KO and the Enterprise of the Future

April 6, 2009

KM World recently ran a short but spot-on article entitled The Future of the The Future: An opportunity for real change by Art Murray. A couple of short excerpts should suffice to convey the flavour:

In today’s economic climate, it’s clear more than ever—traditional business models no longer work. They are too slow and impede the flow of knowledge—the exact opposite of what is needed to succeed in a turbulent, high-risk economy.”

“At the very least, we need to momentarily halt the process, introduce some serious changes and reboot. Here’s a partial list of specific transformations, any one of which will introduce a new way of doing business that will help propel you forward.”

Murray’s five transformations (on which he elaborates) are:

  • Make the move from hierarchies to networks once and for all
  • Make the cultural shift from silos and knowledge hoarding to openness and knowledge sharing
  • Move from slow, random learning to a systemized approach for fast learning
  • Become fixated on systemic improvements rather than point solutions
  • Move from saying, “That’ll never work here,” to “Let’s find a way to make it work.”

A better checklist of survival initiatives I cannot imagine. Similar sentiments are being expressed elsewhere, from Clay Shirky’s Ontology is Overrated a few years ago, to the challenge posed by Web 2.0 to structured information management disciplines like Records Management  (see e.g. Steve Dale’s recent blog entry EDRM and Web 2.0 – where two worlds collide).

The question is, where does this relentless drift towards the informal, the unstructured and the ‘wisdom of crowds’ leave the highly structured world of KO?

Explorations in Information Space

March 27, 2009

Different organizations handle the complexity of the knowledge and information they need in different ways, according to their structure and authority relationships. This results in different degrees of codification and abstraction (KO) which in turn determine the type of dissemination mechanism employed.

That’s the interesting theme of an article in Information World Review (Bizmedia, March 2009, Issue 253) available online and entitled Shrink or Swallow?. It’s a very good article and I recommend you to read it, but it fails in one important respect: it mentions nowhere that the theory expounded was developed by Prof. Max Boisot and colleagues and described in their book Explorations in Information Space: Knowledge, Agents and Organization (OUP, 2007).

My advice: read the article, then buy the book. It’s a classic.

Developing a common metalanguage: The Community rules

September 29, 2007

Now the wider world is about to discover what has been more or less the private domain of coterie of experts (see Tags! and Categories below), the opportunity presents itself for us to show how classification can be used as a community building tool by doing it ourselves. The process starts with a community agreeing about the questions it must address using at very least an agreed vocabulary.

I propose that we could / should go much further and develop a common metalanguage to keep track of our communication. By metalanguage, I mean a faceted classification system which uses an agreed syntax to produce meaningful and generative threads of communication.

As a rough stab, I would like to propose the following facets (with apologies to Ranganathan purists). Group – our community interest e.g. classification, Activity – what we are doing / talking about e.g. design, Stage – How far we have got e.g proposal.

The syntax is simple starting on left Group, Activity, State. Each facet is separated by a hyphen.

So here is where we discuss Classification-design-proposal. The previous post would generate a discussion about Classification-design-opportunity. Note how overviews can be posted under, for instance, Classification-design. Another thread might be Classification-implementation-challenges, for example. (One of the current challenges is to be able to put hierarchies inside facets, but one step at a time. In the beginning things need to be simple, easy, and practical.)

Other KO Kommunities would, I presume, develop their own metalanguages, perhaps, following a common set of facets?

It’s all open to discussion. Right here. The community rules!

Tags! and categories

September 29, 2007

Here is the ‘State of the Art’ at WordPress. Better late than never. It means that a whole world of millions of bloggers is about to discover the opportunities and dangers of first categorising and then classifying information. There should be lot of work for this community to do, starting with being exemplars. (Jan)

Not long after WordPress.com began we started calling categories “tags” in some places, most notably our global tags system.

However while our interface made it easy to add categories on the fly, many people were vocal in telling us that categories and tags were not the same thing, and eventually we figured out they were right. (Forgive us, we can be slow sometimes.)

What’s the difference between categories and tags, you ask?

As best as I can explain it, categories are things you create ahead of time and only have a few of. Imagine them like sections of your site. The signs on aisles of grocery stores. Tags are one-off keywords attached to a post. You may add a tag to a post that you’ll never use ever again. Categories are meant to be permanent, tags are ephemeral.

Of course that’s just the accepted usage, you don’t have to change a thing and are welcome to continue using categories as you have since you started your blog.

Before WordPress.com just supported categories, even though we called them tags sometimes, but some people used them as tags, including ourselves.

We’ve added real tagging now.

The new tags interface

Now, at long last, there are separate interfaces for categories and tags so you can use either or both as you see fit based on your personal tagging philosophy. Categories are where they’ve always been to the right of the text box, and you can add tags below the post as a comma-separated list.

This is just the first step, we have some pretty exciting tag-related things coming in the future, so stay tuned.