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.

OODA Loops and point of view

Boyd and The American Way of War. It’s one of the apparent paradoxes of conflict that technologies can change the nature of battle, but not win wars. Col. John Boyd’s insights into that conundrum produced some important thinking, and led to the concept of 4th Generation Warfare (4GW)…. [Blogcritics]

This leads into a whole series of fascinating items that link into strategy and knowledge management as well as food for thought about the broader environment we now operate in. A rich vein of material to mine and think about.

Boyd developed the notion of the OODA loop which has begun to gain currency in dynamic strategy thinking. The Fast Company article on The Strategy of the Fighter Pilot” looks to be a good starting point.

OODA is an acronym for Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. Conventionally this is depicted as a loop, but I think is might better be represented as a mini-web with Orient at the center. Something like the following:

That would link this to another of my favorite Alan Kay observations that “point of view is worth 80 IQ points.”

Does knowledge management imply digital?

KM Irony. I find this ironic: I’m sitting next to a woman who is writing copius notes on letterhead with the title: “Office of Knowledge Management.” I wonder if she meticulously files those notes in a government issue SteelCase filing cabinet? [Windley’s Enterprise Computing Weblog]

I don’t find this terribly ironic. I find that taking notes by hand is still the most effective way for me to take in information in meetings and interviews. I’ve tried taping but that just leaves me with the problem of transcribing or of listening to the interview twice. Even with a good outliner, I can’t really pay attention and type and the same time (although I am essentially a touch typist). There is something about the mechanical act of keying that takes enough more brain cells than scribbling notes by hand that it interferes too much.

My practice is to keep a spiral-bound notebook with me for notetaking in interviews and meetings. I also use those notebooks (I have a collection going back to 1986) to sketch out diagrams and mindmaps. In the early stages of noodling around with new ideas I still prefer pen and paper.

Back in my Ph.D. research days I started a habit of writing up interviews and notes as trip reports. I have Jim Cash to thank for that.  They used to be done as Word documents. Later I started filing them as entries in a private weblog that I maintain on my laptop (using “Radio” and “Manila”). Diagrams generally turn into Visio documents. Recently I’ve started using MindManager to create machine-readable versions of the mindmaps I draw.

I’ve experimented with scanning my handwritten notes so that they are potentially easily at hand when I travel. I haven’t gotten as diligent about it as Gordon Bell has however.

For times when I can’t carry a notebook with me, I generally have a collection of blank notecards (about the size of a business card) and a pen in my pocket. But I’m not above jotting ideas down on the back of a program or agenda or on hotel notepads. This habit has gotten me in trouble from time to time.

More often than note, the first glimmerings of ideas from me take analog form. They soon get transformed into bits. Maybe Scoble’s peans to the Tablet PC will convince me to start the bit collection one step earlier.


Forward motion and self-organizing networks

Technicolor Blogmap.

An update to the Blogmap Project. Using the same Friendship links data from the Blog Tribe on Ryze, Valdis developed two new maps. The first map shows the Tribe’s network within Ryze with Tribe Members colored in magenta and non-members in blue. This differentiation makes clearer the size and linkages of the actual tribe.

Maps are great at revealing where you are. Combined with the whitepaper’s framework, it reveals that while the network has gained some strength through the centralized communication facilitated, it lacks redundancy and wider contribution. Recall that the community is only 2 months old and it is one without a specific organizing principle except the common interest of blogging, and one could say the progress has been fantastic, when measured by membership growth and linkage structures. But that image still disturbs me.

[Ross Mayfield’s Weblog]

More interesting data and analysis from Ross and Valdis. Ross expersses a bit of concern at his central positioning but none of this would be happening without his energy and commitment to the experiment. Something to remember in all this talk about networks and self-organizing systems.

There may not be a visible hierarchy but the energy still has to come from somewhere. Someone has to be the spark and put enough energy into the system for it to become self-sustaining and self-organizing. Here it’s started with Ross. He’s doing it in a way that is engaging the rest of us (witness his recent effort to promote a blog-buddy system at Ryze).

So, don’t just take a look at what Ross is up to, but get involved! Add to the forward motion .

Social Network Mapping and Blogs

Blog Tribe Social Network Mapping.

Here is the initial social network analysis of the Blog Tribe at Ryze — which maps the Friendship networks and Blogrolls of Tribe members. What’s unique about this collaborative project is the mapping of blogspace and of how two unique communities intersect.

Thanks to the contributions of Valdis Krebs, Pete Kaminski, and those who volunteered to contribute their blogrolls, this is one of the largest online communities mapped. The data was captured within a month of the founding of the Blog Tribe, a snapshot in time that will be useful to return to, with 1,108 nodes from approximately 100 members. [full story]

[Ross Mayfield’s Weblog]

This seems like an appropriate item to launch 2003 with. I was one of the contributors of data for this experiment, so if you dig into the pictures and such you’ll find my name in there.

Ross did a great job pushing this along. He’s also tracking some of the early reactions to the data from others. Phil Wolff makes an interesting observation on the underlying differences between the Ryze and blogging environments. Most of the social network analysis efforts I’ve seen tend to look at reasonably homogeneous environments such as organizations. We did something along those lines in the early days at Diamond, when we worked with Wayne Baker from the University of Michigan to look at the network structure within our partner group. Very helpful to see the underlying structure of even a relatively small network of executives within a single organizations.

As I reflect on this particular analysis, I’m struck by the potential to find additional insight in mapping the bridges between multiple networks. Here we have a group who all belong to two explicit networks. How can we use these tools to get a better sense of how to more effectively navigate through half a dozen different yet interconnected networks?