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The Human Intranet



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A new(ish) perspective on knowledge management in small organisations, with a little bit of Frank Zappa and Superman 3 thrown in. Originally delivered at the NCVO Information Management Conference, London, Nov 2008.

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The Human Intranet

  1. 1. The Human Intranet An Asset-Based Approach to Organisational Knowledge Management (oooh) NCVO Information Management Conference, London, 24 November 2008
  2. 2. What’s the story here? <ul><li>On knowledge </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A word on voluntary organisations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The basics: data, information and knowledge </li></ul></ul><ul><li>On assets </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Know your ABCDs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Know your assets </li></ul></ul><ul><li>On networks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ceci n’est pas une organisation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The network theory trap </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nurturing connectivity and ‘coincidensity’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>On technology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology comes in many shapes and sizes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The old approach, and what’s missing? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Human Intranet </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li><sales pitch /> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be thankful for what you’ve got </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A word on ‘control’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Zappa’s final thoughts </li></ul>
  3. 3. On Knowledge Or, why are we here?
  4. 4. A word on Voluntary Organisations All organisations are voluntary organisations Otherwise they would be ‘involuntary’ organisations People bring the whole of themselves to work And knowledge exchange is a voluntary activity
  5. 5. The Basics: Data, Information and Knowledge Knowledge The human level Emotional and intellectual Shared through stories Need to know the person Core of decision-making Information More useful than data Supports decision-making Meant to be reinterpreted Can inform activity Usually too much of it Data Found everywhere Too much of it Make it searchable, but… Leave it to the researchers DATA Raw, unprocessed facts, eg. survey data, statistics, e-mail addresses INFORMATION Interpreted data, factual, impartial, designed to be used and reinterpreted KNOWLEDGE Judgements, feelings, hunches, theories and lessons learned “ Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all” – John F Kennedy “ Karl Marx was right… Workers control the principal means of production… It is the human brain.” - Funky Business
  6. 6. Stop trying to put knowledge into computers! (It won’t fit.)
  7. 7. Because knowledge is… Stories , conversations , demonstrations, teaching – y’know, the human stuff
  8. 8. On Assets Or the ABCD of “be thankful for what you’ve got”
  9. 9. Know your ABCDs <ul><li>Asset-Based Community Development is (according to Wikipedia) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ a methodology that seeks to uncover and highlight the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable development” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ a capacities-focused approach is more likely to empower the community and therefore mobilize citizens to create positive and meaningful change from within </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ cheap, effective and empowering… avoids paternalism and dependence” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Assets come in many forms… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The strength of citizen groups and relationships </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The information resources available </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The skills of community members </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Organisations are communities too </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They depend on relationships </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They hold resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They contain skills </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Know your Assets <ul><li>Assets come in many shapes and sizes… </li></ul>
  11. 11. On Networks Or, everything you ever wanted to know about nodes but were afraid to ask
  12. 12. Organisation Charts 1.0 Comms Director CEO IT Director PA Marketing Manager Press officer IT Systems Manager Exploited working class Vengeful geeks Trolls Fairies Volunteers Line of “ someone else’s problem” Customers Funders Beneficiaries Former staff Supporters
  13. 13. Organisation Charts 2.0 Andy Jill Jack John Paul George Ringo (CEO) Consultant Staff Ex-staff Volunteer Staff Funder Staff Staff Organisational boundary Networks of people and assets Knowledge doesn’t care about organisational boundaries Everyone connected with the organisation is involved in its work And it doesn’t discriminate between work and personal connections
  14. 14. The Network Theory Trap
  15. 15. The Network Theory Trap Andy Jill Jack John Paul George Ringo Gaps And sometimes, a lack of connections can be an asset too… (...if you believe Ron Burt ) Connections The real lesson of network theory: it’s not about the nodes themselves, but how they’re connected. It’s about relationships. Nodes Yes, they have skills, knowledge, and needs. (Go nodes!) But they aren’t commodities.
  16. 16. Your most valuable assets are your relationships!
  17. 17. Nurturing connectivity and ‘coincidensity’ <ul><li>If you want to support knowledge management in your organisation, then </li></ul><ul><li>build technologies to connect people and help them talk. </li></ul><ul><li>More connections </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I don’t know the answer, but I know who to ask” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Better connections </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I’d really value your opinion about this” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Coincidensity’ (hat tip to Matt Jones and Dopplr ) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Oh, I didn’t know you were doing that, I can definitely help you out” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We don’t always know what we don’t know, or what others need </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The more we talk, the more we discover and share unexpected things </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. On Technology “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
  19. 19. Technology comes in many shapes and sizes…
  20. 20. Don’t forget about offline technologies. (They’re a lot cheaper and you can see people using them.)
  21. 21. The old approach <ul><li>Information sharing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shared drives and DMS </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Content management systems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Memos, reports, accounts, briefings </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Collaboration tools </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E-mail, phone, face-to-face </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Task-tracking software, project management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meeting and e-conferencing tools </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Broadcasting messages </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Corporate website, corporate intranet </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Internal and external marketing and news </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Noticeboards </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. What’s missing? <ul><li>Mapping and connecting assets </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Skills mapping for staff: the organisational ‘Yellow Pages’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sharing stories about past successes and failures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tracking contact inside and outside the organisation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sharing knowledge </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Conversation spaces: blogs, forums, e-mail lists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Project review and reflection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Peer teaching, learning and mentoring </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Strengthening relationships </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gossip and chat </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social spaces, social tools, social events </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shared communications channels (noticeboards, intranet) </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. The Human Intranet Collaboration Assign and track tasks Manage work and budgets Collaboratively create Track & record activity Sharing assets Shared documents Contact details Organisational news Data and information store Mapping assets Re-tell the stories Publish hidden skills Honour strong bonds Take & track decisions Socialising Building connections Establishing language Spotting coincidences Work together Huddle, Basecamp, Wikis etc. Share knowledge Blogs, forums, e-mails, videos Phones, meetings, pubs Connect assets School of Everything, Linkedin, etc. CRM, social websites Build connections Twitter, Yammer, Facebook, Flickr, RSS feeds Project team THE REAL WORLD Department Organisation Share information Shared drives, DMS, wikis, CMS Shape opinion News, corporate events, int/ext marketing
  24. 24. Focus on technologies that build relationships
  25. 25. <sales pitch>
  26. 26. maps skills and interests
  27. 27. And lets users discuss subjects and share resources
  28. 28. And it’s free, and ready now. And if you find it useful, we can even set up a learning network for your organisation too. (For a small fee. Ask Dougald .)
  29. 29. </sales pitch>
  30. 30. The point is… It’s happening anyway. Relax and let the technology come to you.
  31. 31. Be thankful for what you’ve got… <ul><li>Old way </li></ul><ul><li>She’s on Facebook and Twitter all day </li></ul><ul><li>Wikipedia is only 95% accurate </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone can see what we’re saying </li></ul><ul><li>Stop asking “Is it work?” </li></ul>New way She seems to understand “web 2.0” Wow, I only have to pay for 5%! We make it easy for people to help us Start asking “Is it working?” Line of fear Relationships Resources Skills
  32. 32. A word on ‘control’ Unless you are Microsoft or the US Government, you can’t afford to suppress what’s working, or tell everyone what to do Give up on the illusion of control. Take the cheaper, messier option. If you don’t need to own it, you can have it for free.
  33. 33. Zappa’s Final Thoughts “ Before we can be free, we must first be cheap.” Focus on relationships, not information Give yourself the space to experiment The web is full of free tools you can use And your people are already using them You can’t afford to suppress what works Trust people to make good connections If you really need privacy and control, be prepared to pay for it
  34. 34. Join the conversation! Access more resources and chat with people facing similar issues on the scrapbooks. SOE tags: ‘ social by social ’ ‘ web 2.0 ’ ‘ knowledge management ’
  35. 35. End credits Text and narrative by Andy Gibson and released under Creative Commons. All images used hastily and without permission, but with apologies. For more knowledge, visit or