It’s time for my next set of adventures.

I’ve left Huron, although I expect to continue to work with them as a contractor. Our paths are diverging and this represents a way to continue to work together when it makes sense and not get in each other’s way when it doesn’t. They’re a great group of people and I look forward to continuing to interact with them.

I haven’t settled on exactly what to do next. I’m talking to a lot of people about the challenges of making organizations more effective and better places to work. I continue to be especially interested in how to make knowledge work more effective. Whether I work on that from inside one organization, with another consulting firm, or entirely on my own remains to be seen.

Over the last several years, I have been working primarily with knowledge intensive organizations. Although there is a rich set of thinking and research on how to address their problems, there is still a bias toward squeezing these problems into models and frameworks better suited to the industrial economy that drove progress in the 20th Century. There’s the classic observation from John Maynard Keynes:

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

I think today’s organizations need better ideas and better theories. And they need better ways to merge them into their daily practices. That is likely to remain my focus regardless of the particular organizational affiliations I maintain.

Eric Mack webinar on using MindManager as a Knowledge Management Tool

I won’t be able to attend this since I wll be on Spring Break with the family, but I intend to watch it after the fact. Eric’s weblog is also well worth your time if you’re interested in knowledge work and personal productivity.

Sign up for my “How I use MindManager” webinar

MindJet has asked me to present a webinar on how I use MindManager to get things done. I agreed, and on Wednesday, March 28, 2007 at 10:00 AM (PST) I will present a free webinar, entitled MindManager as a Knowledge Management Tool: How I use MindManager and Lotus Notes to get things done. That’s the fancy title. My working title is “Mind Mapping in the Digital Sandbox.” (See description below)   

I’ve provided a link to sign up for the webinar at the end of this post.

MindManager as a Knowledge Management Tool:
How I use MindManager and Lotus Notes to get things done.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
10:00 am Pacific Daylight Time

Description: Consultant and eProductivity Specialist, Eric Mack, will give us a tour of his world and how he works and how he uses Mind Manager as a visual thinking and planning tool. He will discuss how he uses Mind Manager as a visual dashboard and planning tool for project and action management. He will also share how he uses Mind Manager on a daily basis as a support tool for getting things done with the GTD methodology and how he uses Mind Manager as a research support tool for Knowledge Management. Finally, he will show us how he uses MindManager to brainstorm and track projects and actions stored in Lotus Notes databases. In addition to using Mind Maps at work, Eric uses them when home-schooling his children and when coaching robotics teams. We’ve asked him to share a little bit about how he teaches the kids to use Mind Maps to organize their thinking and strategy when planning for a paper or a competition. At the conclusion of the webinar, Eric will be available to answer your questions.

Click to Enroll

Originally posted on Eric Mack Online

The Mantra of Entrenched Industries

An interesting thought to start the day.

The Mantra of Entrenched Industries

By Tim O’Reilly

CJ Rayhill, our CIO, and the organizer of O’Reilly’s Tools of Change for Publishing conference, passed on a fabulous quote from Robertson Davies that aptly captures the hopes of entrenched industries: “The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealised past.” (The quote is from his 1960 book A Voice from the Attic.)


Dick Costolo blogging on technology ventures

Dick Costolo, CEO of FeedBurner, has started blogging again at Ask The Wizard. Better yet, he is blogging about his insights and experience as a serial entrepreneur (in Chicago of all places, which is not noted for its friendliness toward technology startups). Here’s a bit of a teaser from one of his recent posts on the nature of strategic advantage:

Strategic Advantage, Part II

Hidden barriers to entry are particularly helpful to your company because potential competitors will severely underestimate the level of investment and resource commitment required to compete with you. I cannot tell you how many times since we first launched FeedBurner I have heard the following comments from senior executives at large companies, industry pundits, hobbyists, and my five year old son: “We could build FeedBurner in [a weekend, three months with three people, whenever we wanted]”. When you have hidden barriers to entry, you don’t get too worked up about these kinds of comments because you know there are lots of pitfalls and issues and challenges that you don’t understand fully until you are far enough along in development that you stumble into them and think “oh wow, now what do we do”.

But there are even better hidden barriers to entry in some businesses. I’ll call them Quantum Hidden Barriers to Entry. Quantum Hidden Barriers to Entry happen when you keep encountering new and unforeseen cliffs you have to scale as you move through different stages of market penetration. While hidden barriers to entry make it harder for potential competitors to enter the market, quantum hidden barriers to entry keep popping up as you move through stages of market penetration. When you are thinking about companies and markets, it’s fun to think about the kinds of businesses where there might be quantum hidden barriers to entry. I think you can anticipate these when you see markets that are characterized by: spiraling complexity, market reactions to the first mover (gaming behaviors, 3rd party ecosystems, etc.), and centralized platforms

Definitely someone you should be paying attention to if you’re interested in the venture world.

Research on business collaboration from IBM

James Robertson pointed to this last month. It is one of several excellent articles in an issue of the IBM Systems Journal on the topic of business collaboration. While the writing is a tad dry, the thinking and the research is nicely grounded in some real data for a change.

Beyond predictable workflows: enhancing productivity in artful business processes

C. Hill, R. Yates, C. Jones, and S. L. Kogan have written a journal article on managing ‘artful’ processes. To quote:

Aside from the issues of scale, lock-in, and dependency, certain types of work simply cannot be formalized well enough to safely entrust to an enterprise application. The goals and methods of some processes change too quickly over time; for example, the process of designing high-technology products. In some processes, it is primarily the content in each process instance — rather than the process itself — that determines the outcome; for example, a request for proposal (RFP) process. Most important, many highly specialized processes are developed or refined locally at the individual or small-team level such that the process cannot easily be separated from the specific people who perform it; for example, managing client relationships in professional services firms. While the framing process may be stable at an abstract level, the key details are not. They depend on the skills, experience, and judgment of the primary actors. We denote these kinds of processes artful in the sense that there is an art to their execution that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to codify in an enterprise application.

[Thanks to Martin White.]

Euan Semple on strategies for implementing Enterprise 2.0

Insightful advice from Euan. I’m not sure, however, that most organizations can avoid the temptation to meddle and manage this instead. That will slow adoption down in most cases.

The 100% guaranteed easiest way to do Enterprise 2.0?


And then your bright, thoughtful and energetic staff will do it for you. Trouble is they will do it outside your firewall on bulletin boards, instant message exchanges personal blogs and probably on islands in Second Life and you will have lost the ability to understand it, influence it, and integrate it into how you do business.

The second easiest way is to find ways of allowing this to happen inside the firewall which can be as simple as sticking in some low cost or free tools and then making sure your existing organisation can:


The third easiest way is to do the second easiest way and then engage those who would have done the easiest way and get them to help you:


And the hardest way …….

…. you don’t need me to tell you that!

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Literate thinking as a barrier to Enterprise 2.0 adoption

Most of the technologies lumped under the Enterprise 2.0 label presuppose some facility with the written word. I wonder to what extent that presents a barrier to adoption in many organizations? Moreover, I wonder how visible that organizational barrier is to those who are already facile?

I’ve written before on oral vs. literate cultures in organizations (Bridging the IT Cultural Divide, Part 1 and Part 2), using the distinctions that the late Walter Ong introduced. Leadership and power in many organizations correlates with comfort and facility with the spoken word. Those same individuals are not necessarily as facile or comfortable with expressing themselves in writing.

Email doesn’t really count, as it appears to be less public and, therefore, feels less threatening. Even so, we still hear of senior executives who avoid using email directly. (Maybe one of the attractions of the Crackberry is that it provides a built-in excuse for doing little real writing). So too for Powerpoint. It is not a tool that lends itself to literate argument and expression.

Jordan Frank of Traction Software argued a while back that organizations benefit from using the tools in simpler ways (Beta bloggers need not lurk in the enterprise). While I agree with his arguments, they also reinforce the notion that feeling uncomfortable with literate thinking is a barrier to be addressed. Jordan’s suggestions are probably among the best advice for routing around this issue in most organizations.

If my hypothesis has any merit, it does suggest that some of the objections to these technologies will be rooted in emotional fears and insecurities that will be unexpressed and potentially inexpressible. To someone who can’t swim, “come on in, the water’s fine” isn’t very helpful encouragement.