Posts By: Harold Jarche

Keep It Simple

Jay Cross talks about focusing performance improvement efforts on "worker effectiveness improvement, not KM" [knowledge management]. More and more people are disillusioned with large-scale KM, document management and ERP efforts, that force workers to comply with an imposed structure. I remember delaying the use of Goldmine in my last job, because I had my own system, and really did not want to realign my processes with an imposed one.

Perhaps the reason that blogs are popular, in spite of their limitations, is that they are easy to use, and there is no imposed structure. Many of us believe that our way is the best way, and need proof that doing otherwise would be beneficial. I find that blogging is becoming more and more about building my personal knowledge repository, while staying connected to wide-ranging conversation. As Jay states in his post:

KM should leverage natural processes, not try to change the basic ways things are accomplished.

An organisation’s entire KM effort could start with simple technologies. It could provide a blog to everyone, letting workers blog as they wanted. RSS aggregators could keep an eye on blogs of interest, and maybe even a blog rating system could included in the performance management system. Yes, the better writers would get better rankings, but so would those who solve problems. A bottom-up approach to KM, at a minimal cost, makes a lot more sense than betting that some centralized system, with a huge training bill, will solve all of our problems.

Oil and Silicon

Rob Paterson talks about a new energy strategy, and our dependence on oil. His post specifically addresses the idea of energy self-sufficiency on Prince Edward Island. Rob cites Stephen Roach, on our oil economy:

In my view, the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìtrue?¢‚Ǩ¬ù shock probably comes with $50 oil. A sustained increase to that level for 3?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú6 months would represent a surge of more than 70% above the post-2000 average ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù on a par with fullblown oil shocks of the past. The recession call probably wouldn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t be too far behind in that instance.

Will increasing energy costs drive a boom in virtual work, virtual learning and virtual communities? Will it be the next oil crisis that finally proves John Chambers (CEO Cisco) correct with his often quoted statement that e-learning will make e-mail look like a rounding error? The Chinese demand for oil will ensure that we will continue to live in interesting times.

New eLearning R&D Blog

After a few false starts and some technical glitches, we have the new (and improved?) blog for elearning R&D in the region, available at This is a continuation of the posts started on the R&D Community Blog on this site, which will now be retired. The community now has its own web space, as part of the LearnNB site, which is hosted by the NRC.

I have also established a collaborative work space for interested community members. We are using the ACollab platform, which includes document sharing, file uploading and a discussion forum. Initial feedback is to use the blog for general discussions, and the collaborative work space for specific project-related issues. Please contact me if you would like access.

Feedback is always appreciated.

The Beginning of the End of Work

Rob Paterson, a very interesting person who writes some of the best articles in the blogosphere, talks about the end of work as we know it. This is a recurring theme for me, as I’ve worked in very large bureaucracies, dot coms, and a university. Basically, it’s getting easier to be a free agent. Rob sums up the advantage of hiring a free agent versus a corporate consultant:

This then raises the larger issue of the erosion of the corporate ownership of tools and processes. Even lowly me has an office equipped way beyond most corporate counterparts. We have not only 2 PCs but 2 iBooks, a La Cie backup and all the peripherals. I can produce documents and do research that only a few years ago would have taken several people. Now I can do it all at home or on the road. Talking about on the road: I am even spared Hotel costs. I have family houses where I can stay for free in all the major cities in Canada and in London and Amsterdam. If pushed, I could stay with friends in many other places. My clients get my full attention and they do not hire the big guy and then have all the work done by a kid. They get all of me.

The free agents that I work with all give real value for their fees. We all know that we are only as good as our last project, and that one bad referral could be the end of our business. We are all focused, but constantly exploring the peripheries, without office politics to distract us. Personally, I’m working twice as hard, for half as much, but when it’s my work for a valued client it’s really satisfying. However, I have more time to read and explore because my boss lets me.

When you engage a free agent there is no hype, no marketing mumbo jumbo about "leading edge technologies, providing enhanced human capital return on investment". We just solve problems, or do work that you don’t have the time or staff to do. You get our full attention, and we do ALL of the work. Not a bad deal.

Collaboration by Jay Cross

Jay Cross has made his ASTD 2004 presentation notes for "Collaboration Supercharges Performance" available, as well as the link to the entire 87 minute presentation in Macromedia Breeze. I have enjoyed all of Jay’s Breeze presentations, and the audio quality is excellent. It’s great to see this sharing of ideas made so easy for those of us not able to attend ASTD.

Good manners are still important

Even in the world of open source, open content and open culture there are social norms that those in the corporate world should be aware of. If not, their bad manners might be blogged around the world. Sebastian Fiedler’s comments on Lisa Neun crashing Blogwalk 2.0:

So, good folks out there in open culture, if you spot any corporate Lisa busting your grassroots, low-budget, organized in your free-time, self-financed gathering… either give the poor thing a free-ride (but beware… this might trigger a paradigm shift without a clutch… Dilbert readers probably remember this one), or simply bill the freaking organization she belongs to.

Let’s all remember our manners folks.

Learning from the past

Rob Paterson offers the example of the New Bedford whaling community as a successful community of practice.

The entire community was financially behind the trip. All contributed to ensuring that the investment was safe by offering the very best equipment from the boat to the rigging. All crew members were paid on a share basis – all had a vested interest in supporting all the others on the ship. It was considered bad form to sail with the same crew so experience was continually spread around the fleet. Every position was apprenticed so their was a hierarchy of experience behind every trade and position. All captains shared their logs at the end of every trip so the NB fleet collected the collective wisdom and experience of every trip.

New Bedford = New Brunswick? Couldn’t we use a similar model for LearnNB? I think that some of the keys to this community are shared risk, no return on investment until the voyage is over, and the sharing of ships’ logs. Sounds almost like the open source community.

On Open Source

I re-read Thomas Goetz’s article "Open Source is Everwhere" in last November’s Wired Magazine, to try to focus on the real reasons for favouring open source. I want to reassure myself that I’m not becoming dogmatic in my support of OS systems. This quote from the end of the article resonated with me:

Open source is often framed as an attack on the corporate world at large. But in fact, the open source approach can be a boon for companies. Licensing from a trusted collaborative project saves money and leaves the technology open to further development. By showing corporations that a closed, defensive approach to intellectual property can be less efficient than liberal licensing, Cambia and a few other open source efforts are leading the way to the mainstream.
In this light, where corporations are part of the model, open source suddenly becomes something less marginal and more ingenious. It forces industry to reckon with openness rather than hide behind intellectual property. In driving down the cost of software or encyclopedias or biotechnology, open source is unleashing billions in capital otherwise put to woefully inefficient ends. Just because it’s not about making money first doesn’t mean it won’t make money second (just ask the folks who bought their mansions with Red Hat shares).

Openness is pretty much like democracy; and I can’t see many reasons against it. The same for lower costs and increased efficiencies. I also like the idea that open source is still about making money, because we all have to feed our ourselves and our families. What I like best about open source is that the development process is a real meritocracy, much like being an entrepreneur. In small business, if you don’t deliver, you can’t make an honest living.

What we all want

According to Dave Pollard, here is what the blogosphere wants.

Blog readers want to see more:

original research, surveys etc.
original, well-crafted fiction
great finds: resources, blogs, essays, artistic works
news not found anywhere else
category killers: aggregators that capture the best of many blogs/feeds, so they need not be read individually
clever, concise political opinion (most readers prefer these consistent with their own views)
benchmarks, quantitative analysis
personal stories, experiences, lessons learned
first-hand accounts
live reports from events
insight: leading-edge thinking & novel perspectives
short educational pieces
relevant "aha" graphics
great photos
useful tools and checklists
pr?ɬ©cis, summaries, reviews and other time-savers
fun stuff: quizzes, self-evaluations, other interactive content

Blog writers want to see more:

constructive criticism, reaction, feedback
‘thank you’ comments, and why readers liked their post
requests for future posts on specific subjects
foundation articles: posts that writers can build on, on their own blogs
reading lists/aggregations of material on specific, leading-edge subjects that writers can use as resource material
wonderful examples of writing of a particular genre, that they can learn from
comments that engender lively discussion
guidance on how to write in the strange world of weblogs

I think that we all have our work cut out for us. Any comments?

Telling Stories: Narratives of Nationhood

The Confederation Centre of the Arts on Prince Edward Island has created an impressive online learning resource entitled Narratives of Nationhood. Available in French and English, this website offers a wide array of learning activities focused on the art at the centre. There are hundreds of lesson plans available for school teachers, and a wealth of digital art displays. A lot of time and effort has gone into this resource, and it is available in a Macromedia Flash as well as an HTML version. Nice to see that some people are still designing with accessibility in mind.

Thanks to Nathalie at the Justice Knowledge Network for telling me about this.