Tagged: knowledge

Forty three (ii)

“Didn’t think so! Instead, we need to add layers of understanding to the information network and ultimately the influence flow through the analysis of relationships, behaviors and knowledge.

“In mapping the continually changing relationships in an organization – and I don’t define the organization as stopping at the payroll – we can distil a picture of the real organization. I guess you could call it the unofficial or real org chart if doing so didn’t still conjure up outmoded ideas of hierarchy and bureaucracy.

“In mapping the continually changing behaviors – proclivities, both analogue and digital – we improve our understanding of how information and knowledge jumps the organization’s synaptic gaps.

“In mapping knowledge formation – we learn what aids and what hinders the organization’s facility to understand, predict and respond to its environment. This is of course the hardest task of all when you consider that organizations rarely if ever know what they know let alone really understand how such knowledge crystallizes in the first place.”

“Glad I asked,” John said.

Yvonne tried to clarify what Saket was saying, “So, people talk about social networks as enabling easy sharing – I think the expression is ‘frictionless sharing’. Is that what you’re saying will happen inside organizations too? You know, like many companies, we’re still effectively experimenting with a so-called enterprise social network.”

“An excellent question Yvonne, and I think we’ll discuss this further in the last part of the day in terms of social business. Friction is an important parameter of any system. What do I mean by that? Well, imagine Eli feels no friction sharing everything with you. Everything he does, everywhere he goes, everyone he meets is streamed – perhaps dumped is a better word – onto your desktop. Nice eh? Not really. The friction, the resistance or burden in the process has just moved from Eli to you. Why would you want all this clutter and what are you going to do with it?”

Saket paused for thought momentarily; adopting a look I’ve associated with him searching for a way to hit the idea home.

“You need tools to surface the right information at the right time in the right format from Eli’s stream, and John’s stream, and BB’s stream, but we also need synaptic gaps so that some stuff doesn’t jump the gap and make it into the stream in the first place. It helps if Eli, John and BB are a bit self-selecting in what makes it into their stream. They have to be curators of their own stream up to a point. Let’s look at in terms of personal reputation.”

Saket had made a connection with Yvonne by picking the right words, framing it in a way he knew would get her brain fired up, and have her carry the idea into Attenzi.

“Everyday, in the non-digital world, we make thousands of little decisions about what to share with others based on our quantifying how relevant we think they’d find it. It’s so natural that we hardly notice we’re doing it. If we go to them with stuff that doesn’t make the grade, they’re increasingly reluctant to entertain us in future and our reputation is effectively eroded. I believe that process has to live on in the digital world.”

I was stupid enough to show my agreement.

“Love it Saket.”

“Ah, but do you?” he replied.

Damn it, I thought, I’ve missed something.

Thirty one (ii)

“Yes. I guess. Until we caught up again.”

“So information by itself, in isolation, cannot be adjudged useful or useless. Such potential must depend, at least in part, on the availability of other data, of other information, on existing knowledge, on the resources available to process the information.”

I recall holding my breath momentarily before sighing audibly.

I’m a History graduate for goodness sake, and I should have recognized what Dom was saying before he had to say it. While my college days seem like a lifetime ago, the process of historical discovery, organization and interpretation is as relevant to present circumstances as past, including the foibles of those processes. For example, reconciling attitudes, societal norms and behaviors in Victorian London demands putting oneself in the shoes of a Victorian Londoner; after all, they didn’t view their lives through the lens of an early 21st Century historian, or make decisions or conduct themselves on that basis.

And yet of course each historian studying that time and place will have constructed slightly different frameworks of varying accuracy and subjectivity as proxy for them not actually being there. In short, historians will disagree, or must work hard to align frameworks, to align knowledge, in order to understand and debate different historical points of view.

Turns out my History degree could be rather useful in this age of computing and big data.

Thirty (iii)

“There are flows of resources – which I generally think of as time, money and materials. That definition of marketing you referenced Michelle means that we work out what the market wants or might want, and what we can deliver, and then plan to exchange products and services for money. Reciprocal flows. For example, the product flows out and the money flows in. And we hope to keep that up.

“And that’s where another kind of flow comes in, to do with reputation Yvonne. After all, without a decent reputation we can’t hope to keep those sales up. I’m talking about influence flows. Influence goes around comes around.”

“Yes!” John got our attention. “Of course, data, information and knowledge flow. I meant to say that. And when they do so usefully, which we now think of as when someone changes what they’d have thought or done otherwise, that’s influence.”

“That’s really interesting,” said Michelle. “So some influence flows through my department, some through the separate discipline of public relations,” (I couldn’t work out whether the emphasis was sarcastic or respectful towards Yvonne but I had my suspicion) “and some through IT.”

“And…?” challenged Saket. Given the silence, he continued. “And there’s influence flowing in the actions of customer service, procurement, logistics, HR, sales. In fact, in everything. There’s influence in everything an organization does, and sometimes in what it does not do. Let me read you something.”

It was Saket’s turn to find something on his computer.

“Reputation management does not actually mean managing reputation, and brand management does not actually mean managing a brand. They mean actively attending to the business of influencing and being influenced such that the resultant beliefs or opinions held about us and our products are conducive to our achieving organizational objectives.”

“When you say it like that,” said Michelle, “it really puts the customer on a pedestal for sure.”

“There’s no such thing as ‘for sure’. That’s the only sure thing I do know. A Beautiful Mind, 2001.”

After a few seconds of adjusting to Saket’s movie speak, Michelle asked him to explain.

“Well, maybe this whole so-called ‘customer-centric’ way of thinking is an over simplification. The quote I just read out didn’t reference the customer. It didn’t put the customer ahead of employees past, present and future, or suppliers or partners or shareholders, past, present and future. Or the general public interest. Or the planet. All stakeholders matter, and to put one consistently ahead of all the others sounds increasingly stupid to me. It doesn’t appear to recognize the complexities of the world we live in.”

My conversation with Dom about complexity crashed back into my mind, and I had a feeling of clarity, even if I couldn’t actually articulate it. One thing I did know is that I’d had about as much mental stimulation as I could cope with on one call, and I directed the remainder of the call to planning the away day.

Fifteen (ii)

“A collection of information is not knowledge. We must build knowledge from such information by identifying and interpreting patterns. So for this example, we identify the process causing the occasional test failures and develop an appreciation for how it might be fixed.

“Putting some important security and legal issues to one side for the moment, we don’t have to care too much about the underlying technology any more. Rather, we need to focus on getting the right information to the right people at the right time in the right format, and help them translate the information into knowledge in order that they can do their jobs better.

“Data paucity was the problem of the 20th Century. Having too much of the stuff is rapidly becoming the challenge and the opportunity of the 21st.”

I checked with myself to make sure I knew John was an important cog in the Attenzi machine. I did.

“Big data?” I asked.

“Are we playing buzzword bingo?” said John, deadpan.

“Hey, you said ‘cloud’ not me!” I countered.

John smiled, “Yes, so-called big data. This idea that we can digitize almost anything, including all our parts and products and services and processes by the way, and collate all those terabytes of data, and store it cheaply and easily and forever and use it for all sorts of analyses.”

I chipped in: “But only if that analyses translates data into information and knowledge, right? Makes it useful to us?”

“Well how do you determine the value of the information and knowledge prior to the translation of data into information and information into knowledge?”

“Er, ask someone in IT?!” I offered.

John took the compliment with a caveat, “And the domain experts. Humans are quite capable of digesting four dimensions of data when presented in an appropriate way, simply because we inhabit a four dimensional world – three dimensions of space and one of time. But the data we have, and could harvest in the future, spans many dimensions. We need therefore to work together to develop intelligent software that identifies and extracts the most interesting, useful, valuable four dimensions for visual presentation to the domain experts.

“A primary challenge isn’t trying to find answers to questions but determining good questions in the first place.”

I put my empty cup down and began kneading the blue cushion with the white bird on it. You know the one.

I was thinking out loud now. “Divining exact usefulness or attributing precise value to an insight is incredibly difficult to do with hindsight, let alone in advance. Perhaps the best we can achieve then is simply to have a good guess at whether the potential information and knowledge we might unearth will make anyone act on it.”

John clarified the thought, “Or perhaps, more precisely, will anyone change what they would have done otherwise.”

“What’s the difference?” I asked.

“Well, deciding not to do something isn’t often recognized as an action.”