Updated: 7/7/06; 6:04:27 PM.
Connectivity: Spike Hall's RU Weblog
News, clips, comments on knowledge, knowledge-making, education, weblogging, philosophy, systems and ecology.

 Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Peter Merholz has given us a system-sensitive [CMS} innovation insertion process.

The process is cyclical but follows the sequence listed below. (In what follows I have taken liberties...with the aim of abstracting the more general innovation insertion model. Apologies to Peterme where I have misinterpreted and thus misrepresented)

1. Gather Assumptions and Requirements

2. Analyze Competition

3. Understand Goals and Tasks

4. Develop Persona's and Scenarios

5. Build content Model

6. Design Information Architecture

7. Prioritize Features

8. Design Interaction

9. Protypes & Patterns

10. Validate Usability

[Repeat Process ]

* please go to link... Diagram is much more appealing; I'm still awkward at picture insertion into a weblog

Such as it is, the cycle "begins" with "Gathering Assumptions and Requirements." This is the step where you look internally to understand the [organizational or system] drivers of whatever project you're involved with. The thing is, that's pretty much where [many organizations] began and ended. They understood the [--] drivers, got a sense of the features and functionalities they wanted, and then would go out and buy software to solve it.

The problem is, as they learned, that the issues isn't with features and functionality, but with the software fitting into current work processes. What this means is that, when buying [functionality enhancement] software, companies need to do more work, move forward along the cycle, to "Understand Goals and Tasks." This is where you observe user behavior and needs in order to understand the processes people engage in to accomplish their tasks.

What surprised the client was that they thought this was the responsibility of the vendor. Part of the reason they bought this software was for the "wisdom" the software was meant to have embedded within. That there was a "wisdom" in how the software presents work processes, and that the company ought to learn from that wisdom and adjust their work accordingly, taking advantage of this "wisdom."

This totally took me aback. How on earth could this enterprise software tell you how to do your work? It's your work! And, this is what the client learned, in a painful way. That software can't come in and change how people work--such software will simply be ignored, be rejected. [The organization/system has] to step up and take more responsibility for the integration of software within [its complex of processes], because no one else knows how [its processes work, individually or as an interconnecting set of processes]. This is something that content management system vendors have had to deal with, and has lead to a solution of separating the content/data and the presentation.

Remember, the problem with the software wasn't features or functionality, it was how those tools were presented. Unfortunately, the design of the system was hardcoded [and thus less amenable to the adjustments necessary to make fit within present work processes]..

What will be clear, moving forward, is that [system enhancement] software companies will have to follow the lead of CMS and provide a greater degree of flexibility in how people can interface with their tools.

I found this sequence, after thought and interpretation, to be quite useful as a model for inserting a new process into a [CMS] systems process flow. Good notions.. my bet is, after client adjustment to a higher level of responsibility, that the insertion is more likely to be successful.

I'm concerned with the subset of organizations whose continuing survival is not based on whether or not they achieve their explicit purpose(s). (Patronage systems, a significant subset of school systems, armies, etc., many families, etc.) In some sense they are intact (jobs stay, walls are up, cash flows etc.) -- but for the organizations I'm referring to, the appropriate, objective and subjective evidence of "doing well what it's supposed to do" is meager or absent. And, upon deep inspection, one finds out that there are processes that work against functional productivity.

Example: One innovation which has been available to schools for more than 30 years is . It has not been broadly adopted into the process repetoire of schools. A most notable cause of nonadoption is the lack of intelligent adaptation (as described in our flow diagram, above) of the innovation to the work flow of the schools. But failure at insertion is also caused by with the lack of any reward structure for schools or individual teachers as they succeed or fail in demonstrating their effective involvement in effective and important learning of students.

If you'll allow me this example as a supposition I think you'll see that such a school (with no feedback link from variations in learning [quality or amount] to the decision making of classroom teachers or the school itslef)-- would be called dysfunctional.

Inserting a worthy innovation in such a school might well be pointless. It doesn't fit present work style (productive or not), it takes a good deal of time and thought (both to learn and do), and there are no incentives for effectively folding it in to the complex of tasks which already exist in the school's day, week or year.

Generalizing from such thoughts I suggest: "a generally worthy innovation [as established via numerous instances of use] can only be successfully inserted when its use can materially affect the consequences that drive the system. "

In short, make the candidate system functional first. Then add the innovation. Otherwise, as my father-in-law used to put it, "It's like pouring sand down a rat hole".

Cory Doctorow spotted an uplifting article for New Year's Day.What Should I Do With My Life? by Po Bronson.

Cory Doctorow reacts:

Po Bronson's long piece in this month's Fast Company (adapted from a book-length project) reviews the question, "What Should I Do With My Life?" as answered by many people in many walks of life. ---
A good question to think about on New Year's Day. Certainly one that I often ask myself, especially when coming off of a week-long holiday of lots of joyous blogging, work on two novels, a new novella and an anthology, reading, going to the movies, haunting the coffee shops, seeing friends.
The ruling assumption is that money is the shortest route to freedom. Absurdly, that strategy is cast as the "practical approach." But in truth, the opposite is true. The shortest route to the good life involves building the confidence that you can live happily within your means ( whatever the means provided by the choices that are truly acceptable to you turn out to be ). It's scary to imagine living on less. But embracing your dreams is surprisingly liberating. Instilled with a sense of purpose, your spending habits naturally reorganize, because you discover that you need less.

This is an extremely threatening conclusion. It suggests that the vast majority of us aren't just putting our dreams on ice -- we're killing them.

I would agree that our dreams die but I wouldn't say that we kill them so much as we ignore them to death while we chase dollars, approval and the ability to support big consumption habits.

Summary: I am asking you to comment on two questions: a general klog process question and a specific klog content-related question. Do one, the other, or both.

(The idea of a direct question, was surfaced while I responded to Seb Paquet's survey on knowledge sharing. Your participation will only take five minutes and we'll all profit from the knowledge gained.)

Q1, a Process Question: What techniques do you use to solicit and utilize reader knowledge and concern in your klog? Please answer via a comment entry ("Your Thoughts?").

Q2, a Content Question: More specifically: What suggestions would you make about evolving the content I'm working on at my Connectivity site? Please answer via a comment entry ("Your Thoughts?").

[I have initially reviewed web ecosystem data to determine which of my entries are getting the traffic. One aspect that is getting attention is my formal attempts to specify the relation between klogging and the generation of knowledge.]

I'll synthesize and report as I get material.

Summary: I announce an open-to-all readers question party. I have a particular section of my RU web site that is devoted to my 'please help' knowledge making efforts. See below for map.

I have a question about future developments -- am putting it in my Seeds category [which is meant to be a very open announcement of my need for reader suggestion/question/criticism -- there are other candidates for help there as well. Please check it out and comment as you see fit] . The entry is entitled My site-related questions..

My Seeds category is meant to allow what I'm terming "issue-based knowledge-making support recruitment". [Could use a better term. The acronym "IBKMSR" sucks] . One of the incredible potentials of web-based klogging on intranets and internets, if we can make the shift in our learning styles.

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Spike Hall is an Emeritus Professor of Education and Special Education at Drake University. He teaches most of his classes online. He writes in Des Moines, Iowa.


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