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.


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:

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

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”.

On Portugal’s recovery: ‘Don’t compare us to Greece’

The Portuguese media has been awash with stories about attempts to renegotiate the terms of the bailout negotiated by the government with the international community (The Troika).  After the Irish Finance Minister went public saying Portugal should honour its obligations as they had and not ‘do a Greece’ a senior  politician from Lisbon came back with the above retort. It’s a sore subject; the Portuguese are a proud people with a history of meeting their obligations yet during 2 weeks talking to people in Porto, Lisbon and Faro I’ve come to realize just how precarious the recovery is.

Food, drink and the cost of living

Eating out is a national pastime; lunches are taken seriously and out of the office. Today an average 2 course meal for 2 with wine in Lisboa will set diners back €35-40.  Sounds good?  Compare that with the average weekly wage of €200 and then consider that Portugal now ‘enjoys’ some of the highest priced utilities in Europe (among top 5) and you get some idea of the shift in habits that is occurring.

The imposition of a 23% tax on eating out, on wine and even on golf have all taken their toll. Its no wonder there is a campaign for a minimum monthly wage of €600 and a reversal of the pension decrease the ruling party introduced when the austerity budget was introduced.  For a great breakdown of the cost of living and interesting commentary see here: Cost of Living in Portugal

Wages and disposable income

In Portugal, people earn $24 384 per year on average, less than the OECD average of $34 466. Not everyone earns that amount however. Whereas the top 20% of the population earn $30 578 per year, the bottom 20% live on $13 056 per year.

Another essential factor of employment quality is job security. Employees working on temporary contracts are more vulnerable than workers with an open-ended contract. In Portugal, close to 9% of total employees have a contract of 6 months or less, slightly lower than the average of 10% for 30 OECD countries. This figure suggests Portugal has been successful in stabilising working contracts and encouraging open-ended contracts.

Stealth taxes and the road toll debacle

Hiring a car is easy, even if the companies now rival Ryanair in dreaming up additional must have extras, using the road toll system is not.  For a start the hire company will try and ‘sell’ use of a tracking device that charges the car for using any autoroute subject to a toll charge.  If you refuse their tempting offer then a labyrinthine process awaits when you come to settle your tolls involving numerous trips to the Post Office most of whom are oblivious to their new responsibilities.  And the galling thing: it is virtually impossible to turn around and leave the autoroute!

Three days on we still don’t know how much we owe for the first part of the Faro-Lisbon trip and we’ve been out of the country since Saturday!

The black economy

A friend who knows about such matters told me that up to 40% of trade is conducted outside of official channels.  Restaurants and indeed the open top bus companies are reluctant to process credit card transactions to avoid tax – many have signs that notify you in advance and those that do not are often ok with you going back to pay later. It’s a situation many travelers will find uncomfortable.

Roll back the frontiers of the state

‘It won’t work if it’s legal’ was one chilling indictment of the authorities’ efforts to promote new ideas.  Wading through treacle is how to best describe the insidious intervention of the state in an attempt to seize revenue from whichever source it can.

The most recent example is the edict by which all houses must put white posts up to signify the boundaries of their property. And of course everyone will pay for the privilege of registering his or her ‘new’ boundaries!

Barbarians at the gate

Real estate has bottomed and in Lisbon / the Lisbon coast a slight rise is being fuelled by overseas buyers from China and Russia perhaps prompted by the policy whereby rich individuals can purchase a visa permitting access to the rest of the EU.

This from CNN Money

Portugal has been offering these deals for just over a year. Foreigners receive a residency permit when they invest €500,000 in property. After five years, they can apply for permanent residency, and EU citizenship one year later. Portugal is also trading visas to those who inject capital or create jobs in the country — similar to the U.S. immigrant investor program, which requires a minimum spend of $500,000. Like those on offer in Spain, the Portuguese visas grant access to the Schengen area, which includes the bulk of the EU but not the U.K.

Official figures show more than 330 visas have been issued in the first 12 months of the program, raising €225 million.

And yet

The eternal frustration among the chattering classes I met is that the country’s promotional activities are too low key. Two examples: I had no knowledge at all about the Portuguese Army’s involvement alongside the Allies in Belgium in WW1. In reading an excellent account (balagan timeline) of their involvement I was amused to see this quote: ‘…The Portuguese soldiers hated the British rations…’ and; I was also unaware as were most I spoke to that Foreign Pensioners can reside and collect their retirement pensions in Portugal entirely tax free. Portugal has launched an aggressive measure to attract affluent worldwide pensioners to come and reside in Portugal. The lure is zero tax on such pensions.

In addition to these tax incentives Portugal has:Sao Bento Station Porto

  • great food, a great climate, wonderful architecture  and superb scenery;
  • great roads with no one on them;
  • really talented people with ideas and imagination;
  • it costs less (17% of disposable income) to keep a roof over your head there than elsewhere in the OECD (21%)

But:Dessert at Darwin

  • there is a lack of industrial manufacturing;
  • 35% of under 25’s have no job and many are leaving and perhaps most seriously;
  • there is a cadre of middle managers aged 45-60 who are in entrenched positions across the government and block ideas and the career prospects of others and;
  • there is a complete lack of trust in the political parties and politicians and a general view that the increased taxation is choking growth.

in summary:

Portugal will pull through, of that I’ve no doubt.  There are signs of recovery and despite the national mood (which a good performance by the national team at the World Cup will lift) this period of readjustment was probably needed.

Habits are changing, as an illustration the biggest growth market appears to be in building and running residential homes for the elderly something that surprised me.

future of work: ‘cooperation not collaboration…’: takeaways from SocialNow Lisboa 2013

Ana Neves

Ana Neves

I’ve been in Lisboa at SocialNow 2013.

It’s a unique format event, the brainchild of Ana Neves, wherein social tool vendors present their products to a to the senior management (expert panel) of a fictitious company (CableInc) in the presence of an interested audience.

Expert Panel

Expert Panel


Here are my favourite tweets:

And a few tweets from me:

  • @stoweboyd idea of future archetypes compelling. World of tomorrow: Freelancers, Generalist, Followers and Cooperators


    Archetypes of Future Workers








It being Portugal where food and wine are essential for networking it had to be first class and it was – this is the Day Two lunch menu!


Day Two lunch menu

If you’d like to see the #socialnow twitter streams I consolidated them into a Storify account which you can find here.