Comments from “The Internet in the Workplace” by Patricia Wallace

January 28, 2006 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

Comments from the book
This book by Wallace discusses the changes imposed on the workplace and society as they become more netcentric. She offers a very practical view of ‘net-centric’ technologies. A few things discussed include: business communication and how email is different than paper memos, virtual teams compared to co-located teams, knowledge management and ways it succeeds and fails, e-learning.

She offers a very pragmatic view and points out specific ways technology fails, or where it provides value. AI line I enjoyed “Ending each message with a smiley face :), for example, will not carry the same message as ending a conversation with a smile.”

Discussion.

“The Victorian Internet” – Tom Standage – details the history of the telegraph. This was a truly cool book. Telegraph operators were elite hackers of the network. The concept of ‘fist’ where you can identify an operator by the sound of their transmission is amazing. Kind of how you know it’s your boss walking up behind you….
p. 42 Intranets and portals….the ability for employees to personalize their gateway to the vast resources…. Employees can design their own entry page and identify their own channels. Each channel can contain information and links to resources that are most important to them. For example…real-time marketing data…channels that aggregate external as well as internal information.

p. 43 Convergence toward the web’s user interface is not difficult to understand, for intranets, extranets, and applications in general. It is easy to use and accessible from any computer with a browser and a net connection. Once you learn how to use a few buttons and understand what links are, you can usually make your way around almost any Web site, even if clumsily. Its ease of use is partly because it represents a highly standardized front end – a contrast from older interfaces that required users to learn idiosyncratic navigation schemes, new icons, and new processes with each new application….

p. 135 – 156 Knowledge Management. The origins of KM began with computers entering the workplace. People began storing content digitally and never threw anything away. When LANs were implemented employees could share information. When the Internet and the World Wide Web appeared the sheer volume of information to a worker skyrocketed. People could share information with coworkers and anyone on the planet with an internet connection. A major force that drove the interest of KM was this growing volume of information that could potentially be accessed and reused. Computers did not create KM, but drew attention to the fact that some of the knowledge in peoples head could be documented, shared, and harnessed as an organizational asset and resource.

Globalization of business has made in-person knowledge sharing more difficult, and led to rising interest in KM, especially for knowledge that can be transmitted via the internet and technology.

Interest in KM, then, arose partly because a hammer was invented and people noticed a growing mound of nails….. The hammer was information technology, especially the net and netcentric technologies. The nails…the digitized information, growing by leaps and bounds. The nails seemed valuable, but the nail pile was disorderly, large, and not easily tackled by technology alone. Much or that digital information is not “knowledge” at all, regardless of how one might define the term. Much of it is garbage.

p. 138 two paths developed in KM. One, development of technology-based approaches to capture, sort, organize and disseminate knowledge to the people that need it. The other path, led to approaches in which technology might not be used at all. Stressing intellectual capital, how to encourage people to share and create knowledge – psychological and sociological aspects of the workplace rather than technical solutions for capturing and disseminating knowledge.

p. 139 It is a continuum: data -> information -> knowledge with no unambiguous dividing lines. Tacit and explicit knowledge.

p. 145 data-mining…grew out of traditional statistical approaches…can be used to explore extremely large data sets to uncover interesting but hidden relationships. The software programs turn up all kinds of relationships, many purely by accident, so the term, “interesting’ is extremely important in the data mining world.

p. 146 Knowledge management projects attempt to capture, create, disseminate, or manage knowledge. Five categories of KM practices:
1. Improving information management and access. Seeing how much space is used to store documents, and how much time employees spend looking for them leads organizations to pursue improvements. Databases, search engines, analytical tools have helped. One early attempt to harness some of this knowledge is the Intranet, with document archives, telephone directories, job listings, a gateway to discussion boards, knowledge repositories, team-based web-sites Many corporations moved up to portals that give employees the ability to customize what they see. Document management is anther KM practice that improves access…takes scanned or digital documents and indexes them so they become searchable.
2. Managing knowledge about processes. A key competitive advantage. A company has to know to do what it does well. Best practice projects attempt to document experiences on project that go well and capture success factor so that can be repeated. Knowledge bases are designed to contain a repository of process information.
3. Harnessing organization knowledge in the workplace…..encourage workers to teach each other, share what they know, and build learning communities. Bring together people who have the same professional interests and provide them with collaborative tools to engage in discussions and debates. A company needs to know what it knows, or at least know who in the company might know.
4. Learning from e-business…companies desire to collect as much knowledge as they can about their customers…customer relationship management focus on the ways which a corporation can attract and retain customer by analyzing and managing the relationships the corporation has with each one.
5. Nurturing intellectual capital….finding ways to facilitate creativity, insight, and innovation, and document the elusive process of knowledge creation.

p.152 The most mature KM practices take advantage of well-developed technologies, such as carefully designed databases, document management systems, knowledge bases, collaborative technologies, and the internet and the World Wide Web.

p. 153 Sharing knowledge sounds great to top executives, but there are barriers to the human willingness to share that have little to do with the difficulty of learning new software….Although employees were expected to share their expertise, most were unwilling to do this because the compensation and promotion system did not reward sharing.

Knowledge hoarding is very predictable in an environment in which rewards are based on an individual’s accomplishments and possession of unique knowledge….

Building a knowledgebase takes time…the cost of contributing their expertise outweighed any benefits they might have gained by finding useful knowledge in the database, particularly during the early stages of a KM project. A knowledge base needs a critical mass before it can be useful to a wide range of people. Before it reaches that mass, employees would rationally view the project as something that detracts from their own productivity. If not encouraged and rewarded they will resist the effort it takes to build the knowledgebase.

p. 155…many of the most effective technological tools for creating and managing knowledge are neither sophisticated nor expensive, and they are already present in an organization. The include the Web, search engines and database backends. Complicated software tools do not necessarily lead to success and, in some cases, may even hinder it.

p. 156 ….”knowledge” elusive as it may be, is the most important asset in the netcentric workplace.

p. 285 The net’s…architecture was ideal for supporting very rapid growth in the sheer volume of easily accessible information. The threat…is that more data do not necessarily lead to better information, nor are they likely to produce improvements in knowledge. If a worker is drowning is so much information that the individual has no hope of reading and analyzing it all, will that worker make better decisions?…the volume itself is encouraging researchers to develop innovative tools to deal with such immensity. Data mining and knowledge management projects are two examples.
Ah but Mooer’s Law

Mentioned books to add to the list!

“The Human Stain” – Philip Roth

“Applied Cryptography” – Bruce Schneier

“The tragedy of the commons” Hardin, G. 1968, Science, 163, 1243-1248

Based on phamphlett by William Forster Lloyd, in 1833.

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Entry filed under: KM.

Attention span PKM and PIM

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