In a previous post I shared my thoughts on how the free form systems allow value to emerge that doesn’t happen in specifically task designed systems.
Systems that are formed or designed for a function are great in achieving a process, these are refered to ERP systems, or as Ross Dawson calls them “Easily Repeatable Process”. But sometimes they are too rigid and don’t allow for exceptions or workarounds, so you end up with people having word document notes, that aren’t shared properly…BTW a wiki is the perfect communal workaround (heuristics, rule of thumb) tool.
But besides this Ross Dawson mentions that the competitive edge is not in these ERP systems, as any company can use these, the edge is free form unstructured tools that let content emerge, patterns manifest and reveal themselves, analysing these patterns tells you a lot about what’s going on.
So it’s not just about getting things done, having a freeform space also teases out all this valuable stuff that may happen to have more applications than just the task at hand, this is know-how that can be re-used and built upon. This stuff may not have an immediate need but it’s shared anyway, someone may react creating new insight.
Networks not only let you publish and communally share notes and opinions, but they enable you to connect with people and discover, and this is where the effectiveness and value exists. It’s all about creating an environment for stuff to propagate and flourish, I personally think this is very organic and more like an ecosystem.
“Those of us who nurture purposeful social networks are like the landscape designers at new college campuses who don’t build walkways immediately. Rather, they see where students choose to walk and pave those pathways. You end up with pathways where people want to walk. McKinsey is more like the architect who begins by uprooting the trees on a building site because “it’s easier to design on a blank piece of paper.”
Another aspect besides the emerging path (macro), is the content that makes it up (micro).
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that the task based perspective of sharing information was not appropriate in a few ways…people don’t like to be told, how is it related to their explicit job, what’s in it for me, how do I locate it, etc…
Also to blame were the tools, nowadays it’s so easy to publish a blog post:
- very simple freeform text box, and hit submit
- blog posts don’t have to be polished, the blog post format is synonymous with spontaneous, rough edged publishing
(mostly because the next day another post will clarify or supersede, or you are reacting to news and want to throw up something quickly, same goes to responding to discussion…and just the fact that personal thoughts and opinion can be published like casual conversation).
Now compare this with a Document Management System (DMS):
- write a word document, which is synonymous as a formal format
- because of this you may leave out personal know-how, or experience-type information as you feel you shouldn’t waffle in a presentable word document (this is a pity as this waffling is where the tacit knowledge is).
- then you have to upload the document and fill out some meta-data
- who will now know that document is there…no-one…so then what’s the use
- it’s static, how can the document grow with discussion and lead to new insight
Blog posts are not narrow, they don’t just contain the final answer, this format is conducive to your workings out, how you got there, the scenario, all these idiosyncrasies and peripheral things, whereas a document in a DMS is more narrow and formal (issue-solution).
As you work on a deliverable you make blog about your insights and thoughts along the way. Someone you don’t know in another office may read this and contribute some of their insight. This opportunity to leverage the social capital has made your work: easy, better, saved you time, save you money, lead to another decision, think about other tasks you may need to do, point you to a contact or someone’s else’s work, etc…
Either way, since you are sharing stuff along the way (putting yourself out there), your end product becomes better for it as you are tapping into the wisdom or crowds.
One day if you are having an issue with something, you may use some of the know-how contained in a past blog post to apply to your situation, even though this blog post is about something else, it may have some general info, clues or leads that you can apply to this new issue.
If this were a document it may be more formal, more narrow and focused, not containing any know-how that could be applied to other issues.
Blogs have a sense of place, a face, a subscription mechanism, interaction…all this coupled with its simplicity makes it more worthwhile to blog, in turn others blog, and you connect and tune into knowledge flows.
The more personal publishing, and reacting to each other, the more it becomes a thriving market…it’s not just about sharing anymore, it’s creating value, it’s educating and learning off each other. It’s self assembling, self organising, and self rewarding (people that read and react to your content makes you feel valuable…inturn rewarding).
The renewed motivation for what I just mentioned above comes from an excerpt in a post form e-gineer:
“The time taken to correctly phrase thoughts and distil ideas is unavoidable, but can be minimised by changing our expectation of shared content away from “finished product” towards “work in progress”. Publishing information early and often (rather than infrequently and completely) moves authorship away from essays and succinct conclusions towards sharing of insights and decisions. The ultimate method for sharing without increasing work is to move the work in progress into an open environment (share everything by default).”
Jordan Frank has the macro view on why the control and structured approach doesn’t scale, he riffs on Andrew McAfee, David Weinberger, and displays this quote from Bill Ives:
“The irony of enterprise 2.0 is that you actually get more control because the free form nature of the tools allow the business people to decide on where structure occurs, not the people who make the software.”
More from Jordan:
“Enterprise 1.0″ approaches sought to consolidate and centralize information onto singular ECM or DM systems with one search box and what became lots of “need to know” (vs. “can know”) silos (in the form of specifically permissioned files or collaborative workspaces) within the big centralized system.”
He points to Sandy Kemsley’s post on David Weinberger’s keynote speech at FF08:
“He looked at how many projects, typically physical projects, require a much greater degree of control as they increase in size, but contrasts that with the web, which has growth only because of the lack of control. Control doesn’t scale.”
More from Sandy’s review:
“All contents are also connections: everything leads to everything else, creating a wonderfully messy mass of interconnected data. The web, of course, excels at creating connections because of the basic premise of linking: we create hypertext links on pages to make connections that are important to us. The user revolution, therefore, is not just about us creating our own content; we also control the links, hence control the connections between content and the organization of that content. Digg, Twitter, your RSS feeds and other socially-created sites create our new “front page”, replacing the newspaper of old: why would you read someone else’s idea of what’s important, rather than self-select what you’re interested in reading?”