Sunday, 14 November 2010

Enterprise 2.0 and Cynefin

In the previous post, Cynefin, Knowledge Spirals and Bonfires, I discussed the use of the Cynefin framework to describe how knowledge is built. At that stage we saw how knowledge building can be seen as a flow/spiral around the chaotic, complex and knowable domains with the ability at some point to transfer/publish learning's into the known domain. In this post I will consider the different requirements of each domain and show how different tools from the Enterprise 2.0 tools set align to the various domains.
For the purposes of this discussion will consider the properties and requirements of four domains:
  • Chaotic - In this domain the relationship between data/information/knowledge fragments is unknowable. When working in this domain the only response is to act and impose order.
  • Complex - In this domain the relationship between data/information/knowledge fragments is ambiguous. We believe a relationship exists but have yet to understand it. When working in this domain we are looking for insights/patterns and are exploring ways to combine these fragments. Out of this activity emerge new hypothesis which are bounced around an informal network of trusted collaborators.
  • Knowable - In this domain the relationship between data/information/knowledge fragments can be understood by experts. We have the "bones of an idea" and are working to flesh the idea out. When working in this domain we see formal collaborations between experts taking place.
  • Known - In this domain the relationship between data/information/knowledge fragments is fully comprehended and lack ambiguity. The idea is fully formed and tested and is presented in a formally structured fashion for consumption by non-experts.
Having described the attributes of the four domains we are now in a position to align these requirements against the different tools contained in the Enterprise 2.0 tool kit:

  • Requirement - Identify sets of data/information/knowledge fragments
  • Tool - Search
  • Requirement - Combine and explore data/information/knowledge fragments
  • Tools - Mash-up capabilities
  • Requirement - Informal collaboration
  • Tools - Personal Blog, Microblogging, Social Networking, Social Bookmarking, RSS reader
  • Requirement - Aggregate and share data/information/knowledge fragments across a multidisciplinary team
  • Tools - Team Wiki, Team Blog, Social Bookmarking, RSS reader
  • Requirement - Coordinate team activities
  • Tools - GTDware
  • Requirement -Publish formal structure content
  • Tools - Corporate Wiki, Podcast/Vodcast/Slidecast, Social Bookmarking, RSS reader
Having aligned the various Enterprise 2.0 tools with the four domains we now have a clear contextual appreciation of which aspect of knowledge building each tool support and how different combinations synergise. Essentially we now have a roadmap for implementation of Enterprise 2.0 tools in support of knowledge building and can use this to i) prioritise which tools we want to deploy and ii) provide clear context to users as to what processes these tools support and how we expect them to be used together.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Cynefin, Knowledge Spirals and Bonfires

A recent post by Thomas Vander Wal reminded me I needed to share some of the thinking I've been doing over the last few months. In On Fire with Social Progressions Thomas describes the social flows of information from idea through to formal outcome. In this post he uses a neat analogy of a growing fire to describe this progression. It all starts with an individual creating a spark, an idea, that grows into a campfire as a group gather round and add their perspectives. This campfire builds into a bonfire as more and more contribute to the original idea and finally becomes a beacon (Thomas uses torch holder), a formal full rounded piece of information that people can navigate by. This is a great visual analogy and reminded me of an aspect of the Cynefin framework and the description of 'The natural flow of knowledge' in Complex acts of knowing: Paradox and descriptive self-awareness by Dave Snowden. The beauty of the Cynefin framework is the simple way it breaks down and describes knowledge space which can best be describe by Dave Snowden:

In "Complex acts of knowing" Dave illustrates how ideas start in the the complex domain and around these communities naturally form which through the process of formalisation grow into communities of practice within the knowable domain. Knowledge is aggregated and ideas built upon as members of the community ask new questions of the chaotic domain, gain new insights in the complicated domain and test and analyse them in the knowable domain. At some point a limited amount of codified knowledge can be separated out from the community and moved into the known domain.
I think you can easily see the similarities between Thomas's "fire" analogy and the knowledge spiral aspect of the Cynefin framework. Now while Thomas's "fire" analogy describes the social flows of information from idea through to formal outcome the Cynefin framework takes this idea much further and provides a way to explore the wider concept of knowledge space. Having introduced the idea of the knowledge spiral and how it applies to the Cynefin framework the next step will be to explore the requirements of the domains and how enterprise 2.0 tools align to them.
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Wednesday, 4 August 2010

As Jessica says "Advertise yourself"

The last quarter has been a very rewarding time for the team who developed OnePoint, the innovative combination of OneNote and SharePoint, as we picked up three awards for this work. These were the Royal Society of Chemistry Teamwork in Innovation Award 2010, Microsoft Life Sciences Innovation Award 2010 and KMUK 2010 Best KM initiative or implementation in a corporate enterprise. As a consequence of this external validation the internal interest in this solution has step up another notch. Further more we have just heard that the executive leadership team on the board are about to adopt OnePoint. Not bad, we have gone from the research bench in Sandwich to the boradroom in New York!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Over the last 3 years I have been involved in numerous experiments with enterprise 2.0 tools, some have been successful and some not so. Out of these experiments has come a realisation that a prerequisite of success is to ensure you create the right environment for collaboration to flourish. I haven come to think of these as a set of principles that define the core architecture of collaboration. These principles apply equally to the technology and the culture. It is my experience that adoption of these principles is required if a culture of collaboration and openness is to develop. The four core principles are:

  1. Freedom - The easiest way to prevent collaboration from occurring is to impose overly burdensome control around how colleagues work. If collaboration is to flourish we need to trust colleagues and not impose rigid workflows, inappropriate approval processes (moderation), restriction on who can collaborate with whom (association) and have an open attitude towards sharing information.
  2. Emergence - No two collaborations are the same, each team/group will have different requirements and will develop different working practices. Given this then we need to allow patterns and structures to emerge as collaborations develop. This is not to say we should not stimulate behaviors we want or share experiences but rather we should accept this and recognise that we need to avoid a 'One size fits all' approach.
  3. Clarity of Purpose - Contextualising tools for colleagues work processes is critical. Without a clear explination as to how and when to use new tools colleagues become confused and revert back to there default methods of working. The lack of consistent advice around how and when to use these tools inevitably leads to adoption of Outlook for information management, fragmented silos of project data and a lack of any real knowledge management processes.
  4. Ease of Use - Collaboration is about enabling conversations between people. It is not about technology. Therefore, it is critical that technology does not get in the way of collaboration. If we are to enable a culture of collaboration we must ensure that colleagues find the tools are intuitive and require minimal training.
Over the next few post I will expand upon each of these principles.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Best use of 20 minutes

Lawrence Lessig is a hero of mine. He is a libertarian and campaigns for reform of copyright, among many other things, which he argues is being used to stifle our cultural creativity. Watch the video below, probably the best use of 20 minutes of your time today, and think about this topic but in terms of attitude to information sharing within your company.

A couple of years ago I made a series of post to an internal blog on the need for a Freedom of Information policy within the company. Now this as you might expect was slightly controversial but it did get a conversation started. The kernel of the argument was that we should change our mindset from one where the default position was to lock down access to one where the default position was to leave access open. Note this was not forcing anyone to make things open but rather change the default settings on systems such that you had to actively make the choice to lock access down rather than being asked who should have access. This may seem like a minor change but it's impact has been huge and has contributed to the development of an open culture where sharing is the norm. Engendering this change has been central to the success of our effort to adopt enterprise 2.0 tools.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Cynefin - Sensemaking and Enterprise 2.0

Yesterday while nursing my daughter, bad cold/little sleep, I had the time to catch up on some reading I'd been putting off. One of the papers 'Complex acts of knowing: Paradox and descriptive self-awareness' by Dave Snowden of Cognative Edge was a really gem. I've been struggling for a while with contextualising how 'knowledge' is created along with the tools, process and people involved in it's creation. The paper draws on anthropology and complex adaptive systems theory to illustrate how our behaviours under different conditions affect how we make decisions. Essentially the model consists of a 4 box with unstructured vs structured on the x-axis and low vs high abstraction on the y-axis. This gives us four boxes, starting in the bottom left and moving clockwise we have:

Chaos - here we need to impose order
Complex - here we look for patterns
Knowable - here we refine and analysis
Known - here we learn/teach

Here is a simple video explanation of the Cynefin framework:

This framework has been predominately used in the arena of Sensemaking but Jim McGee has highlighted the close relationship between this discipline and enterprise 2.0 tools "... I would suggest .... those promoting Enterprise 2.0 technologies to investigate the sensemaking planning techniques and practices and map points where the technologies enable, simplify, or improve the techniques." Ok that is what I'm going to do, I'll share my findings here.