Friday 18 April 2008

AG08 breakfast bytes about managing knowledge, personal and team productivity

eLearning Guild's Annual Gathering also organizes breakfast bytes for the early birds.

The one I was moderating became a group happening and was a real exchange of ideas and pointers on how to manage the growing digital knowledge between the participants. Because we were with a very inventive group we started exchanging ideas about 'the water cooler' as well.

The things we talked about:
The amount of knowledge that we have to store becomes to big. Although we do save files, categories and folders just do not work. Ideally the information should be stored somewhere and be searchable, moving from a folksonomy (a personal, intuitive tagging system) to a more general tagsonomy (a tagging system that people agree is clear in its keywords).

One of the biggest problems in companies is the firewall if you want to work with social media. You need to ask permission and you seldom get it, so the latest (tagging) softwares sometimes just are not available to the knowledge worker.
This firewall attitude keeps people from innovating themselves, it keeps them from getting in touch with new knowledge. Management should be made aware of the surplus they get from employees that can focus some part of their business hours on retrieving and trying out new ideas/content (cfr the google managers model of the early years or the Semco management system (books on this topic Ricardo Semler).
One thing is for sure: the more you can explore new media and new ways of working, the more you learn, the more productive you will become (in the long run).

Another big problem is time constraints: personal organisation models differ, so in order to know a peer's logic, you should sometimes dive into their tagging logic to get to the needed information.

Search engines: If you use search engines, how deep do you go into the content? Who looks further then the 3 page? And you might think your keywords are relevant to find specific content, but do others think the same way? How do you make keywords that differ slightly match?
Will the third generation of search engines bring along the semantic web in which these feature will help us to find relevant content quicker? Refining the search engines would be a help (cfr pandora music approach)

Human filters: as a knowledge worker you rely on trustful information. This trust is based on human thinking: mouth to mouth recommendation, peers you know, profiles that are impressive and are backed up with solid documents.
Because there are a lot of knowledgeable people out there and because you can only keep track of so many people, you have to be severe in your ranking of peers.
Connecting to people that have a foot in different networks insures interdisciplinary knowledge and creativity (the term 'butterflies' was mentioned, because the visit different fields)

Team work and collaboration is becoming increasingly important, but how do we match this with firewall constraints and the fear of some to exchange their knowledge?
If you find people in other departments that are also willing to share relevant knowledge build in an informal or formal meeting moment, set up a new name to make sure the company allows these meetings: a Unit for the development of ....

As a researcher or as a company employee who has important information, it is difficult to keep a good balance between openness of knowledge <=> keeping intellectual property.

Building upon strong content: tracking the right information is increasingly important, if you track solid content, you can build on it and afterwards put it back out again.

A couple of solutions that were mentioned using humans/peers you trust to filter knowledge:
- think about who you want to be the busy <=> bursty worker? (the one that gets into work and does her/his hours, or the one that sometimes takes time to intelligently think things over)
- start your red hat ladies group (for 50+ women) or another informal lunching group to start networking cross-departemental.
- in one institution they kept track of interesting papers by applying a reader schedule: new research papers would be divided across the specialists in the institution and they would give feedback on the best papers they would have read. Kind of an internal continued research paper review process.
- work cross-cubical
- work out a mentorship model.

Tools that were mentioned: organize your academic work and share your knowledge with others.
zotero (keeping track of your knowledge: but not linked to others)
pandora (music linked to the genome project),(I found this really is intriguing and compelling). mixes search engines - cool stuff.

  • human networks are essential if we want to get to knowledge quickly and if we want to stay in touch with new things that are out there.
  • refined search engines that would tailor/customize to your own profile and needs would be very helpful.
  • it is all about personal nature/character and whether or not you want to be a knowledge worker.
  • as a knowledge worker you need to be resourceful.
  • make up new 'water cooler' meeting places.


  1. Hey Inge... Your post is perfect. I started writing one myself on the discussion, but I think I'll just link to yours ;-)

    The breakfast byte you hosted was definitely one of the best discussions I had at the conference.

  2. hi kerry, thank you very much for you r kind comment! I will go look for your blog now :-)