Friday, October 28, 2011

The power of storytelling: strengthening science-policy integration when times are uncertain, and the ideal future state cannot be described

When I used to work as a scientist in a regional science and technology unit for the Government of Ontario, there was popular, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, refrain at the end of meetings between scientists and policy analysts. The policy analysts would say, "You scientists never give us an answer we can use!" To which the scientists would retort, "You policy folks never ask us a question we can answer!" For as long as I have been working in government, people have been trying to improve the integration between policy and science.  Yet we are still at it and success seems as elusive as ever.

There are ample reasons why science and policy are so difficult to integrate, and there is lots of good work being done to try and address this issue.  But a recent half-day session with David Snowden gave me new inspiration into how one might tackle this particularly thorny issue.

If I have captured the parlance of Snowden's Cynefin framework correctly, then I think science-policy integration must be a complex problem.  That is to say, a problem in which cause and effect are only coherent in retrospect and do not repeat, there are no right answers and many competing ideas, and where problems and solutions interact so the system is constantly evolving.

Snowden had a couple of pieces of advice that resonated with me when it comes to solving complex problems.

First, he says, don’t waste time trying to figure out what to do. Instead, probe with small experiments, then monitor and adapt.  Since you cannot define what the ideal future state will be, start with a good definition of the present and move forward with safe-to-fail experiments that may lead to unforeseen outcomes.  It’s cheaper and more successful.  If you can accept that your theory for proceeding is coherent with the facts - with the way you understand the present - then you can move to a place where the outcome is uncertain.  In other words, you have safety in direction, not safety in outcome.

Second, you need to monitor the experiments carefully, with impact indicators, not output indicators. In complex problems, argues Snowden, you cannot manage the outcomes because they are emergent.  However, you can manage the boundaries of the issue you wish to deal with, the tools and processes you put in place to influence the patterns of behaviours in the system, and the resources devoted to amplifying positive patterns and dampening negative patterns. Snowden gave an example of how focusing on outcome indicators can derail solving complex problems.  In the UK, a hospital authority decided that it was unacceptable to have people in the emergency waiting room for longer than 4 hours and in the emergency ward for longer than 48 hours. The result was that patients were not properly triaged or treated.  They were pushed through the system and on to the wards based on how long they had been there, not based on their medical need.  The quality of care did not increase, but the emergency room met its targets.

Third, it is really difficult to address complex problems directly.  Instead, address them obliquely.  Many complex problems are about changing organizational culture.  But it is very hard to change people. Instead, argues Snowden, change the system and the people will change to match it.  Nobody, for example, is going to share information across silos just because they had a workshop and were told they should share.

So what does all this say about developing evidence-based policy to strengthen science-policy integration when times are uncertain, and the ideal future state cannot be described?

Snowden gave a number of examples of work he has done to solve complex problems using self-indexed micro-narratives, which may be relevant to strengthening science-policy integration in an organization such as the one I work in.

At the heart of Snowden’s examples is a process by which people are asked to first tell a story about a particular topic and then to score or weight their story using a carefully constructed index.  The stories are recorded in any number of formats: written, audio, video.  The format is not important, as long as they are left unfiltered and are not summarized.  The index is similar to keywords used to describe the story, but much more sophisticated.  The index takes the form of a triangle on which the storyteller is asked to place a dot.  At each point of the triangle are carefully selected keywords. The storyteller is asked to place the dot in the triangle closest to the word that describes their story.  When the storyteller places the dot, it gives three quantitative weights – one for each choice between two points of the triangle.  These weights can be used to plot the stories on a 3-D graph. Storytellers are often asked to score their story on several indexes, which can be recombined to create different graphs.  Similarly scored stories show up as clusters on the graph.

Snowden gave an example of this technique from when he worked with the CIA in the ‘70s.  The CIA funded an American university to work with a French University to study attitudes in Iran. The French University had some Iranian professors, and as part of the study the professors asked Iranians to tell them stories about Iran and then self-index the stories.  After collecting about 18,000 stories, two clear clusters of stories emerged.  One cluster was stories that related a strong dislike of America.  The other cluster was stories that related a strong dislike of the West.  This was not too encouraging, but they continued collecting stories.  After 21,000 stories, a third cluster emerged.  This cluster was comprised of stories that related the concept of not wanting to be seen as a barbarian.  Snowden recognized that this was the opportunity for intervention; that if the US could somehow emphasize the later story, it might drain energy away from the other stories.

Snowden did not go into detail about what the CIA did, but he did give more detail about a project he is working on right now in Mexico City.  This project is focused on changing the culture of violence associated with gangs and drugs.  They have collected about 200,000 self-indexed stories from ordinary people on the street.  When they analyze the stories, they are confident that a cluster of stories will emerge about the violent gang culture.  However, they also believe that a number of positive stories will emerge.  Once they find out what those positive stories are, they will work with experts in Hollywood to create films, TV spots, multi-media presentations, whatever it takes to emphasize the positive stories, and hopefully, drain energy away from the negative stories.

For Snowden, the culture of a society or an organization is wrapped up in its stories.  If you can change the stories people tell, you have changed the culture.

So how does this relate to science-policy integration?

I think that strengthening science-policy integration within a science-policy organization is actually a culture change problem.  So, what if we took this approach:

  1. Record stories from employees in the organization about their science-policy interaction experience and have them self-index the stories on carefully selected indexes (e.g. is the behaviour in this story best described as "competitive", "cooperative", or "altruistic"), 
  2. Graph the stories to find clusters of positive behaviours that might represent opportunities to intervene.
  3. Develop and implement some safe-to-fail policies, guidelines, or tools to reinforce the positive behaviours and dampen the negative ones,
  4. Recollect stories, perhaps a year later, and see if the clusters of stories have moved one or two index points toward more desirable values. Resources are given to tools that seem to be working and taken away from the tools that are not working.

Success is measured by the index values of the stories, which measure the impact of the actions taken to influence the system.  Success is not measured by output indicators, like the number of meetings scientists and policy analysts had.

There is obviously a lot of detail I am missing here, and I need to familiarize myself more with Snowden's techniques.  But at first blush, this seems like a promising approach to strengthening science-policy integration in a complex environment.

Chefs versus recipe users: LOCOP as an apprentice program for leadership

Can NRCan’s Learning Organization Community of Practice (LOCoP) be thought of as an apprentice program for leaders?

Recently, I attended a half-day session with David Snowden, author of the Cynefin framework for solving problems. Snowden makes a distinction between how one should solve complex problems, versus how one should solve simple or merely complicated problems. I won’t go into details here, but suffice it to say, that in a knowledge-based economy where innovation is required, we need the type of people who can solve complex problems. In other words, we need chefs, not recipe users!

Snowden made the point that there is a big difference between a chef and a recipe user. Sure, if you have all the right equipment in your kitchen, you lay out all the tools and necessary ingredients and you have a good recipe to follow, then just about any competent person can produce a reasonably good meal. But only a chef can walk into your kitchen, see what’s in the fridge, and create a truly exceptional meal.

The difference, Snowden asserts, is that chefs possess practical wisdom.

Wisdom is the ability to reflect on one’s knowledge or experience. Practical, here, means it was acquired through the process of practice – in a chef’s case, as an apprentice.

The beauty of the apprentice model is that it allows someone to imperfectly mimic the master and make mistakes. Studies have shown that people recall far more knowledge when they actually act on their knowledge than when they just think about it. In an apprenticeship program, one practices what one has learned from books, but in an environment where it is safe to make mistakes. The result is a much greater ability to recall and reflect on that knowledge for innovative results.

Snowden also made the point that doctors and lawyers also use the apprentice model, but managers have no such system; instead they have the MBA.

That’s when I stated to re-think the role of our Learning Organization Community of Practice as an apprentice program for leaders. When I first took my LOCOP training, I came out of that training thinking of myself as an apprentice - but an apprentice in facilitation. Now, I recognize that I am really an apprentice in becoming a leader.

Every time I use my LOCOP facilitation tools to develop a shared vision in a team, to think about the whole puzzle at once, to create space for new learning, to foster deep reflective listening and build shared meaning in conversation rather than argument, I am conducting a small, safe-to-fail exercise in which I practice the theory I learned in my original training. The result is that I now have a bucket of tools in my back pocket that I can mix and match and modify to solve all kinds of problems in a collaborative and increasingly innovative way.

Add to that the value of having a community who I can learn new techniques from, who I can validate my own ideas with, and who I can call on to help me solve tough problems, then I think we have many of the essential elements of a low-cost apprentice program for leaders right in my place of work.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A knowledge management conundrum: how to share secret information

One KM issue that has sat in the back of my mind for some time is how to share information among employees that is classified as secret.

We spend a lot of time in our workplaces implementing document management solutions like SharePoint, writing collaboratively on wikis, fostering knowledge exchange through communities of practice, etc. - basically trying to make the knowledge contained in the organization findable and retrievable to contribute to evidence-based decision making

But none of these tools can address the issue of how to share secret information.  Documents classified as secret hold a wealth of valuable data, opinion and insight, and should be a part of an organization's evidence base for decision making in a form that is findable and retrievable to the person with the right security classification and a clearly demonstrated need to know.

That's the thing about documents classified as secret; they can be shared with someone if the recipient has a clearly demonstrated need to know, but cannot be made freely available to people to trawl through on the possibility they might find something useful - even if the searcher has a secret-level security clearance.

Not surprisingly, this is not a new challenge for intelligence organizations. Recently, I participated in a workshop with David Snowden, who gave me some insight into how US intelligence agencies deal with this challenge.

According to Snowden, in the CIA of a few years ago, when an intelligence officer would receive a piece of intelligence to review, say an intercepted phone call or email, they would analyze it, write a short report about it, and file it. It was difficult to share the information, particularly among agencies, because it was all secret. Connecting the dots between pieces of intelligence to create a big picture view generally relied on officers remembering what they read. But sometimes, they might have read it years ago.

So instead, the CIA started a process whereby when an officer received a piece of intelligence, the officer would index the intelligence using carefully constructed quantitative indexes (kind of like key words, but more sophisticated. For example, an index might ascribe a weight to a piece of intelligence that depends on whether the intelligence is associated with the Middle East, Europe, or North America ).

Because each intelligence piece now has quantitative indexes associated with it, the data can be analyzed statistically or plotted on a 2-D or 3-D graph to search for patterns.  When patterns emerge, such as a cluster of data points, the records associated with these data points can be requested by the intelligence officer because he can clearly demonstrate a need to know.

Furthermore, this quantitative metadata about the intelligence records can be shared with other agencies, who might filter it or analyze it in different ways, or add their own data  to search for other patterns.  If they find a pattern, they can request the relevant records because they have the appropriate clearance level and can clearly demonstrate a need to know.

In my own organization secret documents are locked away in secure cabinets or stored on computers that are not connected to the network. Even worse, documents may not be declassified when the need to keep them secret no longer exists.  No matter how useful a Memorandum to Cabinet, for example, might be to me, I have no way to know it even exists.

So now I am wondering if it would be possible in my own organization to have every secret document  indexed by the author and the metadata made available for analysis. If so, a whole world of organizational knowledge could be made available to those with a need to know to inform evidence-based decision making.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The rise of the networked enterprise: Web 2.0 finds its payday

A recent report by McKinsey & to show, using a proprietory survey of over 1000 company executives, that companies that incorporate Web 2.0 technology to increase collaboration see greater growth in market share and other economic indicators.  The majority of respondents to the survey say that their companies enjoy measurable business benefits from using Web 2.0, including increased speed of access to knowledge, reduced communication costs, increased speed of access to internal experts, and increased customer satisfaction.

The report goes on to say:
Moreover, the benefits from the use of collaborative technologies at fully networked organizations appear to be multiplicative in nature: these enterprises seem to be “learning organizations” in which lessons from interacting with one set of stakeholders in turn improve the ability to realize value in interactions with others. If this hypothesis is correct, competitive advantage at these companies will accelerate as network effects kick in, network connections become richer, and learning cycles speed up.
This appears to be another example of how the business world has gone beyond just looking at collaboration or Web 2.0, and is starting to focus on the more important outcomes of using this technology.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Social Learning at Telus: Linking collaborative technologies to learning strategies

Recently someone sent me a link to a video clip of Dan Pontefract, Director of Learning and Collaboration at Telus, talking about the social collaboration tools they have put in place to encourage the sharing of information and knowledge.  The video is only 2.5 minutes long and is well worth watching.

Telus is not unlike a lot of other organizations, including my own, who have put in place collaboration tools like wikis, forums, blogs, filesharing, instant messaging to promote the exchange of knowledge.  But a few things about Dan Pontefract's presentation really struck me.

It's about Learning, not just collaboration

For me, the key point in Dan Pontefract's presentation is that collaboration technology is intimately connected to employee learning.  By creating platforms like team collaboration sites, blogs, microblogs, videosites and wikis where employees can share ideas, opportunities and issues, employees are continuously learning from one another.  He sums it up well when he talks about the "Learning 2.0 Model" at Telus.  "Learning", he says, "is part formal, part informal, and part social." At Telus social learning is facilitated through social media.  Eventually, as people begin using the technology, they get into a rhythm of how they start sharing and how they start exposing their content, their knowledge and their ideas.  Ultimately, he argues, people realize quickly that what they gain from everyone else helps them do their job faster, better and in a more engaging fashion.

Note, however, that while Social media is facilitating one type of learning at Telus, it has not replaced other more formal and informal modes of learning - the so-called "sage on a stage". Formal and informal learning, no doubt, continues to play an important role in Telus' employee learning strategy.

This is not the first time I have seen Web 2.0 collaboration tools linked to employee learning strategies in organizations.  At a recent conference on knowledge management, I met the director of learning for Rogers Communications, who told me a very similar story about what they are doing. As with Telus, social learning plays an important part of their employee learning strategy, but it is linked to formal and informal methods of learning.  A similar story was told by Sierra Wireless at the same conference.

What really strikes me in these examples is the connection of collaboration to employee learning.  In other words, collaboration is a tool, a means to an end that facilitates learning, but collaboration is not the objective. The objective is to create a learning organization.

Meanwhile, in government these days, I see a lot of  attention being paid to social media and collaboration, but I have not yet seen this formal link to employee learning strategies.  So, while we have wikis, blogs, forums, video sharing sites, file sharing sites, and other tools, and while timely access to information is routinely touted as the key benefit, it is not at all clear that this is seen as a form of social learning or how this social learning is linked to more formal and informal learning in each employees learning objectives.  In fact, I wonder if recent events like the wildly successful Collaborative Management Day series suggests that for many bureaucrats, the focus is still on the tool of collaboration rather than on a broader objective of employee learning.

Not everyone has to participate to get value

Dan Pontefract also made an important point that not everyone in the organization needs to participate in social media tools for them to have value. He said that they are proud that about 1/6 of all team members are active on their microblogging service.  That does not seem like a very high proportion, but he said it is important for people to find their own value in the service and whether they want to use it, which brings me to the last important point;

Don't mandate the use of social media, empower people to use it.

Nobody wants to use a tool if they feel they cannot get any benefit from it.  And mandating them to use it only builds frustration and resentment.  So instead, find ways to encourage people to use it.

To wrap up, this is a very informative interview with Dan Pontefract, and would recommend it to anyone interested in knowledge management, learning or collaborative technologies.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Les ressources pour la formation française

La semaine verte - une quotidien de Radio-Canada. Cherche saison 32/episode 32 pour une episode au
sujet de la forêt au Québec.

Audio comprehension exercises:
  1. Campus Direct (audio and transcripts)
  2. Oral exercises in French (listening and comprehension test)
  3. audio comprehension excercieses from pointudefle

French tests and resources at


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blogging for knowledge workers: organizational storytelling

Blogging within corporations and organizations has become fantastically popular. Within my own organization there are dozens of blogs that I know about.

Blogging is done for many reasons, many of which are described in two great posts by Lilia Efimova:

But what role might corporate blogs play in organizational storytelling?

Organizations, cultures and societies are sustained by stories and our attempt to understand and negotiate the world is grounded in narrative. Storytelling translates bare facts and logical argument into a form with which people can engage – both emotionally and intellectually. A good story is the simplest and most powerful way to create a desired future. It is the story that guides us in our day-to-day interactions. It is the story through which knowledge is created, stored and passed on. While people may come and go in the organization, it is the story that remains to remind people who they are and where they are going to.

According to, Organizational storytelling comes in two distinct flavours; the life stories of the individuals that comprise the organization and the organizational narrative. It is important to engage both; the stories of individual employees are useful in understanding the unique organizational 'diversity mix' and the organizational story creates context for day-to-day experience.

Individual narrative engages stories from the front lines with themes such as 'here's how I do things, this is my experience, opinion or judgement". While stories are widely told in the workplace (around the water-cooler, for instance) there are relatively few places for individuals to tell their story to a larger audience or to record their story. An internal blogging platform that is easy to use, available to all employees, and searchable by corporate search engines could be a powerful way to capture and share tacit know-how held within the organization.

Organizational narrative engages stories with themes such as 'what is going on?, who we are? what do we sell? how we do things here, where we are coming from and where we are going to'. These are profoundly important stories and they need to be deliberately told and controlled by leadership. An internal blog regularly updated by senior managers could be a powerful way to pass on those stories and engage staff in a conversation about what those stories might mean for the work of the organization.

I have seen numerous examples of individual narrative captured on blogs, but I have seen only a few examples of organizational narrative effectively told on corporate blogs.  If you have examples, I'd love to hear about them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Implementing the Information Life Cycle

Library and Archives Canada has been promoting its Records and Information Life Cycle as a means to help users understand, plan, implement and improve their Information Management (IM) initiatives

copyright: HM Queen in Right of Canada

Accordingly, a year or so ago, we conducted a survey of 22 creators and users of scientific information to see which parts of the life cycle they regularly apply in the management of their own information. 

Through a series of detailed questions, we asked respondents whether or not they thought each stage of the cycle was applicable to their information management needs.  If it was applicable, we asked them whether or not they had planned to address that stage of the life cycle and the extent to which they had actually implemented any planned activities.

Copyright HM Queen in Right of Canada
The survey revealed that most respondents had initiated activities to plan for information needs, collect, create, receive and capture information, organize information, and use and disseminate information.  However an increasing number of respondents had not planned for the maintenance, protection and preservation of their  information, the disposition of their information after they were finished with it, or to evaluate the effectiveness of their IM practices after the project was over.  This was valuable information in telling us where we needed to direct our efforts.

Recently, I reanalyzed the results to better understand where we could use internal expertise to improve the management of records and information, and where we might need to draw on external expertise.

First I scored the respondents answers using the following scale: 0 = Not Applicable, 1 = Not Planned, 2 = Planned but not initiated, 3 = implemented and up to 25% complete, 4 = implemented and up to 75% complete, and 5 = implemented and 100% complete.

Copyright HM Queen in Right of Canada
Using Chris Collison's River diagram technique, I then plotted the minimum and maximum scores among all respondents for each stage in the life cycle.The area shown in blue in the diagram above is the area between the minimum and maximum scores.  The bottom bank shows the minimum level of attainment for each stage of the life cycle, the top bank shows the maximum level of attainment for each stage.

Collison suggests focusing on the widest parts of the "river" in order to leverage the most out of internal experience.  The diagram shows that for stages 1 and 3 in the life cycle, everyone surveyed is at least planning to implement relevant activities for their information, therefore, these stages should not be priority areas to focus on.  In stages 2, 3 and 6 some people have obtained a high degree of experience, having completed their planned activities for this stage, and it may be possible to share best practices.

For us the widest part of the river is at stages 2 and 6.  By sharing their best practices or by pairing individuals who have completed their activities with those who have not even planned activities, there is great potential to raise the lower scores.

Conversely, at stage 7 there is no one who has completed all their planned activities.  In this case, there is less internal expertise we can draw on and we may have to bring in external expertise to try and improve the scores.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Facilitating a culture of innovation through NRCan communities of practice and employee networks

Originally posted on an internal blog on 03/03/2011

There's a Dilbert cartoon I like in which Asok, the naive, Indian intern asks, "Who wants to share knowledge with me via our new intranet collaboration software?" After Dilbert dismisses Asok with a quip about his not having any knowledge to share, Wally, the completely shameless employee with no sense of loyalty confides, "I'm hoarding my knowledge in case I ever need it."

The cartoon points to the importance of organizational culture and trust in knowledge sharing – the activity through which knowledge (i.e., information, skills or expertise) is exchanged among colleagues, a community or an organization.
Photo credit: Roberta Gal

Organizations have recognized that knowledge constitutes a valuable intangible asset for creating and sustaining competitive advantage, and companies and governments have made considerable investments in IT infrastructure to promote knowledge sharing. In Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), we have a wiki, blogs, forums, SharePoint, and other tools. But, as Dilbert and Wally point out, technology constitutes only one of many factors that affect the sharing of knowledge in organizations.
Photo credit: Roberta Gal

That’s why I assembled a small, but ambitious, team of like-minded volunteers (link internal to GoC) to organize NRCan’s first Knowledge Share Fair (link internal to GoC), held on January 20, 2011, in Ottawa.  I wanted to explore ways to enhance the culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing in NRCan. In particular, I was interested in the role that communities of practice and employee networks play in fostering a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing.
Communities of practice are groups of individuals who share a common interest in a specific area of competence and are willing to work together. Communities tend to be made up of employees who, unlike Wally and Dilbert, are passionate about a subject and who often work off the side of their desks to make a contribution. These employees are engaged in the sense that they are using their discretionary time to contribute to results that benefit the organization. But communities are hard to maintain. As a member of several communities of practice, I felt that there was value to be gained from just bringing communities together to share experiences in how they formed, sustained themselves and, in some cases, dissolved.
Photo credit: Roberta Gal

Based on feedback we received, the Share Fair was a resounding success, bringing together 80 registered participants, 16 diverse communities and networks active in NRCan, and four guest experts. Through presentations, panel discussions, training sessions, and a “community marketplace,” participants had the opportunity to find and connect with communities and networks to share their knowledge and experience about being in a CoP or network, and to better understand the relevance of CoPs and networks to NRCan.

The bilingual morning session, which was also webcasted, featured a keynote presentation by Dr. Kimiz Dalkir – an expert in knowledge management from McGill University – and a panel discussion featuring three leaders from CoPs active in NRCan:  Philippe Dauphin (Learning Organization CoP), Mark Kennedy (Managers’ Community) and Douglas Bastien (Web 2.0 Practitioners CoP). These speakers touched on the short-term and long-term value of CoPs and networks to both the organization and individual members – values that include improving business outcomes, developing organizational capabilities, improving the experience of work, and fostering professional development.

In the afternoon, participants broke into focused discussion groups to identify “quick wins” to maximize the value of CoPs and networks for both the department and the individual members. Quick wins were defined as things that could be done right away, with existing resources and that would have an impact in the next 6 months. Dozens of ideas were generated such as using collaborative tools and Share Fairs to share, learn and grow; incorporating CoP membership into learning plans; and telling success stories via our internal newsletter, at the management table, or via social media. Of particular note was the call by CoPs for senior managers to more explicitly recognize the successes of CoPs and networks and support practitioners’ participation – in essence, to create the space for CoPs and networks to flourish.
Photo Credit: Bruno Blanchard-Pillon

On the last point, it appears that the message has been heard at the most senior levels. Both the Share Fair and CoPs and employee networks were cited for their contribution to creating a collaborative and innovative workplace in the recently released Deputy Minister’s Report to the Clerk of the Privy Council on Natural Resources Canada’s 2010-11 Public Service Renewal Action Plan Achievements.  

For me, the discussions and outcomes from the Share Fair reinforced a view that despite all the technological tools at our fingertips, public servants are, more than ever, clamouring to be connected to one another in meaningful ways. This, for me, is the longer term legacy of CoPs and employee networks. They help foster a culture of collaboration by forging relationships that produce results and that integrate a diversity of experience and perspectives. They help engage employees by connecting people’s passions to their work and by fostering professional development and leadership experiences beyond the sector level. And they strengthen knowledge management by enhancing and deepening skills and expertise in the workforce and strengthening a culture of sharing that complements our wiki, blogs, forums and other tools that facilitate sharing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Three behaviours exhibited by knowledge users and how collaborative tools can help them

I have made a couple of updates to my map of collaborative tools available in my workplace, but I still welcome any comments.

Part of the impetus for creating this map was that I have been asked to provide input on the ways that collaborative tools can be used to engage employees. Now, I am not sure what specifically is meant by this, but since I work in a science-based policy organization, it's probably fair to assume that this is about either engaging scientists more in the policy development process, or in bringing the two sides together to co-create policy solutions.
Either way, it caused me to think about how people use knowledge while doing their work and how they might use collaborative tools to help them.

As I stumbled my way through this thought experiment, I came upon a knowledge management framework presented by Chris Collison in a slide show on knowledge transfer. I've adapted his framework to describe the types of behaviours knowledge users exhibit before, during and after working on a problem as well as the specific actions they could take with the collaborative tools available in my workplace.

Collison's framework is pretty straightforward; individuals or teams start with a goal, they then apply knowledge to work on the issue, ultimately arriving at some result. As they move toward realizing their intended outcome, they have opportunities to learn before, during and after the process of using their knowledge to address the issue. The behaviours associated with learning before, during and after using the knowledge, I have called "knowledge pull", "interactive" and "knowledge push" to represent the principle way that knowledge flows between the person or team doing the work and the captured knowledge base. The specific actions I have listed are from the perspective of a policy analyst working in my organization with the online collaborative tools at their disposal. All this is of course qualified by the caveat that online collaborative tools are not the only way to interact with the knowledge contained in people and networks. One could, after all, walk down the corridor and talk with one's colleagues. However, since I have been asked to provide input on the ways collaborative tools could help engage employees in my workplace, that is where I have focused my thoughts. As usual, any comments or questions are welcome as this is still very early in its draft stage.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What can collaborative tools help me do?

I've occasionally heard people comment that they feel overwhelmed by all the different online collaborative tools now available in the workplace. More specifically, I think they mean that with so many different tools available, they don't know what they would use each tool for. Without understanding the purpose of a tool, or the task that it could help them accomplish, they are unlikely to invest the time to learn about it.

So, I tried to organize the tools available in my workplace into themes with a specific emphasis on some of the tasks each tool can help you accomplish.

This is still draft, but let me know if I have forgotten anything or if it could be arranged in a different way.