Brains, minds, and teaching

Brains, Minds and Teaching. I wish I had the full text version of this item and not just the slide show, because I’m not sure I agree with it in its details. But there is a lot to chew on in this HTML version of a PowerPoint presentation connecting current brain function research and teaching methodology. The best bit is the discussion of semantic versus episodic memory near the middle of the document. My main thought, though, is that what we are seeing here is very much a simplification of what actually happens. We may be able to represent semantic memory using concept maps for the purposes of an entry-level introduction, but readers should not think that we actually have concept maps in the brain. By Massimo Pigliucci, Unknown [Refer][Research][Reflect] [OLDaily]

Good overview material.

Managing for shared awareness

Enterprise Effectiveness. Combat Power and Enterprise Effectiveness Quote: “Companies such as GE that do have it (distributed information for shared awareness) are… [elearnspace blog]

Interesting thinking about what lessons are to be learned from the military about sharing information in real-time or near real-time:

Shared information inside a corporation and with its allies and customers provides greater information richness and reach, and produces shared awareness. Shared awareness in turn enables faster operational tempo and sustainable competitive advantage. This all spells increased competitiveness

An interesting transition from “need to know” to “shared awareness” Hierarchical organizations spend inordinate time and effort trying to work out precise boundaries on who needs to know what and when. Ostensibly about minimizing demands on people throughout the organization, it’s really about the exercise of power and control.

If, on the other hand, your focus is on the external mission, i.e. getting the job done for customers, the issue shifts to how best to let everyone have access to and know what is going on that might be relevant. In part this has to be founded on a deeper sense of trust in all the members of the organization. Trust both in their judgment to make good and appropriate use of information and knowledge and, more importantly, in their capacity to manage the torrent of bits on their own. No need to be paternalistic about it.

Roadwired bags

RoadWired bags kick azz. If we’re gonna talk about laptop bags, I need to mention RoadWired, who make my favorite bags, cable-organizers, PDA cases, bum-bags and other roadwarrier accessories. I’ve never once broken a RoadWired bag, and I break EVERYTHING. I don’t think I’ve done a single trip in the past three years without a RoadWired gizmo: bags, pouches, cables, cable-organizers, etc. Link Discuss [Boing Boing Blog]

As if I needed another source of distraction.

Learning about Open Spectrum

Open Spectrum FAQ, 2. Getting good reaction to the FAQ on Open Spectrum I wrote with content from Dewayne Hendricks, David Reed and Jock Gill. So far, it’s been blogged by Cory Doctorow, Dan Gillmor, Eric Norlin, and Dave Winer. And I haven’t checked this morning’s blogiverse yet. Open Spectrum is important and not on enough radar screens yet. Spread the meme!… [Joho the Blog]

Dave’s done a fabulous job here summarizing the thinking about Open Spectrum. I had spent some time with David Reed trying to get a handle on it. Definitely something that should be on your radar screen. One key excerpts for me:

Interference is a metaphor. It cannot be precisely defined technically without fully specifying a particular technology frozen in time, and in any case has nothing to do with the legal definition given by the FCC.

Like so much else in the collision between policy and technology we run into problems because policy-making has such a poor grasp on technology (I’m sure the converse is also true, I’m just not qualified to talk about that direction). One particular failing in policy setting is the issue of the dynamics of technology. Outside of the U.S. Constitution, policy setting seems to be particularly prone to trying to freeze designs too soon. Let’s hope that the work of folks like Dave and Ed Felten helps increase the level of technological literacy to a more acceptable level.

Research study on weblogs and community building

Lessons in Community-Building: An Inquiry into Role of Weblogs in Online Communities.

Both my aggregator and Knowledge Board discussion bring new “blog research” name: Nurul Asyikin needs help in her study: 

Tentatively entitled Lessons in Community-Building: An Inquiry into Role of Weblogs in Online Communities, my thesis will focus on two matters: how webloggers perceive the concept of virtual community, and the effects of technical and design factors on the development of virtual communities.

[…]I am mainly in need of webloggers to interview. If you maintain a weblog and are interested in contributing to the ongoing dialog concerning the issues of online human behaviour in general, and virtual communities specifically, please contact me. I can be reached via ICQ (UIN: 115135696) and email.

[Mathemagenic]

Good to see more people focusing their research on the weblog phenomenon.

Outlining and weblogs

Dave W. continues to tease. How long have Radio users wanted to update our weblogs via the outliner? Seems like forever. That’s a feature that’d be worth the yearly update price. [Steven’s Notebook]

When can I get my outliner? Like Steven I’ve been waiting for this next bit of power out of Radio. As a matter of fact, I began using Radio and its precursor Pike more for their outlining capability than anything else. Weblogging came long after the value of outlining. Wouldn’t it be great to put the two together?

Doing anthropology

Technology Anthropologists – I have talked before about the idea of being a technology anthropologist. It was a random phrase that popped in my head one day. Some of you remember Dian Fossey the anthropologist who went to Rwanda to live among, and thereby study, gorrillas. There was movie about her life called Gorillas in the Mist.

Anyway, I sometimes find myself observing people as they interact with technology as an anthropologist would observe, say, gorilla behavior. Now, I don’t mean that I think that I’m somehow superior to others and I therefor see them as apes. What I mean is that I am fascinated by how the rapid intrusion of technology into our lives has forced us to grapple with strange tools. The gap between the capabilities of the tools and our understanding of how to best make use of them is somewhat akin to the gap between two closely related species.

Anyway, perhaps there is a safer metaphor. But the key thing is curiousity. I am infinitely curious about how we will learn to accommodate technology. Kids are interesting, but they aren’t adapting to technology. It’s just there and they use it. But adults, especially older adults are fascinating. I’m not the only one who is reporting on these strange encounters. Jenny does it frequently, and did it again today in a post that starts by referencing a Dave Barry article. Jim McGee does it too; his inclination is toward the effect of technology on business. But, of course, he’s interested in technology in broader ways than just business, as his post today on the difference between technology and magic demonstrates.

Phil Windley has a post today on KmIrony that qualifies. Any others?

[Ernie the Attorney]

Ernie is on to a nice meme here. Another term to throw into the mix is “ethnography.” While usually associated with doing anthropology in the field, it’s also become a legitimate research tool in organizational settings. I find an anthropological approach particularly useful in the realm of technology for a couple of reasons. First, technology is too dynamic for a lot of other research approaches. Along a similar line, organizational research is not a place where you get to do controlled experiments. It’s either impractical or unethical (sometimes both). That leaves you with observational techniques of one sort or another. One advantage of ethnographic/anthropological approaches is that they explicitly recognize that the anthropologist/observer is part of the system.

Another reason that I prefer anthorpological approaches is that technology and knowledge management issues lie in a space that Gerry Weinberg describes as “organized complexity.” The following diagram comes from his excellent Introduction to General Systems Thinking:

In that environment you need tools that are robust more than you need tools that are precise. You tolerate fuzziness in the answers in exchange for getting answers that are directionally correct in a manageable amount of time.

One consequence of doing anthropology is that you have to develop some sense for who the observer is. You’re not doing experimental work that can be replicated. You’re doing a certain kind of storytelling that depends on observational skills and narrative skills. Unlike a fiction writer, you aren’t using stories for the abiilty to make stuff up out of whole cloth (I suppose fiction writers don’t really do that either). You are using narrative as a tool to reveal gaps in the logic, to discover what’s missing in the logic of the story that will point you toward new things to look for.

Proxemics and knowledge management

[Point of clarification. The resources listed here were pulled together and organized by Joy London on her excellent blog – Excited Utterances. Although it’s cited below, some readers missed that, meaning Joy isn’t getting the credit she deserves.

I continue to struggle with how best to reference material here. My preference is to post all the material that comes through my aggregator and then to add my commentary. I typically indent/blockquote the posted material and add my comments at the end. Once I have some more time to figure out CSS and stylesheets I can probably figure out a more visual way of setting off quoted material from my own stuff. Anyway, Joy did the heavy lifting here. I just used it as a launching pad for a few observations. I also wanted to make sure that I had all these excellent materials ready to hand as part of my use of this weblog as my backup brain.]

Proxemics and Law Firm Workspace. I’ve always been fascinated by “proxemics“—man’s appreciation and use of physical space. The significance of proxemics in law firms is readily apparent as we consider ways to form communities of practice. A number of law firms have rethought their physical spaces to achieve more innovative and flexible knowledge sharing environments.

Doug Zucker and Christopher Murray, at Gensler, an international architectural and design firm, have consulted with a number of law firms on the use of its physical space.

McDermott, Will & Emory (Washington, DC) clustered its associate offices around partner secretarial staff.

Cooley Godward (Reston, VA) provides visitor lounges as part of its conference center. With full voice/data capability and soft seating designed for work as well as conversation, it’s an ideal flex space that can also support teamwork and breakout sessions.

Gunderson, Dettmar (Menlo Park, CA) sets its paralegal/administrative workspace at the center of a converted warehouse to create a sense of openness and community. (See a virtual tour of Gunderson’s Menlo Park, Boston and New York offices).

Other Gensler law firm clients include San Francisco firms Bingham McCutchen, Brobeck, Heller Ehrman, and Graham & James (now merged with Squire Sanders).

For further reading:

(1) Law Firms: Design for Flexibility by Christopher Murray, III

(2) Law Firms: Trends & Implications by Doug Zucker

(3) Law Office Design by Doug Zucker

(4) It’s Not Your Father’s Law Firm Any More by Deborah Elliott: a profile of Morrison & Foerster’s San Diego office (full article available via subscription)

(5) A Different Kind of Sandbox by Janet Wiens: a profile of Greenberg Traurig’s, Tysons Corner office

(6) Flexibility is In, Rigidity Out as Law Firm Offices Evolve by Andrea Vanecko

(7) Benchmarking the Law Office by Margo Grant Walsh

(8) The Shape of the Legal Office Today (a breakfast seminar held by architects Pringle Brandon with speakers from Allen & Overy, Linklaters, Nabarro Nathanson and Slaughter and May)

(9) KnowledgeBoard’s Space special interest group’s (SIG) news and documents

Architectural firms:

(1) Gensler [additional clients: King & Spalding (New York office)

(2) Calloway Johnson Moore & West [client: Blanco Tackabery’s office in Winston-Salem]

(3) Swanke Hayden Connell [clients: Dibb Lupton Alsop (Leeds office) and Greenberg Traurig (Tysons Corner office)]

(4) Callison Architects [clients: Latham & Watkins (Orange County office) and Orrick, Herrington]

(5) Pringle Brandon [clients: Allen & Overy’s and Linklater’s open-plan office spaces]

Workspace Design Consultants

Sparknow, a KM consultancy. Read some of their excellent publications (21 papers which can be downloaded beginning on this page) Notable mentions:

Designing Spaces for Knowledge Work—Can the Use of Fiction Help Construct New Realities?

The Role of Private and Public Spaces in Knowledge Management

Physical Space—the Most Neglected Resource in Contemporary Knowledge Management? [excited utterances]

An Excellent collection of resources.

The issues of proxemics extend well beyond law firms. When we designed our first office space for Diamond in the Hancock building, we made a couple of interesting decisions with the help of Perkins & Will , our architects. For example, we turned all the corners of the floor into team rooms where project teams could work. That left no corner offices to fight over among the partners. The Hancock has great views and we were on the 30th floor. We designed the partner offices with glass partitions separating them from the inner areas so that those views were available. A couple of partners wanted to restrict use of partner offices, but that lasted about 15 minutes. Partners are on the road most of the time, so partner offices rapidly became yet another meeting room for small teams.

One little lesson we learned and applied when we added space. The first offices had lots of power and network connections but they required crawling under credenzas to get to. In the second stage build out, the offices had all power and network connections available at desktop height at the back of the desks.

Strategies for implementing knowledge management

ad hoc knowledge management tools. In a follow-up to my quick look at Ideagraph I spent a little time going though my bookmarks for similar… [Way.Nu]

Slowly catching up with stuff that came through my aggregator over the holidays. This is some excellent thinking on the right frame of reference for thinking about knowledge management. Some key excerpts:

…while a batch of VC dollars have been spent on intranets and portal creation software, the whole concept of centralized knowledge management feels wrong to me…

What’s more the knowledge that workers create must be portable, for no matter how much companies wish to lock up employees’ ideas as intellectual property, the cross-pollination that occurs when people move from company to company is critical to innovation. We should be building tools to encourage innovation and collaboration, not constrain and control it….

The integration of personal and published web content, content and concept sharing, RSS aggregation and publishing, blogging, email filtering/storage/extraction and powerful collaborative searching is bringing a real revolution in knowledge working productivity into view.

There’s a marketing challenge here. While the answer is decentralized, solutions typically get sold to someone who’s been put in charge of the problem. Until you’ve thought long and hard about knowledge management from an operational point of view, the centralized solutions promoted by technology vendors are certainly going to sound like a faster and easier solution to your (i.e. newly appointed chief knowledge officer or equivalent) problem.  That they aren’t won’t be immediately apparent and won’t easily be traced to adopting a centralized approach.

Making knowledge management work requires a delicate blend of technology tools, organizational sensitivity, patience, and persistence. A difficult message to get across in a technology marketing environment addicted to peddling instant miracle cures.