What Lisbon, Eastbourne, Neil Usher’s book and Knowledge Management have in common: Importance of environment.

Hands up, I wimped out and decamped to Lisboa to work and write when winter (Inverno in Portuguese) hit Eastbourne last week. I had a few people I needed to catch up with, some reading I’d promised I would do as well as prepping for forthcoming masterclasses.

Since my teens I’ve found a change of scenery / the right environment often acts as a catalyst for generating ideas. Indeed one of the questions I ask when trying to determine how knowledge flows in an organisation is “where do you have your best ideas or conversations?” The venue/space is important.

Which rather nicely brings me onto one of the books I vowed to read while I was by the Tejo.

The Elemental Workplace: Everyone deserves a fantastic workplace

I first heard Neil Usher at the SocialNow Event run by Ana Neves in Lisboa in 2017. He gave an entertaining presentation in which he presented his hypothesis that there are 12 essential Elements (design principles) all good workplace designs require. Coming hard on the heels of research I’d conducted earlier that year and a Masterclass I’d run in Asia on Collaborative Knowledge Spaces this was music to my ears. I’ve always believed in the importance of planning for “Orchestrated Serendipity” when designing spaces that encourage the sharing of knowledge. Neil’s presentation struck a chord and I vowed to go and see some of his projects.

I was delighted therefore when I learned Neil had ‘put pen to paper’ and written The Elemental Workplace” an easy to read tome that I imagine will become essential reading for people looking to create a stimulating enviroment in which to work.

Already my copy has plenty of dog ears and I found myself drawn to Part One – Why, and Part Four – What could possibly go wrong?

If you take nothing more away from the book than remembering these three quotes in Part One it will have been a good investment:

An effective workplace is one that is built on the principle of simplicity, an effective workplace is one that inspires and energises and an effective workplace is one that can facilitate learning and development.

Moving onto Part Four and this paragraph under the heading “Build it and they will come” stood out for me:

On your travels and in your research, you will discover amazing physical spaces that just do not work, because the creators believed that was enough. It is never enough. Change has to be nurtured, enabled, facilitated, continued. Build it and you will have just built it, nothing more.”

Perhaps my favourite sentence in the book is on on P36 under the heading “Ether”

A fantastic workplace can make a huge contribution to the customer advocacy of an organisation by creating a natural association with admirable values and looking after its people.

This is a book those involved in Knowledge & Information Management should read a few times. The checklists are great but you will have to work out who owns the collaborative knowledge space topic and where the idea fits in your own programme (if at all).

Murals changing society

And so to Lisboa where I spent a hectic Sunday morning out and about seeking examples of Street / Urban Art. Bear with me as I tell you why. Fortunate enough to live in Lisboa as well as Eastbourne I’ve been struck by the difference in the way some of the less salubrious parts of both cities have dealt with urban deprivation.

As the Head of GAU Lisboa  Urban Art Gallery (GAU) explained:

The Galeria de Arte Urbana of the Departamento de Património Cultural (Department of Cultural Heritage), from Câmara Municipal de Lisboa (Lisbon’s City Council) has as it’s main mission the promotion of graffiti and Street Art in Lisbon, in a official and authorized scope and in a pathway of respect for the patrimonial and landscaped values, in opposition with the illegal acts of vandalism that harm the City.

The district of Padre Cruz is the largest Urban Housing development in Europe with some 8,000 homes. Violence, poverty, drugs and deprivation were rife in 2016 before the Municipality introduced the concept of Urban Art with the active engagement of the local community.  The transformation has been amazing: residents now have a pride in their community and the incidence of crime has decreased dramatically.

I am not comparing today’s businesses with Padre Cruz but I am posing the hypothesis to those who are skeptical about the importance of creating the right environment for collaboration, knowledge sharing and human interactions – Orchestrated Serendipity!

Rua da Gloria Lisboa.

Back in Lisboa I found myself surrounded by numerous visitors all marvelling at the murals that have been painted in various parts of the city at the behest of GAU.

It’s not a coincidence that the resurgance of a vibrant artistic and technologically gifted workforce has at its fulcrum a decision taken by the Municipality to set up GAU at a time of deep austerity.

That they curate the work providing a legacy for future generations is also farsighted.

And finally

Why is this relevant? Because as part of our commitment to our community Bees Homes (the business we set up some 10 months ago) is working with the authorities in Eastbourne to try and transfer some of the knowledge gained in Lisboa and create a version of Urban Art here. We all know that a house ‘staged’ properly with good pictures will attract more buyers and achieve a better price than one that is not. The same surely applies to the environments in which we live and work?

Adapting Neil’s strapline: “Everybody deserves a fantastic environment that inspires and energises”

 

 

AI driven expertise & profiling: hype, hope or déjà vu?

May was a busy month. Apart from helping establish then launch a real estate and mortgage business (Bees Homes) I was in Lisboa for Social Now and London for KM Legal UK.

I attended both in the expectation of learning more about the onrush of Artificial Intelligence and its implications for the Knowledge Management profession.

Specifically, I wanted to see how the encouragingly styled Talent and Knowledge Matching / Profiling systems might tackle the challenges of knowledge loss when people depart, of onboarding when people arrive and identifying / ranking expertise that might otherwise be opaque when pulling together teams.

It’s not a new topic: back in the late 90’s I was Business & Strategy Advisor to Sopheon PLC when we acquired Organik (a technology for identifying expertise) and built systems for US Insurers looking to establish the best teams for clients based upon expertise. We never cracked it even though we knew what the issues were (usually motivation)!

Seeking answers at SocialNow Lisboa while Keynote speaker Ellen Trude watches.

Armed with a list of ‘use cases’ I’d worked on with Martin White I set off in search of answers to these questions from both vendors and KM practitioners?

  • Onboarding: A new employee with many years of highly relevant experience joins the firm. How long will it be before their experience is ranked at the same level as their predecessors?
  • Legal: Is the profiling process compatible with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation? The thoughts of the Information Commissioner on this are worth a look. Profiling & Automated Decision Making
  • Functionality: Do they offer the ability to present a list of people ranked by expertise?
  • Language: In multinational companies where it is especially difficult to know all the experts, how does the vendor coppe with the fact that documents, meetings and social media traffic will be in local languages?
  • Chinese Walls: How does the application cope with expertise gained on projects that are secure, a common issue in law, finance and R&D where walls need to be erected to prevent commercial information being divulged>
  • Testing: What User Testing is undertaken with a client before signing a contract to verify that the profiling system works?

So, what did I discover? Thierry de Bailllon in his closing Keynote put it very succinctly but with a caveat:

Embrace or die? 88% of technologies already include AI.

Self reinforcing bias?

it’s not Enterprise Social Networks (ESN)!

This Twitter exchange between Ana Neves and Luis Suarez prompted by a question I posed of the Workplace (Facebook at Work) team following their presentation is revealing:

May 12 there’s been a few questions about expertise location 2017 I don’t remember that being the case in previous years #SocialNow

May 12 Well, I think people are starting to understand how critical it is to know who is who within the org beyond just content, right?

Replying to totally! It surprises me it took so long. It’s amazing the role #ESN can have in unveiling that expertise #SocialNow

On the surface the case for ESN is compelling. Yet the majority of vendors at SocialNow focus on information exchange and conversation rather than the capturing and cataloguing of it. One,@mangoappsinc, had a neat tool (they won the “coolest app” prize) with the ability to upgrade comments from threaded discussions and posts to create ranked knowledge resources from the mass of information and conversation.

So, ESN can show who has answered what question, conduct searches across conversations and in many cases act as a project management tool, the new Facebook at Work (Workplace) now allows the creation of documents for example.

Provided the application is linked to HR systems it is possible to retrieve profiles and see what expertise an individual might have. As one vendor (@OrangeTrail showcasing Facebook at Work)) who uses bots to generate responses put it:

‘Questions’ is the key to find experts as people don’t keep profiles updated.

I concur and they are great facilitation platforms though with advanced features that will suffice for many. Yet I left Lisboa though feeling organisations will need to rely on assisted search for some time if they want to take a deep dive into expertise

know what you don’t know

Peer Assist “Problems” for discussion

So onto London and KM Legal UK. An interesting Day One ended with a psuedo Peer Assist in which AI was raised a lot.

One observation (facilitation tip): the session failed to commit the ‘owner’ of the problem to action so as a result the feedback loop to plenary became a series of “we said this.”

Again, as in previous years I felt the focus was on operational tools and techniques which means that KIM Professionals in Legal are more at risk from the onrush of technology.

It reminded me of the issue Librarians faced with the arrival of end user search in the mid 90’s which finished their monopoly of being the people who found stuff in organisations.

Day Two took a deeper dive into technology and its potential impact.

AI in Legal today

This slide sets out where AI is making a difference in Legal.

I tweeted having heard Cliff Fluet’s excellent presentation:

Paralegals beware. AI is coming. Adapt or die?

And I questioned:

How wide is scope of AI? More than Doc Analysis / Creation. Opportunity to broaden knowledge base

As yet no one had focused on expertise and profiling so when one presenter cited the case where a newly arrived CEO asked the Head of HR / Talent Management to let him have profiles / competencies of the staff using their system it got my attention.

I asked whether the results the HR head gave the CEO inferred a level of expertise. It didn’t which got thinking that if the data set is incomplete and the issue of self reinforcing bias is not addressed then over reliance on one source for identifying ‘experts’ is dangerous. Imagine your career prospects if for whatever reason your name wasn’t on the ‘expert’ list given to the CEO?

and finally

So where do I see the state of expertise and profiling systems? Patchy!

Yes there are certainly companies who ‘get it’ but can they do it?

I am indebted here to Martin White who in an excellent report “People and expertise seeking – an overview” summarises the predicament thus:

The most important lesson learned is the need for an expertise location strategy that is linked into HR processes, knowledge management, training, job appraisals and social media development. Finding people with expertise is not a ‘search problem’.  Good search tools can certainly help but without attention being paid to profile quality (even if other types of content are being searched) and a commitment by employees to share their knowledge expertise discovery will not be as successful as anticipated or required.

My takeaways:

  • KIM professionals need a clear strategy (working in partnership with other stakeholders such as HR and IT) and be clear on the questions being solved by any system;
  • They need to be clear what they are getting, what’s missing and how it mitigates the potential for self reinforcing bias when they enter discussions with vendors around automating expertise seeking and profiling;
  • They need to recognise the importance of their role in facilitating the adoption of such systems and accept this is just a part of a portfolio of approaches of identifying, capturing and retaining expertise;
  • They need to be clear what critical knowledge actually is in their organisation and who is likely to have it in order to assess the veracity of the results of any pilot;
  • It doesn’t matter what solution you adopt, if your environment is not conducive to the sharing of expertise and people don’t see the value in it then save the money; and
  • In any event you cannot capture everything people know; we learn and share through stories (failures rather than successes) and those often remain hidden.

When your environment speaks to who you are and what you do.

An invited guest at KM Legal UK in Canary Wharf I was looking forward to a less participative role at Ark’s flagship event for Legal Knowledge Management professionals. But the keynote speaker was unable to attend and so at very short notice (2 hours) I agreed to talk about a topic which I’ve been spending a fair bit of time on these past few months namely “Developing Effective Collaborative Knowledge Spaces“.

A separate account of that event and the NetIKX afternoon I ran the previous week on a similar theme will appear in due course. Suffice to note both were very well attended with enthusiastic participants.

I want to focus instead on my visit last Thursday evening after KM Legal to Aecom‘s London office in Aldgate. I confess I knew nothing about them even though as I discovered I’d seen their work in many countries.  When Malcolm Weston, who was at the NetIKX event and gave an interesting description of his organisation’s building, asked if I’d like to see what they’ve done I jumped at the opportunity. And I’m glad I did.

In gauging how effective the space is I refer to some of the elements Neil Usher had used a few weeks ago in Lisboa at SocialNow in a great presentation describing the collaborative environment he created at Sky.

Here’s how 4 of his 12 stacked up at Aecom.

daylight

One of the prime contributors to an effective collaborative environment, it was noticeable how Aecom had maximised the use of natural daylight especially for breakout areas.

Ambient lighting is supported by excellent desk top lighting that can be adjusted for different tasks.

 

influence

I have always believed in the importance of plants. Aecom appear to agree as each ‘hub’ or work area is separated by plants not filing cabinets or screens as many organisations do.

refresh

Nutrition is key: few of today’s ‘factories’ house manual labour of the sort that was common twenty years ago.

 

 

 

It’s about refreshing the brain so Aecom provide great food at great prices in a wonderful setting.

space

Texture and soft materials are hugely important in creating moods and absorbing sound. Two great illustrations: canvass chairs for individual conference calls and soft furnishing and fabrics outside of the client meeting rooms.

and finally

I chose not to find out what Aecom did or what it stood for before I went hoping that it would become clear from the way their space is planned.

Words that came to mind as I toured their building: professional, quiet, understated, calm, dedicated, experienced, innovative.

Aecom’s office housed over 5 floors 4 of which are interconnected by an internal staircase (all protected by fire proof materials) had been really well thought through and feels like its a great place to work.

It serves as a great flagship for their London operation, part of a global organisation that in their words,

“Worldwide, we design, build, finance, operate and manage projects and programs that unlock opportunities, protect our environment and improve people’s lives.”

 

 

“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.

 

 

Brexit, Bollywood and the need for ‘assisted’ search

As regular readers of this column will know, when in England I try to begin my day in Eastbourne with a coffee (a Decaf, Espresso is off the menu now) before walking back along the seafront to work in Meads Village where I live. I always take a notepad to capture the revelations that occasionally come to me.

Bollywood beckons

IMG_4727Today was a case in point. As I got to the seafront I was approached by an Indian man who looked lost.

His English was heavily accented and my command of Hindi is so poor that our conversation was a bit stilted.  He asked, “where is the fliming?'”  I replied, “what filming?” to which the response was, “The Bollywood Filming at the Tower” which I inferred to be the Wish Tower (a notable landmark with a view to the pier – see alongside) and showed him the way.

NB I didn’t hang around for a role as an extra since I am no longer supple enough to participate in the dance routines that often feature in Bollywood movies.

Brexit, Paramedics and the Patient Access System

IMG_4733My second strange encounter was to find two paramedics and an ambulance on the promenade by one of the thatched beach shelters which are used in good weather as overnight accommodation by those who have none.

I mention this since it became the talk of the promenade prompting the same sort of negative comment I heard at the previous night’s EU Brexit debate: “There’s too many people here, I can’t get a Doctor’s appointment when I call and yet those people get an ambulance and paramedics”.

Strangely enough this got the creative juices flowing –  a case of disruptive influences perhaps. Mulling over the (lack of) debate that took place at the EU Referendum event I attended the previous evening, same old non arguments about statistics that can be interpreted in multiple ways, it triggered a thought about the challenge of having too much information and knowledge and not knowing how to locate it or indeed what to do with it.

To explain. For reasons too many to go into I have become familiar with the National Health Service’s Patient Access System. It’s an extranet that enables a patient to communicate with clinicians, make appointments, renew prescriptions and review all results and examine the historical trends,  I can have a blood test one day and see the results online the following day. It works brilliantly yet only 30% of patients actively use it.

If I am overseas and need additional medication on my return to the UK I can organise it remotely. It allows me to manage any health issues and improves my understanding of diagnosis and treatment so that a visit to the doctor is much more effective for her and me. It’s a far cry from the promenader’s “…I can’t get an appointment” perhaps confirming that knowing where to find ‘stuff’ and how to interact with systems is beyond the ken of many.

It reinforces my view that stakeholder engagement is both essential and difficult. Few of us have the analytic mind or patience to dig beneath the covers. We live in a soundbite society where we are used to instant responses and expect technology to provide it.

AgesIn the case of Patient Access I imagine engagement is a bigger challenge due to its wider range of potential users than in a business environment where focus is on Baby Boomer to Generation Z .

For more on this topic check out What’s in it for me: The challenge of sharing client knowledge and broadening relationships.)

Finding ‘stuff’

The Patient Access System is a great example of consolidating information and data yet is the not success is could be as many people don’t know about it, feel overwhelmed by it or can’t be bothered to try it.  These what’s in it for me issues show themselves in business too.

Try as we might technology makes it impossible to switch off from work (unless we switch off) though French legislation making it an offence to send emails to workers outside of the normal working ‘day’ might contradict that statement.  Yet we are increasingly time constrained and swamped by ‘stuff’ and email.

So what’s the answer? Assisted Search? Tagging? Automatic Indexing on the fly?

Recently two fellow Knowledge & Information Authors have opined on how to overcome the challenge of making it easier for people to find what they are looking for.

Nick Milton’s blog tackles the subject of Knowledge Bases and I was drawn to (and agree with) his assertion that you should

Structure your stored knowledge based on what people will be looking for, not based on who created it.

even though its not always possible to imagine all uses people will make of the knowledge base when they add content. I also concur that there is considerable value in structuring Knowledge Bases to support Communities of Practice or Thematic Areas. To read more: http://www.nickmilton.com/2016/05/how-to-structure-knowledge-to-be.html#ixzz49rCe0MOL

To an extent Nick’s blog post is recognition that search is not working: if it were then why would you need ‘assisted’ search in the form of a Knowledge Base.  I need to declare prior interest here as 20 years ago I was President of Verity’s European User Group (Verity was the granddady of search). Verity’s Topic Search used to create collections which assembled like minded content into meangful groupings.

Martin White’s cms search blog  http://www.cmswire.com/information-management/enterprise-search-is-bringing-me-down/ backs up the search is not working view and Martin notes:

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?

And finally

In Lisboa at last month’s SocialNow event which among other things aims to shine a light on workplace collaboration tools much of the talk was about tagging of content so that it was more easily found.  The danger of relying on Tagging like Taxonomy is that one man’s tag is another man’s conundrum.

Perhaps this example best sums it up. I reluctantly became a Mac user in 2010. Having grown up on Windows infrastructure I was wedded to the idea of Explorer to manage my documents and files.  I was assured that Mac Search would solve all my problems and had no need of a filing structure or Knowledge Base. It doesn’t and though I would never go back I still use an Explorer like structure to augment search.

It seems Assisted Search is here to stay for the foreseeable future.