Archives For knowledge management

by David Mastronardi & Tom Cummings , originally posted here.

In our previous post, my colleague Tom and I recapped Seth Priebatsch’s SXSWi keynote address and introduced the concept of enterprise gamification.

That's engagement

Taking tacit game mechanics already at play and providing deliberate structure and reward schedules gives companies a potentially powerful social business design tool. Enterprise gamification’s power lies in its ability to influence individual behavior and create hivemind, an often elusive enterprise dynamic. While the right game makes this dynamic more achievable, the complexity of influencing human behavior necessitates planning and design. Taking time to understand game mechanics and the psychology of rewards will lead to more effective games, engaged employees and better business results.

The Email Game

To explore these concepts let’s outline a simple game that helps Company X promote its low cost provider strategy. The goal of the game is to lower network storage costs by reducing the amount of email employees store in their inbox. Company X decides to reward employees with one point whenever they delete an email.


A well designed game aligns individual rewards with the strategic objectives of the business. Properly incentivized employees will then repeat behavior beneficial to company goals. Two types of rewards exist:

Intrinsic Rewards

Intrinsic rewards come from the enjoyment of the activity itself, reducing email storage in Company X’s case. The best games, often the most addicting, create enjoyment by fulfilling basic human needs:

Autonomy is the feeling that your activities are self-chosen. Company X can incorporate this feeling into their game by giving employees additional ways to earn points.  Besides deleting emails, archiving emails locally can also result in a point. Now employees have choice.

Competence is the feeling of confidence and effectiveness in one’s activities. The accumulation of points gives employees direct and frequent feedback.  The Email Game can provide additional feedback by creating dashboards that track saved space and individual contribution to company cost savings.

Connectedness comes from a sense of closeness to others. The Email Game can create connectedness by allowing org-chart based groups to compete. Individuals will be rewarded for working together to reduce their organization’s email footprint.

Extrinsic Rewards

These rewards come from outside the individual: the Email Game’s points. While not as personally meaningful as intrinsic rewards, extrinsic rewards set the basis for competition, standard measures by which players compare performance. To increase their value Company X can tie their extrinsic rewards (points) achievement to real world benefits, e.g. paid-time-off, gift certificates to the company store, a meeting with the CIO.

Game Mechanics

Rewards explain why people participate, Game Mechanics dictate the who, what, when and where. A well designed game’s incentives harmonize with its mechanics.  SCVNGR, Priebatsch’s company, defines 47 game mechanics. Let’s review four in the context of the Email Game:

Appointment is a mechanic that involves returning at a predefined time to perform a predetermined action. Company X might make the lunch hour more productive by offering a double-point bonus.

Influence & Status uses social pressure to modify behavior. By implementing leader-boards across geographical, organizational and individual levels Company X can create a sense of status and competition.  This mechanic also feeds an employee’s sense of Competence.

Progression is a mechanic by which progress is displayed and measured through the process of completing itemized tasks. A simple daily progression in the Email Game could include two steps:  clicking through all mailbox folders to check for deletion candidates and archiving your entire inbox to a local directory. Successful completion of these activities results in a point.

Communal Discovery is when a community must come together to complete a challenge. The previously suggested idea of group based incentives is an example of Communal Discovery.  This mechanic also directly ties in to an individual sense of Connectedness.

By no means an exhaustive guide, this post introduces fundamental concepts to Game Layer creation. Turning work into a game involves more than bribing employees with points. Developing effective games for your company will be an evolutionary process.  Even the simplest games engage complex behavioral dynamics. Be sure to plan, measure your progress and iterate as new behaviors emerge.

Game on. (Game on)

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Communication as Work

July 14, 2010 — 3 Comments

A knowledge worker spends a good portion of the day communicating – meetings, status reports, emails, phone calls, water cooler talks.  Much of this activity is considered unproductive overhead; when you look at a calendar full of meetings you wonder when you’re going to get any REAL work done.  And while many popular forms of communication may be inefficient and ineffective, communication is work; perhaps the most important work knowledge workers do.

Knowledge work is aimed at turning information into something decisionable and actionable; too often reports, presentations, survey results are mistaken for such.  While they are a key part of the decision equation, they are not enough.  They don’t provide insight.  The only thing they’re good for on their own is filling repositories.

Knowledge, unlike the data and information contained in reports, is a living & breathing thing.  It can’t be put in your enterprise content management system.  It exists in the heads of employees (often referred to as ‘tacit’ knowledge), constantly being shaped by different stimuli: articles, blog posts, pictures, models, books, conversations with colleagues, etc…  Communication is the process by which this constantly evolving knowledge is applied on data and information to a decisionable end.  This process will generate insights on how to take advantage of the information you have gathered.  Unless the reports, presentations and survey results are subjected to scrutiny and analysis through communication, no insights are created and decisions are delayed or malinformed.

Communication is more than just a block of time on your calendar.  It’s an opportunity to  share knowledge, gain insight, make better decisions and create for your company a competitive advantage.

What does communication look like where you work?  Is it enabling the application of knowledge to data and information?  Where do your company’s insights come from?

With all that organizations are doing towards bringing in new tools to the enterprise, the bottom line is a better organization: more flexibility, more agility, more net centric.

From what I can tell, no organization has put more time into research of this effort than the military. Traditionally considered the paradigm for command and control, the military recognized the need for change in this new information age as early on as any.

Take a look at the papers on this site. I think you’ll be surprised at what you find and how much applies to your organization. From command and control to leadership in the 2.0 age. Very solid information here.

In the past week there have been three very smart posts on dynamic signal: one from David Armano , one from Skillful Minds, and one from Mark Fidelman.  The dynamic signal is one of the key elements (archetypes, as Dachis Corp calls them) of developing a successful social business (internally, externally, or preferably both); it is an enabling capablitiy whose fate will be decided by an organization’s culture and its employees’ willingness to create a dynamic signal and embrace its potential.

Back in January, I posted on this topic of pushing information to the edge of organizations.  The theory is actually based on the military’s traditional methods of Command and Control and how they are attempting to evolve information flow, much like we’re trying to do with a social business.  Below, given the recent discussion of dynamic signals, is an appropriate excerpt of that post.  If you wish to read the entire post, it is here (actually written around an event incited by David Armano).

Command and control (C2) was the traditional method (and is still widely used today) for organizing military forces.  As a soldier (on the edge) you got your orders only once, from the top (the core).  You followed them, no deviation.  One of the main reasons for this approach was lack of bandwidth.  Chances were, once you got into the field, should an unforseen situation arise there was almost no opportunity to communicate back to the top.  You had no choice but to proceed as planned.  And speaking of unforseen situations, C2 assumed that there wouldn’t be any.  We knew who our enemy was and how they operated (think Cold War); not so true in today’s world (think 9/11).  Resulting from this C2 approach was a very strong/smart ‘core’ and a very weak/uninformed/dumb ‘edge.’  That just won’t work today.

Power to the Edge urges the military to change its approach, to empower, educate & sharpen the edge.  Things do happen in the field and the the front lines need the ability & freedom to operate and overcome those obstacles.  Technology & bandwidth have made information flow to the edge possible; the edge can be smarter and more effective than ever before.  However, there is a foundation that must be in place for Power to the Edge to occur :

• Clear and consistent understanding of command intent;

• High quality information and shared situational awareness;

• Competence at all levels of the force; and

• Trust in the information, subordinates, superiors, peers, and equipment.

So, I think the bullet points above represent key requirements for companies looking to generate a dynamic signal (each bullet probably deserves its own post).  While a dynamic signal could be a great asset to an organization looking to be more effective/efficient/innovative, you don’t just order one from Amazon (or HP).  You have to build it, and it’s not a tool – the tool amplifies the signal, but the tool does not create the signal.  Employees, given the right culture create the signal.  Once you’ve got that, a tool can tap into the signal and distribute it very efficiently.  But, even after you achieve distribution of your dynamic signal, does your company have the culture (or design) to act on it?  To benefit from it?  Are your employees ready for this?  Are those who hold the power in your organization ready for more informed employees?

I’m not sure it’s the first thing that pops into a KM purist’s mind, but it does seem to fit this definition surprisingly well.  

In my current role, I’m responsible for bringing change to the way our employees traditionally do their work.  As a big part of that includes the adoption of social media, one of the agenda items I’m pushing is an enterprise micro-blogging capability.  Outside the walls of work I not only have  fun participating on Twitter, I do derive a great deal of personal value from it as well:  insight into my passions (both personal and professional), peer review & feedback, expertise location, network expansion, timely alerts to pertinent information (I actually first learned the date, location, speakers and topics of my own company’s annual IT Forum on Twitter from a non-employee…that’s crazy!), and innovation & ideation.  

I believe knowledge is highly social and that it happens in the cracks between our published and documented work:  in the water cooler, email & IM conversations we have that aren’t indexed or searchable; in the impromptu meetings and white-board sessions that have no minutes or ‘share this with others’ button.  Imagine moving those interactions to a platform capable of storing, indexing & making searchable those interactions?  By capturing   the lifestreams’ of its users, Twitter does a very good job of  tracking what’s in those cracks and by extension KM.   Maybe a better way of putting it is that the social nature of knowledge lends itself to Twitter.  

Here are the Motivations of KM as Wikipedia defines them:

  • Making available increased knowledge content in the development and provision of products and services
  • Achieving shorter new product development cycles
  • Facilitating and managing innovation and organisational learning
  • Leveraging the expertise of people across the organisation
  • Increasing network connectivity between internal and external individuals
  • Managing business environments and allowing employees to obtain relevant insights and ideas appropriate to their work
  • Solving intractable or wicked problems
  • Managing intellectual capital and intellectual assets in the workforce (such as the expertise and know-how possessed by key individuals)

Well, heck.  I’d say Twitter does most, if not all of those things.  If those are your ‘holes in the wall’ then I’d say Twitter could definitely be your drill.  Here’s a post from Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang (I highly doubt that if you’re reading this you don’t already know who he is) that might help fill in some of this posts’ gaps.

I’m trying to convince my peers and leadership that we don’t necessarily need the traditional threaded discussion board or Ask An Expert-type application; that if we do our change management correctly all we need is micro-blogging, a document management system that gives URL’s and maybe a link-trimmer, a la Snurl.

Those three things are a powerful combination, they’re cheap and low-risk, too (I’m guessing if you’re interested in KM your company already has a document management solution that spits out URL’s).  Twitter may not be your father’s KM solution, but it certainly solves his problems.  I’m getting more and more convinced of this every day…

In the enterprise, software development is an area that can take years to be brought up to speed.  You’ve got to identify skill sets and core competencies of your developers, define standards and develop your architecture. But there is another movement taking place where IT departments (and really, the entire enterprise) has the opportunity to be on the bleeding edge: social media & the development of a social media manager (SMM).

Here’s a link to an excellent post by Paul Chaney making the case for such a position.   

This post, as many do, proposes creating the SMM as an externally facing position.  It’s a very good idea, but one many others cover and doesn’t need me to copy cat.  What I see an opportunity for is a slight twist on the position: create a SMM that’s internally facing.  Depending on the size of your company you might have multiple SMMs; perhaps one for each major function at your company – BizDev, Supply Chain, Finance, HR, Comms, Engineering, IT, Product…

‘What will the social media manager do ?’, you ask.  Ultimately, the SMM would act as a combination of two roles, maven and connector, made popular in Malcolm Gladwell’s, The Tipping Point.  At a very high level, they will listen in on and participate in the online conversation that is happening inside your company.  This assumes, of course, that your company has the means (tool) to have a conversation and that said conversation is happening.  (This position would be especially useful if your company has invested in a tool but can’t make it ‘go’) 

The chosen SMM will need to be a SME not only in social media, but also in the functional area of the company to which they are assigned to participate.   The idea here is that the SMM will be able to navigate the tool as well as the funcational landscape, putting people and ideas together to enhance knowledge management, reuse and collaboration; that’s your business case.  Until the semantic web hits enterprise internally, the SMM can act as a human proxy.  Most companies have ‘graybeards’, this would be a great way for them to participate.  

I see the SMM going to conventions, sitting in on key meetings, being an embedded journalist of sorts disseminating the information to those that can use it but can’t get it first hand.  

While the sound of the position is new, as Chaney points out, there is a good chance there is someone in your company already doing it, aka the Accidental SMM.  As we move to a work environment that supports telecommuting and virtual teams, the conversation is shifting from the water cooler to…to…to whatever the virtual equivalent of the water cooler is.  It will be important to have tools AND people to bring it all together.  Such a position might even help us with Knowledge Management, an initiative we generally lay at the altar of enterprise apps.  Maybe what we need is less machine and more human.