The best no-bullshit “Rules of Networking”

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The question was asked, on Quora,  “How do I get better at networking?

There were 38 answers. The response that got the most upvotes, was the one by Zach Freedman. Someone who tells it like it is. His response was certainly different from the other responses, and garnered the most comments (and, as mentioned, upvotes)…

  1. Networking is bullshit. You don’t “network”, you meet people. Get out of the results-oriented mindset and enjoy the conversations. Be a goddamn human about it. Put down your phone, because…
  2. Comfort zones are bullshit. The only network worth having is one that has a diverse group. Wide and shallow is the name of the game. With a wide network, you have more interesting conversations, more options for solving problems, and more ears on the ground to spot trends. Grow some balls, leave your silo, and make friends with people who are utterly unlike you. Twitter and Facebook shield you, which is why…
  3. Social media is bullshit. Talk to people in the real world. A lot. Expand your options using meetups, clubs, mixers, and getting friends to drag you along to their social stuff. Try and talk to everyone at the event. Ignore your business cards, because…
    Business cards are bullshit. There’s exactly one reason to use a card – you take their card because you want to follow up on something they said. They like old Benzes and you have a friend who collects them? Ask for their card, write “Connect w Jeff re Benzes” on the front, pocket the card, and follow up with it. Don’t give out your card unless asked, because…
  4. “Let’s talk later” is bullshit. They’ll never follow up with you. The ball is firmly in your court. If the conversation went well, call them back within two days, link them with what you wrote down, and check in every two weeks or so. Two weeks?! Yes, because…
  5. You never stop selling. You never stop shipping. Your life is vibrant, fascinating, and fast-moving. Every week, you have new people to connect and new developments to tell others about. And you do so.

Your regular contact builds friends. Your excitement makes them want to listen. Your activity spreads the word that you get things done.

Conversations aren’t “How are you doing? Fine, how are you?” They’re real, visceral, and worthwhile. Most importantly, you’re actually helping people, and that’s why you start networking in the first place.

 You can read the original in Quora here.

Simple advice – How to Make Ugly Slides Beautiful

This slidedeck presents some fantastic tips on turning slides from dull to wow. I really like this one.

Understanding the Frustration of a PM

Oops

So there he was. Charlie had been assigned as lead BA on a project with an external client. “Cool” he thought, but still felt a bit nervous. There were others in his department that had been in the game longer, and he was still reeling from having the proverbial  “slap in the face” in an earlier project that had turned slightly pear-shaped..

As such, Charlie decided to ask some of his colleagues for help. They were most forthcoming, and decided to hook in other expertise. “All fine” he thought, “the more experience available in this, the better.” 

Continue reading

Look Down

In a recent post (“Is being Socially Connected online really that damaging?“), I discussed a response to a video on YouTube that preached the sadness of the way people are constantly online.

I’ve just discovered another response to “Look Up”. This one is called “Look Down“.

And here’s the link to another good one:

 

How To Say “This Is Crap” In Different Cultures

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

I had been holed up for six hours in a dark conference room with 12 managers. It was a group-coaching day and each executive had 30 minutes to describe in detail a cross-cultural challenge she was experiencing at work and to get feedback and suggestions from the others at the table.

It was Willem’s turn, one of the Dutch participants, who recounted an uncomfortable snafu when working with Asian clients.  “How can I fix this relationship?” Willem asked his group of international peers.

Maarten, the other Dutch participant who knew Willem well, jumped in with his perspective. “You are inflexible and can be socially ill-at-ease. That makes it difficult for you to communicate with your team,” he asserted. As Willem listened, I could see his ears turning red (with embarrassment or anger? I wasn’t sure) but that didn’t seem to bother Maarten, who calmly continued to assess Willem’s weaknesses in…

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BA Practices in a Virtual World

Virtual Working This is the another post in my “Today I read …” series where I aim to summarise. or recapitulate, excellent, and educational, articles that I have read
Previous: As a BA, be aware of your motives

Today I read the transcript, and viewed the slide deck, from one of the IIBA Spotlight Series: BA Practices in a Virtual World (from May 2013). I was particularly interested in this,as I am a strong believer that projects can be completed by groups, and individuals, that are located in geographical disparate locations. The webinar was presented by Larry Simon of the Inflection Group.

(Note – this webinar is archived on the IIBA site, but is only available to IIBA members.)

The webinar, promised that I would learn the following:

  • How Facilitation has Changed
  • Building Rapport Virtually
  • Managing Participation
  • Tools for Virtual Teams
  • Demo: Powernoodle for Virtual Facilitation

This was promising.

I read through the slides and then went through the webinar transcript… After the usual introductions, etc, Larry pointed out, through the use of an example (he use to lead a facilitated centre, or an accelerated solutions environment) that the standard practice was to get everyone in the same room, and to hash things out, with copious use of whiteboards, and “group sessions”.
This would continue until a solution had been reached, or an agreement on what the problem was, what the requirements are, etc. There was an expectation that the classic Form/Storm/Norm/Perform would take place.
He then goes on to highlight the fact that, often, getting everyone in the same room, is not possible. This may be because of different geographical locations, or the fact that people work from home, or for any other myriad of reasons. (“Your office is where you are.”)

The presenter describes several handy techniques, and tools that can be used when holding a “virtual workshop”. Handy things that we should all write on a piece of paper and keep in our pocket for reference. Things such as being considerate when talking, building rapport by disclosing something about ourselves that the other person didn’t know, or mirroring others (without mocking).  Finding out as much as you can about the other attendees is also a good tip (but the presenter warns that there is a fine line between being interested in a person, and stalking them.)

Taking notes during the session is also a recommended practice. Recording the sessions is also a “really good suggestion”. I won’t describe the other incredibly useful gems that get mentioned.

Then Larry describes several tools that can be used for virtual meetings. There are tools that allow for the sharing of screens,or for sharing files, and documents (anyone everheard of Google Docs?). This culminates in a demo of Powernoodle, an online collaboration tool which, actually,offers some great functionality.

There are quite a few good questions asked my the attendees of the webinar, but these were not answered in a satisfactory way (I felt).

Expecting More

All in all, I was expecting much more from this webinar. I have seen large enterprise projects work where the stakeholders and the implementation team, were all spread across multiple cities, countries,and continents, where English was not everyone’s native language.

I felt the advice, and information, that the presenter gave was a bit thin. It did not have a lot of depth. Having said that, I understand that the field of working with disparate teams is something that cannot be given justice in an hour-long webinar.

In fact, this topic is something that I have been,and will continue to, delve into more deeply (including Agile and remote teams). I’ll keep you updated.

The webinar can be viewed on the IIBA site (members only).

A PDF of the slide deck is available on the IIBA site here, and the transcript can be downloaded here. (Again – members only)

If you like this post, feel free to share. If you have comments that you’d like to make, please go ahead and use the comment box below. Cheers  

Working Across Time Zones

WashULaw

Chelsea Wilson, the Community Relations Manager from Washington University School of Law (@WashULaw), contacted me recently about a new resource that they had created: the “Working Across Time Zones” infographic. She asked me whether I was interested in sharing this on my blog.

Having worked for teams that are spread across multiple time zones (and having lived in multiple different countries), I know the importance of “awareness” when it comes to communicating with others. (Refer my earlier posts.)

@WashULaw also gave some excellent tips when working across time zones. I’ve repeated these below, and added my own comments.

  1. Stick to one reference point. When discussing a time for a conference call, use a single reference time zone – generally yours or your counterpart’s. This can cut down on the possibility for confusion quite a bit.
    Agree totally. There’s nothing worse than trying to work out whether that’s 3pm your time, or 3pm my time.
  2. Always specify a time zone. Don’t forget to mention a time zone when discussing times. It’s a good habit to be in even if you aren’t making international calls. With today’s interconnected world, you never know where a person might be located when you correspond with them for the first time.
    I would go one further. As well as the time zone, I suggest adding the offset from GMT (or UTC, if you prefer). Just having the time zone of the organiser can be confusing. Not everyone knows what the acronyms mean. But most people know what their own time is in relation to GMT/UTC. And by adding the GMT/UTC offset when discussing times, it makes it easier to work out the time difference. For example 11am NZDT (-13GMT) helps someone in another time zone work out what 11pm NZDT would be in wherever they were.
  3. Use a modern calendar app. Google Calendar, for example, will allow you to create events and email invitations that automatically adjust for each invitee’s time zone. All you have to do is set a meeting time in your own time zone — no calculations are necessary.
    Having the app adjust the time certainly is handy.
  4. Check the time before making a suggestion. Again, Google is your friend. If you search for, “Time in _________” and insert the name of the city you want to know about, Google will tell you the current time in that city. This can be very helpful when calculating the distance between your time zone and your counterpart’s. Once you have an idea of the gap, you can figure out which times are optimal for each of you, and you can start off the conversation by suggesting a time that might work right off the bat.
    The WorldTimeBuddy is a good way of seeing the times of different locations at a glance.
  5. Don’t forget about daylight savings. Some parts of the world observe daylight savings while others do not. On top of that, even if both parties observe this practice, the date when the clocks change might be different. @WashULaw’s  graphic indicates if the cities listed observe daylight savings time but don’t forget to check the specifics prior to scheduling meetings around that time of year.

…and two more that I would add are:

6. 24hour format. The concept of am/pm is not used everywhere. Many countries use the 24hour format for their time. (Even 12am/12pm can be confusing for people who do use am/pm). Best to include the time in both 12hr, and 24hr, format to avoid confusion. E.g. 11pm/23:00.

7. Be specific. Avoid saying something like “half ten”. In some parts of the world “half ten” is a quick way of saying “half past ten (or 10:30). In other parts of the world “half ten” means 09:30)”. This can occur when people from different countries are discussing times. Best to be aware of the confusion that it might cause, and state a specific time.

Here’s the graphic from @WashULaw

Working Across Time Zones

Working Across Time Zones provided by @WashULaw, an online LL.M Degree program from Washington University School of Law

A stupid question is …

A stupid question is any question that can be answered through Google.

However, this removes the opportunity for dialogue. For discussing, and learning…

For example, I want to know what HTML5 is. I could go to Google, (or Bing, or any search engine) type the four letters and one numeral in, and get an abundance of results.

However, if I ask someone, there are a number of outcomes:

stupid question

Click on image for a larger version

Do you see what happened there? The easy solution was to Google the answer. Simple, easy & fast. However, by asking someone, I engaged in dialogue, and when the person started explaining the answer, the dialogue started becoming rich, and each interaction created new richness.

People communicating,and sharing ideas, thoughts, knowledge, concerns is, actually, a pretty great thing. :O)

The Silverback gorilla and the Outsiders

Silverback

The large male silverback stood with a menacing look on his face as the small group of silverbacks from a different territory marched into the confine. The large male’s stance, and posture, said it all. “This is my territory – I am here to protect my group.” The only thing separating the large male from the “outsiders” was a flat piece of wood sitting atop of 4 posts.

The outsider silverbacks started to grunt and gesture at a piece of paper that was sitting on the flat piece of wood. The look on the large male’s face grew even more menacing. Suddenly he puffed out his chest and beat it a few times. The outsider silverbacks went quiet for a moment. They exchanged nervous glances between each other. The alpha male in the outsider group stood resolute and gestured back at the paper.

The large silverback started beating his chest rapidly and made large scowling vocalizations. He was clearly challenging the outsiders. Again the alpha male from the outsiders stood firm, and picked up the piece of paper. He looked the large male directly in the eye.

All of a sudden the large male withdrew. He stopped beating his chest and became very mild. It was all bluff. The outsider group continued with their grunts and gestures while pointing at the piece of paper.

-  Observations from a Project Planning Meeting

Revisiting Hofstede’s five cultural differences

Instead of the convergence phenomena we expected with information technologies availability (the “global village culture”), cultural differences are still significant today and diversity tends to increase. So, in order to be able to have cross-cultural relations, we have to be aware of these cultural differences.

In an earlier post, I talk about Geert Hofstede, a Dutchman, who came up with a way to understand different cultures.

As I mentioned in that earlier post, Hofstede’s model helped me to get my head around what the small things were they was making the culture I was (then) in, different from my own.

Recently I came across a course (“An introduction to business cultures“) that the Open University runs. The very first part of the course discusses Hofstede’s five cultural differences. Because the material is available under the Creative Commons ‘Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike’, and because it’s still really relevant I have reproduced the text from part 1.1 of the above-mentioned course.

Hofstede’s five Cultural Dimensions

A series of perspectives that we might use to achieve a different insight into business was introduced by Morgan (1986) in his book entitled Images of an Organization. One of these was the business as a culture, a type of micro-society where people work and ‘live’ together on a daily basis, with certain rules and understandings about what is acceptable and what is not. The idea of a business having a culture was developed from the work of Hofstede on national cultures (1980). His research focused on ways of measuring national culture and how these ‘measures’ might work differently in different contexts. The cultural values that are important in a national culture, he suggested, could be reflected in the way businesses within that country are operated and organised.

Hofstede’s five dimensions (he developed four in 1980, then added a fifth in 1991) were:

Power distance This concerns the extent to which less powerful members of organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. National cultures that demonstrated what Hofstede called a ‘low power distance’ are ones in which there is a concern to minimise inequalities. Hofstede included Sweden and New Zealand as examples of this. In general, Hofstede found that Latin American and Latin European (France and Spain) countries had higher power distance scores. The less powerful in these societies tend to look to those with power to make decisions, and inequalities within society are more acceptable. This is represented by a tendency for the centralisation of power and the subordination of those with less power within businesses.

Individualism/collectivism In an individualistic society, people are expected to look after themselves and their families. In the case of business this is reflected in, for example, employment contracts based on hiring and firing. Two examples of countries with high scores on this dimension were Australia and Canada. In more collective societies, people are more concerned for others and the culture is based around more cohesive groups, such as the family, which offer protection in exchange for loyalty. This tendency is reflected in businesses as well as elsewhere in society. Hofstede cited Ecuador and Indonesia as examples of more collective societies.

Masculinity/femininity This refers to the degree to which gender roles are distinct and adhered to within a society. In high femininity societies, social gender roles overlap, with both men and women valuing ‘feminine’ qualities such as modesty, intuition and quality of life above the more traditionally ‘masculine’ qualities of aggression and competition. Hofstede’s research suggested that Denmark and the Netherlands were more feminine cultures, while many other Western countries exhibited more masculine values. The USA was ranked fifteenth out of 53 nations on this masculinity score. Japan, the UK and West Germany also scored highly on masculine values.

Uncertainty avoidance This concerns the extent to which the members of a society feel threatened by uncertain and unknown situations. Hofstede suggested that Jamaica and Singapore were relatively low uncertainty avoidance cultures, where precision and punctuality are less important, innovation is encouraged and people are motivated by being esteemed by, or belonging to, others above other things. High uncertainty avoidance scores mean that there is a fear of ambiguous situations, a preference for being busy and being precise and punctual. Relatively high scores on this dimension were found for Latin American and Latin European countries, Japan and South Korea.

Confucian/dynamism This refers to the extent to which long-termism or short-termism appears to be the dominant approach. Long-termism stresses perseverance and being sparing with resources. Short-termism, in Hofstede’s analysis, involves a greater emphasis on quick results. Hofstede found that the USA tended towards short-termism, while the Netherlands was the most long-termist European nation, ranked tenth out of 23 countries surveyed.

These differences between national cultures are based in deep-rooted values and so are largely implicit rather than openly acknowledged. They create all sorts of problems for employees in multinational companies who go to work abroad, or for representatives doing business with suppliers or customers in other countries. We can use the simple activity below to explore some of these differences.

Activity 1

0 hours 10 minutes

Purpose: to consider business practices in different cultural contexts.

Task: consider each item in the following list. In your country’s culture, is this behaviour considered to be acceptable or not?

  • Paying an agent for an introduction to a business opportunity.

  • Paying a government agent for bureaucratic procedures to be bypassed or speeded up.

  • Making a copy of a product that you have seen at an international trade fair.

  • Paying people to find loopholes in tax laws.

  • Giving gifts to the purchasing manager in a large business organisation.

  • Charging high interest rates for unsecured loans to individuals.

Discussion
If you and I came from different cultures, we would give different answers here. You might think some of these behaviours were inappropriate or unethical, but I might think you were wrong. In either of our countries, these business behaviours could be against the law, but, as a visitor, we might not know that, nor realise that we were offending the people with whom we were attempting to do business.

Note – Hofstede also went on to add a sixth dimension “indulgence” at a later stage.

no team member …

indispensableIn one of the responses in an ongoing discussion in LinkedIn, I saw the following sentence:

no team member should be indispensable. That’s a *team* problem, not an individual’s problem.

The discussion was related to the availability of a team member during a Sprint phase, and the above-mentioned was just one sentence in the lengthy discussion.

It really captured what I’ve tried to portray in an earlier post:
What secret agents can teach us about Project Teams

Many thanks to Paul Oldfield who made this comment

Virtually working – managing virtual teams

virtual-teams

I’ve worked in a globally dispersed team with colleagues in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the US. The team worked really well.

Virtual Teams do require a little bit of extra effort, however, to get all the players to “gel” well together. The team I worked in had regular communication, and an awareness that things had to happen differently than in a usual everyone-in-the-same-building situation. There was no water cooler, or hall, conversations that resulted in any other (remote) team member wondering what the heck was going on. There was no surprises, and each member respected the culture of the other, as well as the fact that, for most, English was a second language.

When the team did get together in the same place, it was always “business as usual” – it never felt like we were meeting strangers.

Because of my experience with working in a virtual team, my interest was piqued when I stumbled across the web site of MVT. MVT stands for “Managing Virtual Teams“. It’s a relatively young company (4 years) that provides consulting and excellent resources focused on managing multicultural virtual teams.

As well as several courses, and other services, MVT has a list of free Team Activities that can be used to improve the communication, and work, in a virtual team. You need to register, but there are 32 pages of the activities and they fall under the following categories:

Further to that MVT offers several free virtual team Guides on such things as Project Management, Training, Human Resources and Multicultural Teams.

MVT is run by Anna Danes. and Carolina Leon Maya. Anna has a degree in Communications and is based in Spain. Carolina has a degree in Psychology, and is based in Colombia. Theses facts make me believe that they understand the kind of work environment that I described in the opening paragraph of this post.

If you want to learn about getting your teams (virtual or not) working together better, I strongly recommend that you check out MVT’s site. Now that they are on my radar I am going to explore what they have to offer more.

Emergent Collaboration

Mike Jacobs from Chess Media Group presented at AIIM’s conference in 2012. I discovered it on YouTube last night (click here to view it).

In his talk on Emergent Collaboration, he described a social business framework. This consists of 5 main areas:

  • Process
  • Organizational Culture
  • Governance
  • Goals and Objectives
  • Technology 

These 5 areas were further broken down into various sub-areas, You can click on the image below to see more on this.

This really got me thinking…you need to cover all five areas to make sure the adoption of a collaboration strategy is sucessful. Just having one is not really enough.

For example… having the technology is important, but this by itself is not enough…

Dialogue mapping explained in a clear and simple way

markjowen:

Kailash’s post on dialogue mapping is excellent. It makes it easy to understand the concept of this technique.I recommend that you take 7 minutes from your busy schedule to read the above mentioned post.

Originally posted on Eight to Late:

It was about half past eight in the evening a couple of weeks ago; I was sitting at my computer at home, writing up some notes for a blog post on issue mapping.

“What are you drawing?” asked my eight year old, Rohan. I hadn’t noticed him. He had snuck up behind me quietly, and was watching me draw an IBIS map. (Note: see my post entitled, the what and whence of issue-based information systems for a quick introduction to IBIS)

“Go to bed,” I said, still looking at the screen. It was past his bedtime.

“…but what are you drawing. What are those questions and arrows and stuff?”

A few minutes won’t hurt, I thought. I turned to him and explained the basics of the notation and how it worked.

“But what good is it,” he asked.

“Good question,” I said. “It has many uses, but…

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How to Talk to Your Executive Team About Social

Neal Schaffer & the posse from 5150 have made an amusing rap about “selling” social media to the executives.

Click here for the 5150 Rap site

Better Knowledge-Sharing: Fill The Dry Knowledge Well With These Practices

The post below was written by Sebastian Francis in 2010 for OilandGasInvestor.com.
At that time Sebastian worked for SAIC.

It’s an excellent article that describes describes some major concerns with knowledge management (including the capturing of tacit knowledge) along with making that knowledge retrievable and useful.
I’m grateful that Sebastian has given me permission to reproduce it here.

————————————————————————–

Better Knowledge-Sharing: Fill The Dry Knowledge Well With These Practices

- a Guest Post by Sebastian Francis

Here are a variety of quick and easy ways to share important business information each generation needs to know.

Today, a popular need of organizational leaders is how to quickly identify, capture and reuse information from employees who are retiring, or about to do so, for these people have industry expertise and can make it quickly available to those who need it.

The ability to quickly access the right information can improve competitive position, promote innovation, reduce rework and errors, and increase the speed to identify new opportunities.

Unfortunately, searching for information (such as proven practices, lessons from prior unsuccessful attempts, tips and techniques, documented procedures and, most important, experience and intuitive expertise locked in the heads of individuals) can take far too much time.

As the crew shift change continues—Baby Boomers retire in mass and few Generation X and Y talent enter the oil and gas industry—leaders have an opportunity to manage this shift by leveraging the latest information-sharing technologies and methods. To meet business strategy, many leaders crave the ability to “google like Google.” They desire to create a deep reservoir of information that replenishes itself and deploy methods and tools that will enable each generation to find the right information within a few clicks.

Too often, organizations rely on only one method, such as launching communities of practice, conducting after-action reviews, and promoting the use of best practices. Or, they use a limited number of technologies such as social networking tools, content repositories and search engines, and use the same solution across the board. This tends to produce dry knowledge wells.

A savvy strategy begins with understanding the needs of the internal talent group: Who has the information and who needs it? Next is meeting unique requirements by implementing several methods and technologies to create custom solutions. Characteristics of the solution should emulate popular knowledge-sharing practices that occur outside the organization.

Understanding generational issues

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
–Strother Martin, Cool Hand Luke, 1967 film starring Paul Newman

Communication problems are as old as human history. Bridging gaps is a continual challenge, and industry leaders need to know how to capitalize on overcoming those gaps.

Within the oil and gas industry (as well as in other industries), there are four generations of talent: Traditionalists (birth years 1925-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1965), Generation X (1966-1980) and Generation Y (1981-2000). Since the 1990s, professional journals have alerted oil and gas leaders that the Baby Boomers, now the largest percentage of the workforce, are exiting the workforce at an alarming rate. The potential consequences include: 
Increased competition for talent. Due to the decrease in skilled talent following the retirement of the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, competition for workers with required professional degrees and experience will increase. 
Shifting geography. Technology enables talent to work from anywhere and teleworking is becoming more commonplace; therefore, organizations will be able to source talent globally. This shift will affect organizational communication, strategy and business processes.
Shifting generation. The corporate leaders of tomorrow will most likely be talent from Generations X and Y. Currently, organizations are balancing the activities of retiring two groups and preparing the organization for two others, while not neglecting any.
Aging workforce. A majority of Baby Boomers are predicted to exit the workforce by 2015 and are followed by a much smaller group of talent, Generation X. In addition, the next generations of talent have different learning styles, communication preferences and work/life balance requirements than their predecessors. To recruit, retain and develop the next generation of talent, organizations must recognize and adapt to these styles.
Lost information and tacit knowledge. As Traditionalists and Baby Boomers exit organizations, some for the last time, so will their communal know-how—their tacit knowledge—especially if it has not been adequately identified, captured, codified and stored in corporate knowledge repositories.
Preparing and training talent. The fact that Traditionalists and Baby Boomers are retiring does not mean that they will not re-enter the workforce in some capacity, such as starting a new career, or working as a consultant or part-time employee. In some cases, organizations will be able to leverage veteran expertise in this way. As a result, organizations will need to update the skills of these workers, or train them along with other new hires. Thus, learning/training departments may simultaneously have to train several generations, each having distinctly different learning styles. This can perplex learning organizations that do not understand the needs of each generation.

Bridging generational gaps to improve knowledge management

“When you’re 17 years old, green and inexperienced, you’re grateful for any guidance and direction you can get.”
–Christina Aguilera, pop singer

Leaders who recognize and respond to generational communication and learning commonalities and differences, can bridge gaps and prepare for the future.

Different generations favor different learning styles. Traditionalists and Baby Boomers usually prefer face-to-face, classroom and instructor-led training activities. In contrast, Generations X and Y may resist formal training sessions and prefer to connect to people informally and quickly search all information sources. Technology tools, such as handheld devices and social-networking sites, facilitate their fast connections to information.

Traditionalists and Baby Boomers tend to communicate using formal and personal methods, such as writing e-mails, meeting face to face and holding conference calls. In contrast, Generations X and Y usually like just the right amount of information, when and where they need it, such as sending abbreviated text and instant messages, and meeting via online chat sessions.

When information exchange is effective, employees seeking information receive what they need—a knowledge gem. Unfortunately, during communication, valuable information is often lost because the organization does not have an easy-to-use method of identifying and systematically collecting and depositing gained knowledge into a repository.

Capturing critical knowledge

“Any customer can have a car painted any color he wants, so long as it is black.”
–Henry Ford

Because the talent of today and tomorrow is multi-generational, a one-size-fits-all approach to information capture, collaboration and reuse does not work. What works are multiple approaches that consider each member of the audience.

Now that the typical characteristics of each generation group is understood, the next step is to understand the two phases of information flow: capturing it and accessing it for re-use. Let’s explore two key steps to capturing it.

– Step One: Understand and identify knowledge that fuels the organization.
What information, knowledge and expertise is valuable to the organization? Some businesses are uncertain and attempt to capture all information regardless of value. A better practice is to identify critical business processes and their associated performance targets across the organization’s value chain. In other words, identify the most important business activities that yield success, are vital to avoid failure, and identify where information gaps exist.
Analyzing key processes, creating knowledge maps and interviewing stakeholders will lead to key process identification. The output will assist leaders in understanding where the information is located, who has it and the prerequisites for information capture.

– Step Two: Capture what’s important.
Information and know-how are scattered throughout an organization in e-mails, individual and networked hard drives, binders containing operating procedures and training manuals, SharePoint or other Internet sites, conversations around water coolers, and within people’s heads.

Knowledgeable organizations use a variety of capture activities such as on-the-job team learning processes before, during and after major activities and are supplemented, when relevant, through a series of individual interviews.

“Learning before doing” is supported by a peer-assist process, which targets a specific challenge, imports knowledge from people outside the team, identifies possible approaches to address obstacles and new ideas, and promotes sharing of information and knowledge with talent through a facilitated meeting.

A U.S. Army technique called After Action Reviews involves talent in “learning while doing” by answering four questions immediately after completing each key activity: What was supposed to happen? What actually happened? Why is there a difference? What can we learn from it?

At the end of a given project or accomplishment, a process called a Retrospect encourages team members to look back at the project to discover what went well and why, with a view to helping a different team repeat their success and avoid any pitfalls.

A critical component of capture technique requires an effective method to record information that is comfortable for the information providers and appeals to the information seeker. For example, a Baby Boomer’s preferred sharing method could be a written report. In contrast, a Gen Y would have no interest in such and would ignore it.

This issue raises the importance of using a variety of communication methods as well as an opportunity to emulate information and knowledge-sharing practices that occur outside the organization.

Social-networking sites such as Facebook, Wiki sites such as Wikipedia, and video-sharing sites, such as YouTube, are popular tools for capturing information, connecting with people, sharing ideas, searching for information and viewing content. Such sites are popular, free and used by each generation. Instead of inventing something new, organizations can transfer popular features from public sites into the design and functionality of corporate tools. 

For example, attaching a webcam to a laptop or using a smartphone instantly equips anyone with just-in-time ability to capture information, especially dialogue and images that are challenging to document. A handheld production studio allows for ad hoc or planned capture of interviews with experts, after-action reviews, safety procedures, an equipment repair procedure, etc.

Uploading multimedia files (sound bites and video clips) to a knowledge repository creates a powerful capture and sharing opportunity. The “YouTube” approach makes it possible for any employee to post a video to a corporate site so that any team member can watch it instantly. “Nu-tube” is the name of a concept that a nuclear energy company gives its effort.

Launching pop technology is “hip” when end-users are engaged, needs are understood and the solution meets their requirements.

Make Information Accessible Quickly and Easily

“I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That’s where the fun is.” 
–Donald Trump

With a plan now for perpetually capturing valuable information, people must be enable to access and use it. Two steps help to achieve success here. The first is to leverage technology to visually present information. The second is to involve end-users in the design of the sharing process. The following case study describes these two steps in action.

Recently, a U.S. pipeline service company realized that critical information trickled throughout its business unit. The increasing inability of talent to readily tap information sources sharply diminished the value of stored resources. The service company encountered several challenges to make information available.

The overwhelming amount of information to capture, organize, store and manage caused employees to spend days (then) versus minutes (now) searching data.

A document repository contained unmanaged versions and uncontrolled copies of files scattered in network file shares, laptops, intranet sites, CDs, flash drives and filing cabinets.

Other challenges were increasing regulatory constraints, litigation and business-continuity issues, and the rising need to capture “know how” from retiring staff.

Considering generational changes as an opportunity to plan for the future and social-networking tools as an opportunity to innovate, leaders acted. The result is “e-discovery,” a solution that increases the speed to find reporting information from across disparate business units, regulatory-compliance improvements and business-performance enhancements.

Solution highlights include preserving content on an enterprise level versus only at an individual level, implementing a self-service information portal, facilitating contextual and “smart” search, and reducing administrative costs of managing paper records.

The method of designing this solution contributed to its success. The e-discovery design team:
– Identified the valuable information needed to comply with legal requirements,
– Understood learning, technology and communication preferences of each generation,
– Devised methods to allow users to share and access information in multiple formats and
–Designed a tool that emulates features of popular social-networking sites (easy, visual presentation of information, collaboration, smart search and dashboards).

The e-discovery impact on the pipeline business segment includes preparing litigation-status reports in one step versus multiple steps; retrieving archived documents in minutes versus days; eliminating risks associated by damage to paper-based files; reducing employee frustration of not finding who or what they need; and serving as a solution model for re-use within the enterprise.

And most importantly this method helped all generations of talent quickly find the right information when they needed it, so that they can perform their job.

“Diamonds are forever.”
–De Beers ad

Information can be a valuable organizational asset when people can quickly recall where it is stored.

Fortunately, organizations have an abundance of internal information sources: documents, expertise, lessons learned, best practices and the like. Unfortunately, waves of experts are leaving or retiring, usually without depositing their rich knowledge or revealing the location of information “gems” critical to performing business processes.

Leaders can respond by providing a variety of communication and learning methods, leveraging popular social-networking technologies, and embracing the uniqueness of each generation. The impact for the organization can be a rich field of valuable information that continuously replenishes itself.

Note – this article can also be downloaded here.

“Infographic Thinking”

Troy Larson has written a post on Infographics that I like.

If you have read my earlier Infographic posts (here and here), you’ll know that I don’t think much of the majority of Infographics that I have seen.

Well, Troy has the same opinion:

…after surfing the web for a few minutes looking at some of these, you quickly come to the conclusion that most of them suck.

He follows this with the best comment on Infographics that I’ve ever seen…

most people wrongly think that information + graphics = infographics

And then he takes the whole “infographics” discussion to another level…he discusses an interview that Gestalt had with Francesco Franchi, the Art Director of one of Italy’s top financial newspapers. 

It’s a great post. Click here to read what Troy wrote (as well as watch the video of Francesco Franchi).

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UPDATE

Also just noticed that my friend Ant Clay, from 21apps has also published an amazing post on Infographics. Definitely take a look at it!
http://www.21apps.com/uncategorized/that-aint-no-infographic/