Thursday, 20 November 2008

Review of KM Workshop with ENRAP/IFAD in Bangkok

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a KM workshop in Bangkok hosted by ENRAP (Knowledge Networking for Rural Development in Asia/Pacific Region), which is a collaboration of IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and IDRC (International Development Research Center in Canada). The workshop was facilitated by Lucie Lamoureux and Allision Hewitt which I knew from the KM4Dev network.

It was very interesting to see how they managed to make the workshop very participatory and interactive (and this is said by me who actually doesn't like to be forced into group discussion on a topic which I couldn't choose myself). I particulary liked the way they consistently mainstreamed the use of Web 2.0 tool as natural mechanism for documenting workshop content in Wordpress, PBwiki, Flickr, YouTube and SlideShare (so "when the workshop's done, the documenting is done"). The good thing was that these tools were not just set up for use during the workshop, but the facilitators organized a scavenger hunt in which participant teams had to complete a list of tasks in each of these tools. A very energizing and funny way to introduce newcomers to Web 2.0!

Even more so, the different non-IT approaches to facilitate and organize knowledge sharing, discussion and capture were delivered very effectively. I particularly liked the chat show, in which a moderator sets up a TV-show like environment, introducing his guests and asking them intriguing questions. But also tools like After Action Reviews, Speed Rounds or Peer Assists where introduced very well. I also liked the way in which reference was made to valuable outside resources such as the CGIAR KS Toolkit. After all it's not like any KM facilitor would need to pretend they have developed all the knowledge by themselfs. It's good to acknowledge that we are all a large learning community.

All in all, time well spent, even though and I was not able to attend all the sessions. Downsides where only the painful leaks in the internet connection and a bit too many organized group discussion for my taste. But you can see from the After Action Review done for the workshop itself, that this can be a workshop approach worth replicating.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Wordle: Nice visualization tool for text content

Just discovered this neat online tool called Wordle (thanks to Sarah Cummings for posting it on the KM4Dev.org network!). It's a visualization tool for any kind of text content. You can use it to visualise whole documents, short texts like poems or lyrics, websites and even your del.icio.us tags. As the website of Wordle states, the tools is meant to "generat 'word clouds' from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like."
See below an example of the tag cloud that is generated for this blog. You can see, that the prominent "Web" word should actually be "Web 2.0", but apart from that minor flaw, I really like it!





Monday, 10 November 2008

Why is mainstreaming Enterprise 2.0 so difficult?

There is an increasing acknowledgement within the organisational development and management sector that Web 2.0 can bring concrete benefits to organisations - labeled under the tag "Enterprise 2.0". If you want so see some examples, Mashable.com published a list of 35 corporate social media examples in action and I was also very happy to see that players like IBM indicate a shift to Web 2.0 in their own organisational development. In addition, as a tool for self-assessment, Brett Bonfield compiled a set of indicators whether your organisation is ready to benefit from Web 2.0 approaches.

However, the Web 2.0 community also realizes that something is different, when you want to apply the benefits of Web 2.0 from your personal development to an organisational environment. I found the analogy of the "two tunnels" by Thomas Vander Wal quite striking in this regard. He argues that while Web 2.0 is like building a tunnel through a mountain, where imperfections and leaks will not prevent the tunnel from being useful, Enterprise 2.0 on the other hand would be like building a tunnel under water. Any leak or or inconsistency could cause the tunnel to break and therefore fail.

While this image is very valid, I think the core of the Enterprise 2.0 issue is another one. There is a significant difference between Web 2.0 tools and traditional IT tools in organisations: The success of Web 2.0 is built on voluntary participation. The value of communities of any kind come from people participating because they have an intrinsic motivation to do so. This is the reason why their contribution also tend to be of good quality, as well as of a very open, flexible and innovative nature. And it also acknowledges the fact that Web 2.0 is a style of communication in itself, which not necessarily fits which the personal characteristic and style of any person.

In organisations on the other hand, motivation is rather external. People participate in and contribute to processes because they have to, because it's part of their job. And defined processes and guidelines establish a framework in which employees have to use certain IT systems in order to deliver specific results their are accountable for according to their job description.

Therefore, introducing Web 2.0 tools as a way "colleagues have to work from now on", won't work as such. Web 2.0 tools only work on a voluntary basis. Meaning that we deliberately have to allow people to also choose not to use it. We can see that this then won't work for organisational workflows which try to reflect mandatory business process within the organisation.

What does that mean for Enterprise 2.0? In my view, we need to acknowledge that Web 2.0 tools can always only add value to the extent its usage is not indispensable for a certain business process. However, where traditional IT tools are already in place and support mandatory business processes effectively, Web 2.0 can actually add great value to the process. This is the entry point where we need to come in when we want to advocate for Enterprise 2.0.

Let's encourage colleagues and managers to let the free and dynamic use of Web 2.0 blossom within our teams. But let's not fall for the illusion, that we could at any point introduce Web 2.0 tools as mandatory work flows for our business processes. They can only unleash their power if you don't have to use them.