culture of sharing and codifying, and this practice is also what they promise to their clients. The problem is that the lego pieces in the box, all artifacts developed by members of staff, reflecting on their observations from the trenches. Taxes lots of resources, and also the half life is pretty short. Storytelling and compelling narrative, is what sticks. This is what I remember from the personal conversation with Larry Prusak. And still after this long time, I am able to reflect on pretty detailed parts of that conversation. Not codified, or recorded.

My own reflection to the out-reaching capabilities using collaborative technologies are:

  1. Profiling
  2. Semantic Enhancements and Links
  3. Auto-suggestions in real-time

Profiling and Personal Data

As users of a multitude of digital communications platforms, we leave a digital trail. In less good circumstance this might be used against our will and intentions e.g. the NSA and other authorities’ surveillance of our digital lives. Or in online services like Facebook and Google, intrusion into our privacy online. We sign a contract with the Devil, without reading the fine print, selling our privacy as the currency for free services.

In the 90’s when I both started my internet consulting firm and research, I came across a fellow researcher at MIT Media Lab,Prof. Patti Maes. She and set of colleagues founded Firefly network inc. Using their agent technologies and collaborative filtering algorithms. They were later bought by Microsoft. One of the foundations of their technology was dynamic profiles and a standard (P3P) to people profiles and segments, and attributes to this. These technologies in different incarnations are now omnipresent, and widely used by Facebook, Linkedin, and Google to name but a few. The main idea, was that the end-user fed the agent his or her profile and preferences. Sometimes it could be a manually-intensive process of record keeping, while at other times the use of any service could add bits and parts of the users behaviour as part of a digital trail – uncovering the “tacit knowledge” of the user, and his or hers networks in doing so. The keeping of user records is sensitive as it was with P3P and the like. It failed to get traction to a larger audience due to conflicts arising from privacy and intrusion issues. It is always a matter of whom you trust. Other technology companies, have tried similar paths, to tap into the tacit knowledge, like Autonomy have with their agent-profiles and so forth. Regardless of the success or not, profiling is key in delivering anything valuable to the end user.

Finding peers and friends (FOAF) through profile records and catalogs, i.e. Active Directory (AD), is probably the most asserted requirement in any digital workplace development. Social and collaborative platforms like Sharepoint, mix both the more structured elements to a user-profile derived from AD, plus the users’ contributions, and digital-trails e.g. connected friends, groups, social-tags and so forth, NB. Office Graph (Oslo).

But in a world where everything is not hosted in one to serve them all platform, and where users depart outside into other shared spaces for their collaborative work. These single platform profiles, are pretty useless. Most organisations try to build compounds and user-profile mashups, using profile segments from a diversity of information systems (i.e HR), and services. The most ambitious efforts combine user-profile records from the inside environment, with external social media profiles,  i.e. the users Linkedin profile.

Users do like to improve their profiles, if the value in doing so is in a direct feedback loop to the use of the platform. Here LinkedIn is a good example. In other online networks, the settings for your profile have become so complex, that users just ignore configuring them at all, i.e. in Facebook.

As with the now forgotten P3P standard, the user needs to be in control of his or hers Personal Data stored in the profile. And the negotiations between the user and the service who want to manage profile-segments have to be dead-simple.

The user-profile is still one of the most underdeveloped data-sets, and the privacy issues are certainly not ironed out. But without a decent profile, all other things will fall apart. It should not be a laborious process for the end-user to keep their records in shape, and the backing set of informations systems must interoperate or else the building blocks won’t match. For online services, they rely upon browser cookies. Where all of them leave identifications and signals to the back-end services. Since the HTTP standard is decentralised and decoupled, contrasting older architectures like client-server. For each service this set-up works, but for a user with many things, devices and spaces. None of these low-level means, build a personal data record that they are able to manage and control. Or connect between services and profile segment. In a easy to use manner.

In a utopian world – profile matching gives us serendipitous experiences and connects us with other people, that we otherwise would never have met or interacted with.  For now we just hope that we are being helped to find the people we know about through FOAF and graph search. Fingers crossed, we will soon get interoperability and new emerging standards, governed by all providers… where the balance of privacy, control and open interop, just work!

Semantic Enhancements and links

In the in-bound conversations for teamwork, the sharing space for collaboration has several well-known patterns. But in many instances, failure is omnipresent, regardless of the supporting platform, be it old CSCW as IBM Lotus Notes in the 90’s and later IBM Connections, or Sharepoint. To a large extent it boils down to the  organising principles for information and data, that all participants will adhere to, and follow, with pragmatic governance, and lifecycle in mind – not forgetting the culture of caring for the users, through adaptation strategies in order to get them into a comfortable mode, actually using the given platform.

The simplest structure, is to answer a set of very obvious questions before starting a teamwork space.

  • Why are we going to participate?
  • Who will be participating and who is welcome to join, and finally, who runs the show? i.e. Information Ownership and stewardship
  • Who will be interested in the outcome from our joint effort? Audience and Coverage
  • What is the general theme for our work? Title, Topics, and brief Description
  • What kinds of artifacts and spaces are we going to use in our daily work? Type
  • For how long will we be hanging out in this collaborative space, and what will happened after we close down the room we share?
  • Relations to other domains (projects, programs or organisations). Linking!

If one uses the inverted pyramid for communications, all these questions will be pretty easy to answer. For those who fail to answer these questions, they shouldn’t be able to start the teamwork at all if there is no targeted goal for participation.

The answers to the questions above will be added as resource descriptions to the collection (metadata). That will be useful patterns for information architecture and search patterns when the amount of collaborative spaces grow. And for connecting the dots? If you also use common standards, like Dublin Core, interoperability will follow. You could have bits of your shared space in SharePoint, Archive and final Documents in a Document repository, tasks and more open collaborative space, as in a enterprise wikis (Atlassian) and jira. Using OneNote, Evernote or whatever you have. And you will still then be able to keep track of findability across spaces, and devices.

When users start to participate and contribute with digital artifacts, the supporting platform will guide them, and auto-suggest both administrative resource descriptions and narrow and targeted vocabularies. Hence the formation of a pragmatic and useful organising model to all data. Without killing the users in their pathway of adding semantics.

A final note, is that the cross-linking and auto-suggested links. Is what we get, supporting the last pillar of the seven pillars for collaboration mentioned above? We are able to add metadata and search driven user-experience and information architecture elements, that connect and link people, content and collections all together, without having to manage this complex task manually.

Auto suggestions in real-time

Finding things and navigating in real-time. Obviously to work together we need to find things to be able to act in our enacted environment, and be aware of triggers in our everyday pathway that relate to our practices. These information flows, do have to be calibrated and nurtured to not overwhelm us with data feeds. So filters! But in same breath, they not be too narrow, so we fail to connect the dots in the overarching picture to things.

There are many fancy smart devices and services, that add context and triggers to autosuggest for you on your pathway of doing your actual work. These means, should be in the background and infuse correlations that makes sense. And that it not disturb, like the well know MS Office Assistant (Paper Clip).

A connected company, is a place where people are able to work seamlessly without boundaries, in-side out, or outside in. In all this emerging internet trend like semantic web and linked-data might come handy.

Digital Debris and Social Landfill

September 4, 2014

The results of our digital trails, make up much of the data flows that create the abundance of digital debris we struggle with in our everyday lives. At work we carry out tasks using all kinds of information systems, in order to accomplish our daily work practice, be you a teacher, doctor, or a researcher like me.

Content Debris

In the brilliant book Information Diet, it becomes very evidident that we are becoming obese in the way we consume and create information. And the only way to survive, is to constrain our irrational behavior with pragmatic organising principles, so that we as individuals can understand ourselves, and more importantly the social context where we act- be it at work, in a team or at home, figuring out how to balance between the life of social online domains with that of real-life experiences.

In other domains of our life, we practice simple organising principles for shared social resources e.g. the wardrobe where we manage our clothes, or the refrigerator where we store our food. Most families have unwritten rules on how these shared resource collections should be used. The resources (clothes) in the wardrobe are sorted and categorised depending on the owner of the resource, type of garment and its function. We may also add further structure according to seasonal use and have an occasionally sort out to dispose of the worn out resources. These same resources then will have completely different organising principles dependent upon their resource description, fabric type or cleaning instructions. It is not likely that every family will have the same organising principles for each use case of every ‘resource’.

The same goes with food. If food isn’t organised according to its lifecycle, it will eventually start to rot. Differences from the shared family view of how to organise this food collection can lead to heated discussions, no kidding! This is real-life experience for most of us. And when we are about to use and consume the food, we have the further recipe instructions to use as organising principles. The same set of resources that were in the fridge, the become governed by completely different set of organising principles.

Most physical resources then have storage constraints! In the digital domain however resources don’t go off, and we just tend to upgrade our cloud service plan to add (hoard) even more data. Think of our typical collection of digital photos created daily, using all sorts of devices, and then shared on several different platforms. Most of us tend to add yet another couple of TBs of lovely photos when space runs out and we put off the day when we are going to try and sort this landfill….probably not before retirement. Thankfully Google+ have added photo services to guide and help us in this quest, by adding usage patterns and resource descriptions (meta data) captured when each device takes a picture.

At work, most organisations try to enforce good practice and pragmatic organising principles. But I dare to say it, in most cases these fail. Firstly, different platforms do not or cannot share interoperable services at all levels. Secondly, most users, including myself, do not comply with the said policies and behave ‘irrationally’ in order to fulfil short-term wins – just like the way we store our private photos then! So should we just add more storage and get better search?

If we consider the simple inverted pyramid for communications, it should be easy to see the signs if you adhere to the pragmatic organising principles set for a given digital platform within the digital workplace. You can spend days preparing a slide-deck with nice figures, data and a compelling narrative. But then when faced with filing the presentation, you tend to ignore any simple rules for adding resource descriptions to the content. In most cases, if the system is user-friendly, this shouldn’t even take a minute to complete.

You probably expect that the IT department at work will just buy another bigger search engine to allow the further management of building resources and let you continue to ignore resource description. Well the thing is, this won’t help… you will just end up adding more to the digital landfill. This is well-illustrated in this recent Q&A with Martin White

“Well why can’t we just have Googlish services inside our digital workplace? Or maybe just let the NSA or other Government agencies to store and find patterns in our digital trails?

I would much rather flip the coin, and address the way we create digital landfill. In a utopian future, all devices you use daily will understand what you aim at doing, and will guide you through your provision process. In the meantime, we could simply add the most obvious things to our foraging of data and information.

  • Add relevant resource descriptions (metadata) that address the is-ness, and about-ness of the content
  • Lifecycle to all things, when is it time to trash things, and could it be a good idea to trash beforehand? less is more in all this.
  • Adhere to the agreed social contracts either in your private sphere or at work. When being at work you actually get paid to behave in a good manner. And activities at work is sometimes tedious and boring…”
  • And lastly, all software vendors and online service in the information management space that makes up the enterprise information landscape. Have to address semantics or continue to create IS/IT-legacy stigma.  Simply be making all ways of digital provision aligned to linked-data paradigm shift without putting us end-users into peril!

These are simple steps, but add in collaborative ways of working and you will find that other uses of your information and data, may result in other resource descriptions being added, according to the new context. It is like the food and clothes allegories mentioned previously. In this case it is a more fluid content experience that we are all see emerge. Something starts from its source/origin but ends up as a sea of data (read Big Data). If simple rules are applied for the ‘raw material,’ it may be possible to link your data with that of others, the same way that linked-data-cloud and the semantic Web are emerging.

At the end of the day, you want to find the right ingredients to prepare your family dinner, and find the right information needed to make well-informed decisions at work.

  • The future relies on interoperability, on all levels, not only technical device specific, but rather semantic and social grounded interoperability with sound governance for all data fed to us everyday!

A highly recommend The Discipline of Organizing, a brillant book and online experience for anybody interested in pragmatic organising principles


Human Factor, and the inevitable messiness

October 19, 2012

The real treat to the on-going online conversations is humans interacting and sharing, adding flavours to the context in where they do their provisioning and knowledge foraging.

Creative Space, emerging ways of learning

Learning Networks

Game Plan

Why the Landlord’s social game evolve and create such embedded culture? Organising people is hard, herding the cats really makes sense, since most collaboration amongst people hold in-built power relations, and we constantly disagree. Even in the small world examples as within a family or between friends, we argue. The fruitful conversations helps us pane out the negotiated truth. Rules help us find a pattern useful for collaboration, as with Monopoly. The basic rules of this game are very simple, so simple that even kids grasp the core concepts in a snippet. What makes this game so intriguing is the social layer that is not codified in the rules.  We as players expand, cheat, remix, i.e.  building pacts to win. Refine the money transactions with add-on rules that the taxes paid should go into growing pile of money, that anyone stepping on the free-parking collects. This is why people with very strict morale and compliance to rules have difficulties to engage in the extra layers to the game. Whereas most of us others who are adaptive, go with the flow and have fun.

When organisations do engage in knowledge management, they have tried to codify and apply rules that are overly complex, which leads to a mess. Since people obstruct, when they can’t comprehend the plan and don’t know how to behave in this strictly regulated environment. In information management practices derived from us being information professionals, we stretch the matrix with way to many metadata steps in provisioning.  Killed by taxonomy! We are only able to add context within our enacted environment. The matrix machinery behind the scenes has to help us and refine the provision and uses in the pathway of the user and their networks. This fluid notion to knowledge is a much better reflection to how we humans act and reflect. And the matrix machinery (digital information infrastructures i.e. ecm, search, taxonomy, ontologies and so forth) has to be adaptive, and let the social layers and human factors and messiness be part of the calculation.

There will never be a perfect match, only information tidbits in the social fabric. The notion of social business and uses of social platforms will in a good setting lever the similar patterns to the ever growing public learning happening on the Internet. Appreciate the power of difference, and be aware of the echo chamber problem, with closed silos. Make the networks smarter!

But the enterprise social platforms do need a game plan, as simple and crispy as for Monopoly. Without a goal, and a framework for engagement and collaboration, there will only be technology without a relevant use.

The Remix Culture

Youth of today, level positive deviance and the knowledge creation in emerging networks. The entrepreneurial learner generation embrace the notion of networks, and take the information abundance for granted. Remix and Lego go hand in hand, since the most compelling part of playing with Lego. Is not only to go by the book, develop the bought package according to the manual, but rather the steps beyond. Where you take the simple building blocks and innovate new creations, or even program the tool through Lego MindStorm. The kids of today apply same passion to learn, through tinkering as we grown ups did. But with the big difference that their room is global, always connected with networks of peers who share the same passion. This is the reason why games like Minecraft grows with mind blowing speed, we like to co-create things and learn in the flow of events. This behaviour is in-built in our spines. How do we embrace creation spaces in the enterprise setting, and apply similar inspiring ideas to our workforces?

Reflections from the on-going conversation oozing out (#kmw12, #kmworld) from KMWorld 2012 conference. More reading from leaders in the KM guild, John Seely Brown, David Weinberger, Lt Col David Sanchez and more…

on Commerce: a Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose!

May 10, 2012

The wheels keep on turning, and we as world citizens do embark into consumerism ever so eagerly. What to do with all the stuff we get in our daily foraging?

Digital Infrastructures have set the prefix of e- in front of every possible term, to emphasize the reasoning of electronic or digital. Question, does this really make sense today? The picture is really blurred. Where does the real world and the digital world end, where does means met ends? When we Internet savvy folks, speak of Internet of things do this echo in the minds-sets of our less connected peer human beings?

On a philosophical angle we buy things either to survive or to boost our personas with stuff related to who we think we are in the social fabric of life. Leaving a signal to other humans that I consume and because of this I am 😉

Hence, Commerce is a Commerce is a Commerce is a Commerce transformed from the simple but yet omnipresent poem by G. Stein 1913. When traditional retail, brick and mortar, meets e-commerce on the social battle field what is the outcome for the everyday consumer? Well one could name tag this x-channel commerce, where intertwingularity really starts to happen.

Anybody who either have undertaken some kind of business school or baseline marketing diploma knows for sure there are some elements that one just do not take away that easily to make an prosperous business. Same goes for us who have been engaged in entrepreneurship in a small retail or local grocery store. Know your customers! Engage with them on their grounds, invite them to a conversation so you as a provider are able to align your brick and mortar store front and shelves with goods (ends) that meet needs. Second to this, secure a feasible supply to have your store up and running.

The disruptive technology leap with the digital infrastructures, relates to information flows and the social life dealing with this information. Hence in a less open environment with constraints in the information supply, we just either had to comply with the options given, and trust the service provider. Or tinker to find pragmatic solutions to a broken system, as the folks in former eastern Europe had to do due to policy makers with twisted minds. Today in the modern big city life, we all have devices that gives us instant access to information when needed. An upper-hand for the consumer. Power relations have slightly changed the ballpark. Or maybe not? In a local setting with only one ‘Store’ the dealer had to know the demand and personally listen to all locals. We are rather getting back to business, as it emerged on the local marketplace or bazaar still omnipresent in many countries.

e-Commerce pains?
Well first and last… the churn rate to buy stuff when they have entered into the shop is between 2-4% on average. If they find the store in the first place that is! Many users do a quick search using either aggregation measure (Google, Pricerunner) where they get a decent overview, window shopping. All these aggregator services tries to tie some extra value with enhancements or schemas on-top of the unstructured world. Emerging ways of get semantics into this play have been in the loop for 15 years, and we are seeing this mashup economy growing daily and standards being put into action. Second how to curate a nice storefront that is compelling, easy to navigate and vibrant with goods and services to the users preferences and liking? When the information flow back-end with aggregation, integration more reflect staggering data mazes from all the suppliers? Topping this easy to pay! Here still many online stores have über-complex schemas. The x-commerce platform using Ebay/Paypal or Klarna from Sweden are some possible solutions to this threshold. And lastly the social interaction both in term of delivery, service provided and the show-off persona attribute 😉  My mind started to remember the Internet bombastic e-commerce failures, like Boo. Where users hardly could enter the store due to UX from hell, and those who got to the cashier couldn’t pay. Lastly the few bespoken people who actually managed to buy  something had hard time getting their stuff!

Brick and mortar retail have not gone out of business, ask IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad. If they had the same churn rate for all people driving to their sites and entering the store as the eCommerce folks have. He wouldn’t been on the list of richest in the world. Even the times you visit their site only to get your moneys back for a broken or dysfunctional goods. You can’t resist to take a peek-view into the store and find yourself buying even more. The same goes for food-stores. No one enters them without buying stuff! That’s why we spend time and effort to go there in the first place.

The frontier of eCommerce have realised this, and done their utmost to lure us firstly into the store through SEO, banners and whathaveyous. Second have a curation process that makes their store sticky, mimic real world experience.  It is not as simple as copy the IKEA model, given that you are virtually not present in their store. Lack of sensory triggers! Might improve in 3D worlds with extra-embodied gadgets in near future. The most engaging experiences have basically a content factory with people infusing contextual data to the goods. Improve the appearance and findability across both their own site and in their value network. As the i.e. the fast growing from Sweden.

When you navigate in the store as in IKEA you follow a known path. Well designed so your sensory wayfinding skills don’t make you feel lost. Navigate any eCommerce site that lacks proper and sound Information Architecture and you instantly feel stressed and usually leave before even reaching for the cashier icon. Ask my dear wife who really loves to ‘shop’ compared to me who get the same mall-lost-in-shopping-hell-syndrome in any brick and mortar setting. She trashes many sites within seconds! or rather milliseconds!! Non functional!!! even if she knows that the store hold the searched for goods.

What amazes me, is how bad many eCommerce sites have settled pragmatic organising principles to their content? Maybe a better Content Choreograph assigned to this quest? Derived from this is the insufficient information supply chain. Data from their origin have so poor quality that not even the best automagic data-laundry helps. Why not crowdsource this obvious constraint to a viable and scalable business model? Shared responsibilities amongst all actors? Maybe a intermediary-data-laundry-model for data-flows could be of some help?

Without refined and enhanced raw-data, next step is basically impossible. Cross-channel commerce have to have sound organising principles, if not considering stove-pipes of different content factories in the back-end to a great cost! The improved digital assets needs to be smarter in all possible ways. When we talk about Internet of Things, as with RFID, NFC and other emerging standards within the UbiComp arena. Mobility First raises the bar for simplicity, cut the crap. Get to the point and deliver now.

The Social Creature
Living in a world of social means to capture our attention, it is no reason for a commerce provider to stay with a stale, stigmatised old school commerce model without the flavor of social intertwined all through. Some genres of products and services, do have better social flows, given that they are things people happily share. The travel and tourism industry is one of the business arenas, where user-generated-content really makes-sense. No one books a hotel without first checking out TripAdvisor, google maps/earth and many more sites to get a more nuanced picture of the planned trip. And both during your travel users annotate, share, curate and socialise around their experience, with a final reporting while being back home again. Same goes with fashion, and similar goods and services. Food chains have recepies.  Whereas other stuff never have had any social sharing either in brick-and-mortar or eCommerce realm.

A greenfield commerce project
The notion of greenfield gives us a fun journey when we develop the cues for future commerce. No strings attached and build from ground-up with the soil and plants. Cultivate and nurture this new space. New entrants in the retail business have done some remarkable assertions. A people centric view to shopping, make the online and store visit a compelling journey that is seamless. C. Wonder have developed a new experience, where there are only personal shopping assistants, no cash register lines. The staff are passionate about the goods served, use mobile devices and pervasive and ubicomp setting to get handy information and data while guiding their clients in the store. All items sold have been enhanced with RFID. In the background there is a back-bone ERP, Supply Chain, CRM and whathaveyou cloud instance. That serves up real-time data and do manage the data in a completely new fashion.

What runs the show? DATA! all over the place but with a pragmatic, agile, and make-do feeling. Tinker, try, build and engage, review and improve. With proper organising principles to information and data. Here cloud service delivery models interplay with the ubicomp and mobile devices to create an ambient data service.
How to engage, well obviously social have been built into the spines of all core processes for the commerce set-up. As other retailers in this scene do. Have your Customer Service with Facebook feeds, and so forth. Online stores in any relevant social space. Basically let the users share their love (or hate!?) for the services and products. Have talented staff members intersected into the different levels of conversations. Social Business by design if you will 😉

Intelligence – pick my brain!
With the abundance of data flows in such a business design, big data. Tools and metrics to quickly align the practices on the floor have to be real-time. Consumer behaviour in all domains leave digital trails, combined with ‘smart things’ (RFID). But intelligence also implies tapping into the social conversations online pre- , during and post physical in store experience.

Intelligence also have to be the tuner to competitive outlook. Even if person centric service and human touch have a great impact on revenue, consumers still do have choices to make. So intelligent price-modelling and scanning will be key. These data backbone algorithms produce prices in constant flux 😉 Higher quality and experience taxes a bit more pricey level to things, but it still have to be on the same ballpark as the most low-cost option online. As with the Bazaar, where local store owners do mutual adjustment to prices, but then in the sales-pitch ‘haggle’ 😉