Managing networks and Working Out Loud: Collaboration and Knowledge Matchmaking skills

The world is shrinking. At any given moment I know where many of my friends and colleagues are. Technological footprints are heavy and long lasting.

This week for example I see that Arthur Shelley is in Moscow with Ron Young at KM Russia, Donald Clark is in Belfast picking up an award, Phil Hill is getting fit (ter) in Thailand, Patrick Lambe is having breakfast in Lisboa. Gregga Baxter and his wife are supporters of WaterHealth in India.

Through cultivating personal networks I also know what’s happening this week in Khartoum, Tehran, Dubai and Harare. To many that may seem frivolous information; to others (including me) its valuable and if I don’t know then I know a man (or woman) who can. Let me illustrate the issue with a true story.

the art of network management

Many years ago I was charged with setting up the forerunner of a Knowledge Management function for a financial services business in the City of London. It struck me how badly senior officials shared diaries let alone knowledge about clients.

One day I was in the office of the Treasurer of the national oil company of a prosperous Middle East country. As I was about to leave he asked me to stay for the next meeting.

In came four suited bankers. My client took the lead introducing himself and me (as his Advisor). He then asked each one to introduce themselves. And to everyone’s surprise they were from different offices and areas of the same institution. They had all flown down on separate planes to see the same client.

The Treasurer said his diary was open to meetings with the institution but not multiple visits. They lost face not to mention the cost of the travel and opportunity cost.

So knowing what I did I came back to London and, with the support of the CEO, developed and introduced Visit Information Centre (VIC) which showed all visits to our organisation and all meetings outside of it.  Embedded in the day to day workflow the aim was to maximise the valuable time our organisation spent with a client and make sure those in any meeting were briefed on the latest activity. Today this is or should be standard practice; then it involved a shift in mindset.

So fast forward to 12th December 16; its 2pm and I am having an exchange on Facebook with Patrick Lambe about Lisboa where he is spending a week. Concurrently I see that Ana Neves (founder and organisor of SocialNow and “Mrs KM” in Portugal) is online on Skype. I know Ana lives a mere 15 minutes train ride from where Patrick is spending the afternoon. I also know both of them well and believe they would benefit from meeting each other.

Using Messenger I hook them both up and they meet later that afternoon to discuss inter alia an idea I thought both might profit from.

meeting-by-the-tejo

Tea by the Tejo

I coined the phrase “Orchestrated Serendipity” to describe occurences such as this. I have also used the term “making correlations between seemingly unrelated pieces of information”.

In this example I have nothing potential to gain other than knowing that two people I like and respect are now acquainted so my network grows stronger.

Here’s an example of how one thing can lead to another.

an example of ‘Working out Loud’

A few weeks back out of the blue Martin White of Intranet Focus shared a draft white paper on Digital Workplace Governance with myself, James Robertson, Jane McConnell, Sam Marshall and a couple of others. His invitation, which left it up to us as to how we might respond, read:

Colleagues
The attachment is me working out loud on digital workplace governance on a Friday afternoon
Regards
Martin

Our approaches were different. Some came back immediately. Others took their time. Some used comments in Word, others rewrote paragraphs. As Martin said, “the responses always challenge your own thinking.”

I am sure John Stepper (who is widely credited with kicking off the Working out Loud movement) and Ana Silva who is a great proponent of it would be enthused.

Knowledge Matchmaking?

These two exchanges got me thinking about the way I work, the organisations I’ve worked for, the clients I’ve worked with and the networks I am involved in. I have never acted as an introductions broker seeking reward so do organisations and people see value in it?

Previously as a Senior Manager charged with developing new business, my ability to match a need with a solution was prized and rewarded even though the correlation was opaque to my bosses. More often than not the intuition paid off. But does the same apply today in a Knowledge Management environment where logarithms and Artificial Intelligence are making the correlations I used to make?

Perhaps more importantly do people in Knowledge Management have the time, the confidence and the knowledge of the business to be able to put forward ideas and broker connections?

If they do then here’s a few tips:

  1. You have to be in it to win it: if you sit on the sidelines this will never happen.
  2. Be willing to take a risk: yes you might fall flat on your face! But experience tells me that if you go the extra mile people will come back for more.
  3. Be willing to do this without expectation of reward: it’s always difficult to measure the impact in a world of KPI’s. You have to play a long game but be willing to cut if you feel you are being taken for a ride.
  4. Be willing to acknowledge the contribution of others: from personal experience I’ve found there is nothing worse than someone taking what you’ve suggested and packaging it without attribution. A photo is a great way of saying thank you!
  5. Build trust so people are willing to confide in you and trust your judgement: unless you are willing to find out about people and what they do you will never be able to make these connections.
  6. Be clear about why you are making the introduction or sharing Knowledge: I used to be in the cc camp that so many inhabit believing that by informing everyone I was covering all bases. People are too busy and ignore ‘junk mail’.
  7. Develop your internal filtering mechanism: you have to know your business and identify who is going to be a taker vs. a reciprocator.
  8. Respect the contribution people make if you ask for advice: whatever you get back from people is important. They have committed scarce time and each time you ask for a response you are drawing on your reserve of credibility.
  9. Develop a skin as thick as a Rhino: you will be disappointed when others don’t follow your lead and use the contacts or information without acknowledgement. And remember 90% of people online are lurkers so will not go public with their thanks.

And finally

To prove that this is a reciprocal situation. In August I attended an Improvisation event in Oxford. It wasn’t on my radar but Nancy White had posted a comment about it so based on her recommendation I decided to attend: As a Quid pro Quo I wrote up my experiences for the greater KM4Dev community.

If you want good reading on collaboration, Martin and Luis Suarez have been exchanging comments on a fascinating blog post from Luis: “Stop blaming the tools when collaboration fails”.

Challenges and Opportunities facing Legal KM: interview for KM Legal Europe

A few weeks back I wrote a  post Future of the Internet and Legal KIM in an artificial world ahead of an interview I was giving to the organisors of January’s KM Legal Europe Amsterdam.  Here’s that interview which includes a snapshot of the sessions I will be facilitating.

Future of the Internet and Legal KIM in an artificial world

Yesterday was interesting. I was in the cloud metaphorically speaking.

future of the Internet

our-internet-panel-at-

From left: Patricia Lewis, Carl Bildt, Dame Wendy Hall, Michael Chertof, Sir David Omand

It started at Chatham House and a fascinating discussion held “on the record” on the future role of the Internet (“the most important infrastructure in the world”) prompted by a report from a very well qualifiied group of 28 experts led by former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt.

This quote from their report targeted at public policy makers caught my eye:

The Internet has connected more than three billion people in just a few decades, however, over half of the world’s population remains off-line. If the rest of humanity is not given the opportunity to come online, digital and physical divides both within and between societies will widen, locking some into a permanent cycle of exclusion from an increasingly digital global economy.

Countries cannot hope to compete in the global marketplace of ideas if their business communities and broader populations are not online.

One Internet can be found here. Distributed under a creative commons licence Its worth a read. A few of my many takeaways from yesterday’s event:

  • Internet is in danger of becoming the ‘splinternet’ as governments seek to improve cybersecurity and restrict who can access what
  • Cybersecurity wears many hats. In totalitarian regimes it means controlling access to what is considered ‘destabilising’ and salacious material not merely espionage
  • False news is on the rise underpinned by the self reinforcing bias of Social Media sites (more on this later)
  • The role of educators is vital to equip tomorrow’s workforce to be digitally literate (see Arab Times article by Dana Winner for more on initiatives in Kuwait)
  • “Its the end of the industrial age and the beginning of the digital age” and “we are coming to the point of contraction” (Quotes from Dame Wendy Hall)

2017 Legal KM Objectives

This very nicely set up the afternoon’s video session at Ark Group ahead of the forthcoming KM Legal Europe Conference in Amsterdam.  I was asked half a dozen questions. Here I will focus on:

What do you think are the key challenges facing knowledge managers in law firms specifically right now?

To answer this I approached two dozen practitioners and thought leaders in Legal KM last Thursday. I used LinkedIn for some and a personal direct email for others. I received 14 responses within a day a response rate for which I am extremely grateful.

Here is a truncated snapshot of the responses (my groupings) with anonymity preserved:

Cultural & Organisational Measurement & Regulatory Process & Innovation Tools & Techniques
New roles needed: business and data analysts and legal project managers. Getting good enough metrics to convince lawyers that it is worth spending time and money on KM

 

Building knowledge into business processes by automating workflows using lightweight new technologies such as HighQ Artificial Intelligence for law firms (as we are not a magic circle firm so we could not invest millions in this)

 

Essential Collaboration between Knowledge, IT and procurement teams Court Proceedings are ‘going digital’ as of the beginning of February. That’s a big challenge! We have to get our dms, our processes and our technical infrastructure ready Increasing client pressures to redact documents or not to share documents in KH is putting pressure on open KH systems AI tools that can mine unstructured content for insight – is it the death of the document?
How to maintain lateral and peripheral vision towards the business goals, where their area of practice fits in to the greater perspective at hand. What can be done daily, weekly, monthly, to take time to do this, when their entire perspective is tied to billing in 6 minute increments, tied to AFA agreements built on efficiency and transparency geared towards the client and their practice area billing requirements? Measuring ROI on client relationship development activities – i.e. not winning new clients, but deepening existing relationships

Getting engagement from fee earners as they struggle to meet their chargeable targets

 

How can knowledge (in widest sense) help firms deliver on the more for less agenda, both internally and to clients?

Preserving client-lawyer face-time, trust and intimacy in a time of online communication

How to better share knowledge with our clients (meaning the clients of the firm)?

 

Understanding how to harness the power of AI in the business:

– to what / where is it best applied?

– is there a first mover advantage or should we wait, learn from innovators’ mistakes and leapfrog with v2.0?

Platforms for commodity work, Artificial Intelligence in all its form, Block chain, Big Data. It is hard to keep up and very unpredictable what it will bring and how it will change the legal business

Move from paper sources and library towards a digital Knowledge Centre, while trying to cope with the increasing information overload. Disruption of legal services

Horizon scanning for us and for our clients.

 

Untangling the appalling hype and confusion about AI

A few stood out (some strategic, some operational): act or wait (in relation to AI); responding to a change in regulation; creating a Digital Knowledge Centre (will AI make that obsolete?); and how to resolve the difficult challenge of preserving client-lawyer relationship when technology makes advice more of a commodity.

future of Legal Knowledge and Information Management in an artificial world

You will note how often AI comes up in the 2017 objectives. This is the question I was asked:

Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal sector right now. How do you think AI can really boost efforts to better manage knowledge within a firm?

Many books have already been written on this topic and thousands of articles. Its the new nirvana. Even though AI has the potential to lower barriers to entry have we been there before? Not according to Professor Mohanbir Sawhney in an excellent article in  September’s Harvard Business Review entitled Putting Products into Services he argues:

…By leveraging the power of algorithm-driven automation and data analytics to “productize” aspects of their work, a number of innovative firms are finding that, like Google and Adobe, they can increase margins as they grow, while giving clients better service at prices that competitors can’t match. Productivity rises, efficiencies increase, and nonlinear scale becomes feasible as productized services take over high-volume tasks and aid judgment-driven processes. That frees up well-paid professionals to focus on jobs that require more sophistication—and generate greater value for the company.

I see this as being an evolution rather than a revolution. We are at stage 3:

  1. Stage 1 Search: Making documents, images and audio/video available and tagged
  2. Stage 2 Review & Connect: Analysing and summarising documents, images and audio/video and pushing to relevant people. Identifying patterns and making connections.
  3. Stage 3 Predict & Facilitate: Using the raft of data, information and accumulated knowledge to predict what the likely outcome of an event or series of events might be and to then help facilitate those outcomes.

If you accept that 80% of a company’s data is unstructured there is ample scope. So what options do firms have?

  • Partner
  • Build
  • Buy (or rent)
city-road

Two of the new buildings in City Road, London

Some of the biggest firms have already moved forward: Dentons has gone down the partner route investing in Next Law Labs and acting as a test bed for their ideas; Pinsent Masons have opted to build their own, a do it yourself AI called TermFrame; Linklaters signed up to buy/rent from RAVN and in a really interesting move Cotswold Barristers have become ‘barristers direct’ marketing their fixed fee services to potential claimants.

What’s interesting is how well represented the UK is in the AI field and how many of the emerging businesses can be found around City Road in Tech City, London.

Yet despite the hype AI has a chequered recent history:

  • Both the US Presidential Elections and Brexit Referendum were called the wrong way
  • The challenge of the self reinforcing bias is not met which makes outcomes susceptible to false news and accentuates the Prism Effect
  • Humans are still needed for interpretation, managing of networks and facilitation of outcomes.

and finally

I am going to draw on two quotes from the respondents (both highly visible and respected Legal Professionals who find themselves in roles that have KM components):

AI and automation models if put in place successfully would augment the journalists*, augment the attorneys, make them more successful for themselves, the client, and the business.

*This was in reference to a John Oliver sketch on US TV about the impact AI is having on journalism. See Chicago Tribune summary here.

The rise of newer forms of technology is challenging the way codified knowledge is managed leading to the need for KM professionals to work with new types of colleagues such as business process improvement specialists and AI providers.

If you want more, I suspect one of the topics for discussion in the Open Space Peer Assist session I will be running at KM Legal Europe will be on the impact of AI. There’s still time to register for that event and I’m sure Ark will put online the video interview I conducted yesterday.

Stop Press:

Today DeepMinds and Royal Free Hospital’s App is launched. It is a great example of how data can be analysed and outcomes presented to the clinician for recommended treatments. Substitute the Lawyer for the Clinician and it’s clear similar search, retrieval and analysis tools might be used in Legal.  See here for more.

References:

Thanks to Martin White (self styled ‘Virtual Librarian’) for these hugely helpful links:

http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/how_artificial_intelligence_is_transforming_the_legal_profession

https://artificiallawyer.com/

https://blogs.thomsonreuters.com/answerson/artificial-intelligence-legal-practice/

AI & The Business of Law III: The Rise of Administrative Automation

http://www.pwc.co.uk/industries/business-services/law-firms/survey.html

Also to Exponential Investor who provided this interesting interview transcript as part of its investor service:

They know what you’re going to buy…

 

“Anytime, anywhere, any device”: Working smarter in a knowledge world

Last week was fun. A couple of enjoyable dinners, an interesting day at the BSI KM Standards Committee helping to shape the UK’s response to the latest draft of the  emerging ISO KM Standards and a thought provoking day at Quora Consulting’s flagship Smartworking Summit. I will focus on the latter as it impacts the former.

Why are you here?

As I said in answer to that direct question posed to me by one of the speakers during his address:

Because John invited me for which I thank him.  I am also here as the discipline I focus much of my time on (Knowledge Management) relies heavily on the right environment to facilitate the sharing of knowledge. Also as a member of the BSI KM Standards Committee which is looking at ISO standards for KM I am keen to seen something in there that reflects the move towards smarter working.

I coud have added that, following the lead of Professor Clive Holtham and Victoria Ward, I have been banging on for a long while about the importance to Knowledge Management of an effective physical environment, it’s one of the indicators I look for when performing a Knowledge Audit or Assessment at any organisation.

The event:

The very well attended senior level event (of the near 200, 75% were C-Suite Directors) was held near St Paul’s and had as it’s focus in the morning “unlocking the full potential of women at work”.

quora-summit-pmThe afternoon comprised a series of breakout sessions. I went for the “Creating productive workplaces” session facilitated by John Blackwell, Quora’s founder and CEO.

As an aside it was nice to see Euan Semple again who was cofacilitating a round table session that draws on an interesting piece of work he is doing and was entitled “Building Bridges, dismantling siloes”.

Interesting fact of the day from Wednesday’s Smartworking Summit – collectively, the registered delegates interact with over 80 million employees on a daily basis – impressive!

Smartworking in context:

Statistics released by the Department of Work and Pensions and The Office of National Statistics are terrifying for the future of the UK economy which has already seen productivity fall by 17% over the last 10 years. These stuck out:

  • The UK will need to fill 13.5 million job vacancies in the next ten years but only 7 million people will be leaving schools and universities during that same period. And further, 70% of those graduates will be female.

The Summit’s premise was:

“…there are only two realistic ways of plugging this 6.5 million job vacancy shortfall – encourage people to remain in work beyond the conventional retirement age and crucially, attract far more women into the workplace.”

The morning speakers drawn from some of the UK’s largest employers shared their stories.

I liked:

  • The ‘Come Back’ returnee programme for a 12 week period which helps Mums rejoin the organsation after pregnancy leave.
  • The carers work programme wherein flexible working hours (often in chunks of 30-60 minutes) are offered to remote workers who look after those incapable of doing so themselves.
  • The bottom up shadowing programme wherein senior staff are mentored by young employess on the use of Social Media.
  • Anytime, anywhere, any device. The strapline of a programme at a financial services firm who are faciliting a blend of working practices and estimate that 40% of their work will be done flexibly.
  • That Cabinet Office and BSI recently launched a Smart Working Code of Practice.  PAS 3000 gives recommendations for establishing good practice for the implementation of Smart Working, against which organizations can be benchmarked. It covers changes to working practices, culture, working environments and associated technology.
  • The following quotes:

On expecting staff to focus for 8 hours a day: “You can’t leave your life at the door”

On the imposition of a dress code for the office: “How about we trust you to do the right thing?  If you look in the mirror and ask whether you can get away with wearing this it’s probably wrong”

On the need to change mindsets: “What the boss does gets copied”; “It’s great to talk, its better to listen”; and “Climbing the greasy pole to reach the corner office”.

I was surprised by:

The results of Quora’s recent survey.  Here’s what they said:

We have just released our latest research publication titled “Creating today’s workplaces for tomorrow’s talent”. This study engaged with just short of 3,000 people to explore the correlations between productivity, employee engagement and retention, and amongst its stunning findings are;

  • In 1990, 10% of the workforce was over 55.  By 2010 that had risen to 26% and, by 2030 the proportion of workforce over 55 will exceed 50%,
  • Just 21% stated that the impact of changes at their organisation are tracked and measured.
  • Only 33% regard their workplace as optimised for productivity,
  • Less than half trusted their manager to do the ‘right thing’ by them,
  • 66% stated the main reason for leaving their job was because they ‘found their managers dull and boring’.

Among the conclusions are that workplace design needs considerable fresh scrutiny into the productivity impacts of light intensity and spectrum, daylight, sound amplitude and direction, air quality, air temperature, odour, and occupant location and activity, and provision of quiet space.

Lastly, given that the brain takes 30% of all energy input into the body, the provision of nutrition needs a complete rethink.   Considerable attention needs to be given to eating frequent, portion controlled small meals focused on nutritional value.

I am concerned about:

  • The rate of commercial redevelopment that is taking place in London. If the workplace of the future is so uncertain and large organisations are consolidating their sites, making workspace more collaborative and shared, who is going to occupy the offices being developed now?
  • The scarcity of skilled British workers to fill the impending void at a time when the authorities seem to be making it harder for overseas workers to come to the UK.
  • A survey that found only 1:5 believed their leaders would do the right thing.

I took away:

  • The notion that the future cv will evolve from being a list of employers to a list of interesting projects and that 75% of new graduates today are predicted to leave within 2 years due to dull management and an unproductive environment.
  • The revelation that we now have 4 generations working at the same time so personalisation of approach is really important. Generation Rent employees have vastly different value sets from the Baby Boomer employees.
  • The suggestion that the leaders of the future will be Influencers with a focus on outcomes and that some organisations are using Social Network Analysis to identify who they might be.
  • The need to manage nutrition as well as the physical and virtual environment of the workforce. Better nutrition and conditioning = better performance in physical activity so why not in the workplace?the-edge
  • A desire to visit The Edge the greenest most efficient ‘smart’ building in the world when I am in Amsterdam in January. The Edge has proved a big attraction to prospective employees of the building’s tenants who include Deloitte’s.
  • The importance of effective knowledge capture and retention to ensure that, whatever technique is used, knowledge from skilled elders gets passed on.

And finally:

Fast forward two days and I am at Chiswick for the BSI Meeting.  The first person I meet is someone I heard speak a few years back in Amsterdam at SocialNow.

Dana Leeson is a Digital Workplace Architect at BSI helping to transform bsi-spacetheir working practices and environment.  One metric they are using: reduce occupancy levels (from 100% usage of the office by their staff to the mid 70’s).

Theirs reflects similar initiatives across UK government who are reducing the number of buildings they occupy and introducing co-working hubs for many departments.

 

 

Practicing what you preach: when search is not enough for a Knowledge Base

Working independently you often have to solve complicated IT issues rather than calling the IT Help Desk as I did for 25 years when I worked in the City of London. 
A few years back resolving technical IT issues was nigh on impossible without retaining expensive external help. Today with networks, online search and a friendly local services business, its doable albeit time consuming. It does though allow you to experience the trials and tribulations associated with establishing and maintaining an effective Knowledge Base.

The context:

A decade ago I converted from being a PC user to a Mac user.  While I loved the order and structure of Windows Explorer navigation I found that Apple had cracked the user interface and synergy of devices. And it seemed to be less prone to Trojan Viruses.
So once Office for Mac appeared and I could use the tools most clients are familiar with I went the whole hog and over the next few years acquired a MacBook Pro, iMac and iPhone all of which sync seamlessly and have been fairly robust (up until now).
Having a deep distrust of relying purely on search it took me a while to create a navigational structure akin to Microsoft’s Explorer using Apple’s Finder tool but I got there mimicking what I had before on a PC.
Like many I used the folder structure in my Mail server to catalogue and group correspondence.  Mail was configured to mirror the file navigational structure so I thought I was ready for most eventualities..
Evernote and DropBox are the collaboration tools I use for current projects and where everything associated with them is stored. iCloud holds the most important historical contact data, Keychain the passwords and Time Machine which I back up to an external Hard Drive is the safety net for the Knowledge Base I’ve acquired over the past 20 years.

The issue:

A month ago my iMac’s Finder stopped working which meant I had to rely solely on Apple’s search tool Spotlight to find stuff on my Knowledge Base.  Despite a trawl thru various technological sites for a fix no one seemed to know how to get Finder working. Within a day I realised how dependent i’d become on ‘assisted search’

The advice:

Back up the iMac using Time Machine. Wipe it clean. Install the latest operating system (El Capitan) Export all material from the Time Machine back up but create a new profile rather than use the same profile. Should prevent the Finder problem being exported!!!!! All sounded good until I tried to export the data from Time Machine.

The subsidiary Issue:

I created a new profile on the iMac and was able to import most of the data but the majority of files can only be accessed thru my previous user profile which had different permissions. And Time Machine hides Mail folders (doesn’t show in Users>Name>Library>). So I couldn’t export the mailboxes as I’d originally intended to.

I felt I was spiralling down into the depths of uncertainty.

The final solution:

Find another machine, reinstall from Time Machine in my former profile and then save all the data (email/files/photos/videos) to an external hard drive. 

Sounded simple. In practice it wasn’t.
I had to borrow an iMac from the very supportive Fermin Ayucar at BeValued, recreate my system on that, save that using Time Machine to a hard drive and then wipe clear my own machine again before using the ‘new’ system to reinstall all of my Knowledge Base on my iMac.

And finally:

The sense of satisfaction when you ‘crack it’ and manage to rebuild a machine is immense. The sense of frustration though in not being able to locate stuff you know is saved is enormous and reflects what many people find.
 
It reinforces the piece I wrote a few month’s back on the need for assisted search and tags which contained this prophetic quote from my good friend Martin White of Intranet Focus who said:
 
If you can’t find information, then in effect it does not exist. Your search application may return 85,340 results for a query, but if the most relevant information was not indexed, or your security permissions inadvertently prevented the information from being displayed — can you trust your search application?
 
Fortunately the reinstall workaround was successful and all machines are backed and functioning. If you want more please contact me and I’d be happy to talk you thru it.