Friday, February 29, 2008

Power Point 20th Anniversary Cinderella

This presentation is too good not to reblog! Via a blogpost on Northern Voices by miss604

A powerpoint presentation about Cinderella. Explains directly the difference between a story and a powerpoint bullet presentation... Now that I have a look at it again, I do like the graph with displaying Cinderella's beauty and happiness over time.

Can web2.0 improve decision-making processes?

This is my first cross-post from my Dutch blog. Deciding whether a topic should go to my Dutch blog or this one has been quite smooth. Generally speaking, it's been easy to start the Dutch blog, building on the experience with this blog. I'm not insecure about topics, and confident that the audience will grow.

The Dutch blogpost 'Can I blog a visum?' might be interest to a wider audience I believe. In short: I invited an Ethiopian friend to come and visit me in the Netherlands. For the second time, her visa request has been declined by the Dutch embassy in Addis Abeba. The reason is that she has no property and no fixed job, (and no children) and therefore they think it is not proven that she will return to Ethiopia after the holidays. The risk is too high. I understand the Dutch embassy, but think they are flawed in their decision-making process. I think property, job papers etc can not reduce the risk of that Ethiopians with a tourist visa stay in the Netherlands. (might be the contrary??) I think it has much more to do with the context of the visa request and the invitation.

So I started wondering whether in this flawed decision-making process, web2.0 tools could be of help to improve decision-making. After all, it would be better if Ethiopians with the right intentions would be allowed to make a trip to our country -another friend who worked for Ethiopian Airlines and had a free ticket had the same problem-.

I see a lot of potential in blogging. For instance if Addisalem had blogged the two year process, with high hopes and huge disappointments, it would be a great testimonial of how a person with good intentions would suffer from the Dutch policy. And blogs are prone to be authentic stories, it is hard to fake two years. But how to get the right audience? Therefore it might be necessary to have a central space where people with similar problems blog. This could give a lot more insights to the decision-makers involved. But are those decision-makers ready to read? This is not obvious, and therefore a change process may be needed to raise the awareness of the decision-makers and raise their appetite to read. Would this be very different from listening to the stories or formal evaluations? I think blogging has the potential to be different because of the low threshold of putting this information out there on the internet. So blogs make a huge, previously hidden world more accessible. But the change has to go hand in hand with an attitude of learning by reading and searching for pertinent information. RSS feeds and tags will be important to that purpose.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The organization is there to stay, but the manager is not

In an earlier blogpost I proposed to experiment with a blog debate and Josien and Andy were into to trying this. Josien kicked off a debate about The end of the organization? Based on an essay by Michael Gilbert.

A quote:

Is this the end of the organization? Probably not by name and certainly not in the broadest sense of the term. But the traditional, tightly controlled, top down, branded organization is finding itself having to adapt and change. The
organizations of the future will not look like the organizations of today. Whether the organization as we know it survives or not, it is by studying the changing patterns of communication that we will discover the new
shape of civil society. Our methods of analysis - and possibly our methods of regulation, funding, and participation - will shift from those that reflect managerial thinking to those that reflect ecosystem thinking.

Josien responded by agreeing that organizations are shaped by communication patterns, communication patterns are changing, therefore organizations are changing. Communication channels have determined organigrams. The social web is a revolution which has really changed the principles of communication. Secondly, she argues that it is already happening, the future is now. For instance in the music, travel industries etc. New business models emerge. Best is the read the full post.

So I will argue that the organization is here to stay. I think both are putting too much emphasis on communication. The basis of organizations is their mission, aim, goal, whatever you name it. In the commercial sector it is about products and services, in the government is it about legislation, in the nonprofit sector is it about a societal goal.. The function of an organization is to deliver that product or to achieve that mission by integrating the work of its employees. So the organization is there to stay, because its basis it collaborating to produce a product or service of value for society. Communication is a means to an end.

But I do think there are changes underway, since more and more organizations thrive on knowledge workers, professionals. I would like to point to Stephen Collin's presentation Power to the People. Stephen points to the fact that knowledge workers (people working primarily with information and developing and using knowledge) are often demotivated and restrictred by their organizations. The manager's wish to control the outputs of the organizations leads to overly controlling behaviour towards knowledge workers who feel withheld in their practice by the managers. This is a core conflict between managers and knowledge workers who don't want to be managed. So the organizations of the future will have found ways of dealing with this conflict and are smart in leveraging the power of the knowledge workers. Possible contributions to dealing with this conflict may be found in the following 3 areas:
  1. Communities of practice - whereby value created is measured and effectiveness closely monitored- this needs much more attention.
  2. Online communication and collaboration tools- which make help reducing the tension between managers and knowledge workers because it makes the work of knowledge workers more accessible and transparent. (after all, online communication leaves visible traces, face-to-face communication doesn't)
  3. Disappearance of the division between knowledge worker and managers, managers will increasingly be knowledge workers and be parttime managers - hence the disappearance of the full-time manager.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Transformation of communities of practice

This is the young swan swimming in the waters near our house (there is a lot of water in our area, something which made a Malian friend exclaim that this is a very dangerous place!). The swan is slowly transforming from a grey into a white swan. I'm interested in the transformation phase in communities of practice. The first reason is that I looked around for materials about transformation/transition for a Dutch course, and couldn't find any good materials. Most materials deal with the start-up phase of communities of practice. A second reason for my interest in the topic is that I have handed over the facilitation of the ecollaboration community to another team, at the same time as my co-facilitator Sibrenne Wagenaar. That made me wonder whether a shift in facilitatorship would automatically mean a transformation? And what are conditions for a smooth, positive transformation?

I posted a question in the com-prac yahoo group. Besides replies, I got a pointer to the book Net Work by Patti Anklam, which I just finished reading. The book deals with various networks, and hence with a wider topic than communities of practice. I found it quite useful to look at communities as networks, as that is what they are in the basis.

Patti Anklam makes a distinction between planned triggers, discovered triggers, dynamic triggers and asymmetric triggers for change in a network. Whether planned or emergent, a resilient network will be able to manage the context of transformation by leveraging its core strength. So it depends on each network, whether it can deal with change. This necessary resilience can be built by:

  • Commitment to a common purpose, but that purpose is also subject to reflection and generative dialogue
  • A structure that is appropriate to its purpose and monitored
  • Support for energetic and trusted interactions
  • Clarity about stakeholders, investments and outcomes

Changes within a network can involve the structure, style or value-creating processes (finding the right balance between tangible and intangible exchanges) of the network.

Many replies came from Miguel Cornejo, in one case an ex-leader/moderator became a common user of the online community. He disagreed with changes in public. I take this as an important lesson that former leaders should welcome changes and not stick to the past. In another situation, they took care to do induction of a new team one by one, to allow for a gentle transition and this worked. John Smith thought that it's important to keep two out of three elements stable. (the elements being community, domain, practice). So when you change leadership you try to keep community practice and topics the same.

A quote of Miguel I liked: " But always, a moderator/facilitator/convenor lends part of his/her character to the way the community does things. They make part of the CoP "personality"so when they depart it's bound to affect the CoP, in bigger or smaller things, sooner or later."

Miguel got inspired to write a blogpost with a metaphore with sandcastles, you are encouraged to check it out here. Any fixed structure that doesn't evolve with its environment gets washed away. Communities too, need continuous tending and rebuilding.

When I look at the ecollaboration community, it continues to flourish and grow, and we are comfortable with smaller changes that are underway. So it has withstood the test of being resilient enough to manage this transition. Though it took a bit of letting go to step out of the facilitator role, it is very rewarding to see it continue like this.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Vary your style in blogging

There is a Dutch saying 'verandering van spijs doet eten' - change of diet makes hungry. So a bit of variation in blogpost styles may make people read? Via Tim's blog, I found a wiki developed by Michelle Martin with all kind of blogpost styles and examples! A great resource for bloggers.

An example of a style I never tried:
Debate Posts. In a debate post you argue the pros and cons of a particular position, idea or approach. You can do this either with another blogger or you can debate with yourself, writing both a pro and a con post.

Might be useful for starting bloggers, but maybe even more for longer time bloggers like myself who'd like to try and flex with some new styles. Might lead to new results. Anybody wants to debate with me?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Co-creation with Johnnie Moore

I like the word co-creation, more than collaboration. It points to the fact that you create something new, and there is a part of several people in it. It sounds very equal in the sense that there's equal space for people to contribute to the creation.

I picked up the following video when I participated in Nancy White's online workshop 'Facilitation of online Interactions'. I was reminded about the video because of some collaborative efforts I'm in that feel like the co-creation in the video. Of course collaboration is not always that smooth that it feels like real co-creation. I once did the 'towerbuilding' teambuilding game (it was the egg tower exercise, without the egg). Very revealing that due to speed and excitement, we actually left one person out, who did not speak the language very well.

Maybe co-creation is the ideal state of collaboration? I thought I'd search for the video on youtube, and there is was: Co-creation with Johnnie Moore.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Attributing emotions to actions

Via Jay Cross' Informal Learning Blog I found a nice video from work by Heider and Simmel. You can watch it on his blog or if you click here. You will see some figures, circles and squares moving. What story do imagine?

In the mid 1940s, Heider and Simmel constructed this animation. Most observers developed elaborate stories about the circle and the little triangle being in love etc. Personally I didn't think they were in love, but thought about a person chasing and intimidating the other two, probably due to the situation in Kenya. More explanations can be found on the Hakank blog:

"Humans spontaneously imbue the world with social meaning: we see not only emotions and intentional behaviors in humans and other animals, but also anger in the movements of thunderstorms and willful sabotage in crashing computers."

It is a nice animation that can be linking to lessons about online interaction. People make lots of attributions about emotions behind actions (or lack of actions) online. Often the emotions behind the actions are interpreted. But they may be wrongly interpreted (when someone doesn't reply, is he angry or maybe he didn't receive the mail?). You have to learn to make less attributions and to check more frequently whether your interpretation is right.