If It’s Urgent, Ignore It

Differentiating between urgent and important is the trick though isn’t it? After the fact, it may be easy but in the moment it can be devilishly hard, especially in a world that treasures action over reflection.

Perhaps one heuristic would be to simply ignore any decision (excepting immediate threat to life and limb) that claimed a need to be made immediately.

If It’s Urgent, Ignore It. If It’s Urgent, Ignore It — From Seth Godin at Fast Comany…

“Smart organizations ignore the urgent. Smart organizations understand that important issues are the ones to deal with. If you focus on the important stuff, the urgent will take care of itself.

“A key corollary to this principle is the idea that if you don’t have the time to do it right, there’s no way in the world you’ll find the time to do it over. Too often, we use the urgent as an excuse for shoddy work or sloppy decision making. […] Urgent is not an excuse. In fact, urgent is often an indictment–a sure sign that you’ve been putting off the important stuff until it mushrooms out of control.”

Obvious, but worth repeating from time to time. [Frank Patrick’s Focused Performance Blog]

Asperger’s syndrome and tacit expertise

An article ran yesterday in the Times about Asperger’s syndrome, what some describe as a form of high-functioning autism. Wired magazine ran a similar piece a few years back under the title, The Geek Syndrome. It makes a case that the social “blindness” that characterizes many of us in technical professions may have a neurological basis.

I could pick out a number of incidents in my past to make my own case for suffering from Asperger’s. One that comes to mind is an early programming job, where I turned into the team debugging specialist. Other team members would leave me candy and core dumps to debug. I finally tracked down one especially tough bug and grabbed the phone to call Glenn, my boss, and tell him the good news. Glen was very kind. He listened to my excited description of my detective process before he gently explained that he and his wife generally thought that 2 o’clock in the morning was a more appropriate time for sleeping than listening to status updates from young programmers.

There is an interesting side dimension to this condition that nicely illustrates one of the key differences between tacit and explicit knowledge. If you do tend to be blind to social cues that most people pick up naturally, one compensating strategy is to develop a series of explicit rules for operating in social situations. You train yourself to pay attention consciously to the clues that most people have forgotten that they use. On the plus side, you develop observational skills you can take advantage of. On the down side, you have to work through the rules to decide how to behave. Your performance is slower and never as expert or fluid as those whose knowledge is tacit.

Answer, but No Cure, for a Social Disorder That Isolates Many. Thousands of adults who have never fit in socially are only now stumbling across a neurological explanation for their struggles. By Amy Harmon. [New York Times: Science][free registration required]

Organisational Story-Telling

Steve Denning did some excellent work using stories to drive change when he was at the World Bank. Here’s a pointer to an interview with Denning summarizing his key arguments about the role and value of story in driving organizational change. If this catches your fancy, you may want to look at Denning’s book, The Springboard : How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations.

Organisational Story-Telling.

Steve Neiderhauser points to an interview with Steven Denning. Excerpts:

People can’t absorb data because they don’t think in data. They think in stories. If you give people a story, then they can absorb the meaning of large amounts of data very rapidly….

The good news is however that we are all storytellers. We’ve simply been browbeaten into thinking that this is some kind of arcane skill that only a few people have. As Jerome Bruner has documented, we all do it spontaneously from the age of two onwards, and go on doing it throughout our lives. When we get into a formal setting, we succumb to what our teachers have told us and start to spout abstractions. But once we realize that our listeners actually want to hear stories, then we can relax and do what we all do in a social setting and tell stories.

One of the things I have done in some recent presentations is not to use a presentation aid. I have just stood up and talked, trying to weave a tale around the points I want to make. I have found this much more effective personally – I tend to speak with more passion, and the audience is listening to me, rather than looking to the presentation. While this may not work in all settings, this approach is something which definitely needs more thought.

[E M E R G I C . o r g]

The 46 Best Free Utility Programs

I’m always on the lookout for useful new tools to add to my mix. This looks to have several tools I wasn’t aware of

The 46 Best Free Utility Programs.

TechSupportAlert.com provides a great list of the 46 best free utility programs.

Let’s face it, nobody likes to pay for software when no-cost alternatives are available. I can second the recommendations for several of these programs and have added a good number of programs from this list to my “must try” list.



Another good find from Maish Nichani at elearningpost by way of George Siemens.


Tremendous resource – Storytelling: “We’ve assembled a resource guide for business leaders, consultants, educators, marketers, storytellers, artists, activists, students, and anyone else eager to apply story in the world of work.” (elearningpost)


Waiting for Tinderbox 2 for Windows

I’ve been watching Tinderbox for a while now, even though it’s a Mac program. I once used StorySpace from EastGate and Tinderbox looks like an interesting tool for my work. I’m looking forward to the Windows version.

Tinderbox 2.2.

Tinderbox 2.2 is out. You can download a free demo. The upgrade is free if you bought Tinderbox in the last year. If not, you can get another year of free upgrades for just $70.

This is primarily an infrastructure release, paving the way for Tinderbox for Windows. But there’s plenty of great new stuff here for everyone:

  • Quick lists (like this)
  • Much faster interactive spell checking
  • Lots of new, advanced HTML export features
  • Support for richer syndication formats — both RSS and Atom

[Mark Bernstein]

Easy DRM Stripping for Windows iTunes

Another approach to protecting your investment in your music library

Easy DRM Stripping for Windows iTunes. Use the Video Lan Client to generate your iTunes Music Store license key, then deDRMs to strip the copy protection–but not the personal information identifying you as the owner of the music–from protected .M4P songs. Although the deDRM interface is clunky, at best (drag and dropping individual files onto the… [Gizmodo]

Winner in the perfect weblog pitch competition

We have a winner! Judith has dutifully tabulated the results and Lee LeFever is the winner of the Perfect Pitch competition for the best “elevator pitch” on weblogs in the organization. Here’s his winning pitch:

First, think about the value of the Wall Street Journal to business leaders. The value it provides is context the Journal allows readers to see themselves in the context of the financial world each day, which enables more informed decision making.

With this in mind, think about your company as a microcosm of the financial world. Can your employees see themselves in the context of the whole company? Would more informed decisions be made if employees and leaders had access to internal news sources?

Weblogs serve this need. By making internal websites simple to update, weblogs allow individuals and teams to maintain online journals that chronicle projects inside the company. These professional journals make it easy to produce and access internal news, providing context to the company context that can profoundly affect decision making. In this way, weblogs allow employees and leaders to make more informed decisions through increasing their awareness of internal news and events.

You might also want to take a peek at the runners up:

Second Place Randal Moss
Third Place (tied) Michael Angeles & Jack Vinson

Judging Panelists:

Dave Pollard, Dina Mehta, Don Park, Flemming Funch, Jim McGee, Lilia Efimova, Martin Dugage, Phil Wolff, Ross Mayfield, Scott Allen, and Ton Zijlstra

[The Social Software Weblog]

The power of questions to create knowledge

Lilia has been on a roll lately with lots of great posts on her blog. Here, again, she raises important points and offers her usual insight.

Too often knowledge management initiatives are sold and implemented around prospective benefits. They try to collect and organize knowledge assets of one sort or another on the notion that they ought to be useful to someone, somewhere. You can pretty much guarantee that these efforts will fail, regardless of how clever an incentive or punishment system you contrive.

Absent real questions, the materials contributed are stale and lifeless. With real questions in context, however, you get answers. I can’t recall a time when some expert hasn’t given me a helpful response to a sincere question in context. Sure, sometimes the response is a series of further questions that demonstrate that I don’t yet know enough to ask an intelligent question. But we get a dialog started that ends in new and deeper understanding. Sometimes it even ends in answers.

This is the magic of vibrant weblog communities that excites those of it who see their promise as a knowledge sharing tool. Unlike email, a community of weblogs and webloggers creates a space where those knowledge questions turn into the seeds of new knowledge creation. It isn’t likely to be neat and orderly and engineered. Instead, like the real world it will be messy and organic and fertile.

Knowledge flows are powered by questions.

Don’t know if this piece will survive in the paper I write, so post it here. This is pretty much what I think on “why people share knowledge”.

One of the goals of knowledge management is to improve knowledge flows and knowledge reuse in an organisation. While there is much discussion on knowledge sharing, motivation and culture, the demand side of knowledge exchanges seems to get too less attention.

I believe that knowledge flows are powered by questions: in many cases employees do not mind to share their knowledge, but do not do it because nobody asks them or because they are not sure that others need to know. This could be one of the explanations behind the success of on-line communities where knowledge bases fail (e.g. in Shell EP case, see Petersen & Poulfelt, 2002 or ask Andy): many communities work in a problem-solving mode, where knowledge sharing starts with a question or problem. In this case knowledge is shared to help others, and it is rewarding. In contrast, submitting a document (for example, “lessons learnt” from a project) to a knowledge base doesn’t have an immediate question behind it, but more of an expectation of future questions that may never arise, so the motivation to share is much lower.

And, as I wrote before, asking is more difficult then answering and reinventing is more fun then reusing.

Guess what my conclusion is? KM is about motivation to learn 🙂